Once you finish the cuff of your sock it’s smooth sailing down the leg.
While most people find the cuff can be tricky to start the leg can be as easy or hard as you decide to make it.
Consider the leg the canvas for your creativity. This is a good place to practice techniques or stitches you’ve been wanting to learn. You can try your hand at lace, cables, Fair Isle, or any number of knitting tricks without the commitment of an entire sweater.
For instance, these Leaf Lace Socks from the Knit Noro book are a good way to practice lace knitting.
Since socks are small they are a good project to test something out and if you decide you don’t like it you don’t have to worry about leaving a large project unfinished. They are also a good choice for testing a new yarn or indulging in a special yarn.
Some people don’t like hand knit socks because they fall down. That might be a simple matter of improperly sized socks. While it is obvious that socks that are too big will fall down, the book “Getting Started Knitting Socks” by Ann Budd (Interweave Press, 2007) says socks that are too small will shift down as well.
Most sock patterns are sized for the widest part of your foot on the assumption that it will be similar to the size of the top of your leg. But since people are different that isn’t always the case. Unlike commercial socks, you can easily change your hand knit socks to accommodate those differences.
The leg is a good the place to make adjustments to your sock size and how it fits.
If you want more room in the cuff of the sock for your calf you can cast on enough stitches to fit there and then decrease down the sock leg to the ankle. If you are working toe up you would flip that suggestion and increase up the sock leg.
It’s a simple matter of measuring your leg where you want the cuff to be and your ankle. Multiple those numbers by your gauge to get your target stitch counts. Then subtract them to figure out how many stitches to decrease (or increase). Then work the decreases at regular intervals down the leg. You don’t want to work them all at once because the change in size will be too abrupt and the sock will probably be restrictive in that area.
For more of a discussion on applying knitting math to shaping check out the “sleeve” section of The Knitting Architect on our website.
Budd suggests knitting the cuff and upper leg on a knitting needle one size larger than you plan to use. Many people, she writes, find the larger gauge from the bigger needle provides enough room.
Another time shaping will be important is if you make knee-high or thigh-high socks, like these Rainbow Knee-Highs that are also in the Knit Noro book. (The ruffled cuff can be worn up as shown or folded down.)
For taller socks you’ll want to work shaping to accommodate the change in circumference from your calf to your ankle. If you are following a pattern the designer will have figured it out for you. If you want to design tall socks yourself, Elizabeth Zimmermann has a discussion along with a legging pattern in her “Knitters Almanac” which could be adapted.
Most sock patterns are written for crew length socks, but there is no reason you can’t go longer (or shorter). If you aren’t sure of what length to make the leg, a good rule of thumb (maybe it should be a rule of toe? tee-hee) is to make it as long as the hand of the person who will be wearing it. This rule is very convenient if you are making them for yourself since you can just lay your hand on your knitting to check the length and not have to worry about fishing out your tape measure.
If you do make tall socks keep your yarn consumption in mind.
Some sock yarns come in high yardage balls, such as Noro’s Silk Garden Sock with 328 yards and Taiyo Sock with 462 yard, which is usually enough to get a pair of crew length socks out of one ball of yarn. Other yarns come in slightly smaller balls, like OnLine’s Supersocke Silk with 220 yards, which usually require two balls to make a pair.
In either case, a pair of knee- or thigh-high socks will usually need three or even four balls of yarn to ensure you don’t run out. Conversely, a pair of ankle socks might only need one ball. The staff at your local yarn store will be able to guide you in the proper amount of yarn to purchase.
Yarn usage is a good argument for knitting socks toe-up. You divide your yarn in half and just knit to you run out!
As I said at the beginning, the leg can be as plain or fancy as you desire.
When using fun self-patterning yarns, like the OnLine Supersocke yarns or the Indulgence 6ply pictured at the top of this post, you can knit plain old stockinette stitch and still end up with a fabulous sock because the yarn does all the work. Plain socks are good projects to have on the go so you can knit without paying attention.
Another good option is continuing the cuff ribbing down the leg. Some people prefer the way ribbed socks fit. This is also a simple pattern for automatic knitting.
Striped socks, like the pair pictured above from Ella Rae book #114-Lace Merino & Latte are a good way to use up scraps. If you work the color changes every two rows you can usually carry the yarn, rather than cutting it, and save yourself from having a ton of ends to weave in. On the Ella Rae sock you can see the cuff and foot were worked in a solid color to tie it all together.
For more of a challenge work a patterned leg, like these Sparrowhawk socks from Mirasol Book #06-Accessories Collection.
An important thing to remember with color work socks is that the strands will take up room inside the socks, which might make them smaller. If you are following a pattern the designer will have account for that in the sizing options. But don’t let the potentially tricky sizing put you off, the floats (strands) from the color changes also make the socks extra cushy and warm.
Still intimidated by knitting socks? Check for a class at your local yarn store. Most stores run beginner sock classes on a regular basis since they are such popular projects but can be tricky when you start out.
During the class the teacher will probably review what type of yarn to use, how to make fit adjustments, and walk you through the tricky bits. You also get the companionship of working on a project with a group of people who will be able to encourage each other and cheer accomplishments.
Of course, there are also many resources online. I like the information available at the Socknitter Forum. I’ve seen a lot of praise online for Silver’s Sock Class (but I haven’t tried it myself). For experienced sock knitters, don’t forget there are tons of great sock patterns on Knitty.com.
What are some tips you have for getting a good sock fit?