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Mystery Revealed: Willowbug MKAL

The last clue of the Willowbug MKAL came out this Monday so this is the right moment to reveal what this springy mystery sock pattern entailed. In this blog post I'll go through the pattern clue by clue, and detail the knitting techniques and design decisions made at each step.

Let's take a stroll through the forest!


Clue 1 of Willowbug MKAL starts with quite a regular wedge toe done in stockinette. Increases are done on every other round and are placed at the two sides of the foot, both on the instep and the toe. You can use any closed cast-on you like. Recently I've taken a liking to the invisible cast-on.

Willowbug MKAL :: sock knitting pattern

After all toe increases are complete, a diagonal lace pattern starts on the instep. The lace pattern begins slowly with only one motif on the inside edge of the foot but this is built upon gradually with more and more shapes joining in. The lace pattern is angled towards the outside edge of the foot: towards the left on the left sock and to the right on the right sock.

The leaf shapes are made with yarnovers and K2tog and SSK decreases. There is stuff happening on every round of this lace pattern — no rest rounds! The clue ends just as the pattern gets going with the lace covering the entire instep of the foot.

Willowbug MKAL :: sock knitting pattern

In Clue 2, the lace pattern picks up where it left off at the end of the first clue. The lace pattern is like dappled sunlight filtering through leaves, featuring delicate leaf-shaped motifs made with yarnovers and decreases. This is the place in the pattern where you can adjust how the foot fits: work fewer or more repeats of the 10-round lace pattern before continuing on with gusset increases. If you want to modify the foot length, use the measurements given in the pattern to adjust the starting point of gusset increases.

But be mindful of your round gauge here! The pattern is written with quite a tight round gauge (47 rnds per 10 cm) so you might not be able to fit in as many lace pattern repeats as the pattern suggests. If your round gauge doesn't match the pattern gauge, use the round counts provided in the pattern to adjust foot length: measure and calculate the starting point for gusset increases based on your round gauge.

The lace pattern subtly morphs into a stitch pattern with twisted and traveling stitches, like vines creeping up a tree trunk. Where there were K2tog and SSK decreases before, these now turn into right and left twists. Going forward, the diamond shapes are worked on a purl background to make them really stand out.

At the same time as all this patterning happens on the instep, gusset increases are worked on the sole. I noticed with Spice Must Flow MKAL that if you make increases right next to a twisted stitch, it tends to leave a hole. That's why in this pattern gusset increases are made on every other round within two stitches from the end. The outermost stitch is twisted to make a sharp transition to the purl background on the instep but the inner of the two is a regular knit stitch to prevent these holes.

Willowbug MKAL :: sock knitting pattern

Heel turn and heel flap are worked in Clue 3. This pattern, like practically all my sock patterns save for Forgotten Memories, uses the Widdershins Revisited heel construction. The benefit of this heel construction is that, between working the heel turn and heel flap you also work a round or two across the instep stitches. This prevents (or at least minimizes) those holes you tend to develop at the corners of the heel when you transition from heel to leg.

The heel turn is worked on the sole by simultaneously doing short rows and increasing a few stitches to create a nicely-fitting, rounded heel that hugs the foot. The heel flap is no ordinary reinforced heel-stitch flap nor even a twisted-rib heel flap I often like to do. Instead, the heel flap design on Willowbug MKAL is an ornamental pattern made of twisted and traveling stitches, just like much of the sock is. The heel flap design starts with a few rows of sparse twisted ribbing, which flows onto traveling-stitch medallions and the diamond shapes already seen on the foot.

Now that there's pattern on both the front and back of the foot, pay extra attention to which sock is which. It's easy to get mixed up but, as with all knitting patterns, left and right are seen from the wearer's (not the knitter's) point of view. Left sock goes on the left foot; right sock on the right foot. If you have a trouble remembering which way to turn the twists, here's my rule-of-thumb: always make the single twists (and later, cable turns) learn towards the outside edge of the foot and leg. If there are two twists next to each other, they're always mirrored, leaning either towards or away from each other.

Willowbug MKAL :: sock knitting pattern

In Clue 4, the stitches from the heel flap flow into the lower-leg design. It's essentially the same diamond-shaped traveling-stitch pattern you're already familiar with except now it's done on both the front and back of the leg.

Twisted stitches (and later, cable turns) pull the fabric in and make the socks tighter than they were in the lace portion on the foot. That is why, to counteract the tightness, there are two extra stitches added to the leg on the very last round of the heel flap in Clue 3.

The edges of the heel flap and gusset increases join in a single twisted-stitch column that travels all the way up the leg. If the two extra stitches increased in Clue 3 are not enough and you need even more room in the leg, I'd suggest making additional increases in the reverse stockinette bits surrounding these twisted stitch columns. That's the most invisible place to hide them in.

Clue 4 offers another place for adjusting sock fit: for a longer leg, work fewer or more repeats of the 10-round diamond pattern before moving on to the next bit in the pattern. In the last section of Clue 4, the diamond pattern transforms into open medallions. Look familiar? The design in mid-leg mimics the one at the bottom of the heel flap.

Willowbug MKAL :: sock knitting pattern

The last clue of the pattern offers something not yet seen in the socks. On the front, a diagonal lattice pattern made of twisted stitches, traveling stitches, and cable turns slants towards the outer edge of the leg. The angle is the same as on the toe: upwards to the left on the left sock; to the right on the right sock.

On the back leg there's a symmetrical design of traveling stitches. The cable turns, I must admit, are pretty annoying to do. That's why the pattern offers two options for working the cables. Option 1 is a bit easier and faster to do but it jumbles up the order of the stitches. If you want a more precise version that preserves the twisted-stitch columns, use the trickier Option 2. The difference in looks between the two is not noticeable, though, as the cable cross that's on top obscures what's happening behind it.

At the top of the leg, the pattern continues seamlessly from the lattice into a (mostly) P2, K1 tbl ribbing at the cuff. The socks are then bound off using a stretchy bind-off method. For my socks I used the Russian a.k.a. elastic bind-off done in pattern.


The full pattern for Willowbug MKAL with all five clues combined into one single PDF is now available in my pattern shops on Payhip, LoveCrafts, and Ravelry (seizure warning). The charts have also been combined: one page for the left sock and one for the right. The design is chart-heavy but written instructions are also provided for all stitch patterns. Row-by-row written instructions take up a lot of space so the pattern is fairly long (17 pages, including charts).

And don't forget to enter the giveaway, either on Instagram using the hashtag #willowbugmkal or by posting a photo of your socks in my Mighty Networks community. Winners are announced on June 6!

Willowbug MKAL :: sock knitting pattern

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Discover the enchanting Willowbug MKAL! This blog post takes you on a journey through the springy mystery sock pattern, unraveling each clue with knitting techniques and design decisions. Lace, twisted, and traveling stitches create a forest-inspired masterpiece in this toe-up sock knitting pattern. Learn how and where to adjust foot length, tips for remembering which way to turn the twists, how to make cables less tricky, and suggestions for adding extra room for the leg if needed. #knitting

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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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