So you’ve discovered sock knitting

Since I’ve been chattering a bit about socks lately, I’ve had a few folks ask me a bit more about the whole sock knitting thing. If you are relatively new to this whole experience (perhaps you came to knitting sometime after the great Sock Knitting Renaissance of the late ‘aughts) then let me pull up a chair and drop you a few suggestions. Sock knitting is not for everyone (or rather, it is not everyone’s favourite thing ever), but it’s nice to at least try something once to see for sure if it’s not for you, and if you’re in the try-something-at-least-once phase, here are a few little bits of knowledge, from me to you.

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Start simple.

So, since we did have that great Sock Knitting Renaissance of the late ‘aughts, when it seemed like everybody was knitting socks all the time and if you weren’t knitting socks you must be some kind of creature that lived under a rock, a whole whack of sock patterns have been produced. There are so many kinds of socks out there, guys. Choice feels like your enemy at first. So, start with the simplest sock pattern that appeals to you.

One of the first ones I knitted was the Basic Sock Recipe in Knitting Rules by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. It’s a stockinette sock work from the cuff down and also includes a good description of how socks are constructed, so that even if you don’t have a pattern you can still knit socks. It’s still the first thing I recommend to new sock knitters and the whole book is awesome.

I also have my own Nice Ribbed Sock pattern, which is a top-down sock knitted in 3×1 ribbing, and is free. However, if you’re uncertain about knitting socks on sock weight (fingering weight) yarn, which is fine and makes small (slower) stitches, try a pattern that uses DK weight or worsted weight, to give you more speed and satisfaction off the top. Some of the most popular ones on Ravelry in this category are the Blueberry Waffle socks (which are free), the Stepping Stones socks (which are in the Knitter’s Book of Socks), and these Toe-Up Heel Flap Socks (also free).

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Then ask your brain what it wants to do next.

You might finish your first pair of socks and immediately love it and march yourself to the yarn store and buy twelve skeins of sock yarn and spend the next month doing nothing but knitting socks. If so, you would be in excellent company and many of us would happily empathize. On the other hand, you might finish your first pair and vow never to knit socks again, and go right back to shawls/cowls/sweaters/etc, and that is also totally valid and also there will be knitters right there to empathize with you.

It’s also quite likely that you’ll fall into the large and vague middle category, where you sort of think this could be neat, but [insert here] about the process didn’t really do it for you. Chances are, there is a personalized solution out there for you for whatever that thing is.

Was it the boring-ness of the pattern? Why not try something with more interesting stitches on it.

Did you try a cuff-down sock pattern and wished you could do it from the toe up instead? (which is handy if you want to be exact about how much yarn you use per sock) There are just so many toe-up sock patterns to choose from.

A lot of sock patterns are written for double-pointed needles. Maybe you tried that and it wasn’t your thing. Magic Loop is a nice alternative, and again, there are lots of tutorials: Knittinghelp.com, KnitPicks, my own wee photo tutorial, or heck, a quick YouTube search are all possibilities. Similar to Magic Loop is the two-circular needles method.Finally, thanks to the innovation of knitting world, you can also get circular needles that are small enough to use for a sock circumference, and 9-inch circular needles are more popular now for socks.

All of these methods are applicable for knitting in the round for any small circumference. You might find Magic Loop useful for sleeves, for example, as an alternative to double-pointed needles.

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Figure out where sock knitting fits into your life.

I knit about half a dozen pairs of socks over the course of a year, mostly by choosing simple patterns that are easy to pick up and put down at a moment’s notice, and by keeping a sock project in my handbag for portable knitting. I’ve heard from other knitters who say they do this kind of knitting at certain times of day or while waiting for regular appointments or kids’ activities to finish up. Once you get the hang of it, sock knitting can easily fill little bits of time like this and eventually, you end up with a full sock drawer and then your family starts getting socks as gifts because you can’t stop. (Or that could just be me. Hm.)

Personally, I alternate between double-pointed needles and Magic Loop, depending on what I’m knitting, and prefer working cuff down. There are so many options! Try a few techniques and decide for yourself what you like the most.

This has been your Wednesday ode to sock knitting. If you’re new to this world, welcome! It has much to distract you with. ;). Happy knitting!

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52 comments

  1. This is an excellent summary! I started with the yarn harlot’s book, too, and used the stitch pattern from Blueberry Waffles on my first pair. Definitely good recommendations!

  2. Deb in PA · ·

    I knit a lot of socks. You gave great advice. I started because we couldn’t find socks for my oldest son (very big and wide feet). When he tried on the first pair he said, “They don’t squish my feet!”. The rest is history!

  3. Really nice post Glenna. Covers all the bases. I wish I had read it years ago when I was afraid of sock knitting. Ha Ha. Now I too, can’t stop.

  4. I am a newish knitter and have really been drawn to hats, scarves, ear warmers and shawls. I do have a pair of socks that I’ve been dreaming to knit up so that may be soon on my list 🙂 Thanks for all your tips!

  5. Must. Not. Get. Distracted. From. First. Sweater…. Too late.
    I did try my hand at socks during The Great Sock Renaissance of the ‘Aughts – but I got intimidated and then got distracted by knitting hats after I learned to use DPN’s. It is absolutely time to try again!

