After posting on the Woolcraft book the other week, I've been working busily on updating the sock patterns and transcribing them for modern use, as they're not currently in print and haven't been for several decades! I've also made them available for free, because I think it's important to be able to share this bit of our history as widely as possible.
I've transcribed and updated five sock patterns - these are a small selection of the sock patterns in the book, which I’ve picked out in order to give a modern sock knitter a flavour of the time and some interesting new (old!) techniques to try out. You might be surprised how modern some of them are, and how the way we work socks today has evolved. For example, the ‘Auto’ heel in the Heels section looks mightily like a short-row, which is often used today, but why was the Dutch heel left behind? And you may wish to try socks worked on two straight needles and then seamed along the side – Lady’s Bed Socks, the first pattern in this collection. The perfectionist in me wants to knit them as mirror-images with the seam in both insteps, which, I’m sure, could be done with a little working-out.
There seems to be more calf or leg shaping in these patterns than in modern socks, and the cuff is longer in most of the designs. My personal favourite for period charm is the Lady’s Ankle Socks, the last pattern in this collection, which has a pretty lace design and is worked in two colours. Of course, this being war-time both colours are brown, but I’m sure you can do something about that!
Some of the patterns are a little tightly-knit by modern standards – anyone out there knitting to 10.5 st to the inch? – but they’re also small-ish sizings – I’m sure that with a bit of swatching, you could knit for example the Man’s Ribbed Sock at the more average 7.5 st to the inch to get a larger size.
I do recommend reading through the directions for the heels and the toes at the start to get an idea of construction before starting the patterns. Sometimes the pattern relies on ‘…and continue in this manner’ which, if you’ve not seen the heel before, can be daunting! These heels may also be useful to add to other projects, depending on your foot shape – I particularly like the Auto Heel, which does short rows without all the fiddly wrapping.
If you enjoy knitting these patterns and you’re new to vintage knitting, there are some wonderful patterns out there waiting to be brought back to life – full of unexpected shaping, beautiful lace or tailoring, and unusual finishes. I do recommend seeking them out at car-boot sales, in attics and bookshops, and just having a go.
Click the link below for the free PDF download.