Handknitted socks are the luxury of the wearer. They’re a private pleasure worn inside boots and not seen by the public, or as a more visible means of expression, they add a pop of color or texture when seen above the boundary of a shoe.
I began a quest for the perfect mule to accommodate my handknitted socks. A mule is a shoe that has no back, so the wearer has an easy time of simply sliding the foot into it. A factor to consider for fit is that handknitted socks can be slightly heavier than commercially made socks, so a slightly wider or half-size larger shoe may be in order. Leather shoes will expand to fit what you put into them. So, once the shoes are stretched to fit handknitted socks, they may be a bit loose for wearing with thinner stockings or tights. I wanted to find a shoe that would be a versatile style and “fill the bill” for many options.
I shopped locally first, but then I began to research selections online. I found a beautiful, pointed-toe pair of shoes with a nice 2-inch heel and a leather open-weave upper, similar to a huarache. It was love at first try-on! I thought they would showcase the color and texture of my knitted socks, but on the spot, I knew that I would not be stretching these beauties out with socks.
The second pair I ordered was flat in elevation but with nice thick soles of shaped rubber and inner-arch supports, which provided continuous comfort no matter where I walked. I have not yet worn them with handknitted socks, but they will be my answer for what to wear when the weather gets cold. They have lovely tassels on the instep, too!
I thought I was finished with shoe shopping, but I received a $20 off my purchase coupon in the mail from a shoe establishment that I frequent. I looked to see if there was a style that caught my fancy. Lo and behold! Another mule in suede leather with a taller heel was just the ticket to wear with longer jeans or pants and a bit dressier. Yes, I ordered them. They fit perfectly and expanded my wardrobe options.
I wonder if the Victorians had this much trouble resolving what footwear to wear with their handknitted socks and stockings? Weldon’s Practical Needlework is full of sock and stocking patterns for the handknitter, and they run the size gamut from babies to children and women’s to men’s. The Victorian lace-up boot would have been a woman’s choice for daily wear, but perhaps silk stockings were worn with lovely fabric mules with heels, which were embroidered and embellished for fancier outings. My guess is that they needed a range of footwear styles as well.
One of my favorite Weldon’s sock patterns is the “Gentleman’s Sock. Knitted in Railway Stitch.” I knitted and adapted the pattern for use with contemporary yarn. The socks have a wonderful texture and the 6-round repeat is easy to remember. Here are the rather entertaining instructions for the 18th round from Weldon’s on how to decrease at the center back leg while maintaining the stitch pattern to shape the mid-length calf: “Plain, and decrease thus. when within 3 stitches of the seamstitch knit 2 together, knit 3, slip 1, knit 1, pass the slipped stitch over, and continue plain to the end.” It captures your attention, no? The sock pattern and my notes on my adaptations are available as ePatterns from PieceWork, “Vintage Railway-Stitch Socks to Knit.”
These socks make for a delightful knitting and wearing experience. If you want to enjoy a completely luxurious treat, these are for you. A dear friend recently brought me a gift of sock yarn from her travels in Germany, Opal Sock Yarn Hundertwasser; in color #1432. The fingering-weight yarn is a multicolored palette in one skein. The random color changes offer adventurous knitting, and the end result is quirky and fun. I knitted my version of the Railway Sock pattern, and the stitch texture enhances the color shifting and gives it visual depth. Now I have an unmatched set that will highlight my shoes! Or perhaps, it is the shoes that highlight the socks!
As you can plainly see, I have a fondness for shoes. In fact, I will buy shoes before I buy clothes. A new pair of shoes will make all of your clothes look new and, most especially, any handknitted socks you pair with them!
Shoes and socks forever,