A long time ago, in another life, I used to knit for complexity. Intricate lace, fancy colour work, any challenging stitch I came across made its way onto my needles. I have a cedar chest full of bobbled and cabled sweaters, hats, sweaters and socks decorated with images in detailed colours and shawls built of lacy motifs. It’s a nice collection, stored away along with whatever notes I made at the time. Once in a while, I sort through decades of knitwear and marvel at the person who knit those garments. I admire her determination, her patience and her creativity. She’s gone now, tucked away with the memories those pieces carry. As the song says, “Now she’s just somebody that I used to know.”
The current knitter in me has a taste for simplicity. She’s still fearless when it comes to string, but this knitter designs simple shawls, which are really the same one or two shawls, dressed up in different colours. She knit socks, the same socks, experimenting with a variety of yarns. She spins luxury fibres and turns them into a scarf there, a wrap here. She knits nothing fancier than garter stitch or stockinette (garter stitch in the round), although she's been known to splurge on seed stitch from time to time. Her lacework consists of *knit 2 together, yarn over,* judiciously placed, reversed or repeated throughout the length of a garment, which makes the thing which is simple looks deceptively difficult. This knitter loves the rhythm of simplicity, the texture of yarn as it moves through and around her fingers, winding its way into useful fabrics.
We tend to catch our breath and look with wonder on the complex. Lacework in fine yarns, worked on the thinnest of needles, draws our attention, as do meandering cables, pattern on pattern of colours and garments displaying great attention to detail. That’s as it should be, but sometimes, we overlook the beauty of simplicity. As knitters, we think of garter stitch as something for beginners, the fabric we graduate from, not something we return to when we become proficient with our knitting. While many of those patterns marked “Beginner” are basic, some of them written without much thought or skill, the same thing can be said of patterns which strive for the excessively intricate. “Simple” does not necessarily mean that something is not well-planned. As the knitter in my past discovered, intricate stitches and colours can hide a lot of flaws. Stockinette stitch shows all. It requires a bit of skill to make a plain garter stitch or ribbed pattern interesting, engaging and attractive.
Boot cuffs and toppers are in style these days. They’re a great idea in our winter weather. They add a layer of warmth when we’re tromping around in minus 30C temperatures and they keep snow out of our boots when we’re piling through drifts, especially when they’re knit in a basic stitch which repels moisture.
These boot cuffs/toppers/leggings are quick and simple to knit in the round on double-pointed needles in a bulky yarn. I used Noro Hitsuji, but any bulky yarn which gives you the correct gauge will work. The yarn will need to resist abrasion from the tops of your boots, so choose something with a bit of firmness to it. (If you’re spinning the yarn, stay away from Merino and try Blue-faced Leicester or Romney. Spin woollen for warmth to approximately 6 wraps per inch.) I choose K2, P2 for the cuff because the fabric will shed snow. The leggings are worked in K1, P1 to reduce bulk and to hug the leg, which also incorporates a bit of knitted shaping. I added straps across the feet so that the leggings don't ride up or slip when I’m walking and so that I can use these leggings as yoga socks in the studio. Each option for these cuffs/toppers/leggings is noted on the pattern, so you can make several sets in whatever style suits you. You’ll notice that I played with the Noro colours, so that I have a matched pair (well, almost).
130 grams of Noro Hitsuji (2-100 gram balls) which is enough to make the full length set in the size here plus an extra pair of cuffs. This size fits a 15 inch/39 cm calf over leggings. You can fit any size leg you wish by increasing the number of cast on stitches in multiples of 4, each of which will add just over an inch/2.5 cm to the circumference. The full length leggings are 17 inches/44 cm; again, adjust the length as you require. When increasing in size, remember to buy more yarn, although 2 balls of the Noro Hisuji should be enough for a full length set that will fit up to an 18 or 20 inch calf (approx. 46 to 50 cm.).
1 set of 4 double pointed needles, 6 mm, or size to give correct gauge.
1 stitch marker, tapestry needle, scissors.
Gauge: 3 sts/4.5 rows to 1 inch/2.5 cm. worked in K2P2 ribbing (Knit 2 stitches, Purl 2 stitches) in the round. K1P1 ribbing: K 1 stitch, Purl 1 stitch. If you are shaping the leg, you will also need to know how to K2tog, P2tog, and SSK.
Read the pattern through before casting on. Please note the option points in bold letters. Make 2 of each.
Cast On (CO) 32 stitches on 2 of your double pointed needles (dpn’s). Working in K2, P2 ribbing, knit 8 stitches onto first dpn, 12 stitches on 2nd dpn, 12 stitches on 3rd dpn. Place marker, join round and K2P2 (4 sts) from 2nd needle onto the first needle before using your 4th dpn. (This keeps the stitch marker in place.) Continue in pattern until the cuff is a minimum of 4 inches/10 cm long, approximately 16 rounds. (Option: This minimum length keeps your cuff from sliding down your boot. Bind off all stitches loosely in pattern for boot cuff only. Otherwise, continue to Boot Topper instructions.)
Change pattern to K1,P1. Knit 8 rounds then begin leg shaping. (Option: For a looser fitting garment, continue working over your cast on stitches without decreasing.)
Next rnd: P2tog, continue in pattern to last 2 sts before marker, SSK. (30 sts.) Knit 3 rounds, keeping in pattern.
Next rnd: K2tog, continue in pattern to last 2 sts before marker, P2tog. (28 sts.) (Continue decreases every 4th rnd if you have CO more stitches.) Continue in pattern, working even, for approximately 8 inches/20 cm. (Option: Bind off all stitches loosely in pattern for boot topper. Otherwise, continue to instructions for Legging Foot.)
Arrange the remaining stitches so that there are 7 sts on each side of the marker on 1st needle (half the sts on the back of leg, below the decreases). Leave the other 14 sts on the other 2 needles. Break yarn and reattach at right end of 1st needle (with the marker). Working in pattern, BO 14 stitches loosely. Continue in pattern around other stitches back to opening made by the BO sts. (Option: If you omitted the leg shaping, you will centre 8 sts. on each side of the marker. BO 16 stitches in the back, work round in pattern, then CO 8, place marker, CO 8 and continue in pattern.)
Next rnd: CO 7 sts., replace marker, CO 7 stitches. Work in pattern to end of rnd.
Work 8 rnds of K1P1 ribbing, then BO all stitches loosely.
Darn in ends, reinforcing the sts. at the edges of the legging strap. Make a second cuff/topper/legging to match.
©Deborah Behm, October 2014