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Join the Willowbug MKAL!

Spring is finally here, and it’s time to shake off the winter blues with some bright, lightweight knitting projects. Enter the Willowbug MKAL, a toe-up mystery sock pattern inspired by the lush undergrowth of the forest floor. In this blog post I'll go over everything you need to know to join this springtime mystery knit-along.

Willowbug MKAL cover image

What is the Willowbug MKAL?

Willowbug MKAL are a pair of toe-up mystery socks that combine the beauty of nature with the intricate details of lace, twisted stitches, and cables.

Inspired by the lush undergrowth of the forest floor, this sock pattern evokes blades of grass swaying in the breeze. The lace pattern is like dappled sunlight filtering through leaves. As you work your way up the leg, twisted stitches become more prominent like vines creeping up a tree trunk. Intricate twists and turns of cables mimic the branches of a majestic tree. Each clue of the mystery pattern unlocks a new element of the socks, leading you on a journey through the forest and towards a beautiful pair of socks.

The knitting techniques you'll need to know to knit this pattern include working small circumferences in the round using either double-pointed or circular needles, lace, twisted and traveling stitches, cables, and German short rows. All cable instructions are written as if using cable needle(s) but I highly recommend cabling without one as it will speed up your knitting tremendously.

The pattern also uses some cast-on and bind-off method for toe-up socks. Which specific method you choose is up to you.

The design is very chart-heavy. If knitting charts are not your jam, round-by-round written instructions are also provided for all stitch patterns.

The socks are worked from the toe up and feature my favorite gusset-and-flap heel construction following the Widdershins Revisited heel structure. Right and left socks are worked parallel: each clue includes instructions for both socks.

Picking a size

Willowbug MKAL is available in three sizes — S [M, L] — with adjustable foot and leg length. The socks are designed to fit EU shoe sizes 39/40 [41/42, 43/44] or US shoe sizes 7–8 [8½–9½, 10–11].

The finished measurements of the socks are

  • approx. 20.5 [22, 23] cm / 8¼ [8¾, 9¼]" in foot circumference

  • approx. 23.5 [24, 26.5] cm / 9¼ [9½, 10½]" in foot length, and

  • approx. 14.5 [14.5, 16.5] cm / 5¾ [5¾, 6½]" in leg length.

Choose a size with approx. 10% of negative ease in circumference for a snug fit. The pattern also includes instructions for adjusting foot and/or leg length: there are a couple of places in the pattern where you can work fewer or more repeats to customize the fit. My sample pair — which you'll see throughout the MKAL on social media — was knit in size S.

Choosing yarn and colors

To knit the socks you'll need one skein or approx. 335 [365, 425] m / 365 [400, 465] yd of light fingering or fingering-weight sock yarn.

I suggest using a smooth, round, high-twist sock yarn that'll make the twisted and traveling stitches pop. For my spring-green pair I used Adelia Fibers Merino Sock (75% merino, 25% nylon, 425 m/100 g, 465 yd/3.53 oz) in the colorway Lehto.

Recommended color types are solid, semi-solid, tonal, long-repeat gradients, or subtly speckled. These will let the stitch patterns shine. Too much variation in color can obscure the patterning so it's best to avoid highly variegated, self-striping, or self-patterning colors. I'd also recommend against using hairy or fuzzy sock yarns. Not only do they fuzz out the beauty of twisted and traveling stitches, your needle can also get caught in the halo, making it difficult to maneuver these types of stitch patterns.

Other materials

In addition to yarn, you'll also need 2.5 mm or US #1½ DPNs or circular needles (or size to obtain gauge). Note that right and left socks are worked parallel in each clue. My preferred method for sock knitting (and battling SSS, Second Sock Syndrome) is to work two-at-a-time (TAAT) magic loop on one circular needle. If you prefer DPNs or otherwise knitting the socks separately, you'll need two sets of needles in the same sizes.

To work the cables in the pattern you'll need two cable needles. But as said: I highly recommend learning how to cable without a cable needle. It's a little scary at first to just drop your stitches and let them hang suspended in nothing. In the long run, however, it'll speed up cable knitting so it's definitely a skill worth picking up.

Clue schedule

Willowbug MKAL is released in five weekly clues every Monday in May 2023, starting on May Day on the very first of the month. The clues drop at 10 AM my time (EEST) on the following dates:

  • Clue 1: May 1

  • Clue 2: May 8

  • Clue 3: May 15

  • Clue 4: May 22

  • Clue 5: May 29

  • Full pattern: June 1

You'll get a notification each Monday when a new clue is available to download — either via email (Payhip) or a private message (Ravelry).

How to join?

Join the MKAL discussion in my Mighty Networks community in the Willowbug MKAL group. In this group you can share your progress photos, ask questions, or just hang out with people knitting the same pattern. Every member of the community is welcome to join — even if you're not participating in the MKAL yourself.

You can also share your mystery socks on Instagram with the hashtags #willowbugmkal and #talviknits. It's a great way to see everyone's projects and color choices in one glance.

Get the pattern!

Willowbug MKAL is now available for purchase in my pattern shops on Payhip and Ravelry (seizure warning). The full pattern will also be available on LoveCrafts on June 1 after the MKAL is over.

Get ready to cast on in less than two weeks!


Pin this post!

Want a challenging knitting project with nature-inspired motifs? Join Willowbug MKAL, a toe-up mystery sock pattern featuring lace, twisted stitches, and cables, all evoking the beauty of the forest. With 5 weekly clues released in May 2023, you'll be on a journey through the woods to create a stunning pair of socks. Available in 3 sizes with adjustable foot and leg length. Both charts and row-by-row written instructions are provided. #knitting #knittingpattern #toeup #sockknitting #mkal

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Susanna Winter is a knitwear designer, creating timeless and elegant pieces with clean lines. She has been knitting for over 20 years, knit blogging since 2007, and designing knitting patterns professionally since 2016.

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