If you’ve been knitting for a while and want to graduate to intermediate-level projects, socks are a great next step. They’re quick to knit but require some more advanced knitting techniques than the humble scarf. Plus, you can knit socks in a style that’s uniquely your own (and they make great gifts, too).
So, throw out those mismatched, holey, store-bought socks and learn to knit your own with this guide.
The supplies you’ll need to make socks are fairly standard. You may need to buy some yarn, but if you’ve already completed a number of beginner knitting projects, you probably have the other supplies in your kit. Always check the specific sock knitting pattern you’re using to ensure you have the right kinds of needles and yarn.
Socks Knitting Pattern
A knitting pattern for socks is essential for getting all the stitches in the right place. Unlike a simple item like a scarf, which you can just make up as you go along, it’s important that socks fit properly. Following a sock knitting pattern is the best way to ensure your socks fit like a glove—er, sock.
Whitney Hayward’s Skillshare tutorial includes a written sock knitting pattern, as well as step-by-step instructions in a visual tutorial.
Needles for Sock Knitting
Sock knitting patterns require circular needles and/or double-pointed needles, rather than regular single-pointed needles. Socks are tubular, and they’re more comfortable without bulky seams, so knitting in the round is an important part of sock knitting.
Circular needles are easy to knit with and don’t take much adjustment from knitting with straight needles. You just need to make sure your stitches aren’t twisted on the needle when you make your first complete round; otherwise, you’ll end up with twisted stitches throughout the whole item.
Double-pointed needles are used to knit smaller areas. You’ll usually use three or four at a time.
What Kind of Yarn to Use
Socks are worn close to the skin and often within shoes, and they also undergo a fair bit of wear and tear. Therefore, you need something that will feel good against your skin yet still be durable and not too bulky. A yarn unicorn, perhaps? That’s where sock weight yarn comes in.
Yarn comes in a variety of different weights, numbered from 0 (lace weight) to 7 (jumbo). Sock weight yarn, also called fingering weight, comes in at number 1 on the scale. This fine yarn is ideal for knitting socks, but if you want to knit chunkier socks for wearing around the house or in bed, sport weight (no. 2), DK weight (no. 3), or worsted weight (no. 4) would also be suitable.
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What Stitches to Use
While you could use a variety of different decorative stitches to knit socks, you’ll likely want to keep things simple for your first few pairs. Also, it’s important to consider what will feel good next to your skin. Many people’s feet are particularly sensitive, so avoid bulky or nobbly stitches that might not feel good when pressed into shoes. Some of the most basic knitting stitches are ideal for knitting socks.
Stockinette stitch, created by alternating rows of knit stitch and purl stitch, is commonly used to knit all kinds of garments, including socks.
Ribbing is the stretchy area at the top of the sock, made up of alternating knit and purl stitches. The number of each will be specified in your sock knitting pattern. Ribbing can be single or multiple, narrow or wide.
How to Knit Socks
The following instructions are to knit a pair of cozy house socks, so the yarn used (worsted weight) is thicker than some sock knitting patterns will call for. This is good news if you’re knitting your first pair of socks, as chunkier yarn tends to be less fiddly than lightweight yarns.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
For this cozy house sock knitting pattern, you’ll need:
- 2 skeins of worsted weight yarn, about 260 yards in total
- Circular knitting needles, size 6, with a 32 inch cable
- Stitch markers
- Tapestry needle
- A knitting pattern for socks
Step 2: Knit a Gauge Swatch
Now, if you’ve just graduated from beginner-level knitting projects, you may not know about gauge swatches. For any knitting project that requires a precise fit with your body—like hats, mittens, and socks—you’ll need to complete a gauge swatch before you dive into the main project.
Why? Everyone knits with a slightly different “tension,” which is how tightly or loosely you hold your needles. When knitwear designers make their patterns, they will be basing the measurements on their own knitting tension, which might be different than yours. If you don’t want to risk ending up with a beautifully made pair of socks that are either too tight or too loose, knit a gauge swatch to see whether your tension is in line with that on the pattern.
The way to do this is to knit a small piece of cloth to certain measurements (listed in the pattern), then count how many stitches you made. If this doesn’t match what the pattern notes, you’ll need to either adjust your tension or your needle size.
Want some more intel on gauge swatches? Whitney Hayward’s class includes a section on them.
Step 3: Cast On
Cast on the number of stitches specified on the pattern, using the longtail method. This method creates a stretchier piece of fabric than some other cast-on methods. If you’ve completed some beginner-level projects, you likely know this method already, but if you need a refresher, check out the Skillshare class Four Knitting Cast On Methods—From Beginner to Advanced.
Step 4: Join in the Round
The trickiest parts of knitting in the round are making sure your stitches are all facing in the right direction from the beginning, and that you remember where a row begins and ends. After casting on, use the stitch marker to mark where the beginning/end of the row, and keep this in place as you knit.
Step 5: Knit the Sock According to the Pattern
All sock knitting patterns are slightly different, so follow the instructions in your pattern. This will tell you how many knit and purl stitches to create at certain points and when to repeat steps or continue until you’ve knit a certain length.
Step 6: Repeat!
Of course, most people have two feet, so once you’ve completed your first sock, it’s time to do it all again! Hopefully, knitting the second sock will be a quicker, smoother process.
Step 7: Weave in Loose Ends
When knitting, it’s best not to cut loose ends off short, but instead weave them into the piece with a darning needle. Make sure the woven tails aren’t visible on the outside of the sock.
Step 8: Block the Socks
Blocking refers to wetting and shaping a knitted piece to improve the fit. If your finished sock has any uneven sections, or if they are a little too tight or loose, blocking can alleviate some minor problems. Soak the socks in warm water for a few minutes, then gently squeeze out the excess water from them and lay them out on a towel. Push or stretch the socks to shape them as you need, and when they dry, they’ll stay that way.
What Do You Want to Knit Next?
After you’ve learned how to knit a pair of socks, why not create another pair in a different yarn, color combination, pattern, or texture? You’ll gain further sock knitting practice and work out any problems you had the first time around.
The great thing about learning to knit socks is that you can develop the skills needed to complete larger, more complex projects, like sweaters or cardigans. A basic sweater knitting pattern should be totally manageable for any knitter who has a few socks under their belt (or on their toes!). Be brave and experimental, and have fun!
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