  6. Linda A. · ·

    Alright, already, if this isn’t enough to get me going, I don’t know what will!
    Yes, I have been around for the Sock Knitting Renaissance – guess that’s why I almost feel guilty for not jumping aboard! (Maybe it has something to do with my bare feet I’ve been running around on all day today. Warm and sunny here in California today! Still, I know I’d appreciate socks in the winter.) I knit hats but I don’t have to think much to do that. There’s more parts to socks. ha. And needles (but I do like the options mentioned). Just have to focus and get on with it. Once I get past the learning curve I may join the craze (er, Renaissance). Thanks for a great post!

  7. Welcome to the fold. Yes.Yes.Yes. I’m knit sock obssessed. Love the yarn colorway in the first picture. What is it?

  8. Pamela · ·

    OOOh love the socks – and love the shoes too … where dey from?

  9. I love this post. I have knit many pairs of socks but hate to cover them up with boots, etc. What do you recommend for shoes that “show off” and look nice with hand knits?

  10. I’ve been knitting socks since the ’70’s and always have a pair on the needles. I prefer the toe up method as it helps me fit anyone’s foot quite precisely. Our son-in-law endeared himself to me when he put on the first pair I knit for him and exclaimed, “I didn’t know socks could feel this good!”

  11. Thank you so much for this post. I have end wanting to try socks.,,again…and this will definitely get me going in the right direction. Thanks!

  12. Joanne Mock · ·

    Thanks for this post. Began knitting back in October this year and knit many ,many dishcloths, scarves, cowls, and and now on my first pair of socks. Using Magic loop and cuff down. Simple pattern from Ravelry. Not sure it’s going to be my thing but the yarns and patterns sure look fun!

  13. This post is perfect for me, as I am an avid knitter, who has however never knit a sock, and always thought -what am I missing out on? but didn’t know where to start exactly with such a large number of options out there. So thanks for the post!

  14. Such a great post! I could have done with this a year ago when I first embarked on the whole “sock knitting” thing but its still useful even now. The links are fab so thanks so much for sharing. xxx

  15. My guys have size 16 feet! I can empathize! How do you get a good fit for your son’s socks?

  16. I’ve been thinking about starting another pair, but I have so many projects already on my needles! I guess one more project can’t hurt!

  17. I tried cuff-down socks once.I started knitting in one direction and ended up going back on myself. Said ball of yarn has now been cut in half to attempt toe-up socks. It’s a mental block I just want to get over. Thank you for the nudge!

  18. What is preventing me from knitting more socks is simply that I don’t enjoy wearing them! I don’t want to fill up the sock drawer, so I knit other things instead. It’s the occasional gift knitting that provides the opportunity to try something new – like toe up. I can’t believe I still have never knitted socks toe up. Who needs a pair of socks..?

  19. Alison · ·

    Stepping stones is a free pattern too. I have it in The Knitters Book of Socks and it was my first pair. But if you go to the Ravelry page for the pattern, there is also a link for a free copy of the pattern. I guess it’s designed to be a sample of the book.

  20. This is a wonderful summary, thanks for sharing and I can’t wait to show this to my friends as well who I am sure will love the advice and wealth of resources you’ve shared 🙂
    I’ve knit a couple of pairs of socks, but all from the same pattern, and have actually been feeling recently perhaps now is the time to start again (particularly as I have discovered a love for circular needles!) I think I will try with one of your recommended starter patterns first 🙂 jenny xx

  21. love this post, thank so much. I’m soooo hooked with knitting socks since I learnt to knit them last year! Haven’t tried toe-up, but that’s next and I’d love to try knitting lacy ones :))

  22. One of the first pairs of socks I knit was your pattern actually! I also have the Yarn Harlot’s book and used that recipe as well. However over time I’ve found that I like toe-up better and that a traditional heel flap doesn’t fit the particular shape of my foot well. So now I usually insert the Fish Lips Kiss Heel instead. Over the past couple of years I expanded on what socks I knit even buying a book or two and now, for 2015 I’ve challenged myself to knit a pair a month the entire year. I even set aside the yarn back in December in brown paper bags and am pulling a bag at random every month. It’s a fun challenge!

    I’ve also found that socks are perfect purse knitting and my monthly pair now lives in my purse and I still manage to get them most when out and about though I do pull them out at home every once in a while. 🙂

    I’m the kind of person who loves socks, but also loves shawls, and sweaters, and cowls, and just about everything else out there so I have to make sure to spread out the knitting love to different kinds of projects. Don’t want to get burnt out!

  23. Mary Lynn · ·

    Great post. I have been knitting for 55 years (on and off) I have never knitted pair of socks. Someday.

  24. Adriana · ·

    Love this post about socks… I always have a sock on needles. I find it a way to take a break from whatever bigger project I have going. Socks go everywhere.

  25. Oooh I do love a good pair of socks!!

  26. My socks are the only ones my hubby will wear because they “fit”. Great post.What is the purply yarn at top of post? Love the rich colors.
    Actually all of your sock yarn colors are so nice !

