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June 04, 2007

Sidewinders: The Prologue

On Mother's Day -- while the nona-boys made me laugh and cooked me dinner -- I knit my first sideways sock.  I was simultaneously thrilled and distraught by the resulting sock.  What a fabulous idea, but a lousy fit.  This juxtaposition of emotions sent me whirling on a quest, a quest for a well-fit sideways sock.  After much noodling, experimenting, and swatching I fixed upon a design that works for me.  Perhaps you'll enjoy it as well.

If nonaKnits Sidewinders, than you can too!

Starting today I'll be sharing my Sidewinders pattern with you serial style.  We'll start with the Prologue, followed over the next five days by 4 Acts and a Grand Finale.  I encourage you, my adventurous friends, to grab your supplies, measure your foot, and knit along.


  1. Thank you to all the commenters who left creative naming suggestions for these socks.  I cannot tell you how much fun it was to read your ideas and to visit your blogs.  Special Thank-Yous need to go to Monica for suggesting "Sidewinders" and to Grumperina for suggesting "Perpensockular".  I love both and have named this pattern, "Sidewinders: A PerpenSOCKular Pattern".
  2. Thank you to Priscilla Gibson-Roberts for popularizing short-rowed heels and toes for hand knit socks.  The heels and toes for the Sidewinders are proportioned based on her short-rowed couterparts, but are knit in the perpendicular direction using paired increases and decreases instead of short-rows.

  3. Thank you to Charlene Schurch for the size chart in her excellent book, Sensational Knitted Socks.  I used this chart as my primary resource when determining the "To Fit" measurements for the Sidewinders.

Without further adieu, I bring you the first installment of Sidewinders: A PerpenSOCKular Pattern.

Sidewinders: A PerpenSOCKular Pattern


30 stitches and 40 rows in 4 inches -- worked in stockinette stitch, flat (back and forth)



Super Fine #1 -- you'll need about 320 yards for an average sized pair of socks.  A little more for larger socks and a little less for smaller ones.  Most of the popular sock yarns fall into the Super Fine #1 weight category.  For example, I've used Blue Moon Fiber Arts' Socks that Rock Light Weight, Opal's sock yarn, and Louet's Gems Fingering Weight.


A circular needle in the size required to get a gauge of 30 sts and 40 rows in 4 inches using the yarn of your choice -- typically something in the neighborhood of a US 2.  Why a circular needle?  Even though the Sidewinders are knit back and forth, you need the flexibility of the circular needle to accommodate the curve of the heel and toe.  A 2nd circular needle close in size is needed for the Grand Finale.

Sizing & Measurements

Both the length and the circumference of your Sidewinders are set by the size you select.  Since I'm shooting for a well-fitting sock, I've written the pattern for 12 sizes -- 4 different lengths each with 3 different widths.  Please select the size based on you shoe size and/or actual foot measurements in inches.  If measuring the circumference of your foot, please measure around the widest point -- typically around the ball of your foot.

Ease: Due to the difference in vertical and horizontal stretch of knit fabric, the finished foot length is intended to be about 1 inch shorter than the To Fit length and the finished circumference is about the same as the To Fit circumference.

  Shoe Size Foot Length Circumference
US EUR Width To Fit Finished To Fit Finished
6-7N 6-7 36-37 Narrow 9 1/4" 8 1/4" 7 1/8" 7 1/4"
6-7M 6-7 36-37 Medium 9 1/4" 8 1/4" 8 1/8" 8"
6-7W 6-7 36-37 Wide 9 1/4" 8 1/4" 9" 9 1/8"
7-8N 7-8 37-38 Narrow 9 1/2" 8 1/2" 7 1/4" 7 1/4"
7-8M 7-8 37-38 Medium 9 1/2" 8 1/2" 8 1/8" 8 1/4"
7-8W 7-8 37-38 Wide 9 1/2" 8 1/2" 9" 9 1/8"
8-9N 8-9 38-39 Narrow 9 3/4" 8 3/4" 7 5/8" 7 5/8"
8-9M 8-9 38-39 Medium 9 3/4" 8 3/4" 8 1/2" 8 3/4"
8-9W 8-9 38-39 Wide 9 3/4" 8 3/4" 9 3/8" 9 1/2"
9-10N 9-10 39-40 Narrow 10 1/4" 9 1/4" 7 7/8" 8"
9-10M 9-10 39-40 Medium 10 1/4" 9 1/4" 8 3/4" 8 3/4"
9-10W 9-10 39-40 Wide 10 1/4" 9 1/4" 9 3/4" 10"

Test Knitting

To date, the 8-9M and 6-7W Sidewinders have been test knit.  I've check my numbers and calculations carefully, but please use your good sense and judgement when following the pattern.  Patterns are, after all, merely suggestions to the intelligent. 


Since the pattern has 12 different sizes, there will be 12 different numbers for any instructions that vary by size.  The numbers will be formatted as follows:  (6-7N, 6-7M, 6-7W) [ (7-8N, 7-8M, 7-8W), (8-9N, 8-9M, 8-9W), (9-10N, 9-10M, 9-10W)]

I recommend that you print a copy of the pattern and highlight your size throughout.


Gauge is critical for well fitting Sidewinders.  Please take the time to knit a gauge swatch to determine the needle size you need to use with your yarn to achieve the required gauge of 30 stitches and 40 rows in 4 inches. 

Call me mean, but this is were the pattern stops for today -- I really do want you to knit that gauge swatch, because I really do want your Sidewinders to turn out well.  Tomorrow, in Act I, we'll cast on and begin shaping the first half of the heel. 

