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Kathleen's Favorite Sock Knitting Tips

Oct 22, 2010
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Sweetheart Socks  
Knotty or Knice Socks  
On-Your-Toes Socks  

We've just come out with a download of sock patterns, Best of 2010: Top Ten Patterns for Knitted Socks (see photos of some of the "best of" at left). Looking through it got me thinking about how much I love to knit socks and some of the things I've learned over the years.

You know how I love a list of tips, so here you go!

Toes too pointy?
My favorite pair of socks has a "well-rounded" toe, and the toe shaping is interesting. The pattern has me make regular toe decreases and then knit 4 rounds even; make the decreases again and knit 3 rounds even; make the decreases again and knit 2 rounds even; make the decreases again and knit 1 round even; finish by making decreases every other row until all of the decreases are made. I love this toe and I've used it several times.

Gusset stitches too loose?
To make my gusset stitches nice and tight, I twist every picked-up stitch on the first round of knitting.

Gauge off in the round?
Did you know that your gauge is probably different in the round than it is when knitting flat? I found this out the hard way and had to give a pair of socks away because my gauge was off. Now I always do gauge swatches in the round for projects that will be knit in the round, and flat for projects that will be knit back and forth.

Your little one's socks keep twisting around?
I don't remember where I heard this tip, but it's a great one. Just make tube socks for kids! No heel to keep twisting to the top, and you can churn out tube socks one after the other-no heel flap, heel turn, gusset! And if you make several pairs out of the same yarn, you can just pluck them out of the sock drawer without worrying if you have a match. Love it.

Why do some people like knitting socks so much?
I get this question a lot; some people just don't understand the attraction. Well, let me count the ways!

1. There's not a lot of instant gratification in knitting, but I can knit a pair of socks in a couple of weeks!

2. I like to have a pair of socks-in-progress in my knitting bag at all times. The portability of socks is great—I can pull them out anytime, anywhere.

3. What better gift is there but a pair of handknit socks? I've given several pairs of socks as gifts and they're all treasured by the recipients. I even turned a knitter friend into a sock knitter by giving her a pair of handknit socks. She liked them so much she knits them all the time now.

4. Socks are the perfect way to try out stitch patterns on a small scale. There are so many sock designs to try—just look at the photos at left! And have you seen all the beautiful sock yarns out there lately? It's amazing. I have so many gorgeous skeins of sock yarn—I put them in a clear glass vase so I can admire them before I turn them into socks.

5. One of the most important reasons that I knit socks is to continue the sock-knitting tradition that's been going on for centuries. When I'm knitting a heel flap or a gusset, I love thinking about the knitters who've come before me, knitting socks for their families, soldiers, and so on.

Become a part of that history yourself with Best of 2010: Top Ten Patterns for Knitted Socks. Here's to sock knitting and sock knitters!


P.S. I'd love to hear your favorite sock tips, so leave a comment and share with us!

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DarlinJill wrote
on Mar 25, 2011 10:42 AM

Ihave loved knitting socks for family and friends, and they love receiving them, but I need some help.  I have developed a problem with my hands so that using small needles (U.S. #4 and smaller) is very painfull.  I have one Ann Norling pattern for basic socks using larger needles and DK - worsted weight yarns.  I would dearly love it if someone would take pity on those of us who simply can't use the smaller needles and come up with some pretty designs for sock using larger needles and larger yarn.  Thanks in advance for your care.

jrumensky wrote
on Mar 16, 2011 9:13 AM

To Abbie Johnson,

I am not new to knitting, but I am new to this site. I know you asked the question about DPN for socks back in October but I am just reading the letters today. My wonderful yarn expert pointed me to the Hiya Hiya 9" steel circular needles. They are great for socks. I change to DPN for the heels and toes. Hope this helps. It's been a miracle for me.


angela wrote
on Nov 14, 2010 6:31 PM

Where does one find the crochet patterns that are shown on the tv program "Knitting Daiy"

Thank you for your time and response.


on Oct 27, 2010 8:01 AM

I am a beginnger at knititing but would LOVE to try a pair of sock but i have had no luck with four needles is there another way to do them or a easier way?

on Oct 26, 2010 3:38 PM

I just have to say my FAVORITE thing about socks is NO finishing!!!!!

on Oct 25, 2010 5:32 PM

Hi Folks!

Regarding the toe shaping, I have short toes, so I do start the shaping at about 3 inches before the end. My toes are not pointy at all, either, in fact, they're pretty straight across the ends. So I usually leave about 12 stitches at the end, not the usual 8 stitches that most patterns call for. That's one of the great things about knitting socks (and knitting in general!)—you can customize socks for your own feet.