  27. When you are at a fiber fest you can always get a skein for socks because you know how much to buy! Thus creating a stash.

  28. I have yet to knit a pair of socks. But you may have inspired me to try it. Thanks!

  29. Margie French · ·

    I am trying to knit my first pair of socks but am having a beast of a time getting gauge. I’m now testing size 5 needles, while the pattern calls for size 2. Usually I have to go down in needle size, so I am perplexed at having to go up. Fingers crossed!

  30. Cathryn · ·

    I started with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s socks too! That’s still my go-to pattern, occasionally jazzed up with some sort of patterned leg, or ribbed from top to toe. I was getting a bit bored, though, so have begun experimenting with more elaborate socks, like the Norwegian Stockings from Nancy Bush’s Folk Socks, It’s all fun 😀

  31. Cathryn · ·

    Sorry, that should be “…Nancy Bush’s Folk Socks. It’s all fun :D”

  32. ginaquilts · ·

    I’m in a sock knitting marathon right now because it’s summer and they are the perfect travel project. I agree that there are so many alternatives and you can always learn / try new options so that even the boring pairs keep you interested.

  33. I LOVE the top picture..oh that yarn is SO pretty. I’m tempted to try that kind of sock with THAT kind of yarn…ohhhhhhhhhhhh YARN!!!!

  34. […] just read this enjoyable post about sock knitting by Glenna from Ontario from the knitting to stay sane […]

  35. Great post Glenna. I enjoyed reading everyone’s sock knitting history in the comments too. Once you have worn hand knit socks it is hard to wear anything else except flip-flops. Socks are the one knitted garment that I wear out so I never feel guilty about buying more sock yarn or casting on another pair. A Nice Ribbed Sock is a great pattern.

  36. It was toe seams that brought me to the sock side. That seam on commercial socks that, every so often, rubs the top of your toes in just the wrong way and makes you hideously uncomfortable all day. The realization that if I knit my own socks, I wouldn’t have this problem was enough to finally convince me. I haven’t looked back since, and the tops of my toes have never been happier. 🙂

  37. Diane Cooper · ·

    Glenna, I am new to your blog, and new to knitting! I am almost done my first sock, cant wait to get the second one on the needles to see if I can actually make them the same size!!! 😉
    Love the links in this post to expand my horizons- and I have saved your pattern for my next pair!!!

  38. caityrosey · ·

    I have some real sock addicts in my knitting group. I find other types of projects inspire me more. But appreciate the artistry and math that goes into a truly well fitting sock.

  39. How do you figure out sizing with socks? I knit myself a pair that should have fit based on measurement, but always feel just a tad too roomy for comfort.

  40. I’m still knitting my first pair actually! I love the idea of socks, but I don’t appreciate the bone achingly small needles. After knitting awhile, my fingers would creak and protest. Maybe if I could change that, I’ll enjoy it?

  41. As a sock junkie I have totally lost count of how many pairs I have knitted. I keep a pair in progress in the car – good for construction stop and starts, toll lines, traffic back-ups and any time where I would be frustrated by just sitting there. My sanity is saved!

  42. PS – my favorite is the top down, afterthought heel.

  43. Great post!!! I agree …. depending on the sock pattern, I knit both toe-up & cuff-down AND magic loop & double-points. As a sock aficionado, I loved this post!

  44. Reblogged this on cityofleedsrose and commented:
    I can only do toe up. However I must not buy any more sock yarn till I have knitted up a few more pairs 🙂

  45. […] buddy to share this first experience with! I’m really thankful to Glenna C’s post So you’ve discovered sock knitting for giving me that last little push into this project. It’s fun, encouraging and hooks you up […]

  46. I tried socks a few summers ago, and I don’t know if it was the pattern, or what, but I hate wearing them! Fingering weight, gorgeous colours… They don’t hold up tight enough! So I stopped. Instead, I use the same yarn for shawls, and scarves ,and fingerless gloves, and…. Well let’s just say I haven’t touched anything bigger than a few thin strands in years!

  47. Anita T. · ·

    Thank you for taking the time to write this post. Very helpful references to some of the patterns available.

  48. Cindy in Texas · ·

    I love knitting socks. The book “Socktopus” has been a dream come true. From a very simple sock to socks of varying degrees of difficulty, this book has it all. Each pattern uses different methods for the cuff, leg, heel, gusset, toe, heel down and toe up. It’s a good way to try the different methods and then incorporate your favorite methods in all your socks. It has nice lace patterns (some using beads), too. Be sure to check for corrections before starting any socks, though.

  49. […] I came upon Glenna’s post on all you need to know about sock knitting and I was sold. Why the heck not? It was everything I needed all in one simple […]

  50. […] feel kind of sad toward the end. I’ve really enjoyed knitting the Nice Ribbed Socks by Glenna C and I’m not ready to stop, except that when I do I’ll have my first pair of hand knit […]

  51. […] of thing on the Nice Ribbed Socks. I should also give a shout out to Glenna C, who’s post So you’ve discovered sock knitting gave me the final push and the pattern for this first adventure. After having checked out some […]

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