Traditional Bavarian costumes are quite elaborate and world-renowned. And they all feature exquisite knitwear. In centuries past, it was the socks where a knitter could really show of her skills. For weddings or Sunday suits, cabled fantasies were created on the smallest needles and the finest thread available.
Today, there are few places left where people still preserve these traditions and knit with 2.00 mm needles (but in case you are interested, here’s my tutorial on Bavarian Twisted stitches). I re-created a knitting pattern for traditional Bavarian Loferl for men – the two-part socks worn with short lederhosen (leather pants)
I grew up in the alps, and when I was a little kid I indeed wore leather pants almost every day. My mum later told me that it was the most durable alternative. Being outside all day, I would tear holes in any other fabric too soon. But fine stockings became a rarety in the past decades. Who really wants to keep 180+ stitches on your needles for socks? Some jumpers need fewer stitches to finish in the round.
Yet, when you visit one of the many historic museums along the alps, you will often see extremely fine stockings on display. There are no shops that sell them, because there is no big demand and machines can’t knit these designs to begin with. Mostly, it’s the older generation that still preserves the tradition and knits to order for costume clubs and the like. But while some designs are still being kept alive, it’s a rare day you see something knit with fine needles.
Note: If you are looking for something more accessible, here’s a free sock pattern with Bavarian Twisted stitches
As a passionate knitter, I felt like changing that and (re-)designed myself a pair of Loferl or Loiferl. You will still see these calf warmers worn by men in Upper Bavaria (Oberbayern). I’m sure there are offline-patterns to be found in this area, but I couldn’t source them. Often, they are worn without liners, but I personally don’t like that, so I attached a pattern sketch for these as well.
Often, these Loferl / half-socks will have a calf-gusset. I personally don’t like the way this looks, so I adjusted the design to incorporate continuous decreases towards the narrower ankle (my calves are somewhat skinny, though). In terms of embroidery, you can add more or less details after you finished knitting. I’ve seen designs where they embroider the edges around all leaves or add little green details on the leaves. I tried, but on these fine needles, it looked a bit too busy for my taste. So, I skipped that. But of course, you can experiment yourself.
I would also like to mention that this is, by no means, the only design. In the area around Miesbach, they favor entrelac designs, while there are also versions knitted in plain garter stitch and embellished mostly with lots of floral embroideries. If I find the time, I shall add a couple of these to my blog as well.
I would like to note one thing, however: This is not a detailed knitting pattern, but just a sketch that will help you to find your own pattern. If there is enough interest (so please comment), I may create a detailed pdf. In the meantime, you may check out my best tips to knitting in the round like a pro.
If you want to add them to your queue on Ravelry, you can do so here.
Loferl knitting pattern
The socks are (quite obviously) knit in two parts, but you can finish them with the same materials. Both parts are knit in the round using double-pointed needles.
- I recommend you to buy a very durable 4ply sock wool. Regia by Schachenmayr is perfect. As you will be investing quite a lot of time to finish these Bavarian half socks, you want them to last a lifetime.
4 skeins in natural color (but it really depends on the size, I needed around 800 meters)
1 skein in green (200 meters will leave you with a bit to spare)
- Needle Set 2.00 mm or size 0. It’s better to knit with 20cm / 8″ needles. I am using the Knitters Pride Karbonz because they are the only ones that don’t end up crooked after 5 minutes. For the liners, 6″ needle sets are more comfortable. I knit the liners with these 2.50 mm needles and a 2.00 mm needles for the little rib section.
- A tapestry needle (both to finish and for the embroidery) and scissors.
I am knitting the liners with 2.50 mm needles because it’s faster and all those endless rows of st st bore the hell out of me. But of course, you can walk the extra mile and finish these in 2.00 mm needles as well. Depending on the weight of your yarn, you may not see a lot of difference.
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Pattern for The traditional calf-warmers
Traditional Loferls have a foldable brim. This is an artifact from normal stockings where the foldable brim was an easy way to adjust the same socks to the length of different trousers. For leather pants that covered the knee, you would unfold the brim so no skin was visible, while for short lederhosen you’d fold it so you have a nice edge. This obviously means that you will have to knit quite a lot of extra rounds in 2×2 rib, but it also ensures a proper fit so they don’t slide down and the extra layer enhances muscular calves even further. Or makes skinny calves like mine look like I’ve actually seen a gym in the past 20 years, lol.
Gauge: As calf sizes are not standardized, you will have to do some test knitting. For me, a 5x5cm swatch in 2×2 rib results in: 20 stitches x 28 rounds.
But again, the gauge is somewhat irrelevant as you will have to measure the calf of the recipient anyway. So, knit to fit and not to meet my gauge. That being said, the repeat of the main pattern is 20 stitches. And you will have to experiment with needle sizes a bit to fit that in.
