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10 Tips for Longer-Lasting Knitted Socks

Dec 22, 2010

Crystalline Socks by Debbie O'Neill, from Sockupied. I love the cuffs of the socks and how they flow into the leg pattern.     
Aren't the heels neat-o? I especially admire how Debbie makes the interesting transition from leg pattern to heel pattern.
I'm planning the Crystalline Socks from our eMag, Sockupied. They're so pretty and I love how well the pattern works with both solid and variegated yarn. I have a few skeins of both types that will work with this pattern, I just have to decide which one to use.

There really are so many decisions to make when you're planning a pair of socks. You have to choose a yarn, a pattern, and a size; not to mention deciding on modifications you might want to make. Will you do a toe-up sock? A short-row heel? Calf-shaping? Kitchener stitch on the toe?

See what I mean?

With all the time, expense for materials, and effort knitting, we want our knitted socks to last as long as possible. I asked Allison Van Zandt, the owner of Simply Socks Yarn Company (an online store devoted to sock yarn, patterns, needles, and anything else you might possibly need for sock knitting), to share her expertise for making socks last.

10 Tips for Longer-Lasting Socks


Owning Simply Socks Yarn Company, a store that specializes in sock yarn, is a very particular niche. Over the past six years, the most common questions I get from my customers involve making hand knit socks last a long time. So I've compiled "10 Tips for Longer Lasting Socks."

1. Don't wind your yarn into a cake until you're ready to knit. Winding a skein into a cake pulls fibers taut and over months the yarn could lose its ability to spring back into shape.

2. Choose the right yarn for the project; 100% cotton yarn isn't necessarily appropriate for socks because they will quickly bag and lose their shape when worn. Wool and wool/nylon blends are popular for socks because of their innate elasticity.

3. Choose high-quality sock yarn—inexpensive sock yarn tends have short fibers, which pill and wear out more quickly than longer fibers. If your budget is tight, you can find great deals in sale sections.

4. Go down one needle size (or more) when knitting the feet. If a label calls for a US 2 needle, knit the foot of the sock on a US 1, or even a US 0 so you get a dense fabric that holds up to wear.

5. Knit the right size socks. Too-big socks slip around more on the foot and cause more wear as they move around in your shoes.

6. Rinse socks separately before washing with other items. While dye shouldn't run, super-saturated colors might and you don't want your other socks to be affected.

7. Turn socks inside-out when washing. That way the inside of the sock gets a fuzzy halo over time, and not the outside.

8. Consider washing your finished socks in a small mesh bag in the machine so they don't catch on zippers.

9. Don't wash socks in hot water. Even socks labeled "superwash" could felt or shrink a bit.

10. Lay socks flat to dry. Over time, machine drying will lessen stitch definition and make socks look worn. The intense heat of drying might also break down fibers.

—Allison Van Zandt, Simply Socks Yarn Company


Thanks, Allison, for these fantastic tips. I didn't even think about not winding yarn until I'm ready to use it, and I love the idea of knitting the foot portion of the sock on smaller needles. It just makes sense that the tighter fabric will wear longer.

Now I just have to decide on a yarn and cast-on the Crystalline socks. Why don't you get yourself Sockupied and join me? And Sockupied is on sale for $9.99 for a week, so if you haven't tried it yet, now's the perfect time!

Cheers,


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Comments

sparrow44 wrote
on Dec 23, 2010 12:54 PM

I would like to add two more tips:

1. Make sure to wash your socks after each wearing. The soil and debris will wear away at the fibres, so grit your teeth and hand wash them regularly.

2. Have lots! The best way to keep your socks looking new is to have a different pair on your feet every day! This spreads the wear out over many pairs, and allows you to wash several pairs at once every few days. Besides, it's so hard to give them away...

Zoe wrote
on Dec 22, 2010 8:34 PM

Hi Cottonblossom,

Yes the nylon thread is a good reinforcment fiber to use.  Sometimes what I do and this I learned from my mother, is to knit the heel and the toe in a different yarn.  That way when the toe and/or heel wears out, you just unravel the old toe/heel, pick up the stitches from the main color and knit new ones.  This way, the sock is always there, but you get new ones when you knit new toes/heels.

on Dec 22, 2010 8:23 PM

Do you recommend carrying a nylon thread when knitting the heel?

Lauren@7 wrote
on Dec 22, 2010 12:15 PM

Many of these are great tips.  I have to disagree with number 10, though.  It's certainly a good idea to dry non-superwash socks flat, but superwash socks really benefit from the machine drying.  It pulls the yarn back into shape.  Drying superwash yarn flat will tend to leave the yarn stretched out and the socks baggy.

Zoe wrote
on Dec 22, 2010 9:05 AM

I disagree with going down one needle size to knit the feet section for the simple reason being that the feet are going to be knit too tight. (There is the caution that the socks won't fit once you are done.)   When something is knit too tight, then extra stress is placed on the fibers.  Extra stress means the fibers wear out!  Also through the day it is a known fact that feet swell and a sock that is too tight  makes it worse.  Choose the yarn and the needles to knit up a nice, even, close knit sock.  

To make the ribbing, you will go down one size in your needles.  I have been knitting since I was 10 years old and my first project was a pair of socks.  I am now going to celebrate my 50th birthday in 2011.  My favorite things to knit are socks and there is always a pair on my needles.

For NanS, you can start the reinforcing yarn when you start the heel flap.  You start the reinforcing yarn at the toes when you start the decrease to shape the toes.

nstilwagen wrote
on Dec 22, 2010 8:31 AM

These are all great ideas, but one I would like to see is how to knit socks with reinforcing yarn at the toe and heel.  In the past I have looked for specific instructions on this:  when to start using it, when to stop, etc.  I have found nothing.  It may be considered old fashioned, but I think it is worth doing.  I would love it if you could give us information on this.

LaurieR wrote
on Dec 22, 2010 7:42 AM

I bought Sockupied when it first came out...I had just finished my first pair of socks. I'm almost ready to knit another pair...once I'm done knitting a bunch of those awesome rosettes you posted a couple days ago!

These tips will definitely come in handy-- especially go down a size for the foot... my first socks are a bit loose in the foot area.

RobinH wrote
on Dec 22, 2010 7:11 AM

Oh, those are gorgeous!

I wanted to add--I routinely knit socks in fingering weight on size 0.  Sometimes size 1 if I'm trying to get gauge for a pattern.  Sometimes 00 for a thin fingering weight (or if I'm trying to get a number of stitches that factors right for the pattern I want to use).    I feel that the denser fabric not only wears better, but it is more comfortable to have densly packed stitches as a cushion under your soles.  

I only go up to a size 2 or larger needle if the yarn I'm using is a heavier weight.   For heavy woolen socks for wintery outdoor wear, a light or medium worsted yarn on size 3 needles makes a lovely dense fabric that knits up very quickly.