Puzzle Pieces Knit Socks

This instructable is aimed at folks who are already familiar with knitting socks and want to take their skills a step farther into the challenging technique of Stranded Color Work. The emphasis of these instructions is on learning the steps necessary to be successful and expand your knitting repertoire. Be brave and unlock the mystery of this traditional work which involves knitting with two colors of yarn at the same time, on the same rounds. You only use one of the yarns per stitch, switching colors as you follow a chart to create the desired effect. I have knit, studied, and taught Stranded Color-Work knitting for many years because it is so beautiful and appears magical to those who have never had the patience to give it a try.

Advice for how to achieve your best results is included in this instructable as well as instructions for how to read a CHART for knitting. What fun you'll have once you've learned this skill and can impress your friends with your magic knitting!

Puzzle Pieces Socks are knit cuff-down to the toe and feature the traditional heel flap and gusset construction method. Directions are given both in charts as well as line-by-line written instructions for completing a pair of socks.

Step 1: MATERIALS & SUPPLIES

MATERIALS

360 (400) total yds sock (fingering) weight yarn (divided into Main Color and 4 Contrasting Colors). NOTE: amounts vary according to how much puzzle work you want on your leg vs main color. Sample knit with Knit Picks Stroll fingering yarn (75%, 25% Nylon) from www.knitpicks.com in colors Dove Heather (2 ea main color), and 1 skein each of Blue, Dandelion, Peapod, and Firecracker Heather.

  • 280 (340) yds Main Solid Color
  • Small amounts (approx. 45 - 60 yds) each of 4 different solid primary colors for puzzle pieces

SUPPLIES

1 set US Size 1 (2.25mm) double point needlesor size needed to obtain gauge

1 set US Size 1.5 (2.5mm) or US Size 2 (2.75mm) double pointed needles are recommended for working the stranded color-work portion of the sock, and for casting on for a stretchier edging.

SIZES- There are 2 sizes given: Women’s Medium and Women's Large/Men’s Medium

GAUGE

8.5 sts = 1” over plain Stockinette st and stranded color-work

Step 2: NOTES - OPTIONS AVAILABLE

1. There are two options for how you want your puzzle piece patterning to end, one is a straight edge as in a finished puzzle, and the second is an open end with pieces protruding as in a puzzle in process. The photo sample has the puzzle pieces continuing into the plain knit leg as if the puzzle is still being worked.

2. Choose your option as to how much patterning you want on your leg (how many repeats you wish to knit). You can show one single band of pattern like the sample, or fill your leg with puzzle pieces by working the pattern again.

3. You may also choose to knit plain rounds in the Main Color at the top of the leg and put the Puzzle Pieces pattern lower towards the ankle so it will show-off more often when wearing.

4. If you find that your slipped stitches pucker in later rows, an option is to double wrap those stitches which will be slipped later (on Rows 2 and 10). Wrap your yarn twice around the working needle, pull both loops through. When slipping on the next round, slip just one of these loops and let the other drop. The sample sock did not use this technique, but other knitters have found it helpful.

Once you've decided on your options, it's time to cast on!

Step 3: ABBREVIATIONS USED

ABBREVIATIONS

A Color A

B Color B

C Color C

D Color D

k Knit

k2tog Knit 2 together

p Purl

rnd Round

RS Right Side

ssk Slip 1 knitwise, slip 1 knitwise, knit these 2 together thru back loops

st Stitch

WS Wrong Side

Step 4: But First - ADVICE ABOUT STRANDED COLOR-WORK ON SOCKS

Stranded color-work socks are beautiful and fun to knit, but can present some problems with the fit for first time knitters. This form of knitting does not have the same elasticity (stretch capacity) as plain stockinette knitting. This can make the sock too narrow/tight especially on the upper leg portion, and can even produce a sock that can't be pulled up over your heel area, (the widest part!).

