Rediscover a Classic: Nancy Bush’s Folk Socks

Whenever I finish a pair socks, I scan my bookshelf for pattern books eagerly wanting to cast on my next pair. One book I reach for again and again is Nancy Bush’s Folk Socks: The History & Techniques of Handknitted Footwear. I admit that I am an avid sock knitter; I always have a pair or two on the needles. (I’m also an avid Nancy Bush fan; Nancy is one of PieceWork’s contributing editors and has written for the magazine since her first article, “Two-Color Knitting of Norway,” and its companion project, “Norwegian Gloves to Knit,” appeared in the January/February 1996 issue.)

From a plain pair to ones with innovative shaping and stitch patterns, socks have captivated me since I cast on my first pair. Knitters know the modest sock is a marvel of geometry accomplished through shaping. Stitch patterns, short-rows, increases and decreases, knitting in the round and flat, and Kitchener stitch all unite in the unassuming sock. If you can knit socks, you can knit just about anything!

In Folk Socks, you’ll find sock patterns with lace, cables, and colorwork. But for me, the gem inside this volume remains the variety of traditional heel and toe directions in Chapter five. Swap out your usual toe and heel for something traditional. Or better yet, cast on one of Nancy’s designs.

folk socks

The “Estonian Crossroads Socks” by Nancy Bush Photo by Joe Coca.

My favorite pair from Folk Socks is the “Estonian Crossroads Socks” pattern. These socks have a little of everything. Beginning with the openwork-chevron cuff, which creates a lovely scalloped edge, the pattern transitions to cables and traveling diamonds—all of which are traditional Estonian motifs. But the stitching excitement doesn’t stop there! The Dutch heel is worked in a honeycomb pattern, and the round toe shaping spirals to an elegant finish. What’s not to love? For instructions on how to knit Nancy’s Round Toe, read “Knitting Socks for the Humble Toes.”

Carry on the traditional methods for knitting socks. Grab a copy of Nancy Bush’s Folk Socks: The History & Techniques of Handknitted Footwear Updated Edition.

Happy sock knitting,

Discover more knitted socks from Nancy Bush!