Fashion comes in cycles; something that hasn’t been popular since the 1980s can suddenly be the hot new trend of 2022. While not all retro fashion choices are primed to make a comeback—looking at you, perms—some are timeless enough to work in any age. One of the big styles that’s making a comeback? Slouch socks. These long, elastic-free socks that can be pulled up to the knee or pushed down around the ankle were worn in the ’80s as athletic gear but also as a fashion statement, with people often wearing multiple, different colored pairs at once. 

Want to create your own? Knitting slouch socks requires some intricate techniques, so it might be a bit of a challenging project if you’re a beginner knitter. However, if you’re ready to take your knitting to the next level, here’s a guide to help you create your very own knit slouch socks.

Knitting Supplies

knitting supplies
An example of needles and yarn. The variations on these two essentials are endless.

Knitting requires three basic tools: the needles, the yarn, and the pattern for your project. When it comes to knitting slouch socks, you’re going to need some different versions of these essentials, which are detailed below. Most will be available at any craft store or easily found online.

In addition, you’ll want to have a trusty pair of scissors, a measuring tape, and stitch markers to track your progress along the way, as well as a darning needle to help finish off your project.

Slouch Socks Knitting Pattern

A knitting pattern will detail every step you have to take to complete your project. At first glance, a novice knitter may be overwhelmed by all the numbers and technical abbreviations. But, once you know the components of the pattern, it is pretty straightforward.

Most patterns will begin with a materials list. This includes a suggested type of yarn, knitting needles, and any other tools you might need. There will also be a section called the “gauge,” which provides a small size sample for the stitches.

Once the pattern begins, it will often be a series of abbreviations like K2, P2, etc. The letters correspond to the type of stitch, and the number corresponds to how many you need to do. If you don’t know what some of them mean, don’t worry—nearly all professional patterns have an abbreviation guide.

Needles

knitting
Using multiple double pointed needles is one method for knitting in the round.

When you’re knitting a blanket or scarf, you use two traditional knitting needles. But most sock projects require you to knit “in the round,” meaning knitting around a circle versus back and forth across rows.

To knit in the round, you’ll need either circular knitting needles or double pointed knitting needles. Circular knitting needles are needles connected with a cord. As you use them, the stitches travel along one needle, onto the cord, then onto the other needle. This allows you to knit circular things like a sock or hat.

Double pointed knitting needles look like traditional needles, except they’re pointed on both ends. When using them to knit in the round, you’ll need to use four or five at once, which can become a little unwieldy. They accomplish the same effect as circular knitting needles but allow for different sized projects.

As always, when choosing your knitting needles, consider the size and the material type. Wooden needles have more resistance, which helps prevent stitches from sliding and can be helpful for beginners. Your pattern will dictate the size of the needles you need, but the general rule of thumb is smaller needles equals smaller stitches.

Yarn

yarn skeins
From left to right, examples of animal fiber, plant fiber, and synthetic fiber yarn.

If you’ve ever perused the yarn section of your local craft store, you’ll know that you can easily become paralyzed by choices. Picking your favorite color is relatively simple, but you have to consider fiber type and yarn weight that works best for your slouch socks.

Many of the cheapest yarns are synthetic, often made from acrylic, but they might not be the best for slouch socks. Wool, cotton, and even silk yarns (all available at varying price points) are better options, since they breathe more and can help wick away moisture.

A yarn’s weight refers to its thickness, which is usually measured on a zero to seven scale, with zero being the smallest and seven the biggest. For your slouch sock project, your yarn weight will depend on how you want to use them. If you want warm socks to lounge around the house, use a higher weight yarn. If you want to wear your socks with shoes, a lower weight yarn is best.

What Stitches to Use

There are many intricate patterns and designs you can make with knitting stitches. But all of them boil down to two basic stitches: the knit stitch and the purl stitch.

The Knit Stitch

knitting
The knit stitch, when done for entire rows, is referred to as the garter stitch.

The knit stitch, or plain stitch, should be the first stitch you learn since you’ll be using it constantly. 

