This pattern, based on instructions by Yorkshire knitting writer, Miss Elizabeth Ryder, was originally a downloadable elsewhere on the net. Figured it out last year, and thought I’d put it up for anyone interested in arcane stuff like how to knit an 1860s’ stripey sock.
Stockings with vertical stripes were fashionable around the 1790s. Into the 19thC, horizontal stripes became more popular. There are some great images of 19thC stockings if you search here. And more info about the background to Victorian stripes and Miss Ryder herself, here.
The site where it was, has gone kaput, so here for your delectation, is the pattern for:
Miss Elizabeth Ryder’s Child’s Sock Pattern; Richmond, Yorkshire, ca. 1870.
I knitted this “child’s sock” in contemporary sock yarn on fairly standard sized, by modern standards, needles and just by lengthening the leg and foot… it came out to fit me, an adult, size 5 foot.
I have re-written Miss Ryder’s pattern, using modern knitting abbreviations, and conventions, and making it stripy, like the sock in ‘Quiet’, the 1860 William W. Nichol painting, in York Art Gallery. This sock is slightly longer and so has a few more stripes than the one in the painting. In her book’s introduction, Miss Ryder mentions stripes and advises:
“The chief things to be remembered in knitting stripes: – to commence your sock, after ribbing the top, with a fresh colour, to bring your stripe right so as to commence the heel with a fresh colour – to take up stitches at the side of the heel with the same colour as you commenced the heel, thus bringing your stripes right across the foot…”
Miss Ryder says this sock would fit a child up to 3 years old. If you experiment with yarn, and needle sizes, by swatching, you can probably adapt the size up and down, accordingly, as Miss Ryder recommends, as that 73 stitch cast on is close to the number of stitches I would usually cast on for an sock for myself, let alone a sock for a 3 year old!
Bear in mind, if adapting this Victorian child size sock for a contemporary adult one, you will need to make the leg longer and also the foot, once you have finished shaping the instep, and before you start shaping the toe. Not so difficult, as you can try it on as you go, if necessary.
Work first rounds in K1 P1 rib, to match the sock in ‘Quiet’, or K2 P 2 rib, as Miss Ryder suggests in her pattern, according to taste.
MC – Main colour (light)
SC – Second colour (dark)
Yarn: Any 4 ply sock yarn, two contrasting solid or heathery colours. Or use up odds and ends left from other sock projects. Victorian stripes often alternated a natural cream or grey base colour with a vivid dyed one.
Tension, Needle Size and Yarn
This pattern is called “Child’s Sock, No 2”. It was suitable for a child of 18 months – 2 years. Incredibly, when the pattern is followed exactly but knitted using 2.5mm needles and any contemporary 4 ply sock yarn, what you end up with is a sock to fit an average woman. This tells us that Victorian needles were skinny and yarn extremely fine.
Miss Ryder writes:
“Size of needles depends much upon the knitter, as some knit much tighter than others. Needles Nos. 16, 15 and 14 are the three sizes generally used in knitting socks. Nos 12 and 13, if very coarse wool is used…”
No 16 was 1.62mm, size 15 were 1.75mm and Nos 14 were 2mm. Interesting to note, the shockingly ‘fat’ needles only fit for coarse knitting were nearer the modern day standard, of 2.5mm and 2.75mm!
The yarn Miss Ryder recommended were “Merino” and “Andalucian”. These would be far finer than our contemporary 4 ply sock yarn; possibly close to our laceweight.
Knitted on 2.5mm needles with modern 4 ply sock yarn, you are looking at a small-medium sized woman’s sock. If you wanted to replicate an 1860s’ child’s sock, you need to go down to 1.75mm needles and any fine, strong worsted-spun wool or silk, you can find.
Andalucian yarn was recommended for these socks, which she said usually needed a 1.62mm needle for a loose knitter or 1.75mm for a tight knitter. So many mid 19thC patterns mention ‘Andalucian’ that it seems to have been a generic thickness/type of yarn.
As for needles, fine sizes were available but some knitters improvised. Yorkshire contract knitters at these dates often used blunted hat-pins to knit gloves and socks, which suggests the fineness of Victorian knitting. To knit fine yarn on tiny needles was practical, as it made for a harder-wearing item. Sock wool was worsted spun, so smooth, tightly spun and again, hardier. If re-creating this sock for yourself, in 4 ply sock yarn, look for solid colours. Miss Ryder suggests mauve and white, or scarlet and grey, for stripes. These were popular mid Victorian colour combinations. In 1876, Miss Ryder wrote a book called ‘How to Knit Spun Silk Socks and Stockings’. A child’s stocking needed 2 ½ ounces of silk. If you want to really go for it and make a repro of a child’s sock, a good bet might be an indie yarn supplier’s lace-weight silk, or silk blend.
If you use a 2.5mm needle and standard 4 ply sock yarn, these socks for a 3 year old will come out big enough for a older child or yourself. If you want to make repros, it’s 1.75mm needles and the finest, strongest worsted silk or wool you can find.
Stripey socks are a great way to use up leftovers from earlier sock projects, so they are thrifty, too.
No tension (gauge) was given in most Victorian patterns. Worked with contemporary 4 ply sock yarn, on 1.75mm needles, I got a tension of 8 stitches per inch.
