I made a pair of Vilma Vuori’s Södera socks in the fall of 2009. I remember sitting in a cafe with a friend, who was also making a pair of Södera’s for his girlfriend. He was complaining that while the socks were absolutely lovely, easy to knit and sexy, they did not “look like themselves” after the purl-sections had become wider than the lace sections. It was like the point of lace socks had disappeared: they looked like solid socks with thin stripes of lace rather than lace socks with thin stripes of purl sections. (To those who haven’t knitted them: in Södera the increases are done to the purl sections between the lace and if you have very large calves, the width of purl sections will easily be wider than the width of the lace sections.) Of course I listened to my friend’s worries, but this did not concern me very much – my pair of Södera’s did not have this problem, as I had slim calves.
Since 2014, when I started designing, I have thought a lot about different increasing techniques for toe-up stockings. As you might know, there are very few thigh high stocking patterns, although there are quite many knee high sock patterns. Both types have a typical grading problem: the patterns usually have “one size fits all” or very few (e.g. three) sizes. I think that this grading is due to two major issues: firstly, there are no standard measurements (for upper parts of legs) in which the designers could write their knee high sock or stockings patterns. Secondly, it is very difficult to increase or decrease stitches in an aesthetical way, if the sock/stocking has lace, cable or other complicated stitch patterns.
I wanted to publish a pattern for basic lace stockings that would be easy to knit, but despite the simplicity, have an elegant look. I thought that the lace in Södera socks is exactly that – easy to knit, but looks beautiful and complex. I remembered my friend’s complaint about the Södera design not being fit for wider calves and decided to crack the mystery – there had to be a way to do the increases to the lace, not just the purled stitch section. After some thinking, swatching, more thinking and more swatching, I knew I had nailed it. The result was Pia ballerina stockings.
I am very grateful to Vilma Vuori who gave me permission to design and publish the pattern for these stockings.
editor’s note: Don’t let the length of these instructions discourage you! They’re long but that’s because Senja is giving you a lot of fitting options! You’ll be able to make stockings to fit a variety of legs.
Foot length: 8.6 [9, 9.4, 9.8, 10.2, 10.6, 11] inches or 22 [23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28] cm
Foot circumference: 6.6 [7.0, 7.4, 7.8, 8.2, 8.6, 9, 9.4] inches or 17 [18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24] cm
Novita Kotiväki Huvila (100% cotton; 363 yards [332 meters]/ 100 grams): pink 507, at least 3 three balls
In addition, here are 2 other yarns that might be easier for you to find:
Patons 100% Cotton 4-ply (100% cotton; 361 yards [330 meters]/ 100 grams)
Cascade Ultra Pima (100% cotton; 220 yards [200 meters]/ 100 grams)
2 sets US #2.5/3mm DPNs
or one circular US #2.5/3mm
or size needed to obtain gauge
The above amount of needles is for making one stocking at a time, if you are planning to do both stockings simultaneously, you need 4 sets of DPNs or a long enough circular for knitting two socks at the same time. I recommend 2 sets of DPNs for making one stocking, because for very wide thighs the circumference can be over 20” (50 cm). The wider it is, the more sts there are and the easier to knit with many DPNs. Also, even for slimmer thighs I recommend having more than one set of DPNs for the fitting (which should done often) – if you are fitting the stockings on with four DPNs attached, the DPNs will form a square and it will be very difficult to determine when to do decreases or increases, because the edge of the stocking will not be a square, not a polygon (or a circle, which is possible with a circular needle).
crochet hook, size US #1.5/2.5mm
different colored stitch markers, three different colors (A, B, C), 2 markers of color A, 6 markers of colors B and C
3/16 inch (5mm) width elastic band, up to 8 times the circumference of thighs
30 sts and 40 rows on stockinette = 4 inches (10 cm)
40 sts and 40 rows on basic (10sts) lace pattern = 4 inches (10cm)
Lace Chart – 13 sts
Gusset Increases Chart
The stockings are worked seamlessly from toe to thigh.
The heel is a Dutch heel, but it is worked “upside down”, because the stockings start from toe.
This pattern does not assume you have certain types of needles, it is ok to use DPNs or a circular. If you are using DPNs, you will have to move sts from needle to needle at least when trying on the stocking.