AnnR: I try to answer questions, but sometimes I can't get to it immediately. Check back every so often and you'll see some answers!

Eteffner: I twist the stitches by knitting into the back loop when I come to the picked up stitches.

Tofino52: I'm not sure what to tell you! Usually continental knitting is pretty fast. I do know a few continental knitters who are slower, but they don't mind. My best advice to you is to enjoy the journey!


Shieldsy wrote
on Oct 23, 2010 10:21 AM

Allyneedles!  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question.  I have the book you referenced (but haven't quite made it to the six-stitch patterns...still on the four-stitch patterns) and sure enough the pattern for the heel flap suggests a slip stitch wyif every row.  I think that will help me out a lot.  Trying to poke into a garter stitch edge was just not working for me.  :  (

Thanks again.  

pathoff wrote
on Oct 22, 2010 5:45 PM

I make lots of socks, so if I want to use your decrease for the toe, would I start at about 3 inches from the lenth I want to end up with, instead of the usual 2 inches?  I think you should say something about that for beginners especially.

AnnR wrote
on Oct 22, 2010 12:17 PM


My question is not pertaining to socks. It is a general question. I noticed that a lot of comments are questions about one thing or another. I have asked questions myself. My problem is, I never see the answer anywhere. Do you answer the questions on another Feed?  The answers to some of these questions, would be quite a learning tool. Isn't that why we subscribe to Knitting Daily?

Larsonnm wrote
on Oct 22, 2010 12:06 PM

My favorite tip for knitting socks involves the cast-on, which is often tighter than the rest of the knitting and can be uncomfortable to wear.  To avoid that problem, cast on with scrap yarn in a contrasting color but the same thickness as your sock yarn, and knit a round or two.  Switch to the sock yarn, and knit the first round.  Alternate knit one, purl one, for the second round, and continue knitting the remaining rounds in your pattern of choice.  Once you have knitted an inch or two into the sock, remove the scrap yarn.  The top of your sock will then have the same elasticity as the rest of the sock.

Tofino52 wrote
on Oct 22, 2010 11:54 AM

Hi, I love making socks, but they take me a long time. If I got a pair of socks done in 2 weeks, I'd be thrilled beyond belief. If I work on them too long at a time, my hands hurt, especially with size 1's or 2's. I don't knit complicated patterns either, being pattern-challenged; and I knit continental, so I am a l-i-t-t-l-e faster that way. I always wonder how people knit FAST! Do you have any insights about that? I've been knitting for many years.

allyneedles wrote
on Oct 22, 2010 10:39 AM

Hello Shieldsy!  I knit socks on 5" wooden needles, but the tips get blunt, so I use metal needles with sharper points to pick up the gusset stitches.  I usually use 6 or 7" needles one size smaller than I am working with.  For example, if I am using 1 1/2s, I pick up the gusset stiiches on size 1 needles and switch back to the 1 1/2s during the set-up round.  Nickel plated steel and ally both work.

A good pattern to use is the one from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Sock book. I forget which pair, I think it's the six stitch patterns, but when working the heel the pattern it tells you to slip in the last stitch in the row rather than the first stitch.  I find this makes it easier to see the stitches you are picking up.

Pamela@21 wrote
on Oct 22, 2010 10:05 AM

Hi, I love all the knitting info goodies you send, but I got confused on the decreases for a round toe. I usually knit till there's only 2-2 1/4 in. left to do the toe & I  (knit 1 row, dec. 1 row) till I'm down to about 10-12 st. and then kitchener.

If I decrease as stated in the pattern will I need to start decreasing say at 3"?

I was just thinking that I'll have extra knit rows that would put extra length on my toe.   Sorry if this a stupid question, I'm probably just not seeing it in my brain.  Thanks again for all the help & info, Pam

Shieldsy wrote
on Oct 22, 2010 9:02 AM

Hello!  I'm another one fairly new to knitting but obsessed with socks...loved the toe decrease tip...will use it on my next pair.  

Question on heel flap...I'm still not that good at picking up the stitches for the gusset so what is a good stitch pattern for the heel flap that makes picking up stitches easiest?  Thanks!

eteffner wrote
on Oct 22, 2010 7:15 AM

I'm fairly new to knitting and am obsessed with socks. You mentioned a tip tightening up loose gusset stitches by twisting every picked-up stitch. I'm not exactly sure how to do that. Is there more information on that technique.  My guess is that its simple, but I just can't visualize it.

Thanks so much!!