Below are some suggestions for a successful project. Your goal is to have loose, slightly U-shaped, lengths of unused yarn color lying neatly across the back of your work (see photo). Although all these tips below may sound intimidating, remember that stranded color-work is really rewarding as you can select the colors and patterns that please you.

1. Use needles that are at least one size, or even two sizes larger than you would normally use for the leg portion of the sock. For this pattern, I recommend trying a US 1 ½ size (2.50mm) or US size 2 (2.75mm) if you find your stranded fabric to be too tight and inelastic.

2. Work stranded color-work by turning your sock inside out and knitting on the far side of the tube away from you. You will still see the right-side of the work inside, but will have the floats on the outside. This will force your floats into a wider circle (larger circumference) which makes them a tad longer and won’t let them jump across inside corners between needles.

3. Gently stretch out the stitches on your right-hand needle as you strand the unused yarn across the back. This will give you longer floats and greater flexibility in your fabric.

4. For socks, overly loose stranding and gauge is preferable to short floats and tight knitting. They may appear sloppy off the leg, but when worn will stretch, flatten out and not only look nice, but will actually fit.

5. "Catch" your floats if working more than 6 stitches straight of a single color. In this PUZZLE PIECES pattern, catching is only necessary on Rows 15 & 16.

6. To manage your two yarns you have many choices. Try holding one yarn in your left hand continental style and “pick” and the other color yarn in your right hand and English “throw”. Or simply set your yarn balls, one on each side of you and pick up and knit, then let go and drop this color. Pick up the next color and do the same. Some knitters hold both colors in one hand and pick or throw the correct color while other knitters use a special tool (Yarn Stranding Guide).

7. When darning in your yarn tails (and yes, there are many) remember to stretch out your fabric to keep your weaving-in work as loose and elastic (stretchy) as the original knitting. The duplicate stitch method works nicely for this.

8. Work with a wool or wool blend yarn which can be effectively wet-blocked.

9. Gently stretch your finished wet sock in several directions to even out the stitches and floats. A gentle steaming with an iron on the "wool" setting and a damp cloth over your knitted fabric, press gently, often helps stubborn puckers and uneven stitch work. Do NOT do this with acrylic yarn as it will melt!

Step 5: READING a CHART

Color-work patterns are usually knit from charts, although I have provided written line-by-line instructions as well. The way we "read" a chart is strange to first-timers. We start at the Lower Right Hand Corner - See where the Star is on the chart above.

Then we follow along from right - to - left. See blue arrow. So Row 1 is at the bottom of the chart and we work our way up.

Notice that there are different colors and/or symbols in each box of the chart. There will always be a "Legend" to tell you what sort of knitting you need to do for the next stitch. In this case, the yellow squares are Color A and the striped squares are Color B. Later on, you will see the chart for the full Puzzle Pieces pattern which will have codes for Color C and Color D as well as an "S" for when you are to slip that stitch instead of knitting it.

You will notice that the chart is only 12 blocks wide - and we need to knit 60 or 72 stitches on each round for our sock. This is how we chart "repeats". You will repeat these same 12 stitches of pattern as many times as needed to get to the end of the round. In our case here, that means knit this 12-stitch repeat 5 times if you are working a medium size sock and 6 times for a large sized sock. (Because 5 x 12 = 60 and 6 x 12 = 72)

That's enough math! This is what the designer does when creating new ideas for knitting.

After completing Round 1, you will move up to Round 2 by returning your eyes to the right side of the chart and moving up one row. See red arrow.

Now we're ready to start work!

Step 6: CAST ON & KNIT CUFF

CUFF

Using the larger sized needles, loosely cast on 60 (72) sts (the German Twisted Cast On method is recommended). Twisted German Cast On Video This is very important when knitting socks so that the cast on edge will be able to stretch over your heel when pulling the socks on.

Join to knit in the round taking care not to twist the stitches.

Change to smaller sized needles to knit the Cuff ribbing by simply beginning to knit with the new size one needle at a time.