To size your own pair of socks, you need to do a tension square and change needle size to get 8 stitch per inch, if you are aiming at making a pair for an adult. This does suggest how fine Victorian children’s socks were knitted.
Miss Ryder mirrors her decreases, using a S1, K1, PSSO and a K2tog, one stitch either side of the purled seam stitch, when decreasing down the leg and again, when decreasing for the instep. Some Victorian writers simply K2tog, and didn’t worry about mirroring a left sloping decrease with a right sloping decrease. S1, K1, PSSO was the standard way of creating a left-leaning decrease. It looks less tidy than the modern SSK left-leaning decrease, but SSK appears to be a 20thC development. Miss Ryder was particular about her S1, K1, PSSO.
Jogs in Rounds in Stripey Knitting and the Seam Stitch
When knitting in the round, you are in effect, knitting a spiral. As a result there is a slight ‘jog’ between the end of one round, and the start of the next. This jog is more noticeable when knitting stripes. 21stC knitting gets round this by using various jogless join techniques. Victorian knitters hid joins in stripe patterns with a purl stitch every row, or every other row, on the centre back seam.
The seam stitch was also a handy marker for the start of a round, and a useful place to stick your decreases or increases. There ios little evidence for decs or incs placed evenly right round the leg, in Victorian sock knitting. All the shaping seems to have happened one or two stitches away from the seam stitch.
If you want to try jogless joins and want more info, check it out on the web as there are tutorials and videos that can help.
In another book, Miss Ryder recommends when changing colours, knit the old and the new colour together for the first stitch of the new colour, keeping the new colour loosely tensioned. If you want a genuine pair of Miss Ryder socks – that’s the way to do it. She also recommends that you don’t break off the colours between stripes, but carry the yarn up inside the work.
Miss Ryder’s Child’s sock No.2, 1860s
CO 73 stitches in SC. Join into the round, being careful not to twist stitches.
In SC, K1 P1 rib, 2 rounds. Continue in ribbing, knitting 2 round stripes alternating colour, until you have worked 30 rounds.
Now work in stocking stitch.
Purl first stitch of round, to mark your centre back seam. As you go down the sock, purl this stitch every round. Place marker after purled seam st.
Change to larger needles, still working 2 round stripes.
Continue in this way down the sock leg, until you have completed round 52, commencing shaping leg at round 13…
Round 13: K1, Purl steam st, S1, K1, PSSO; K to 3 stitches from end of round, K2tog, K1.
Repeat these paired decs on Rounds 23, 29, 35, 41, [63 sts], decreasing 1 stitch either side seam stitch.
NB: For heel flap you can work plain in one colour of yarn. Miss Ryder recommends you double the yarn for the heel. Alternatively, you can get a double thickness of yarn into the heel by knitting vertical stripes.
(Row 1:K1 MC, K1 SC, rep to end row;
Row 2: P1 MC, K1 SC, rep to end row).
On round 53, start Heel Flap. (You can of course work the leg longer than this).
Knit heel on 31 stitches, using the purled seam stitch to mark the exact centre of the heel. You can now work this st in stocking stitch when you come to it.
Place remaining 32 sts on waste yarn or stitch holder.
Starting with a K row, work in stocking st for 24 rows, taking care to slip your first st of every row. Row 25: K19, K 2 tog,* turn;
P9, P 2 tog, turn;
Rep from *, Knitting or Purling final stitch before turn, with next st, to close the gap, until you have consumed sts both sides and only have 10 sts on your needle. This finishes the heel.
Needle 1: With this needle on which you have the 10 sts, PU 12 sts from side of heel, K 5 of the sts that were waiting for you on st holder
Needle 2: Knit all sts on holder except for remaining 5
Needle 3: Knit remaining 5 sts, P.U 12sts from side of heel, then K 5 from start needle 1
Your needles now are configured: 22, 21, 22 sts. [65 sts]
Needle 1: K5, M1, (K3, M1)4 times, K5
Needle 2: (front/top of foot)K
Needle 3: K5, M1, (K3, M1)4 times, K5 [75st].
Needle 1: * Knit til 7 sts from end; K 2 tog, K5.
Needle 2: Knit
Needle 3: K5; S1, K1, PSSO; K to end of needle
Round 2: K
Work these 2 rounds from *, until you have 62 sts on your needle.
Knit around 38 rounds plain.
Re-arrange the sts on the needles. Put as many sts on the needle for the top of the foot, as you have on the other two needles (underneath foot). You may have to knit round a bit, to get back to new start of round.
NB: The needle with 31 sts is now Needle 1.
Arrange sts so you have 31 sts on Needle 1, 15 sts on Needle 2, 16 sts on Needle 3.
Needle 1: *K1, S1, K1, PSSO, K to 3 sts from end, K2 tog, K1
Needle 2: K1, S1, K1, PSSO, K to end of needle
Needle 3: K to 3 sts from end, K 2 tog, K1
Rep from * til you have 24 sts.
Arrange equally onto 2 needles (12 sts, 12 sts)
Cast off on right side of work, 1 st from Back needle over 1 st from Front. (Grafting).
Knit second sock to match.