From toe to ankle, size is determined by foot length and foot circumference. Above the ankle all the size (circumference and length) is determined to trying on the stockings and making increases or decreases when you feel like it.
I recommend knitting both stockings at the same time – especially if you have the problem of making one sock and never finishing the other, that problem will be even greater with these stockings. Also, making a pair at the same time will save you from having to take notes about your increases and decreases for the second stocking.
The stockings stay on with four rows of elastic which are looped through eyelet rows in the ribbing. You can determine the tightness of the bands yourself. There four rows because the fewer rows you have, the tighter the band has to be and a very tight band can be itchy and will wear out or break more easily. In my experience having many rows is very convenient, the bands don’t have to be very tight. You can of course make as many eyelet rows for the elastic bands as you like, although the pattern gives instructions for four eyelet rows.
The length of the stocking is up to you – they can reach just above the knee or wherever you want. However, I recommend making them as long as possible, all the way up to groin, because in my experience they stay up better when they are that long. I think they stay up well because most women have a small curve in our inner thighs (something that many women’s magazines tell us that we should try to eliminate by exercise, but don’t, it is useful for wearing stockings!); when the upper rows of elastics reach above the curve, the stockings stay up better than on a thigh that is straight or widening. To maximize the benefits of this inner thigh curve, the upper elastic bands should be tighter than the lower ones, for more information in the instructions for finishing.
Needed yarn amount is very hard to estimate because the size varies so much. For the shown size I used approximately 300g of yarn.
Using Judy’s magic cast on (size by foot circumference), CO 18 [22, 24, 28, 26, 30, 32, 32] sts.
Set up round: k 9 [11, 12, 14, 13, 15, 16, 16] sts, place marker, k 9 [11, 12, 14, 13, 15, 16, 16] sts, place marker. Since we’re not assuming the number of needles you’re using, divide the sts up as best you can. You may want to place a removable stitch marker to indicate the end of rnd as well.
Toe increases (sizes by foot circumference):
Repeat the following rnd 6 [6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 8] times:
Rnd 1: Kfb, k all until 2 sts before marker, kfb, k1, slip marker, kfb, k all until 2 sts before marker, kfb, k1, slip marker. (increasing 4 sts per rnd)
Altogether 42 [46, 48, 52, 54, 58, 60, 64] sts.
Repeat the following rnds 2 [2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2] times.
Rnd 1: K all until marker, sm, k all until marker, sm.
Rnd 2: kfb, k all until 2 sts before marker, kfb, k1, slip marker, kfb, k all until 2 sts before marker, kfb, k1, slip marker. (increasing 4 sts per rnd)
Altogether 50 [54, 56, 60, 62, 66, 68, 72] sts.
Foot (sizes by foot circumference):
Now let’s set up the sts for working the lace.
Set-up rnd for 6.6 [7.0, 7.4, 7.8] inches or 17 [18, 19, 20] cm: K 28 [29, 30, 31] sts, place marker B, k 19 [23, 25, 29] sts, place marker A, k 3 [2, 1, 0] sts.
Set-up rnd for 8.2 inches or 21 cm: K 31 sts, sm, k 31 sts, sm.
Set-up rnd for [8.6, 9, 9.4] inches or 22 [23, 24] cm: K 2 [3, 5] sts, place marker A, k 31 sts, place marker B, k 33 [34, 36] sts.
Marker A marks the beginning of the rnd, between markers A and B there are sts for working lace, between B and A there are sole sts, worked in stockinette. There should be 31 [31, 31, 31, 31, 31, 31, 31] sts between A and B, and 19 [23, 25, 29, 31, 35, 37, 41] sts between B and A.
Continue working the lace pattern according to “Lace chart 5 sts” with sts between A and B, and stockinette on the sole sts between B and A.
Work the lace pattern for Y times, see Y from table below, choosing the number by your foot length and foot circumference. Note that gusset increases are supposed to be worked during these lace pattern repeats, so before you have worked all repeats, read how to do gusset increases.
During the last three lace pattern repeats, work the gusset increases according to gusset increases chart.
Make sure that you have finished the rnd through marker A.