Start knitting a 2x2 ribbing by knitting 2 sts, followed by purling 2 sts, all around. Continue rounds until cuff measures 1 ½ inches.

Step 7: BEGIN PUZZLE PIECES PATTERNING

LEG

Break or cut Main Color yarn leaving a yarn tail long enough to weave in later - about 6".

Change to larger sized needles especially if you tend to knit tightly.

First, you will need to work the 4 rounds of the Set Up Puzzle Pieces Edges chart or line-by-line instructions. This is the only time that you will work these 4 rounds.

Begin by simply picking up Color A (I used Red) and make a loop with about 6" dangling as a yarn tail. Insert needle into first stitch and place this loop on it. Knit with this loop as the first stitch, then knit the next 5 sts (for a total of 6 stitches). This is the first part of Rnd 1 below. Next, pick up Color B (I used Blue), make loop, knit it, and continue until you have 6 sts of Color B as instructed below.

TURN YOUR CUFF INSIDE OUT after working these first 12 stitches. You will now be knitting looking into the "tube" where the right side is inside. You will knit on the far side of the tube. This is one of the techniques to help you keep the floats of unused yarn longer. Your "wrong side" will be on the outside of the tube. SEE PHOTO

Now, ignore Color B, and start knitting with Color A again following the pattern.You will have to pick up Color A from where you last used it - it is waiting there for you. Spread out those Color B stitches you just knit, gently strand Color A across the back of your work and begin knitting with it again.

Look at the photos to see how much I have s-t-r-e-a-c-h-ed out the stitches on my right hand needle before working the first stitch of the new color. This makes the float of yarn in the back much longer so that it will hang slightly. See how it hangs in a "U-shape" in the photo where I've scrunched the stitches together.

You will be alternating knitting 6 stitches of each color all around to the beginning. The stitches at the beginning of the round where you added the new colors will be very loose. Give these a little tug when you come to them to tighten them up. Don't worry - you will darn/weave in these yarn tails later which will give you the opportunity to even up the stitch sizes. Yes, it does feel awkward with all the yarn tails, but know that it will be OK in the end.

Continue with Rnd 2. Then continue on to Rows 3 & 4.

You may work from the written line-by-line instructions below or from the chart on this page.

Set up Edges Rnds 1 & 2: (k6-A, k6-B) 5(6) times

Set up Edges Rnds 3 & 4: (k1-B, k4-A, k7-B) 5(6) times

END OF SET UP ROUNDS before working main pattern.

Step 8: LEG Continued - FULL PUZZLE PIECE PATTERN

PUZZLE PIECES PATTERN

You will continue to use the two colors already being used for Rnds 1 and 2.

You may work from the written line-by-line instructions below, or follow the chart on this page.

Rnd 1: (k6-A, k6-B) 5(6) times

Rnd 2: same as Rnd 1

Note: Below, "drop colors" means that you will cut/break those yarns leaving 6" tails to weave in later. I used yellow for Color C and Green for Color D. "slip 1 twice" means that you will insert your needle as if to knit, but simply slip/slide the stitch, unworked, over to the right hand needle. Do this for the next 2 sts.

Rnd 3: drop colors A and B, join in colors C and D; (k2-C, slip 1 twice, k2-C, k2-D, slip 1 twice, k2-D) 5(6) times

Rnd 4: (k2-C, slip 1 twice, k2-C, k2-D, slip 1 twice, k2-D) 5(6) times

Rnd 5: (k6-C, k6-D) 5(6) times

Rnd 6: same as Rnd 5

Rnd 7: (k1-D, k6-C, k5-D) 5(6) times

Rnd 8: same as Rnd 7

Rnd 9: same as Rnd 5

Rnd 10: same as Rnd 5

Note: Now we change back to the first two colors used when we began the Puzzle Pieces Pattern.

