Egyptian Socks to Knit

This project was adapted from Nancy Bush’s Folk Socks: The History & Techniques of Handknitted Footwear. In addition to the Egyptian Socks, there were patterns for seventeen other designs, all inspired by traditional, historic references. Unfortunately, this title is now out of print, but you can still find the pattern for the Egyptian socks in the July/August 2012 issue of PieceWork.

The inspiration for these decorative socks comes from the collection of The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. The socks are typical of Islamic footwear of the fifteenth to sixteenth centuries. On the original socks in the museum, a band of simplified Kufesque letters (an early form of Arabic script) above the heel and before the toe shaping spelled the word for the Kufic name of God. I have replaced the original stitch pattern in these two areas with a geometric diamond pattern that works well with the other patterns. The heel is worked with a series of simple short-rows. The toe is shaped with four pairs of blue decreases in each decrease round, with a natural-colored knit stitch between each pair.

Egyptian socks

Nancy Bush’s Egyptian Socks inspired by traditional blue-and-white Islamic stockings now in the collection of The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joe Coca. Egyptian rabab (spike fiddle) courtesy of Linda Ligon.

Wendy Guernsey, 5-ply 100% wool yarn, sportweight, 245 yards (224.0 m)/100 gram (3.5 oz) skein, 1 skein each of #674 Atlantic Blue and #500 Aran
Needles, set of 5 double pointed, size 2 (2.75 mm) or size needed to obtain gauge
Tapestry needle

Finished size: About 8 inches (20 cm) foot circumference, 8¾ inches (22 cm) foot length from back of heel to tip of toe, and 7¾ inches (19 cm) leg length from top of cuff to beg of heel; to fit U.S. woman’s shoe sizes 6 to 8; for larger socks, use one size larger needles and work more rnds in the leg and foot

Gauge: 18 sts and 19 rnds = 2 inches (5.1 cm) in colorwork patt, worked in rnds

Nancy Bush, a member of PieceWork’s editorial advisory panel, teaches knitting workshops nationwide and is the author of numerous books. She owns the Wooly West, an online source for knitters. Visit

Download a copy of the July/August 2012 issue of PieceWork to make your own pair of “Egyptian Socks to Knit.” Read more about historical socks in our blog post, “Practical Socks in the 5th Century.”

Knit more historical socks from PieceWork!

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