The Worst Way Socks by Carolyn Lisle

The Worst Way Socks

May 2023
Fingering (14 wpi) ?
36 stitches and 38 rows = 4 inches
in stockinette stitch (stranded colourwork)
US 1 - 2.25 mm
US 0 - 2.0 mm
481 - 525 yards (440 - 480 m)
Adult Small (Medium, Large)
Flag of English English
This pattern is available for $6.00 USD
buy it now or visit pattern website

This was the Round 5 pattern for Sock Madness 17! You can find chat, answers to questions, additional tips from me, and FO photos for this pattern in the Sock Madness Forever group forums!

People who knit a lot of socks often have strong feelings about toe-up or cuff-down construction. The good news is, these socks are are worked both cuff-down AND toe-up, so that should please everyone! Or maybe not, because the bad news is, the socks are actually each worked cuff-down THEN toe-up… THEN flat, THEN in the round, THEN flat again. They’re socks worked the absolute Worst Way! Fun, right? Wait, where are you going? It’s not that bad! Come back!

Pattern Description

This unconventionally-constructed sock pattern is literal to a ridiculous degree! There will be no question as to which way you knit each section; that’s obvious from the colourwork arrows pointing down the leg, up the foot, and around the gussets. This pattern is mostly stranded colourwork with some long floats, with the sole of the foot worked in stockinette and Eye of Partridge stitch.

When finished, this sock is shaped like a traditional sock with a gusset and heel flap construction. However, it is constructed as follows:

  • The leg is worked in the round like a normal cuff-down sock leg.
  • The foot is worked partly in the round (like a normal toe-up sock) and partly flat (like a cuff-down heel flap, but on the instep) and is grafted to the front of the leg.
  • The gussets are worked in the round and shaped with short rows using back of leg, sole, and picked-up instep-flap selvedge stitches.
  • The sole is worked flat in Eye of Partridge stitch (like a toe-up heel flap, but on the bottom of the foot).
  • The heel is shaped on the sole only using short rows (like a heel turn on a toe-up gusset-and-heel-flap heel) and then grafted together with the back of leg stitches.

It is possible to work the foot and leg in the opposite order — this saves you two ends to sew in — but I recommend doing the leg first because then it works as a gauge reference to help you size the foot accurately.

All non-basic knitting techniques have technique videos linked in the pattern via both links (for reading the pattern from a device) and QR codes (for reading a printed pattern), including Tillybuddy’s Very Stretchy Cast On, German short rows, Judy’s Magic Cast On, Kitchener stitch, and several stranded knitting resources.

Yarn Requirements and Sizing

Sizes Available: Adult Small (Medium, Large) for foot circumferences of approximately 17.5 (19.5, 23) cm / 7 (7.75, 9) inches and minimum finished foot lengths of 23 (23.5, 24.5) cm / 9 (9.25, 9.75) inches; instructions for four gusset heights (Minimum, Lower, Average, and Higher) are also provided for all sizes. (Note that the gusset height now labelled “Average” was called “Lower” in the original Sock Madness version of the pattern.)

The measurements above are based on a consistent stitch gauge of 36 st in 10 cm / 4 inches across all stitches, as well as a colourwork row gauge of 38 rounds/rows in 10 cm / 4 inches and a one-colour stockinette row gauge of 48 rounds/rows in 10 cm / 4 inches. Use the needle size (or combination of needle sizes) that achieves that gauge in order to get a sock that fits as indicated.

For most of the sock, you should be able to use either DPNs or circular needles for the sock-knitting method you prefer, but for the gussets and sole you may want to have a 40 cm / 16 inch circular available and/or extra DPNs due to the high number of stitches on the needles in that section and the shifts to the beginning of the round.

Yarn Requirements: at least 220 (230, 240) m / 240 (250, 260) yards for each of two colours. Colour A (pink in the sample photos) uses slightly more yarn than Colour B (black in the sample photos). If you choose to use a float management technique and/or you have a looser gauge, you may need even more than the yardage indicated above.

This pattern works best if the two colours used are clearly distinct from each other. As you can imagine, this pattern will do awkward things to self-striping, gradient, and self-patterning yarns, so they are not recommended (unless you are okay with the intended effect being broken up). If you do wish to use a non-solid yarn, I recommend pairing that with a solid with no colour overlap with any of the colours in your multicoloured yarn.

These socks are rated 5/5 — Challenging — on my sock pattern difficulty scale. This is because they require colourwork on both sides of the fabric with some long floats, and they are also constructed unconventionally.