You want to learn to knit socks, but don’t know where to start?
This is an understandable goal. Socks are fun, portable, and useful knitting projects.
They also qualify, in my book, as “knitting magic.” A few simple steps and you have this very cool item. Non-knitters are usually impressed. Knitters who don’t knit socks are also impressed, but on a deeper level.
Knitting your first sock will be exciting, scary, and intimidating all at the same time. But when you are done you will have a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
A sock was the third project I made after learning how to knit. (My first project was a garter stitch shawl, which I abandoned because it was boring and I wanted to learn how to purl. My second project was a sweater, because why do things half-way?)
I used a free pattern that came with the yarn and stumbled through with the help of knitting books from the library and information I could find on the internet. You can make your life easier by signing up for a sock knitting class at your local yarn store. The teacher will be able to guide you in pattern, yarn, and needle selection and will be there to answer questions as you go along.
If you do go it alone, prepare yourself for the fact that your first sock might not be your most attractive knitting project. But your second sock, after you’ve learned all the steps involved, will probably show great improvement.
I’m not going to be providing a pattern in these “Sock Tips” blog posts. There are already many beautiful sock patterns in the world. Instead, I will be offering tips and advice to keep in mind as you work on your first sock.
Hopefully experienced socks knitters will also find something of use. As well as chiming in with tips of their own.
Although much of the information I’m going to share is based on my own experience I can’t claim it’s all original as I’ve read many books and attended many classes about sock knitting, but I also can’t point to direct sources. So let’s say I’m passing on collected wisdom and you’ll probably see these tips in other sources during your knitting career.
Fit and Ease
The great thing about hand knit socks is they are customized to fit you.
You can make the leg as long or as short as you want.
You can start with a wide cuff and decrease to fit a narrow ankle.
You can make the foot the correct length so you don’t have baggy toes.
And that all comes back to fit and ease.
It might take some trial and error, i.e., a couple pairs of socks, before you decide on just how you want your socks to fit.
You want your sock to be snug, but not too tight. A snug sock is more likely to stay up and not slouch down into your shoes.
In general, socks are knit with negative ease ranging from 1/2″ to 1″. What do I mean by negative ease? Ease refers to how much “breathing room” there is between you and your garment. So if your foot measures 8″ at the widest part a sock with no ease would also measure 8″. A sock with negative ease will measure less than 8″. (By the same token a sock with positive ease would measure more than 8″, but you would probably only want that for slippers or bed socks.)
For example, my foot measures 8″ around the ball (the widest part). I like -1″ of ease so I calculate my socks based on a 7″ circumference.
Most commercial patterns already account for the ease and you can just follow the correct size for your foot. If you start customizing patterns you’ll want to consider ease and adjust your stitch count accordingly.
Most commercial sock patterns are based on foot size. The assumption is that there is a correlation between the size of your foot and the size of your leg. The sizes in patterns will reference either shoe size or foot circumference.
If the measurements in the pattern don’t suit you, it is a simple matter of applying your measurements to your gauge to adjust your stitch count. For instructions on how to accomplish that check out “The Knitting Architect” on our website. This free book outlines how to design or adjust a sweater, but the principles are the same for adjusting a sock.
Now, you’ve selected your pattern, yarn, needles, decided how snug you want your sock to be, and are ready to get going.
There are three areas of a sock that usually trip up new sock knitters (they sometimes get experienced sock knitters, too!): Starting The Cuff, The Heel Turn, and Closing the Toe.
Unfortunately, unless you are knitting your sock toe-up, the first thing you’ll encounter is The Cuff.
The difficulties you encounter when starting will vary depending on how experienced a knitter you are in general and how you feel about double pointed needles.
First: Beware of twisted stitches. If you knit anything in the round–a hat, sleeves, etc., you already know what this is.
You want to ensure all the stitches are aligned an not flipped around the needles at all or you will get a permanent twist in your sock and have to start over. On double pointed needles be aware the twist might be between needles and you might have to rotate the entire needle, not just a few stitches.
Second: It’s going to be fiddly and floppy. People who aren’t accustomed to working on double points will especially have this issue. Have faith and stick with it. After a few rows the fabric will be substantial enough to offer stability and things will get easier.
If you are feeling impatient, there are a few ways to address this issue.
One option is to work the first few rows flat, then join to work in the round. You will have to go back and sew a little seam to close the gap. Some people find this is easier because it helps them avoid a twisted cast on and is more stable when they do start to work in the round.
Another option is to knit your sock on two circular needles instead of double pointed needles. Many local yarn stores offer classes in this method. There are also books devoted to this method that should be easy to find at your local yarn store.
Finally, you can use the “magic loop” method. This is done by using a very, very long circular needle and sliding the stitches around on the cable and needle tips. Again, you can find classes and books for this method at your local yarn store.
That’s about all I can tell you about the cuff.
It can be ribbed, ruffled, or patterned.
It can be as deep or shallow as you desire.
It is also the first step in your sock knitting career.
Now go cast on and join the legions of knitters who love knitting socks.