Harlequin Socks — Getting Started

For my second pair of socks in New Directions in Sock Knitting, I’ve chosen Harlequin by Anne Berk. NDSK_Berk2

Shown on page 70, these socks involve Anne’s ingenious “Annetarsia” technique for knitting intarsia “in the round.” I use quote marks because the socks are really knitted back and forth in rows as for regular intarsia, but the first and last color block of each row are linked so that a “seamless” tube is formed. This technique allows you to work any color-block pattern (such as argyle) in projects that you want to appear as if they were worked in rounds, such as hats, mittens, sweaters, and, of course, socks!

For my rendition, I chose five colors (Burnt Cinnamon, Berry, Merlot, Red, and Old Gold) of Elemental Affects Shetland (100% North American Shetland Wool; 118 yards/28 grams), a beautifully hand-dyed “toothy” wool that hasn’t been denigrated by the superwash process (a process that strips the natural scales off wool fibers). Although the yarn feels slightly scratchy in the skein, it blooms beautifully when washed and forms a knitted fabric that will hold its shape through dozens and dozens of (hand) washings.

These socks are worked from the toe up, so I have ample time to get accustomed to working with a single color of yarn while shaping the toe before the intarsia fun began. I’m using a marker to remind me where the turning point is, although it isn’t necessary once you figure out how the “in the round” instructions work.

toe and beg of foot

(I apologize for the bad photo — we had a beautiful sunny day and I forgot about the harsh light when I took the picture.)

I’m having a bit of trouble managing all the butterflies of yarn and four double-pointed needles so I think I’ll switch to a 40″ circular needle and work the rest of the sock using the magic-loop technique. If you’ve never tried this technique, I suggest you give it a try. It’s a great way to minimize the number of needle breaks when working in rounds.