If there’s one project that’s a true challenge for anyone starting out knitting, it has to be socks. They seem to be so complex, with lots of different parts to master and your first ever pair will be one of the most satisfying projects you’ll ever knit. I decided that I had to give sock knitting a go and after knitting a few pairs, I want to share how I started and what I’ve found useful.
The first thing you’ll need is the right needle. There are 3 ways of knitting socks in the round; double pointed needles, small circulars and large circulars using the magic loop method. I’ve tried all the methods and I do have a preference; small circulars. Double pointed needles are maybe the most traditional way of knitting socks and while it’s not a difficult, keeping good tension is imperative to avoid laddering at the points between needles. A tip I found to avoid this is to knit a few extra stitches from the next needle, so the stitches from each needle aren’t always the same ones – as long as you have your stitch marker showing the beginning of your round, you’ll not get lost. The magic loop method is just one I struggle to get in the flow with; I find that there’s too much readjusting once you have knit the stitches from the first needle. I do want to improve with this though, as the magic loop is a handy method for toe-up sock patterns.
Small circulars and particularly the Addi Sockenwunder, which you can find here are so easy to use, as you can avoid the laddering issue and the readjustments and just knit, knit, knit. It’s easier to cast on using straight needles a little larger than the circular ones and then knitting these stitches onto the circular before adding a marker and joining in the round. You will also need some double points of the same size for working the heel flap and turn and the toe decreases. I also find it easier to pick up my gusset stitches with double points too.
I do have a favourite place to buy stitch markers, which is Atomic Knitting – this isn’t an affiliate link, but I like to support small business when I can. These are handmade markers and I like the monthly mystery club, where you can specify the size of marker you’d like and wait for the surprise of the design when the package arrives. Be sure to have a look for that!
One of the most difficult choices will be picking your yarn – there are so many choices! For your first pair, I’d avoid anything hand dyed as you won’t want to be ripping out any mistakes and it’s nice to save these yarns for when you are confident in your pattern. I like to use West Yorkshire Spinners and Cascade Heritage as there are some lovely designs to choose from. I’d pick a patterned yarn rather than a plain one for your first sock, as the leg and foot can seem like a never-ending sea of stockinette, so having different colours popping up is a great motivator. I find Cascade softer than WYS, but I don’t have any issues wearing either. I have tried King Cole Zigzag yarn too, but I have to say I find that one a bit itchy as I have quite sensitive skin. If that’s not an issue for you, then they also have some lovely designs too. As long as you are using 4 ply sock yarn, you’ll be fine. Once you are used to knitting socks, then splashing out on hand dyed yarns is a real treat. Some of my favourites are Lottie Knits, Wild Wool, Fruitful Fusion, and Eden Cottage but there are so many amazing dyers out there. For knitting socks, the more hard wearing yarns will have a nylon blend, so keep your eye out for that. This isn’t to say you can’t knit socks with a beautifully soft 100% merino, but if you are planning on wearing them often, it’s worth keeping this in mind.
When you are buying yarn to knit a pair of socks, you will need just one 100g skein or ball. You can of course incorporate a different colour cuff, heel and toe, but I’d suggest going with a patterned yarn for your first pair and letting the colours run. I’d also strongly advise swatching as this will decide on the size of the needle you’ll need. I find that 2.5mm work well for me, but spending half an hour knitting up a swatch to make sure your socks will fit is time well spent. If you find that 2.5mm needles aren’t giving you the right gauge, you might be best using double points as you can go up to a 2.75mm. Chiaogoo make a small circular set which has this size, but it’s in the ‘treat’ price range – you can find it here if you’d like to have a look.
Once you’re set with your needles and your yarn, you’ll need your pattern and if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that my favourite basic sock pattern and the one I used to learn is by Christine, over at WinwickMum. It’s a free pattern and there are videos to help you through the harder parts, such as turning the heel. You’ll soon find out though that if you take your time, and follow along carefully, no part is too difficult. If you’d rather have the pattern in a book, you can buy Super Socks by Christine through Amazon or Wool Warehouse. It has all the same information as the site, but I find it easier to follow in the book.
This pattern is a cuff-down pattern, so you start off knitting the ribbing, which in this case is 2×2 rib and then it’s stockinette all the way to the heel flap. You switch to your double points to knit down the heel, keeping the stitches you aren’t using on the small circular and after you turn the heel, which is still one of my favourite knitting techniques, use your double points to pick up your gusset stitches, before transferring back to the small circular for the gusset decreases. Once you are back to your original stitch count, it’s more stockinette to the toes, where your double points are best for working the decreases down to just a few stitches before using Kitchener stitch to finish off.
There’s quite a lot of counting involved in sock knitting, so make a note of each part so you end up with two identical socks. For my size 10 feet, my counts are as follows:
Cuff: 16 rounds
Leg: 62 rounds
Heel flap: 31 rows
Gusset pick ups: 19 stitches
Foot (including decreases): 75 rounds
I then decrease as the pattern suggests to 28 stitches and graft them together.
Once you have knitted your first pair of socks, you’ll want to wash and block them to finish them off nicely. I have plastic sock blockers, which I bought from Wool Warehouse but there are loads of different types, so if you’d prefer metal or wood, you’ll find blockers to suit yourself.
There are so many amazing sock patterns to progress on to – from ones with cables to others with lace panels and loads of interesting stitch patterns. As Ravelry has still not amended their site to be safe for those with neurological issues, I won’t be posting any links to them. There is another site I love to use to find patterns now called YarnDatabase and you can filter out patterns for socks and other items at the top in that link. Be warned though, once you have knitted one pair of socks, you’ll want to cast on another and another! The best thing about sock knitting is that it’s the perfect portable project to keep in your bag; just grab and go!
Until next time,