Don’t Be Koi Socks
Once upon a time, there was a girl who really really wanted to visit Japan. She couldn’t tell you exactly what it was about the place that called to her – the language, the culture, the food, Studio Ghibli, mountains of stationery, cherry blossom trees – but she knew that it was somewhere that she wanted to go.
And because the Universe works in such a way that it brings our wishes and dreams to us if we think about them enough, the opportunity for visiting Japan materialised. Not overnight – we never get our wishes overnight as that could be a disaster! – but after years of being involved in Brownies, Guides and Rangers, not so small daughter got the chance to apply for an international Guiding expedition to Japan this summer. You won’t be surprised to know that she was first in the queue to apply!
At last, she’s got the chance to see the cities she’s only seen on TV or the internet, to experience the noise and the bustle of Tokyo first hand, to visit the place where history changed at Hiroshima and to just absorb the place that has filled her imagination for so long.
Now, as you also won’t be surprised to know, it’s not cheap to visit Japan and not so small daughter has been encouraged to raise as much of the money to go for herself. She’s been lucky enough to get some grants from the Guiding community, has got herself a Saturday job and has run some events for Brownies, telling them stories of Japan and showing them how to create origami and learn more about Guiding in Japan. She’s sold badges* to sew on camp blankets (oh, she is so proud of her own camp blanket, covered in badges that she’s earned herself or bought or swapped on camps) and generally thrown herself into making sure that she meets her payment targets.
And that’s where her Mum comes into the picture. My contribution to the fundraising has been to design a sock pattern … and again, no surprise!
These socks are called Don’t Be Koi and were designed with not so small daughter to incorporate the ideas of her travels to Japan.
We thought about the recognised symbols of Japan and what would work well with a sock design, and especially colourwork as I wanted to use more than one colour. We decided to avoid buildings and mountains and cherry blossom flowers and instead settled on Koi fish. I like the circle the two fish make, like Yin and Yang, perhaps, or love that never ends.
Anyway, before I get too romantic about it all, back to the fish. They come in all sorts of colours from white to gold to orange to red and that makes them perfect for using up leftovers!
The fish are worked over seven rounds of colourwork so you really don’t need very much yarn at all, and the colourwork isn’t complicated either so I’d encourage anybody to give it a go if you like the socks. I used West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply in Sunflower as I had that in my stash, but you could use any of the colours in the photo above for your Koi fish and they would be perfect!
We also wanted to incorporate red as we knew that it is an important colour in Japanese culture. Depending on where you look for the information, red is the colour of the sun; it wards off evil spirits and brings peace and prosperity to families. It brings power and protection, and symbolises authority and strength. Brides wear red – but you should never take a red gift as a housewarming present.
We couldn’t have a pair of socks without the colour red in them!
I used oddments of WYS Signature 4ply in Cayenne Pepper, and if you’ve ever knitted any of their Christmas socks, I’m pretty sure you’ll have some oddments in your stash too!
But what about the blue? That’s not a traditional Japanese colour, surely? Well, the blue is for the fish as they need somewhere to swim and I love the way that the WYS Signature 4ply Blue Raspberry changes colour in different lights. It was a bit of a faff when I was trying to take photos to show you, I have to admit, as depending on the time of day and whereabouts I took the photos, the socks either looked blue or green, but actually, I think that is just right to represent water. And of course, there’s going to be a very big ocean between us and our girl when she goes away, but I’m trying not to think about that too much right now.
You can choose for yourself whether your fish have eyes or not as they are sewn on afterwards.
I decided that they were so tiny that it might not look right as a whole stitch, and for anybody new to colourwork, carrying two colours across to create the eyes as you went along might feel a bit much. This way, you can sew them on afterwards or not to get the look you prefer. I think they look cute with eyes, though!
The Don’t Be Koi socks are knitted as cuff (or top) down socks with a heel flap and gusset heel – if you’ve knitted my Basic 4ply Socks pattern, this one will feel very familiar as it’s based on the same shape and uses the same heel stitch heel flap. If you’re new to knitting socks, you can get a free copy of my Basic 4ply Socks pattern and step-by-step Sockalong tutorials here, so you can follow along with those if you get a bit stuck.
Not so small daughter helped me with the photography and this was later in the day than earlier photos – can you see what I mean about the yarn changing colour? It’s brilliant!
If you’ve never had a go at colourwork before but think that these might be the socks for you to dip your toes into the water (groan), you will only be working with 2 colours and you can find a photos and help with getting started with colourwork in my Easy Colourwork Socks tutorial.
Don’t Be Koi is available to buy through Ravelry and Payhip. The pattern is 14 pages long, but only pages 1-8 are required for the instructions and charts. The socks are in 4 sizes from 8 – 9½ ins (20-24 cm) circumference. The remaining pages are tutorial pages for dealing with colourwork jog and sewing on the eyes, so you don’t need to print it all out unless you want to.
You can find the pattern on the Ravelry project page here, and if you’re not a member of Ravelry, you can still buy the pattern through this button (it won’t take you onto the site):
You can also find the pattern on Payhip here.
I’ll be donating the profits to not so small daughter’s fundraising efforts to help make sure that she not only manages to pay for the trip but also the extra kit that she’s going to need. If you choose to buy the pattern, you’ll be helping her to make her dream of visiting Japan come true and we both thank you very much xx
* The badge that you can see in the main photo is the Guiding North West England Japan trip badge and we have a few left to sell. If you would like one for your camp blanket, they’re £1.60 each and you can message me via the contact me from in the left hand side bar 🙂