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Ten Tips for Knitting Socks

Jun 28, 2013

When I say summer knitting, do you say, "Socks!"? I do, too. I have a pair of footies on the needles, and yarn for another pair, too. I mentioned in an earlier blog that I want to get several pairs of footies so they'll be ready for Dansko-wearing in the fall. I'm well on my way with two pairs completed. I just need to finish the toes. Hopefully I'll do enough grafting this summer so that the technique will stick in my head. I feel like I'm doing it for the first time, every time.

    
Ann Budd's Go-To Socks is a simple
pattern that you'll want to knit again and again. It's perfect for showing off your colorful sock yarn!
Anyway, here are some tips that will make you better at knitting socks.

Ten Tips for Better Socks

1. To tighten the join between the heel flap and gusset, pick up stitches through the back look of the chain edge stitches along the heel flap. This will twist the stitches and tighten them up.

2. For a nice, dense sock that will last longer, knit the foot portion of the sock on a needle one size smaller than the pattern calls for.

3. Learn the Magic Loop method of knitting and you won't have the ladders that some knitters get from using double-pointed needles.

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

5. Did you know that too-tight socks fall down more than looser socks? If you're knitting top-down socks, make sure to cast on loosely—try casting on over two needles if you tend to cast on tightly. If you're knitting toe-up socks, bind off extra loosely! Many bind-offs are innately inelastic, so choose wisely. The sewn-bind-off is a good one to use on toe-up socks.

6. If you love knitting toe-up socks, learn Judy's Magic Cast-On. It's easy and amazing. It looks great; none of those loose toe stitches that you sometimes get with other toe-up cast-ons.

7. Vary your toe and heel designs. I love the Eye of Partridge Stitch for heel flaps. I do what I call the Lazy Toe. Simply knit until there are eight to twelve toe stitches left and use a tapestry needle to draw the yarn through the stitches. I go through the stitches one time and pull them together, then a second time and pull them as tight as I can without breaking the yarn.

8. If you tend to wear out the heels and toes of your socks, try working a strand of thread with the yarn while working the heel flap, the heel turn, and the toe shaping. You can use regular sewing thread or buy special sock-reinforcement yarn at your local yarn shop.

9. Avoid hot water when you wash your handknit socks. Even socks knit from superwash yarn might felt or shrink a little in hot water. To make your socks last longer, always dry them flat. Over time, the dryer will break down fibers.

    
The dreaded gusset hole!
10.
To avoid the little hole that appears at the base top of gussets, pick up an extra stitch at the base of each gusset. Work these stitches together with the edge instep stitches on the next row. Check out Kate Atherley's video workshop, Knit Socks with Gapless Gussets for more ideas to fix this pesky problem.

Bonus Tip: Order Ann's Go-To Socks (pictured above) and Kate's Gapless Gussets workshop as a bundle! It's a great deal.

If you count carefully, you'll see that there are lots more than ten tips here. I hope they will help you knit socks all summer long!

Cheers,

P.S. Do you have a sock-knitting tip? Leave a comment and share it with us!


Featured Products

Ann's Go-To Socks

Availability: In Stock
Price: $5.50

eProject

Hand-dyed yarn shows to best advantage with these simple ribbed socks, knit from the top down.

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Interweave Knits Presents: Knit Socks with Gapless Gussets with Kate Atherley

Availability: In Stock
Price: $2.99


Join Kate Atherley on this video download to learn how to eliminate gaps in your knitted sock heels with her trusted technique.

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Comments

peoplelover wrote
on Jul 9, 2013 2:16 PM

Thanks Kathleen for the tips. I always enjoy reading your articles. I've been knitting socks for a few years using 5 dpn and have never had a problem with "ladders". After knitting my first stitch on each needle I then pull it tightly before progressing. I've tried other sock knitting methods but always come back to the dpn. Thank you sewroute for the tip of using wooly nylon thread. I looked into it and wow -- so many colors. I've used sock reinforcement yarn before and it made the heel way too stiff. I'm going to try your recommendation. Thanks to sarahomes too for your enthusiasm for the replaceable heel idea. That's where my husband's socks get all matted inside and then wear out. I'm going to use your idea and get more wear-time out of his socks in the future!

on Jul 1, 2013 3:43 PM

Tip #5 makes me CRAZY. Casting on over two needles does not make the cast-on more elastic. It only makes the first round of knitted loops bigger. To make a stretchier edge with long-tail cast-on, leave a bigger space BETWEEN the stitches (this way, you use more of the tail end of the yarn, which is what actually determines the tightness of the edge). For socks, I try to leave 1/8 to 1/4 inch between stitches, depending on how much looser I want the edge.

on Jun 30, 2013 8:43 AM

Heel/Toe option: To make a sock last for years, knit the heel and toe in fun contrast color. When the toe and heel wear out it is easier to pull out and replace.

delmondar wrote
on Jun 29, 2013 8:09 PM

#1 does not make sense, do you mean loop?

