One size does not fit all

Some time in the past, a blog reader from Ohio named Leslie (hi, Leslie!) commented with a question about socks. Luckily enough, I was able to grab a moment to answer it with a piece of advice, and I asked her if she minded me sharing it with the rest of you, since it turned out so well.

Her question was about fit – she’d done several pairs of hand-knitted socks, but was finding they all kept falling into her shoes and she was walking on a portion of the legs and heels instead of the soles of the feet. Since I am a large-footed tall person in a world that does not necessarily presume that the average person is a large-footed tall person, I had a pretty good idea what the fix was: The feet need to be longer. It’s a good bet that if your socks are being tugged down like that, that means there isn’t enough room in the foot of the sock for your actual foot, and the sock tries to compensate by struggling to cover your sole with the rest of itself.

This is pretty common for anybody with a Size 11 foot (or larger), who is faced with a rack of commercial socks, all of which say “Size 7-10.” I’ll give you three guesses what happens when a Size 11 footed person tries to wear socks labelled “Size 7-10”, and the first two don’t count.

This is also a problem I ran into early on during the first few pairs of socks I knitted. I think, in my mind, I kept comparing my hand knitted socks to the tight-fitting socks I was used to buying in stores, and I produced similarly-fitting socks. As a result, I’ve ended up gifting away several pairs of socks to family or friends with shorter feet than me. (They have not complained about this). Over the years that I have been knitting socks, I have become accustomed to adding a little bit more length in the foot than I did at first. It also means I keep a watchful eye on yardage before picking out a skein of yarn – with practice comes the knowledge of how comfortably far you can knit before playing chicken with yardage.


What Leslie did, though, was much more stubbornly awesome. She determined that she was not just going to gift away the too-short socks. This photo above is hers, of her hand-knitted socks, all of which have had the toes pulled out and re-knitted to be long enough to fit her feet. Now she has socks which are hand-knit AND which fit her.

It just goes to show, folks. You may not be in control of the size of your feet (or some other body parts, for that matter), but you are darned well in control of your knitting, and your socks can be however the hell long you need them to be.


  1. I’m working on my very first ever sock, so this is great advice to keep in mind! I’m very curious to see what size the sock ends up being (knitting it to a size 9/10, but who knows…). Heck, if it ends up at least looking like a sock, I’ll be happy I think, lol. πŸ™‚

  2. My feet are size 11 also, and I’ve made two pair so far. I just keep knitting until they’re long enough, although, as you said, yardage is a problem. Love the shawl you designed!

  3. Hey! I just realised that I can use my sock yarn ball bums (the leftover yarn from my size 10 socks) to make the toes on my Moms’ sasquatch (size 12) socks longer! Oh, oh, oh, or I could make stripes on the cuffs….YAY! No more running out of yarn with one toe to go!

  4. I have a similar but different problem. I figured out to knit longer, but my socks still fall down because they are not snug enough. Current pair – I measured my foot, went with about 1.5″ of negative ease, and the first one is big enough I’m afraid it’s going to bunch up in my shoe. Is it just that I’m used to the too-tight commercial socks on my size 11.5 feet? Or should I go for less ease (and the right length, of course)?

  5. I love knitting… I appreciate the ability to use materials over again, rip out, and it’s still viable. I usually have to rip out the toe/heel/whatever to make it smaller.

  6. I also had this problem when I first started knitting socks about 5 years ago. They’ve been stubbornly sitting in my sock drawer, but I think it’s time to give them away (probably to someone’s child, because I don’t really know any adults that wear smaller than a size 5.) Fortunately my taste in yarn has gotten more refined since those years, so it’s not that much of a sacrifice. I really, I need the room for those shiny new socks!

  7. I have found that there are no rules…whatever it takes to make it fit. I have short wide feet. A size 6 FF foot is interesting to knit for as well and with a high instep it gets complicated.

    The pattern is a suggestion? well maybe not but I find that if I pick up extra stitches at the gusset(knitting top down) that I get a wider foot, but can dec more if necessary, or leave a few extra stitches on…it just depends. I have extra dpns, so can put them in and try on the sock before I start the toe decrease. I also only decrease to about 28 stitches to accomodate my “hobbit toes”.

