Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Sock Knitting: It's Easier Than You Think

If I could only knit one thing for the rest of my life, it would be socks. I know many knitters think they must be terribly difficult to make and some never try them at all, which is a shame. In fact, if you break them down into sections, you will see that there is very little, if anything, to be afraid of.

I taught myself to knit in 2007 and the first thing I knitted using a pattern was a pair of dragonfly socks that I made in horrible acrylic yarn. I loved those socks even though the heels were wonky. Heels really are the only tricky bit in sock knitting and you get past that sections fairly quickly, so most of sock knitting is very relaxing.

Breaking it down

As I said, breaking a sock down into sections is helpful and makes it less daunting. Knitting Daily has a great photo of what these are. Starting from the top:

1. Cuff
2. Leg
3. Heel flap
4. Heel turn
5. Gusset
6. Instep
7. Sole (knitted at the same time as the instep)
8. Toe

This is the order in which I knit all of my socks now because I really like top down socks. They make the heel easier to knit, in my opinion.

Cuff and leg: knit and purl

As you can see in the picture, the cuff is simple ribbing and the leg is knitted in stocking stitch so all you need to know is how to knit and purl at this stage. These two sections can be knitted easily without you needing to pay too much attention, so socks make great knitting in front of TV or at knit club. 

Heel: knit, purl, decrease, wrap and turn

Once the leg is long enough, that's when you need to focus. Heel flaps are knitted on half of the stitches while leaving the rest for the moment. The trickiest bit is when you need to turn the heel which requires you to decrease stitches and perform a wrap and turn (easier than it sounds, I promise). This is the part I still look up at times just to make sure I get it right.

Gusset: knit and decrease

When you go on to knit the gusset, you still need to focus (and battle with your double pointed needles), but the hardest part is behind you. This is the part where you have a whole lot of stitches on your needles and will have to decrease them in regular intervals. It's easy, but requires some concentration so you do the decreases on the right rows.

Instep and sole: knit

Once that is over, you have a stretch of plain stocking stitch before you until you decrease for the toes. There are no surprises and no challenges, so you can simply relax and be proud of your achievement in tackling that heel.

Toe: decrease and graft

Because the toes are the final thing you will knit, cuff-down socks are a great opportunity to learn grafting with the Kitchener stitch. It is my favourite way to close up socks because it leaves no seam at all and there are many projects you can use it for. If this stitch seems too daunting, there are simpler ways to bind off, though.

The reward

And that's it! Not too bad, don't you think? What I love about socks is that they are a mix of simple and challenging sections and that you can make the patterning as complex as you want it to be by adding stitch patterns you like. The first pattern I ever designed was for my second ever pair of socks, making the leg entirely out of lace. If all else fails, there is always plain stocking stitch. Socks are fairly quick, rewarding knits. You can finish a pair within a week if you knit every day. All your hard work pays off when you put on your spiffy new pair and they actually fit and you know it's because you made them.

Over to you: what do you think about sock knitting? Let me know in the comments.


  1. Oh I couldn't agree more, if there was just one thing for me to knit for the rest of my life it would have to be socks. I went from learning to knit straight scarfs, to stuffed animals, to socks. Surprisingly easy as well!

    1. Surprisingly easy, I agree! Luckily socks aren't rocket science. It helps to break them down into the sections I mentioned so you can see how easy it is to knit socks. I hope more people try it.

  2. The kitchner stitch to bind the toe together is what gets me every time. I haven't knit a sock since the last pair ended poorly in that light, but I'd love to try again! Socks are amazing, I just wish tutorials made more sense. :/

    1. The Kitchener stitch can be very tricky. I learned it using the tutorial I linked to above and doing it step by step according to the pictures. After a while it becomes easier because you get into the rhythm. I did have problems with it this year when I changed the way I knit into stitches, which also changed how I have to do the Kitchener stitch. Took me ages to figure it out!

  3. I've tried two-needle and four-needle socks and I did think four-needle was actually easier. But yeah, I always manage to get it wrong when I get to the grafting of the toe!

  4. I love knitting socks, and especially love the current fashion of making them every which way. I've had some sideways-knit pairs turn out surprisingly well.

    Speaking of which, is the pattern at the top of the post available? I love Bavarian cables!

    1. The sock pattern is called Stake and you can get it here:

      I enjoyed knitting them - love the cabling, too!

      Sideways socks are fascinating and I will have to give them a go sometime. I'm not sure about fit and wouldn't be able to make changes as usual to fit my feet, so I have been a bit hesitant so far.

    2. Thank you for the link!

      Debbie New had a usefully vague sideways sock pattern. I say "usefully vague" because you have to plug in your own foot measurements and gauge details into her pattern, which lets you learn about adjustment points.

    3. Challenging! I may have to try it.

  5. I'm brand new to sock knitting. Just knit my first two pair and I already want to knit more. I knit mine toe up, two-at-a-time, and on magic loop. I can not stand the DPNs and I know that if I knit only one sock at a time, the second one would seldom get knit :) It feels quite good to have been brave enough to try knitting socks and now I see why so many people knit them all the time!

    1. Fantastic! You have been very ambitious with your sock knitting already and I love that. Good luck with all future socks!