Get Started Knitting Socks – The 5-Minute Guide
A sock is like a puzzle made up of six parts: cuff, leg, heel, gusset, foot, and toe. You can choose the technique or style you prefer and what fits best for each part; once you know basic sock construction, you don’t need a pattern unless you want to use one.
Here’s a rough guide to estimating yarn amounts when making socks – keep in mind that longer-than-average cuffs or more heavily patterned socks will use more yarn – plan ahead.
(5”, 6½”, 8”)
(9½”, 10½”, 11½”)
|Sock – Fingering wt.||6 – 8 sts per inch||150 – 225 – 275 yds.||325 – 425 – 525 yds.|
|Sport wt.||5 – 6 sts per inch||125 – 175 – 225 yds.||250 – 325 – 400 yds.|
|Worsted wt.||4 – 4½ sts per inch||125 – 150 – 200 yds.||250 – 300 – 350 yds.|
|Bulky wt.||3 – 3½ sts per inch||100 – 125 – 150 yds.||175 – 225 – 275 yds.|
Sock yarn often has nylon in it for sturdier heels and toes. If you find a sock yarn you like that doesn’t, nylon reinforcing thread is available to “carry along” with your heel and toe yarn.
Fabric for knitted socks should be firmly knit. Yarn in hand, pick a needle in the appropriate size for your yarn and swatch. If you must, use the needle size suggested by the yarn manufacturer on the label. Keep in mind that you want a firm fabric capable of standing up (no pun intended) to being on a foot in a shoe walking around all day. The yarn label’s needle size may be fine for a drapey sweater and too loose for socks.
Socks should have “negative ease.” Ease is the room within a garment that allows you to move more easily. A knitted garment that’s roomy is said to have “positive ease,” a garment that’s form-fitting has “negative ease” – it stretches to fit the form that’s wearing it. Socks with negative ease are less likely to slouch or slide down your foot, and extra fabric won’t rub your foot in the wrong spots. So a foot that’s 8 inches around doesn’t need a sock that’s 8 inches around – try 7.5 inches or even 7.
Even close-fitting socks should still have stretch. Once you know how to knit socks, you might want to make socks for everyone you know. The easiest way to make a sock that’s likely to fit a recipient whose feet are not in front of you for trying-on purposes is a. estimating their foot size from their shoe size using a chart like this: http://tinyurl.com/footsize and b. adding a stitch pattern with some give on the leg and instep. Ribbing is an obvious choice, but any variation on a ribbed pattern combined with negative ease will give you a sock that hugs the foot of the wearer while allowing for a little extra room to pull it on over the ankle. Use a stitch dictionary to find a pattern that fits your leg circumference and instep width if you want to fly solo; Nancy Bush’s Knitting Vintage Socks has four variations on the ribbed sock with different heel and toe styles for each if you’d prefer to follow a pattern. FYI, cable patterns “pull in,” and many slipstitch patterns or patterns knitted on the bias have less stretch than average – the fit will be less forgiving.
Casting on and binding off are key to good fit. In order for the sock to be comfortable and easy to get on and off, you need a cuff that’s flexible and stretchy right to the edge. The knitted cast on (or even the long-tail cast on) is not stretchy enough to get the job done. Knitting toe up? Try using Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off at the cuff – I love it because it stretches, but doesn’t flare out to create a ruffle. Cuff down knitters, you will feel like geniuses when you try the German Twisted Cast-On – as simple as long-tail, but with a stretchy edge that makes all the difference.