    It has gotten easier and for the first 2 years I stuck to one type of sock yarn so that I knew what to expect. Now that I have over 2 dozen pairs under my belt..or on my feet, I can make a judgement call with other yarns.

    For gift socks, I tend to knit a ribbed sock for a better “guessed” fit, but the foot length can be tricky…I usually ask them to measure their feet. It won’t be a surprise gift but at least they will fit.

    Hmm, I am extra ‘talky’ this morning..LOL

  8. Good for her! It’s great she got to keep her hard work and enjoy it.
    I experience the issue with the width of my socks. I have size 9 feet, but need wide shoes. I made myself a couple of “house socks” using one needle size up to make them comfy, but they’re just a bit loose to be practical in shoes. I’ve started playing around with adding a few stitches to the sock patterns, using the recommended needle size, and have been happy with the results. I know I should take measurements and knit to gauge and such, but so far karma hasn’t bit at me too harshly for just “seeing what this will do”!

  9. I love knitting my own socks because I can make them fit perfectly. I have two different sized feet and am able to knit a left sock and a right sock to fit. It feels wonderful! I’m really very picky about how stuff on my feet feels and if it doesn’t feel right, I have no one to blame but myself.

  10. Being a size 10.5 myself, I am partial to toe-up construction and trying them on as I go. I get a better fit and if I start to run out of wool, I end up with a shorter leg (where it doesn’t matter) rather than having to do something drastic to make the foot long enough.

    I must admit that knowing that size matters also makes me wonder how other people knit so many gift socks. I knit for my dad (and once got the length wrong — too long so they went to my brother) but unless they are a non-surprise gift, no one is getting hand knit socks from me.

  11. Oh, I love this! One of the *best* things for me about knitting is that I can (theoretically, anyway) make things that Really Fit Me. (I’m 6’3″ and wear a size 12 shoe; I almost cried with happiness when I knitted my first pair of socks.

  12. Taking out the toes to make the foot longer. That is brilliant and shows great determination. I hope it solves her problem.

  13. I have two grandsons that have size 13 and 14 feet. I’m making them socks for Christmas and hopefully I’ve added enough length to the foot. I do the toe-up method so I think I got the measurement right. I did figure out after making a pair for me first that “2” shorter than your foot measurement” is wayyyy too long. But that just might be my tension/knitting style.

  14. Awesome post. I am a brand spanking new sock knitter so this sort of thing is like gold to me.

    I have had this problem with some RTW socks over the years and never knew what the dealo was – even though I wear a very average size 8.

  15. Just the type of post I was looking for. I am thinking it is time to take the plunge and start making some socks but I have so many questions (I even made a blog post about it). After reading your post I can happily say one of my questions is answered. πŸ™‚

  16. Holy cow! Thank you! My handknit socks have made me nuts lately, and I do believe ripping out the toes and giving myself some extra foot space would solve my problem. Yay!

  17. I wanted to search and see if other people have the same or similar fitting challenges with hand-knit socks. I’ve made 3 pairs so far and they all do the same thing. Mine are long enough, but they are too wide! I do what the directions tell me to do, that is, to measure at the widest part of my foot for circumference, but this produces a waggy, baggy sock! Ugh. At first I thought it was the pattern, now I know, it’s me. Time to try negative ease.

    What I don’t understand is: why don’t the experts say, hey, you may want to try negative ease? This also explains why all the sock pattern photos I see show the sock from the OUTSIDE of the foot, never from the inside, where one possibly could see an instep that isn’t as snug as it should be?

  18. Carolyn – that’s a good question! I am guessing it is one of those things that is often presumed the knitter is aware of. I know when I design socks, I assume that there will be slight negative ease in the pattern sizing. I’m guessing all those photographs that show the top of the leg want to show off the patterning, but the instep seems a bit more dull to the photographer.

    Sock fit and bagginess is something Stephanie Pearl-McPhee writes about in Knitting Rules – that might be something you’ll enjoy reading about! It’s a great book.


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