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Reinventing the Sock: Free-Sole!

Feb 13, 2013
    

Half-Stranded Socks
by Anna Zilboorg



Just when I think there's nothing earth-shatteringly new in knitting, something pops up. Sock knitting expert Anna Zilboorg has figured out how to knit socks with replaceable soles.

Her method is advanced, but worth it. And as Anna says, "This would be a lot of bother if it weren't a lot of fun."

The instep of the sock, or "top" of the sock—in the Half-Stranded Socks at right, the colorwork portion—is knitted first. When the instep is completed, the sole of the sock is knitted, including the heel and gusset. The sole is attached as you knit it; in the photo at right, the sole is knitted on to the colored band that runs around the foot and up the leg of the sock.

Here's what Anna has to say about her socks:

Half-Stranded Socks

The colorwork pattern marches up the front and back of the leg to the cuff. For fun, I reversed the colors on the second sock.

This peculiar sock construction enables a stranded color pattern to be worked on the instep alone, which makes the sock fit your normal shoe size. Furthermore, it allows any portion of the sole to be removed and reknitted. If a hole develops, snip a row of yarn on the sole anywhere between the heel turn and the end of toe, then ravel the sole as far as necessary. Replace the sole by picking up stitches and joining them to the instep in the same manner as originally worked, then graft the live stitches at the snipped row.

—Anna Zilboorg

    
The sole being knitted onto
the instep



The gusset

I find Anna's technique fascinating. I watched the video and here's a quick run-down on how the sole is connected to the instep.

Joining the Sole to the Insole
The first and last stitch of each row of the sole is slipped. When you get to the end of a row, pick up a stitch from instep, slip it back to the left hand needle, and knit it and the last stitch (the slipped stitch) from the sole together. (See photo at left.)

When you get to the gusset, you pick up stitches on the instep without knitting them together with the sole stitches, thereby increasing a stitch on each side, which creates the gusset increases. (See photo at bottom left.)

Then you get to the heel turn, but for that, you'll have to get the video!

The great thing about this knitting technique is that you can use it to join any two pieces of knitting. You just have to remember to slip the appropriate stitches. I love a versatile technique, don't you?

You can download Knit Free-Sole Socks like I did, or get the DVD. Whichever you choose, you won't be sorry. We already knew that Anna was brilliant, but the idea of free-sole socks really takes the cake!

Cheers,

P.S. What do you think of free-sole socks? Leave a comment and let us know!


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Knit Free-Sole Socks: Handknit Socks to Last a Lifetime with Anna Zilboorg Video Download

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Join Anna Zilboorg on this knitting workshop to learn an ingenios sock-knitting technique that allows handknit socks to be reknitted as often as needed.

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Knit Free-Sole Socks: Handknit Socks to Last a Lifetime with Anna Zilboorg

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Join Anna Zilboorg on this knitting workshop to learn an ingenios sock-knitting technique that allows handknit socks to be reknitted as often as needed.

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Comments

lindaspong wrote
on Mar 10, 2013 3:56 PM

I got the video of the sole-free sock and I like it BUT you have to figure out how to do a full-size sock on your own.  There is not pattern for a full size sock and I need one!  I don't care about the stranded sock.  I just want a pattern for making a plain sock in this method.

gabikali wrote
on Feb 21, 2013 4:49 PM

@mykidlets if you knit your socks top down you could always rip back the toe, pick up stitches and reknit.  if you like to go toe up you could still make the toe easy to replace by starting at the foot: magic cast on the number of stitches for the foot (or some other provisional cast on), knit the toe as for top down socks, then knit the foot/heel/cuff -- or toe last, either way, depends how badly you need the extra needles :)  similar idea to an afterthought heel.

CeecyN wrote
on Feb 17, 2013 5:12 PM

In point of fact, the Vikings and those before who used nalbinding always made the foot of undyed wool, just so it could be replaceable, and the cuff with the expensive (especially time-wise) coloured wools so they could be reused. (The wool naturally felted to provide the stronger sole, too.)

WarpedOze wrote
on Feb 16, 2013 7:23 PM

Oh Great - and I thought I was so clever with doing just this very thing on my last pair of bed socks which I am now having to replace the sole and heel!!!!!

sealed4ever wrote
on Feb 16, 2013 5:06 PM

This is wonderful. Does anyone remember EZ's "re-tread socks"  from decades ago? Same idea.

puchteca wrote
on Feb 16, 2013 11:40 AM

Mary Thomas published a sock pattern with a separate sole in her 1938 "Mary Thomas's Knitting Book" (republished by Dover in 1972) - see page 224.

delmondar wrote
on Feb 16, 2013 10:06 AM

Some of you commenters are being way too critical about this article.  Maybe this is not "new" to you, fine!  But, obviously, it is the the author and to others as well.

