Marco Polo Handspun Socks Free Knitting Pattern

Marco Polo Handspun Socks

These socks were a real adventure to make. I am new to spinning and hadn’t successfully spun sock yarn before. So I was very nervous as to how this yarn would turn out. In the end, it was more frightening than difficult. I think this is a good project for new spinners who want to challenge themselves and play with colour.

I began with some hand dyed superwash merino roving from Knitted to a T (see her blog here). It had such awesome colours that I felt I wanted to keep them as solid as possible. If I two plied the yarn, it would look good, but the colours would be mixed up. Besides, I’m quite picky with the yarn I knit and I much prefer the round feeling of three ply yarn. So I opted on Navajo plying the yarn. It gives it a stripy colour pattern and a three ply(ish) yarn; however, you have to spin your singles quite thin.

I split the roving lengthwise several times and several thicknesses. Some of those I split in half part way. This was so that I could pick them up at random and hopefully make a random stripe pattern. I challenged myself to see how thin I could spin yarn. I spun it on my Ashford Traditional at the fastest setting (12:1 I think) at about three treadles for every two inches. I put a lot more twist into this yarn than usual as I wanted to ply it quite tightly. After I spun the singles I Navajo plied it ending with a yarn that varied between 22 and 24 WPI.

Don’t worry about over plying the yarn. If it ends up crimpy, simply moisten the skein and rewind it onto your Nid, leaving it there to dry. This sets the twist and makes the yarn easier to knit with. NB: be gentle with moist yarn as moisture and movement are the two main elements used in making felt.

It is a very simple sock pattern and I encourage you to use a heal or toe style that you are most comfortable with. I knit a supporting thread or sock support (I buy mine from elann.com, see here) in to the toes and heals to help them wear better. That is, I put the thread together with the yarn and knit with them as if they are one yarn. If you are worried that you won’t have enough yarn, you can leave the heal and toes to last (use an afterthought heal like the Knitting Heretic uses – this is more often done in toe-up socks, but doesn’t have to be – you can use the same method knitting from the top down) and knit them with a different yarn.

ETA (Mar 2008): this pattern is not written for an absolute beginner. It assumes the knitter has some basic skills at following a pattern. If you get stuck on the abbreviations, I have a list in the sidebar to the right of this page which will help with that. Of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment here or to contact me on Ravelry. I'm always willing to help to the best of my abilities.

The reason why I don't write out every little detail in a pattern is that I encourage the knitter to adjust it to their liking. Patterns are starting points and you, as the knitter, are capable of creating great art if you aren't too hemmed in by a pattern's restraints.

So, what do you need?

  • 100g (just under 4oz) of hand dyed roving (merino is nice)

  • Something to spin it on (a wheel or a spindle)

  • A lazy kate is very helpful for plying

  • Some knitting needles (in my case 2.25mm)

  • A darning needle

  • A sense of adventure

  • Optional: Two packets of sock support (it has another more German sounding name I can’t remember at the present moment – but I like sock support better.)

To make the sock:

Approximate gage: 32 stitches = 4 inches in stst with 2.25mm needles. This is very fine, but it will vary depending on the yarn you spin. This is your own creation, so feel free to try a different gage and or a different needle size.

The Leg:

Cast on 60 stitches.

Work in knit two purl two ribbing for about 15 cm (6”). Now it is time to begin the heal.

The Heal: (this is a Dutch heal with a slip stitch flap – but feel free to make what ever sort of heal you feel most comfortable with)

Divide the stitches so that thirty stitches are on one needle and the other thirty stitches are ready to be ignored for the next little while. What follows uses the 30 ‘live’ stitches only and we will get back to those other fellows later. Also, this is where you start the sock support thread if you like.

Starting on the right side:

  1. (s1, k1) repeat across to end.

  2. s1 and purl back across.

Repeat these two rows 15 times. This creates the heal flap.

Now to turn the heal:

  1. s1, k19, ssk, turn and work the other way.

  2. s1, p10, p2tog, turn

  3. s1, k10 ssk, turn

Repeat rows two and three until there is nothing left to decrease with (should be 12 ‘live stitches’ left) At this point break the sock support thread (not the good yarn!) and then we will finish off the heal. This next part is where it is really nice to have that fifth sock needle, but you can do it without.

The Foot:

If you ended on a purl round, knit across your live stitches. Along the edge of the heal flap, pick up and knit 15 stitches and make certain to note where those stitches end and the 30 stitches for the top of the foot begin (either with a stitch maker or by keep those 30 stitches on their own needle). This is where we will be doing the decreasing at soon.

Knit across the top stitches (the 30 you put aside earlier), mark where they end and pick up and knit 15 stitches along the other edge of the heal flap. Make a mental note (or use a stitch marker) that the beginning of each round is now at the centre bottom of the foot.

Knit one round; however, for each of the stitches you just picked up, knit into the back loop. This twists them and makes them look nicer.

Now some decreasing:

  1. knit until two stitches before marker (between picked up stitches and the 30 top stitches), k2tog. knit the 30 top stitches, ssk and then knit to the beginning of the round.

  2. knit all around.

Repeat these two rounds until 60 stitches remain. Then knit in good old fashioned stocking stitch until 4-5 cm (1 and a half to two inches) shy of desired length.

The Toe: (Again, if you already have a style of doing toes that you like, go ahead. This style makes a pointy toe, but I find it more comfortable that way.)

At this point you can begin the sock support thread if you wish.

Remember how we had divided between the 30 top stitches of the sock and the (now 30) bottom stitches of the sock – let’s do it again. I like to do this by rearranging them on the double points, but stitch markers work well. If you look at the sock from the top (as if it was on the foot and you are looking at it from the top of the foot) the row now begins the first stitch after the right hand stitch marker.

  1. (k1, ssk, k until 3 sts before next stitch marker, k2tog k1.) repeat for the second/bottom half.

  2. knit all around.

Repeat these two rows until 12 sts remain. Graft toe with kitchener stitch.

Weave in your ends and wear your socks with pride.


As usual: This pattern is free of charge for personal use. Hopefully it is written in a way that allows you to adjust it as you wish. If you have any questions, comments, notice any errors, &c. Please leave me a note and I will see what I can do.

This pattern takes some very basic sock elements and puts them together. I’m certain I’m not the first one to make socks like this. As far as I can tell these elements of sock construction have been in use for the last few hundred years and are therefore considered public domain. However, if you feel I’ve infringed on copy right, let me know, provide proof, and I will do my best to remedy the situation.