Start working the heel flap with sole sts: you should have (sized by foot circumference) 19 [23, 25, 29, 31, 35, 37, 41] sole sts. The heel flap is worked flat and starter from a ws row, so turn the stocking to work a ws row.
Row 1 (WS): Sl1 knitwise, purl all sts.
Row 2 (RS): Sl1 purlwise, knit all sts.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for (size by foot length) 8 [8, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10] more times or until the heel flap measures (size by foot length) 1.7 [1.7, 2, 2, 2, 2.1, 2.1] inches or 4.5 [4.5, 5, 5, 5, 5.5, 5.5] cm, ending with row 2.
Heel turn (all size options by foot circumference):
Set-up row [WS]: Sl1 knitwise, purl 11 [13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25], p2tog, turn.
Row 1 [RS]: Sl1 knitwise, knit 5 [5, 7, 7, 9, 9, 11, 11], ssk, turn.
Row 2 [WS]: Sl1 purlwise, purl 5 [5, 7, 7, 9, 9, 11, 11], p2tog, turn.
Work rows 1 and 2 another 6 [8, 8, 10, 10, 12, 12, 14] times, ending with row 1, leaving 7 [7, 7, 9, 9, 11, 11, 13, 13] sts on a needle.
Remove stitch markers from their places.
Set-up rnd: With the help of a crochet hook, pick up and knit (by foot length) 14 [14, 15, 15, 15, 17, 17] sts from the side of the heel flap, work the three lace sections normally, pick up and knit (by foot length) 14 [14, 15, 15, 15, 17, 17] sts from the side of the heel flap, knit (by foot circumference) 7 [7, 7, 9, 9, 11, 11, 13, 13] sts from the heel, knit (by foot length) 14 [14, 15, 15, 15, 17, 17] sts, place color A marker, the marker A marks the beg of the rnd.
See table below for altogether stitch amount for sts picked up from heel flap and leftover sts from the heel.
Now, before you start working from ankle to thigh, let’s have a look at the general structure of the stocking and how increases and decreases are worked in this pattern.
The stocking has six sections of lace (that are surrounded by six “p2, k1tbl, p2” sections). The increases and decreases are done at the edge of lace sections, making them wider or narrower. Lace is always worked with an odd number of sts: 5, 7, 9, 11 and so on. When increasing the lace section, 2 sts are added to the edge of the lace. When decreasing the lace section, 2 sts are decreased at the edge of the lace. All the sections are independent from each other – you don’t have to make increases/decreases to each section in the same rnd. Therefore, it is very likely the lace sections will have different widths throughout the stocking.
However, although the lace sections can be increased/decreased independently, the increases/decreases should be done in a balanced way. Let’s number the lace sections from the marker that marks the beg of a rnd: they are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th sections.
Let’s say that you have 5 sts on 5th and 6th lace section, 7 sts on all others (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th). The stocking is getting tight and you want to do increases to two lace sections. Before you can do increases to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th lace sections, you have to do increases to the 5th and 6th sections. Why? Because it would look asymmetric if two lace section have 5 sts, some 7 sts and others have 9 sts! And the point of these stockings is to look symmetrical. So the all the lace sections have to be balanced this way – there should not be more than 2 sts difference between the narrowest and widest lace sections.
To help you stay on track about sts amounts of each lace section, use different colored stitch markers to mark each lace section. Use color A marker to mark the beg of the rnd. Use colors B and C markers to mark how many sts each section has: in the previous example, sections 5 and 6 could be marked with color B, others with color C. When you have increased st amounts in section 5, change the marker to color C and when you have increased section 6, also change the marker’s color to C. When you start doing increases for section 1, change the marker’s color to B again, and so on. You’ll have to remember which color marks the wider lace sections and which the narrower lace sections, to which you’ll be doing the increases next, because once all sections are marked with color C and you’ll start increasing again, then color B will be the color for wider sections, and color C mark the narrower sections.
For all sizes: work the instep sts as usual, ending in a ktbl st.
See table “Stitch amount after heel flap”, check how many sts you should have altogether after picking up sts from the side of heel flaps and heel turn.