June 4, 2007 in Project - Socks, Serial Patterns | Permalink


Hey Nona, I'm ready to follow along! But the gauge... in stockinette, or garter stitch? Knit circularly, or flat?

Posted by: grumperina | Jun 4, 2007 7:47:05 PM

where shall i measure the circumference? at the widest part of my foot, or my ankle, or?

Posted by: judy | Jun 4, 2007 7:57:49 PM

Those are great! Thank you! :)

Posted by: Romi | Jun 4, 2007 9:22:17 PM

Agh! Must ... put ... all ... other ... projects ... aside!!!

Woot woot!

Posted by: Kristi | Jun 4, 2007 10:11:13 PM

I am so excited about this pattern. I need to finish off the pair I have on the needles and get a gauge swatch going.

Posted by: Sarah | Jun 4, 2007 10:56:53 PM

These are really just about the coolest socks ever. Thanks so much for putting together the pattern. I know it's a ton of work!

Posted by: Sundara | Jun 4, 2007 11:38:20 PM

Niggling chart detail: Last one should say 9-10W, not 9-10N. Thanks for putting that size on there so I can come along!

Posted by: Linda | Jun 5, 2007 12:55:17 AM

These look like so much fun - looking forward to the rest of the pattern!

Posted by: Zeph | Jun 5, 2007 1:48:09 AM

Bother. I may have to put my Jaywalkers to one side for this, my chance to ride the cutting edge of sock knitting!
Thank you so much for taking time to devise them: I watched an acquaintance rip the Opal sideways pattern back three times before giving up in disgust.

Posted by: sarah | Jun 5, 2007 3:06:38 AM

Ooooh! I'm bookmarking this one!

Posted by: Elemmaciltur | Jun 5, 2007 3:22:25 AM

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: YOU ARE A GENIUS!

Posted by: Cara | Jun 5, 2007 4:36:03 AM

Thanks Nona!

I love exploring different ways of constructing socks! Swatches are good commute knitting so throwing a ball and needles in my bag now! Can't wait for the next episode!

Posted by: Cathy | Jun 5, 2007 4:51:56 AM

Your socks look awesome! Fantastic design job!

Posted by: Andrea | Jun 5, 2007 5:04:07 AM

The socks look great! I can't wait to try them, but I will have to come back a little later after my knitting with time constraints is complete. I'm assuming I'll be able to lengthen the pattern for a size 11 foot (Yes, I have big feet!).

Posted by: Brenda | Jun 5, 2007 5:14:41 AM

I am so looking forward to how you did this. I attempted a pair of sideway socks using the English Opal pattern translation and it was an unmitigated disaster. Can't wait to see what magic you've wrought!

Posted by: SouthParkRepublican | Jun 5, 2007 7:23:22 AM

Yippee!! I'm delurking to say I can't wait to follow along as you reveal your sideways sock pattern. Perfect timing too - I just have the toe to finish on my current pair of socks.

Posted by: Toby | Jun 5, 2007 7:30:09 AM

Oh, *please* tell me it won't be hard to add a few stitches for a size 11 foot! I can't wait to knit these!

Posted by: Adrienne | Jun 5, 2007 7:40:14 AM

I'm off to grab the Opal Hundertwasser and some needles. Nona speaks and I obey--a swatch it is. :)

Thank you so much. By publishing your pattern step by step you have helped me to get going and follow along--instead of printing the whole thing out, putting it in a pile, getting distracted--and then eating my heart out when I see a parade of completed Sidewinders marching across the blogoshpere.


Posted by: Kathleen | Jun 5, 2007 9:09:03 AM

This is so exciting! I've been watching your swatching, calculating and strategizing for weeks now! I received a gift skein of Hundertwasser along with a copy of the sideways pattern you mentioned before, and I'm so glad it's been marinating in the stash for awhile...I'm sure your pattern will be vastly superior.

Posted by: Michelle | Jun 5, 2007 9:14:53 AM

So pretty and so inspirational!! Must try the pattern! :)

Posted by: Lotta | Jun 5, 2007 9:17:51 AM

I am so going to do this -- I must pick some sock yarn (I happen to have some around) and swatch!

Posted by: AuntieAnn | Jun 5, 2007 9:20:00 AM

Look at you, perched on your kitchen counter, modeling those fabulous socks! Thank you so much for all your efforts in putting this pattern together (and in such a range of sizes)! You're incredible! I must go find some worthy yarn for these and swatch. (Besides, I think I've used up my allotment of exclamation points for the day.)

Posted by: Laura | Jun 5, 2007 9:37:43 AM

I'm off to find a good yarn to swatch with. I'm certainly suffering from startitis lately with a corresponding lack of completing things, but it doesn't matter how much I have going already, I still have to start these right NOW.

Posted by: Ronni | Jun 5, 2007 9:46:32 AM

VERY cool... I'll have to give those a try! and just in time for our local Fibre Fest for me to hunt down some funky sock yarn!!

Posted by: Natalie | Jun 5, 2007 12:29:37 PM

Leave it to me to be the first one with guage issues... (I happen to already have a swatch made in a different colorway of yarn I'm hoping to use...) On size US1 needles (my norm for socks), I get 28 stitches over 4 inches and 20 rows over 4 inches. Would you suggest trying it on US0 needles to match stitch guage, or should I stay with the number of rows matching guage?

Posted by: Christene | Jun 5, 2007 1:29:34 PM

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