While holding the needle with your stitches in your left hand, insert your right needle into the loop of the stitch from left to right so that your right needle is now behind your left needle. Wrap your yarn from back to front of your right needle, then pull your right needle through the newly made loop and slide the stitch off the left needle. You’ve now done the knit stitch, and it will be on your right needle. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

The Purl Stitch

knitting
Alternating rows of knit and purl create a stitch called the stockinette. Notice the difference between this and the garter stitch above.

The purl stitch is another essential and is basically a reverse of the knit stitch. If you’re able to master the knit stitch, the purl stitch is not far behind.

While holding the needle with your stitches in your left hand, make sure the working yarn is at the front of your project. Insert your right needle into the loop of the stitch from right to left so that your right needle is on top of your left needle. Wrap your working yarn from back to front around your right needle, then pull the right needle through that loop you just made. Finally, pull the whole stitch off your left needle so that it is now on your right.

Your slouch socks knitting pattern will absolutely use these two stitches in one way or another, so it’s vital that you commit them to your memory. Try knitting several rows of each so that they become second nature to you.

How to Knit Slouch Socks

knit socks
Make your slouch socks as short or tall, simple or colorful as you’d like!

No two slouch socks are made the same way, so this is just a general guide for what to expect as you dig into your project.

Step 1: Read the Pattern

Unless you’re a master chef, you aren’t going to start that complex dinner menu without a recipe. The same can be said for knitting. It’s always smart to read your pattern so that you don’t get tripped up halfway through your project.

Remember: your pattern may look like an indecipherable technical manual, but if you’ve familiarized yourself with common knitting terminology and consult the abbreviation guide, you should have no problems at all.

Step 2: Casting On

Casting on is the process of adding your first row of stitches to your needle. There are many ways to do this, so take the time (or take a class) to find the method that works best for you. 

If you are using double pointed needles for your project, you’ll have to separate your cast on stitches among the three or four needles you are using. For example, if your pattern says to cast on 76 stitches, you’ll have to cast on 19 stitches to each of your four needles. Sometimes, the numbers aren’t divided exactly, but that’s okay. All you have to do is get them as close to equal as possible.

Step 3: The Leg

The leg is the long part of the sock that—you guessed it—goes up your leg. Your pattern will tell you how many rows you should do, but this is a very variable length. You can decide to make the leg part longer or shorter depending on your needs. 

The leg is also where many patterns will introduce a knitting motif, like ribbing, into the mix, either in a cuff or along the entire length of the leg. You can play around with different patterns that you like to make unique-looking slouch socks.

Step 4: The Heel

Once you’ve gotten your desired length for the leg, you’ll have to create the heel. This is done by shortening the length of your stitch count. For example, if you have cast on 76 stitches, you’ll only stitch across the first 30. Then, you will turn your work and continue to stitch only along those 30 stitches.

What this does is create a flap on a portion of the circumference that will become your heel. Once you’ve knit enough rows for the flap, you will have to turn the heel by knitting fewer and fewer stitches in your row until you are knitting perpendicular to the leg.

Step 5: The Gusset

A gusset is a triangular supportive piece that will act as the transition from the heel to the foot, and it usually positions where your foot arch would be. This gets tricky because you are essentially knitting along the sides of the heel flap and the bottom of the leg of the sock.

This can be difficult to visualize, so it’s best to watch a video or take a class that shows you how to properly create the gusset.

Step 6: The Foot and Toe

When you reach the toe, you’ll have to use a technique called decreasing. Decreasing is when you remove stitches from a row, often by knitting one stitch over two in the row below it. What this does is decrease the overall width of the project, creating the tapered toe of the sock. 

An important note: Some slouch sock patterns will have you start from the toe. If that’s the case, many of the steps above still apply, except you will increase (add stitches to your row) where it would normally say decrease.

Have an ’80s Dance Party

Remember that knitting socks is a slightly more difficult process than other knitting projects, so take your time and don’t get discouraged if you have to start over. Your finished slouch socks will be that much sweeter with the knowledge that you completed something challenging. 

Soon enough, you’ll be lacing up your Keds, tossing on that oversized sweatshirt, putting your hair in a side ponytail, and hitting the mall to show off your homemade slouch socks!

Start Your Knitting Journey!

Knitting 101: The Basics for Beginners

Written By

Luke Field

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