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!

A large shoal of Koi fish in shades of white, yellow, orange and red


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 strengthBrides 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.

A close up of a knitted heel flap and gusset in green/blue yarn A close up of a knitted heel flap in green/blue yarn

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 – 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


A blue sock with a goldfish pattern is next to a partly-knitted sock of the same pattern on a white background. The camera is looking down onto the socks and there is a succulent plant and an orange mug of tea in the photo as well.


* 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 🙂


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29 Responses

  1. Audrey says:

    beautiful socks to make .Will look forward to making them

  2. Jackie Elliott says:

    What a fab pair of socks and a lovely way to raise funds for your daughters trip.
    As a Guider myself, I know how fabulous this trip will be, I went to India in 2018 and still talk about it!

  3. Marella Cairns says:

    They are very lovely socks, perfect for summer somehow. Guides and Scouts are fantastic organisations for young people and the friendships made will last a lifetime. I hope your daughter has a blast!

  4. sylvia scott says:

    have bought the pattern and cant wait to start them As a former guide leader in Australia I wish your daughter the best and hopes she has a great time

  5. Barbara Kippax says:

    I hope I have messaged you via Facebook! I love the socks and would like to buy a badge

    • winwickmum says:

      I haven’t got the message, Barbara, but that doesn’t mean anything as I am convinced that Facebook hides them sometimes! Thank you – I’ll drop you an email now xx

  6. Nancy Lingerfelt says:

    I learned to knit in Girl Scouts when I was 9, got to shake Lady Baden Powel’s hand at a national convention, served as GS leader (along with my husband who was known as a Do Dad) and have had the pleasure of watching our girls grow into fine young women. Best wishes to your daughter as she goes on this exciting adventure!!

  7. Stephanie Adams says:

    My definitely not so small daughter got the opportunity to go on a very similar trip with Girlguiding North West England about 14 years ago now and I remember helping her to fundraise too! She enjoyed every minute of it as I’m sure your daughter will. I hope she has lots of fun! The socks are a fab idea! Stef x

    • winwickmum says:

      Oh wow, I didn’t realise they had been organising international trips for quite so long – that’s fabulous! I’m so glad your daughter enjoyed it and thank you, I’m certain that mine will too! 🙂 xx

  8. Karen says:

    Just ordered, I hope your daughter has a wonderful time. It’s a place that has always fascinated me.

    • winwickmum says:

      That’s wonderful, thank you! xx I am already thinking that I will have to get her to write a post for the blog for me when she gets back! 🙂 xx

  9. Lynne says:

    Wow…. They look lovely Christine,
    Did you also realise that those Koi fish are the sign of Pisces, my birth sign for March!
    Can’t wait to start on them.
    Good luck to daughter xx

    • winwickmum says:

      I hadn’t thought about that but you’re right! I’m a bit late for Pisces season this year, but it’s perfect for next year! 🙂 Thank you for buying the pattern xx

  10. Ann Collins says:

    I just downloaded the patter and look forward to knitting them. When I was 15 I went on a GS Roundup to a ranch in Colorado with 9,000 other Girl Scouts and it was a life changing event. Hope your daughter has a great time in Japan.

    • winwickmum says:

      Wow, that sounds like it was an amazing event – what a lot of people were there! I can imagine you have some wonderful memories of your time there. Thank you so much for buying the pattern xx

  11. Susan Rayner says:

    As a former Girl Guide and a keen sock knitter I am delighted to buy this gorgeous pattern. What a lovely way to boost not so small daughter’s travel kitty.

  12. Sarah Murray says:

    I love this post and what amazing socks. This will be my way of learning colour work socks. Thank you x

  13. Nicola says:

    I was lucky enough to participate in a Japanese exchange trip, a fantastic opportunity I really enjoyed I hope your daughter has a fantastic time

  14. Linda Henderson says:

    My son went to the World Scout Jamboree in Japan for three weeks in 2015. They stayed with a family for 3 days then Tokyo for another 3 before going to the Jamboree with 40,000 scouts from all other the world. They went to Hiroshima for the 70th anniversary so we had to make 70 paper cranes for him to take with him.
    The fundraising was worth it for the amazing experiences he had and I’m sure it will be exactly the same for your daughter.

  15. Kathy Davis says:

    Bought the pattern, learning colourwork, very exciting and completed first leg so far. Hope your daughter has a fabulous time.

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