HereKitty_2 wrote
on Feb 16, 2013 6:55 AM

These are in Ann Budd's  Sock Knitting Master Class book.  Why no mention of that here?

WendyB@6 wrote
on Feb 14, 2013 10:02 AM

This is so terribly clever.  I must try this technique.  I learned how to darn socks as a measure of being frugal (make-do-and-mend self-challenge).  I expected this to come in handy (footy?) if I was going to knit socks and be so invested in them, that I wouldn't want to discard them simply because of worn toes and heels.  This is a related and terribly clever solution.

on Feb 13, 2013 5:36 PM

I admire the lovely sock made by Ms Zilboorg, but perhaps a nod should be given to Elizabeth Zimmerman for her Mocassin Socks. There is also an adaptation of her pattern, with credit given, in the Interweave book Favorite Socks.

CGJ wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 12:00 PM

Nothing earthshattering new - During and after WWII, we reused old socks and re-knit sole. That is over 50 years ago. And my grandmother taught her children and us how to do this.

To "Mykidlet"  cut the sock about 1/2" below the little toes, pick up the stitches and knit a toe, You can always darn the toes if you do not want to knit this new part of your sock.

MelissaM@52 wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 11:57 AM

Sounds a lot like Elizabeth Zimmerman's Moccasin Socks.

The stranding is quite pretty.

Rhonda wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 11:18 AM

Anna Zilboorg is a living legend and a knitting genius!  But as others have mentioned, there's nothing new under the sun, and EZ (and apparently a few others, too!) got there first.  Those half-stranded socks are beautiful!  Anna Zilboorg is always great.

on Feb 13, 2013 10:48 AM

This is a brilliant concept that has been around for a long time.  My great-grandmother talked about knitting socks with replaceable heels and soles when she was a child..

frithest wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 10:21 AM

All I can say is "brilliant"!

on Feb 13, 2013 9:40 AM

Takes 2 needle socks to a new level !!

buffythesage wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 8:43 AM

My mother's herringbone joined socks were published by knitting magazine in the uk as dcireland's jubilee socks. www.ravelry.com/.../queens-diamond-jubilee-socks.    Easy to replace the whole foot and an anti-jog cable!  

mykidlets wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 8:27 AM

What about a sock where the toe can be replaced?  That's where my socks tend to wear out first...

on Feb 13, 2013 8:16 AM

I have a "mon tricot Knit & Crochet" book from the '70s.  In it is a how to pattern for Italian-style socks with the sole knit seperately.  The side seams were sewn to finish the sock.  The top was knitted flat and the back seamed. Old is new again!

Samspun wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 8:08 AM

I have been knitting Anna Zilboorg's socks for years and I love them, but I do think that you should have done your research before stating that resoleable socks were "earth shatteringly new".

Samspun wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 8:08 AM

I have been knitting Anna Zilboorg's socks for years and I love them, but I do think that you should have done your research before stating that resoleable socks were "earth shatteringly new".

Badgerbluff wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 8:08 AM

I did that very thing years ago when I wanted to put a reinforcing thread on the sole.

Carole

AmandaG@2 wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 7:24 AM

Yes, Elizabeth Zimmermann did a re-soleable sock with her Moccasin Socks, but the technique was different.

That said, Dez Crawford introduced this exact technique back in 1999 with her pattern The Ultimate Refootable Sock in the book Socks Socks Socks from XRX.  

www.ravelry.com/.../the-ultimate-refootable-sock

dlg wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 7:22 AM

I must agree with all three comments below - we owe the idea for a resoleable sock to Elizabeth Zimmermann - Anna Zilboorg has just taken it a little step forward...

I think there should have been at least a mention of EZ in the article.....

Tnsinko wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 7:09 AM

I think Elizabeth Zimmermann did this with her moccasin sock years ago.

on Feb 13, 2013 7:08 AM

Well, I'm not sure Anna Zilboorg was the first to figure this out.  The great Elizabeth Zimmerman has a method for it in her 1981 Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac.  

SusanS@231 wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 7:05 AM

Elizabeth Zimmermann invented a sock pattern with replaceable soles.  She called them "retreads".