Work the following based on how many sts you have:
35 sts: Work the 7 sts wide lace sts chart starting at st number 4, work the same chart two more times, p2.
37sts: p2tog, work the 7 sts wide lace sts chart starting at st number 5, work the same chart for two more times, p2tog, p1. 2 sts decreased.
39 sts: *work the 7 sts wide lace sts chart, p1 rep from* two more times.
41 sts: Work the 9 sts wide lace sts chart starting at st number 4, work the same chart two more times, p2.
43 sts: p2tog, work the 9 sts wide lace sts chart starting at st number 5, work the same chart for two more times, p2tog, p1. 2 sts decreased.
45 sts: *Work the the 9 sts wide lace sts chart, p1 rep from * two more times.
47 sts: Work the 11 sts wide lace sts chart starting at st number 4, work the same chart two more times, p2.
It is very likely that the lace sections on your needles have different widths. This is by design and the width difference will disappear when you start making ankle decreases. Now mark all the lace sections with different colored markers so that you are track about their widths (as explained before). The place of the marker does not matter – you can put it to the center or the beginning of the lace sts as the marker is there to indicate the number of sts in the rep – and not mark the actual place of a st.
From this point onward, all decreases or increases in this pattern are going to be “after trying on, make decreases or increases when you feel like it”. Same goes for the amount of decreases or increases – I’ve included charts to get you to 13 sts in the lace section, but you should continue to decrease and increase the same way I’ve done throughout this pattern. This is the beauty of these thigh highs – you can (and should) custom fit them to your leg.
Start doing decreases to the lace sections. See from decreasing chart on which row they can be done, they are indicated by a pink background color. Note that decreases cannot be done on any row, the row depends on how wide the lace section is. Decreases are basically done by “forgetting” to work a yo at both sides of a lace section.
Try on the stocking every now and then to determine when to start increasing the sts.
Note! It is very easy to do too many increases, so be steady with increases. The lace in itself is already quite elastic, so it does not matter if you forget to do increases on a specific round.
Remember to make increases in a balanced way (see the instructions above!)
Knee decreases (optional)
Knee decreases are optional for this pattern. (They are optional because in thigh high stockings the many lines of elastic ribbons make them stay up. In knee high socks the knee decreases are very crucial in helping keeping the sock up.) As the lace is easy to increase and decrease, knee decreases are easy to make in this pattern, so you should try them out!
Start doing decreases when your calf is at its widest (you should use a tape measure to find out where the widest part is).
Continue trying on the stocking every once in a while so that you can determine when to start increasing again.
Work the stocking until it measures 2.4 inches or 6 cm from the wanted height, then start the ribbing.
Rnds 1-4: Work *k2, p2 rep from*.
Rnd 5: Work “k2, p2tog, yo, rep from*.
Work rnds 1-5 three more times. Work rnds 1-4 one more time. Now you have 4 rows of eyelets for the elastic bands.
Bind off using Jenny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off.
Turn the stockings inside out and weave in ends.
Thread one end of the elastic band through one of the eyelet rows of the stocking and then weave it in an out (see the pic). When the elastic has been through all the holes on one eyelet row, try on the stocking to determine the tightness of the band. Make the band tight (because it will stretch of course) but not so tight as to leave marks on your skin or feels uncomfortable. Cut the elastic, but leave 1 inch or 2.5 cm for overlapping and sew the overlapping ends together. Repeat with other rows on both stockings.
Note! If you made the stockings so high that they reach your groin, above the curve in inner thighs, make the two upper elastic bands tighter than the two lower ones. This way you are taking advantage of the inner thigh curve: above the curve your thigh’s circumference is somewhat smaller than in the widest part of the curve, and making the upper elastics tighter, it is harder for the stocking to drop lower. You can see this in the photos below: the two upper bands are tighter, two lower ones looser.
Wear with the stockings with pride – no matter your size, you can be a Pia ballerina!
About the Designer – Senja Jarva
Senja studies informatics at Aalto University in Espoo, Finland.
She learnt to knit at the age of six and still knits (at home, on the bus and on lectures, alone, with friends or with her grandmother). Currently she has an ongoing stocking mania, because there are simply too few stocking patterns in the world.
You can see her other work on Ravelry.