Rnd 11: drop colors C and D, join in colors A and B; (k2-A, slip 1 twice, k2-A, k2-B, slip 1 twice, k2-B) 5(6) times

Rnd 12: (k2-A, slip 1 twice, k2-A, k2-B, slip 1 twice, k2-B) 5(6) times

Rnd 13: same as Rnd 1

Rnd 14: same as Rnd 1

Rnd 15: (k1-B, k4-A, k7-B) 5(6) times

Rnd 16: same as Rnd 15

END OF ONE REPEAT OF PUZZLE PIECES PATTERN. DO NOT cut the yarns as you will continue with Colors A & B for the ending.

Step 9: CHOICES ABOUT YOUR LEG PATTERNING

CHOICES:

1) Choose how many repeats of the 16-row pattern you want on your leg. You've just finished one "repeat". The sample sock in the photo has only one repeat worked before finishing with a border. You may choose to work a second repeat.

2) Choose what you want the bottom part of your puzzle to look like; either a straight edge like a completed puzzle or notched edge of a puzzle still in progress.

If you want a Narrow (one repeat) band with a Straight Edge finishing:

Stop puzzle pattern after Row 16, work the 2 rounds of End Puzzle Straight Edge (in next step) to resemble the straight edges of a finished puzzle.

If you want a Wider band with a Straight Edge finishing:

Repeat these 16 rnds of the PUZZLE PATTERN one more time if you desire patterning to continue down the leg. Then work the two rounds of the End Puzzle Straight Edge.

**********************************************

You may work from the written line-by-line instructions below, or follow the chart on this page for the End of pattern treatments.

Here is the written line-by-line instructions for End Puzzle Edge Pieces Pattern for a Straight Edge

Rnd 1: (k6-A, k6-B) 5(6) times

Rnd 2: same as Rnd 1

*****************************************

If you want a Narrow band with Open Puzzle piece edge (As Shown in Photo Sample)

Stop puzzle pattern after Row 16, work the 4 rounds of Open Puzzle Piece finishing to resemble a puzzle with work in process.

If you want a Wide band with Open Puzzle piece edge

Repeat these 16 rnds of the PUZZLE PATTERN one more time if you desire patterning to continue down the leg. Next, work the 4 rounds of Open Puzzle Piece Ending to resemble a puzzle with work in process.

Open Puzzle Piece Ending

Rnd 1: (k6-A, k6-B) 5(6) times

Rnd 2: same as Rnd 1

Rnd 3: (k2, slip 1 twice, k4, slip 1 twice, k2) 5(6) times

Rnd 4: same as Rnd 3

END OF LEG COLOR-WORK

Step 10: LEG Continued

The remaining length of the leg of your sock will be knit using only the Main Color. The hard part is done! Relax, and enjoy the completion of your sock.

Drop Color A and Color B. Join in Main Color. Knit plain rounds (at least two) until your leg is the desired length. Most folks like a sock leg that is 6" to 8" long measuring from the cast on edge.

Of course, you may choose to work the heel in any method of your choosing. This instructable contains the traditional "Heel Flap & Gusset" heel instructions on the next step.

Step 11: MAKING THE HEEL

Knit the next 30(36) sts all onto one needle. Stop. These will be your heel flap. Turn work, purl the 30(36) sts of the heel flap.

Divide the remaining sts evenly onto 2 needles for the top of the foot. These 2 needles will stay idle until we finish the heel.

Heel Flap Pattern

Row 1 (RS): Slip 1 as to knit, k1, *slip 1 as to purl, k1, repeat from * to end of row

Row 2 (WS): Slip 1 as to purl, purl to the end of the row

Repeat these 2 rows until you your heel flap is 2” (2 ½”) long ending after working a Row 2.

TURN HEEL CUP

Note: All slipped stitches in the heel cup are slipped as to purl.