As those 20 stitches only result in around 3 centimeters of fabric, it won’t be too hard, though. But definitely make sure to knit a swatch for that part as well (see chart below). Here’s a post on how to figure out how many stitches you should cast on for socks.
- I cast on 120 stitches with a provisional cast on in green (yarn b) and then create a picot edge with 5 rows of st st in between.
- Row 1- 5: st st
- Row 6: *k2tog, yo*,
- Row 7-12: another 5 rounds in st st.
- Row 13: Pick up the provisional cat on with k2tog for the picot edge.
- Row 14: Change the yarn to the natural color ( yarn A) and knit
- Row 15-16: purl
- Row 17: *k2tog, yo*
- Row 18: knit
- Row 19: *k2tog, yo*
- Row 20-21: purl
- Row 22: Change back to yarn B and knit
- Row 23-27: Purl
- Row 28-41: Knit with yarn A (you may enlargen this panel if you want more room for embroidery later; see below)
- And then mirror rows 1-27 into the other direction ending with 5 rows of st st for a second picot edge (knit row 13 though)
- Row 69 – 102: *k2, p2*in yarn B (if you changed the dimensions of the st st panel starting from row 28, you may want to add a couple of rows here as well)
- Row 103: Increase to 180 stitches by increasing one stitch every two stitches (M1R might be best here – or a backward loop increase).
- Row 104: knit one round with yarn A
From here, knit according to the chart. I decreased by 2 stitches (per repeat) after 3 repeats in the yellow row with a p2tog/p2tog tbl. Depending on the size of the calves, you may or may not have to adjust this. I always purl together two of the filler purl stitches (so st 1+2 and 18+19, but you can also decrease into the twisted rib with a k2tog/k2togtbl. You will have to repeat this decrease for the next leaf in the next repeat again.
How often you repeat this pattern is entirely up to you. I don’t know if it’s by intention or lazy knitters, but you will see these Loferl very short and some reaching almost to the ankle. Decide for yourself. If you still need help with some of these techniques, then check out my knitting school.
End the calf warmers with one row knit in yarn A, followed by 6 – 8 rows of 2×2 rib in yarn B. Make sure to bind off with a stretchy bind off.
Pattern for the liners
I have got an EU size 42. Again, just a quick sketch. If you are willing to tackle traditional bavarian calf warmers with 180 stitches on your circular needles, then I’m sure you know how to finish a basic sock.
I cast on 76 stitches using yarn B and 2.00 mm needles in the round (I always cast on 1 additional stitch, slip it to the last needle, pass over the last stitch on that needle as if to bind off and slip the remaining stitch back to the first, for an invisible join)
- Row 1: – 8: *k2, p2*
- Row 9: Change to yarn A (and slip one stitch to avoid laddering or lift the right leg of the stitch 2 rows below to k2tog in the next round) and 2.50 mm needles and knit across all stitches (you can continue knitting with 2.00 needles as well, but then you’d have to increase by a couple of stitches).
- Row 14: K2, p2, C6F, *k2,p2* (for the second sock, you might change this to C6B)
- Row 15-19: *k2,p2*
- Row 20: K2, p2, C6F, *k2,p2* (so a cable every 6 rounds)
- Row 21: Start with the heel flap 4 stitches after (or before on the second sock) the cable. I always knit a reinforced heel flap with Sl1,K1, and Sl1, P1 on the wrong side.
Knit the heel flap, turn the heel, and knit a standard gusset according to your preferences, and remember to continue the cable. If you need a detailed description, check out my basic sock pattern here. End the liners with the toe of your choice.
I decreased with k2tog, K2, SSK on both sides every two rounds until there were 40 stitches left. Then I decreased every round until there were only 20 stitches left and finished with a Kitchener stitch. Consider reinforcing heel with a nylon thread etc.
I personally felt that the little cable added a little interesting bit. Traditional Bavarian shoes for men have their laces on the left and right sides, so the cable harmonizes with that design. You can, of course, choose any other pattern to embellish the liners as well. As you won’t be able to see much more than the little green ribbing and a handful of rows (depending on the height of your shoes), I leave it up to you how much complexity you want.
Again, these calf warmers were and are often worn without liners. Hence, knit them as low as possible. I knit them so they barely peek out of the shoes. If you are knitting for very large feet, you may want to squeeze in one more cable cross-section before the heel flap.
Finish the calf warmers by embroidering the white panel on the outside of the folded brim with duplicate stitches in yarn B. Tendrils are the traditional way to do so. I always personalize them with the initials. It’s a great way to really show off that these weren’t bought off the rack.
You can also add further embroidery to the little leaves. Either by framing (some of) the little purl sections between them or adding a little V at the very tip. Again, this is entirely up to you and your preferences. I didn’t add it to mine because it looks too busy (as stated above). If the rest of your outfit is very clean, then this could be a lovely highlight, though. I added a picture of a traditional costume parade to see what I mean and how these socks are worn.