Susan Brudos wrote
on Jun 29, 2013 2:53 PM

About tip #2 (going down a needle size to get a more densely-knit foot)... it took me two pairs of uncomfortable socks before I realized that going down a needle size when I started the heel flap made the socks too tight at the beginning of the foot. I added a few rows to my heel flap to get more height there, and now I can go down a needle size without cutting off circulation.

toyelf wrote
on Jun 29, 2013 7:32 AM

I love LOVE this 'sweet tomato heel' option for sock heels.  It's so much easier, smoother, and no picking up stitches! www.youtube.com/watch

on Jun 28, 2013 9:51 PM

sorry,  this would not download to my Mac;  (or at least I didn't see the option when downloading?)   Will be checking back as my goal for this year is....to complete one pair of useable socks for anyone....hopefully me?

wildiris wrote
on Jun 28, 2013 4:53 PM

I work my socks with 3-ply handspun wool and use nylon dental floss to reinforce the heels. I have also tried sewing thread or an additional handspun single of the same wool but get the best result with the dental floss.

They get hand washed in very hot water as I pre-shrink the yarn before knitting. Laid flat on a clothes rack, drying takes about a day in the house in the winter or perhaps two if it is very humid.

wild iris

ShelleyR@11 wrote
on Jun 28, 2013 4:20 PM

One inch before you start you heel flat start , start k1 sl1 only on heel half. Helps  with wear on work socks in chainsaw & rubber boots.

katwyn wrote
on Jun 28, 2013 2:49 PM

I've been knitting for many years, and while I don't have the time to knit as much as I'd like, nor to explore knitting resources online as much as I'd like, either, I have enjoyed Kathleen's newsletters, especially the ones with tips, and getting tips from other knitters, too.  It took me YEARS on my own, scouring through books and some early YouTubes to figure out the several tips others have already left here as comments, so I can testify to how welcome the tips people have left will be to new knitters or even experienced knitters just venturing into socks, and could only have wished that such a forum had existed when I'd first started to knit, because I hadn't known any other knitters and hadn't had access to a local yarn shop for assistance in learning or for tricky bits.  Thanks to Kathleen, Gerda, Sarah, Kris, SewRoute, and Kirsten have probably just save countless other knitters the sometimes overwhelming frustration that can sometimes plague new knitters to tears!  Such generosity can be priceless, indeed!!

gerdaporter wrote
on Jun 28, 2013 1:28 PM

Thanks for the tips! My best one is to cast on IMMEDIATELY for the second sock or you may suffer with one sock syndrome of which I am guilty! Or better yet learn to do two at a time!

saraholmes wrote
on Jun 28, 2013 12:23 PM

i think the most ingenious thing i've ever found in sock knitting is the replaceable heel; i like to start at the cuff; knit until you're ready to do the heel flap, but instead, knit 1/2 the total stitches onto waste yarn; slide them back onto the extra needle and knit them again with the main yarn.  sail on down the foot for as long as it needs to be, then do the toe decreases... after the toe is done, go back and remove the waste yarn; you will have all the original stitches now to work with. with a contrast color,  knit 1/2 of them onto needle 1; pick up 1 st in the gap, then knit 1/2 of the remaining st's onto needle 2; knit the rest of the st's onto needle 3, plus pick up one more in the gap.  next round, knit 2 together on each end of needle 1, so you have the original # of st's left to do the heel.  that will eliminate the hole at the gap.  now knit about 3 rounds, then start decreasing juist like you do for the toe, but instead of decreasing every other round, it shapes better to decrease every third round.  then graft when you've got about 12 stitches for each of 2 needles.    i LOVE this, knowing i can invest a good amount of time and energy into a beautiful lace or fair isle, without the impending grief of a worn-out heel.. so someday when the heel goes, just rip it out and replace it!  it's so easy to see where the heel stops, since you use a contrast color.  

KrisE wrote
on Jun 28, 2013 12:03 PM

When knitting cuff down on dpns , and you can't remember remember when to use k2tog and ssk decreases, the k2tog decreases always happen at the end of the needle, and the ssk  ones always happen at the beginning.

Sewroute wrote
on Jun 28, 2013 11:58 AM

I use the serger , wooly nylon  along with my yarn to make the heels for reinforcing.  Works wonderfully.  Been using it for years.

Kirsten Bey wrote
on Jun 28, 2013 11:12 AM

regarding tip #3, you can avoid the ladders even if you use double pointed needles as long as you always knit one or two stitches from the next needle before starting to knit stitches onto your empty needle.  Not a very elegant explanation.  Not sure how to say it better.  When you finish knitting stitches from one needle to the next, don't start knitting on to the empty needle right away.  Knit one or two more stitches from the next needle then start with your empty needle.