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Mystery Revealed: Fair Isle Sock MKALendar

We're a few weeks into the new year so it's come time to reveal what last December's advent mystery knit-along turned into. If you're eager to see what everyone else made, check out the hashtag #fairislesockmkalendar on Instagram. Let me present: Fair Isle Sock MKALendar!

Fair Isle Sock MKALendar :: colorwork sock knitting pattern

With the Fair Isle Sock MKALendar you'll create a pair of colorwork socks in 25 days. The socks come in five sizes (XS to XL), two styles (matching or non-matching pair), and two lengths (mid-calf or knee-high socks). If you do all variations, you can get four different pairs of socks out of one pattern:

  • For a matching pair of mid-calf socks: work either charts 
1–12 or 13–24 on both socks

  • For a non-matching pair of mid-calf socks: work charts
 1–12 on one sock and charts 13–24 on the other

  • For knee-high socks: work charts 1–24 on both socks

As colorwork is not as stretchy as regular stockinette, I recommend starting with a size that has about 0–5% of negative ease in foot circumference, then customizing the fit further as the sock progresses. Foot and leg length are adjustable within pattern. Leg circumference is adjustable in 8-stitch intervals, increasing stitches either around the whole leg circumference or by adding calf shaping just to the back of the leg. Instructions and tips for adjusting fit are provided in the pattern.

Fair Isle Sock MKALendar :: colorwork sock knitting pattern

The socks feature a forethought a.k.a. peasant heel: waste yarn is inserted to mark heel placement. The waste yarn later unraveled to make an opening for the heel and live stitches are picked up all around the opening. To make more room for the heel and reduce pulling across the instep, mini gussets shaped with short rows are worked in both corners of the heel.

Heel placement is something that newcomers to toe-up socks often struggle with. That's why the pattern includes additional guidance and a nifty formula for calculating precise heel placement based on your stitch and round gauge, should they differ from the pattern. For best fit, I highly recommend trying the socks on periodically.

Fair Isle Sock MKALendar :: colorwork sock knitting pattern

The socks are worked in the round from the toe up. Toes, cuffs, and heels are knit in one color but otherwise the socks are worked in all-over stranded colorwork. The pattern consists of 28 colorwork charts that come in two variations: one for a light(er) background and another for a dark(er) background color — that's 56 charts total! Color placements may differ slightly in some charts but the basic motif is the same in both versions.

All charts can be worked with just two colors: a background color (BC) and a contrasting color (CC). Some variations are depicted with three colors but you can use even more if you wish. A typical way to use colors in Fair Isle patterns is to highlight the center rounds with an accent color (AC) or two. For a more subtle look, AC can also be a mid-tone color that blends in with the rest.

And you don't have to stick to the same three colors for each chart! Your color choices determine whether your socks feature classic or modern interpretations of traditional Fair Isle motifs. Like last year's MKAL, this one also comes with a primer on color theory to help you choose colors for your socks. The pattern includes illustrated examples of seven different color schemes — monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split complementary, triad, tetrad, and square — and how to apply them to Fair Isle patterns.

Fair Isle Sock MKALendar :: colorwork sock knitting pattern

For my colorful sample pair I used 16 different colors for the colorwork and black for the toes, cuffs, and heels to tie it all together. Instead of doing a rainbow progression like in last year's cowl, with the socks I wanted to focus on maximizing contrast between colors. Each day I picked one dark and light color and, whenever I felt like it, threw in an accent color as well. The previous day's contrast color became the next day's background color so my socks feature alternating colorwork bands in light and dark shades. Even though I made the non-matching pair of mid-calf socks, I used the same colors on both socks to give them a strong family resemblance.

Fair Isle Sock MKALendar :: colorwork sock knitting pattern

Like last year's hat/cowl MKAL, Fair Isle Sock MKALendar a great project for practicing stranded colorwork. For one, regardless of how many total colors you pick, all rounds in each chart are knit with just two colors so you only have to deal with two yarns at a time. Second, for the most part there are only short floats that don't need to be caught. Third, to keep your floats loose enough to get the socks on your feet, this is a good opportunity to try knitting colorwork inside out.

To knit the pattern you'll need fingering-weight yarn in as many colors as you want (at least two) in the following amounts:

  • For mid-calf socks: approx. 300 [350, 400, 470, 560] m or 320 [380, 440, 510, 610] yd in total

  • For knee-high socks: approx. 570 [620, 700, 780, 890] m or 620 [680, 760, 850, 980] yd in total

The pattern is ideal for all sorts of fingering-weight sock yarn leftovers, scraps, half-a skeins, unicorn tails, or advent calendar minis. Your socks will last longer if made with nylon-reinforced sock yarn but if you have non-sock yarn scraps, I recommend using them anywhere above the heel where they won't be subject to as much wear and abrasion.

Fair Isle Sock MKALendar :: colorwork sock knitting pattern

Free clues for the Fair Isle Sock MKALendar will stay up in my Mighty Networks community for a few more days until January 31, 2024. A printable PDF with pretty pictures and all the clues combined into one will be available for purchase in my Payhip, Ravelry, and LoveCrafts pattern shops from February 1 onward.

And I already have plans for a third advent calendar pattern… You've got 11 months to gather up more fingering-weight scraps!


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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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