Row 1 (RS): slip 1, k16(19), ssk, k1, turn. You will leave 10(13) sts un-worked

Row 2 (WS): slip 1, p5, p2tog, p1, turn

Row 3: slip 1, k6, ssk, k1, turn

Row 4: slip 1, p7, p2tog, p1, turn

Row 5: slip 1, k8, ssk, k1, turn

Row 6: slip 1, p9, p2tog, p1, turn

Row 7: slip 1, k10, ssk, k1, turn

Row 8: slip 1, p11, p2tog, p1, turn

Row 9: slip 1, k12, ssk, k1, turn

Row 10: slip 1, p13, p2tog, p1, turn

Row 11: slip 1, k14, ssk, k1, turn

Row 12: slip 1, p15, p2tog, p1, turn

Continue for Women’s Large/Men’s Medium

Row 13: slip 1, k16, ssk, k1, turn

Row 14: slip 1, p17, p2 tog, p1, turn

Row 15: slip 1, k18, ssk,turn

Row 16: slip 1, p18, p2tog, Turn

Knit across all 18(20) sts of heel cup.

Step 12: GUSSETS

Note: When picking up sts on the heel flap edge you pick up 1 st for each slipped stitch. Due to differences in each knitter's row gauge you may have fewer or more rows on your heel flap. If you have fewer rows, pick up the total number as called for in the instructions by putting 2 sts in some loops. If you have more rows, pick up 1 st for each row and note that you will have a higher total st count and work gusset decreases until you have the instructed total number.

Set up Round: Continuing with the heel flap needle, pick up and knit 15 (17) sts along edge of heel flap and Make 1 in the gap between the needles [16 (18) sts total picked up]. With free needle, continue around and knit the sts that remain on the two needles, placing them all onto one needle for the top of the foot. With your free needles, Make 1, then pick up and knit 15 (17) sts along remaining heel flap edge, finally knit 9 (10) sts from the heel flap needle. This is the center bottom of the foot and the beginning/ending of all rounds. Rearrange the sts onto one needle for ½ the heel and the first set of picked up sts, one needle for the top of foot and one needle for the second ½ of the heel and picked up sts.

Rnd 1: Knit around

Rnd 2: Knit to the last 3 sts on first needle, k2tog, k1. Knit all sts on the next needle. On last needle, k1, ssk, knit to the end of the needle.

Repeat these 2 rnds until you have 15 (18) sts remaining on the first and last needles. You will have 60 (72) sts total.

Step 13: FOOT & TOE

FOOT

Knit all rnds until foot length measures 7” (8”) from the back of the heel or until 2 (2 ¼) inches less than your total desired foot length.

TOE

Rnd 1: Knit to the last 3 sts on first needle, k2tog, k1, on second needle, k1, SSK, knit to the last 3 sts, k2tog, k1, on last needle, k1, SSK, knit to end of needle = 56 (68) sts

Rnd 2: knit all around

Rnd 3: knit all around

Rnd 4 - 6: repeat Rnds 1 thru 3 = 52 (64) sts

Rnd 7: repeat Rnd 1

Rnd 8: knit all around

Repeat Rnds 7 & 8 until you have 36 sts remaining, Then work Rnd 1 only which decreases every round 4 times = 20 sts

Continuing with the last needle, knit across the 5 sts on the first needle = 10 sts each on 2 needles.

Graft (Kitchener stitch) the toe closed. (Kitchener Stitch video)

Weave in ends. WET BLOCK for best results.

Puzzle Challenge

This is an entry in the
Puzzle Challenge

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    3 Discussions

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    25ColesJu

    Question 4 days ago

    I love the adorable design you knit on the socks! My question is, why did you enter it in the puzzle contest? It isn't a puzzle of any sort.

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    Penolopy Bulnick

    24 days ago

    Puzzle pieces are such a cute design for knitting! I also love that you show the back, I hate when people don't show how the back looks.

    1 reply
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    Thanks! My test knitters really helped me dig into the details for this little pattern - I didn't realize that so many sock knitters are terrified of Stranded Color-Work. Thankfully, I had the time to capture their frustrations and my responses so I could create this instructable. All the testers were eventually successful. Time now to SHARE with more knitters!!!