Making stripes in socks can be a challenge, unless you’re very familiar with the jogless jog technique, so clever knitters and yarnmakers have come up with lots of ways to create stripes using the yarn itself! Different yarns are made to give different striping effects, from just a few stitches of each color to long-striping yarns with just a few color changes. We’ll focus on long-striping yarns in gradients today.
The short answer for gradients and socks is: yes! A long-striping gradient (with say, 4-7 color changes over the whole sock) will show off any pattern just fine. The length of the color blocks within the gradient should make it possible to see lace, cable or other patterning without visually breaking it up too much. Any repetitive stitch pattern responds well to gradients.
Some favorite sock patterns to try:
Hermione’s Everyday Socks, by Erica Lueders
Monkey, by Cookie A.
Jeck and Zora, by Regina Satta, available as free Ravelry downloads
Nutkin, by Beth LaPensee, from Knitzi.com
Spring Forward, by Linda Welch, from Knitty, Summer 2008
BFF sock, by Cookie A., from Knit.Sock.Love
Because gradients themselves are so much fun to work, you may want to just stick with a basic, vanilla sock recipe to watch the colors unfold.
How I Make My Socks, by Susan B Anderson (on her blog)
Sock recipe: A Good Plain Sock, by Stephanie Pearl McPhee, from Knitting Rules
Basic Sock Pattern, by Ann Budd, in The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns
Choose Colors to Highlight Your Pattern
As with any yarn, the more subtle the stitch pattern, the better it will respond to a light color. Part of the reason textured Aran sweaters looks so great is their traditional cream color! So, if your heart desires a subtle knit-purl textured diamond pattern, you would be well-advised to choose a pale-blue-to-gray gradient over a maroon-to-black gradient.
Very deep browns, blacks or navy are a hard sell for any textured pattern, but a graphic lace pattern will make any color look great.
Patterns to try:
Hedera, by Cookie A., from Knit.Sock.Love
Cadence Socks, by verybusymonkey, available as a free Ravelry download
Embossed Leaves, by Mona Schmidt, from Favorite Socks
The Secret Fan, by Adrienne Fong, from Bellybuttonknits Designs
Blackrose Socks, by Suzi Anvin, from Knitty, Winter 2008
Duckies, by Samantha Hayes, from Aquaknits site
Many of you are more familiar with cuff-down sock construction, but toe-up socks allow you to knit until all of your yarn is gone, which helps gradients tremendously. If you’ve never tried toe-up socks before, I urge you to give it a go! You can try them on as you work, no grafting is needed, and you’ll get to enjoy every stitch of your gradient.
Patterns to try:
Gusset Heel Basic Socks, by Wendy D. Johnson, Socks from the Toe Up
Diagonal Lace Socks, by Wendy D. Johnson, Socks from the Toe Up
Serpentine Socks, by Wendy D. Johnson, from Socks from the Toe Up
Skew, by Dana Holden, Knitty, Winter 2009
Mojo, by Donyale Grant, Some Knitting Required site
Socks on a Plane, by Laura Linneman, from La La’s Knits
Crimple, by Michelle Hunter, from Knit Purl Hunter
Firestarter, by Yarnissima, from Yarnissima site
If you do a sock pattern with an Afterthought Heel, your heels will be the same color as the toes of your sock, so you’ll have a gradient with contrasting heel.
Patterns to try:
Afterthought Heel Socks, by Laura Linneman, available as a free Ravelry download from La La’s Knits
Sweetheart Socks, by Nikol Lohr, Knitty Winter 2011
Frick-N-Frack, by Jenny Lee, from Jenny Lee Knits
Watching the colors change makes knitting with gradients go really fast. Have fun!