At Wool & Grace I’m always in awe of the incredible needlepoint stockings that come through our doors, either as gorgeous new hand-painted needlepoint canvases or fully stitched and finished pieces ready for their lifetime of gift giving.
In my family we had a different tradition, with my grandmother hand-knitting stockings for all of my siblings, our significant others and my children. Before her knitting career ended (she’s still kickin’ at 98 years old) she made a number of extra stockings which I could personalize with names via a duplicate stitch. Needless to say, I’ve never had a need to knit a Christmas stocking myself.
This year, a very knit-worthy person approached me asking for a hand-knit stocking for her new granddaughter. I leapt at the opportunity, not only to make something as an act of gratitude for this person, but also as a learning experience. She settled on a design from Yankee Knitter Designs which was classic and reminded me of the stockings my grandmother knit for my family. We picked some workhorse yarn: tough-wearing Cascade 220 which comes in perfectly Christmas-like shades.
The color-work in this project was somewhere between intarsia and stranded color-work, and for the first few sections I struggled with the colors, with my stitches bunching at the edges of the motifs. Looking at it made my eyes hurt, and even my husband cringed. By the third section I got into a groove. There were long floats in this stocking, and I had to carry them across the wrong side of the fabric (as the color-work section is worked flat). This was not easy and I couldn’t find tutorials to guide me, so it took some time to get used to the correct way to do this and to do it efficiently. I also learned to catch a float of my contrast-color yarn a stitch or two after the motif ended, and this kept my motif stitches from bunching on the edges.
The last section of my hand-knit stocking used 5 colors (not the typical three) and there were several rows where I was to be carrying three or four colors at once. I opted not to do this, and instead used a duplicate stitch to create those small chunks of color.
By the end of my stocking-knitting adventure I had gone from hating it to feeling super satisfied. Not only had I challenged my own skills and learned some new things, but I’d made an heirloom for someone to appreciate for years. Oh, and the unsightly aspects of the stocking blocked out beautifully. The recipient was totally pleased with the finished product, as was I.
I love the Yankee Knitter Designs (a few are pictured above). They are classic and well-written, but I do find the color-work somewhat challenging if you’re doing styles #24 or #10. Their color-work isn’t a classic intarsia and there are lots of floats to catch. Not impossible, it’s just not intuitive.
To start easy, go bulky. Loopy Mango has just released some simple stocking projects. The first uses super-bulky Merino No. 5 to create a simple but charming hand-knit stocking in two colors. These measure about 15” high by 6” across, and in my opinion make a great sleeve for a gifted bottle of wine. While they aren’t easily personalized, they do make great holiday decor or quick holiday gifts.
Loopy Mango has also come out with a new stocking ornament project, knit up with their new Merino Worsted. They can be knit easily and quickly on a US10 needle, and they’ve even included instructions on how to felt them. Again, these make great holiday decor and simple knitted gifts.
Purl Soho has a couple of super bulky stocking designs as well. The Snow Day Stocking is knit up using a bulky yarn held double (Cascade 128 anyone) to create a marled effect for the body of the stocking. Knit Before Christmas is a simple and straightforward stocking, similar to Loopy Mango’s Merino No. 5 stocking, with contrast trim at the toe, heel and top. It’d be easily to mix up classic colors with Cascade Spuntaneous or go crazy (and perhaps solid?) with Malabrigo Rasta.
Michelle Hunter has a timeless collection of heirloom hand-knit stocking patterns. This collection comes with six stocking designs that can be knit up with any worsted-weight yarn, and they can be personalized with the recipient’s name. All the designs are knit with three colors, and you are generally knitting with only two colors at one time, so this makes for color-work that is much more straightforward than my Yankee Knitter Designs. These are knit in the round, so it’s like knitting a big old sock. Again, this makes for straightforward color-work.
For Michelle Hunter’s collection and a few others, I generally suggest yarns like Cascade 220, Shepherds Wool, HiKoo SimpliWorsted or Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. Avoid cotton as it will stretch a lot, and you’ll want to work at a somewhat dense gauge to give structure (for when these stockings are filled with goodies)!
I really love the Fair Isle and Geometric Stockings by Emily Kintigh, which blend modern and traditional aesthetics in their design. The color-work motifs call upon Scandinavian textile traditions. While the patterns don’t include space for a personalization, you could easily add 1.5” of solid stockinette stitch for this. If it was me, I’d add the name via duplicate stitch when the stocking is complete. This pattern calls for a worsted weight yarn, so all those suggestions listed above are great for these stockings.
One more duo of stockings that appeals to me are the Holiday Stockings by Michelle Bernstein. I like that they’re shown in a less typical color combination, but that’s not to say you couldn’t opt for a traditional red, white and green typically used for Christmas. Bernstein uses traditional holiday motifs and straight-forward stranded color-work for stockings worked in the round. Again, these patterns aren’t shown with personalization, but they can be easily modified to include that just I described with Emily Kintigh’s patterns. Berstein’s project calls for a bulky yarn, so my two big contenders here are Cascade 128 Superwash and Brooklyn Tweed Quarry.
There are so many cool designs for stockings out there, and a big part of me wants to go completely off the rails and knit a stocking or two using Noro Ito for an absolute explosion of color for the holidays. Dig around on Ravelry to find something that suits you just right, or create it all on your own!