Updated: Feb 1
Over the years you have asked me what sock pattern I use for my plain socks so for this first blog post I thought I would share what I do. How I make my socks is a collection of methods that I have tried, compiled and modified over time into my favourite way of making socks. Ask any regular sock knitter and they will have their own version. The way I make my plain socks doesn’t require too much planning and so I can just pick it up and knit it when I feel like it and put it down. I hope you find it easy and enjoyable too.
Rather than give a specific pattern I am providing a recipe, with the ingredients being the different parts of a sock, with hints and tips and video tutorials, so you can try making a sock that is going to fit your foot how you like. Use it as a starting point for creating your perfect fitting sock. If you're not sure what yarn to use we have a great selection of hand dyed yarn in our shop that will work great for making socks such as Sock Yarn, Valley Sock 4 and a nylon-free Australian yarn Purist. We also sometimes have striped Sock Sets too which are fun. Back to making your socks!
Below I will cover:
- A Little History (how I came to knit socks)
- How I make my socks (Toe-Up Magic Loop)
o Turkish Cast On
o The Toe
o The Foot
o The Heel ( German Short Row)
o The Cuff
o Bind Off
o No Sew Stripes
First: A Little History
Shortly after I started dyeing yarn I started knitting socks. I started dyeing yarn in January 2011 and had been knitting at that stage for about 6 years but had never knit socks. I only started knitting socks because I was dyeing sock yarn and thought I had better have some samples. This is quite funny when I think about it, the strange way in which socks introduced themselves to me. It took a couple of pairs before I started to see why hand-knit socks are so wonderful. Don't be surprised if you don't fall in love immediately. The first sock I made was a sample and it seemed to take forever to make. I didn’t knit another sock for a little while but decided, eventually, to make another pair. I found that with every sock I knit it got a bit faster and I tried different ways of knitting them, toe up, top-down, different toes, heels, etc. trying to find the perfect fit and method for me. The thing about finding the perfect fit for socks is that every foot is different and what I like in a sock may not be what you like and that is okay. I have changed how I make my socks over the years as I try new ways of doing things. When you have knit enough socks eventually you will find what you like for your foot and you will likely stick with it and only stray occasionally when the mood arises.
How I Make My Socks
My preferred way to make socks is toe up using a long circular needle, this method is called magic loop. Making socks this way makes it possible for you to try your socks on each step of the way so you can customise the fit as you go.
Step One: Choosing Your Needle Size
For the pair pictured, I used a 2.00mm needle. My favourite needles for socks are ChiaoGoo Twist Red Lace fixed circulars in 80cm for knitting 1 sock at a time and 100cm for knitting 2 at a time. The type of needles and needle size you use comes down to personal preference, you can experiment. I recommend a needle size between sock-weight2.00 - 2.50mm for a sock weight yarn. The difference you will find here is the smaller the needle the firmer the fabric. When you use a 2.50mm needle the sock will stretch a little more with wear than if it was knit on a smaller needle. But it will knit up a tiny bit faster and you may use fewer stitches and yarn if the needles are a bit bigger. I used to use a 2.50mm but now I use a 2.00mm most of the time.
Step Two: Casting on
I pretty much always knit my socks toe-up magic loop and cast on using a Turkish Cast On. I find it easy to remember and I like how it turns out. For this pair, I cast on 28sts (14sts on each needle). Around 10-14sts per needle will be okay. After casting on I knit a round before I begin increasing the toe.
Step Three: The Toe
I like a slightly more rounded toe on my socks. I achieve this by casting on more stitches, in this case, 28sts, and then I increase every other round as follows:
Instep needle (top of the foot): k2, M1L, k to last 2sts, M1R, k2.
Heel needle (bottom of the foot): k2, M1L, k to last 2sts, M1R, k2.
Continue to alternate between a knit round and an increase round until you have 30sts for the instep and 30sts for the heel, a total of 60sts.
The number of stitches you increase will depend on the width of your foot and your gauge. My foot measures 22cm around the ball of my foot. This works out to be 2.7sts per 1cm for the needle size of 2.00mm that I used. So if you measure around the ball of your foot this will give you an idea of how many stitches you would want to increase up to. For example, if your foot measures 20cm around the ball of your foot you will want 2.7sts x 20cm = 54sts around the foot, 27sts on each needle. If you choose to use a larger needle then you will want to have fewer stitches because your fabric will have more stretch. I recommend trying different things until you find what you like. I have previously used 2.50mm needles and still used 60sts. My socks were just looser. It's about finding your sweet spot.
If you aren't sure where to start with this knit a little swatch of about 20sts in the round and 14 rows with the needle size you want to use. This will give you your gauge. Then count how many stitches you have per centimeter and multiply this number by your foot circumference to get the total number of stitches to increase to.
When I am increasing for the toe I usually consider the fact that my foot gets wider across the instep as I get closer to the heel and rather than increase along the foot I just have a little extra room when I increase for the toe. If you find your sock is getting too tight as you knit the foot you can always increase some stitches on either side of the heel stitches, known as a gusset, as you approach the heel. Remember knitted fabric does have stretch and the type of yarn you use can also change how stretchy your fabric is too.
Step Four: The Foot
Continue to knit in the round without increasing until the sock is about 5cm shorter than the length of your foot. I try it on and pull it up a little. You don’t want your socks to be too long or short.
I mentioned earlier that I don’t usually do a gusset along the foot; instead, I add some stitches before I start the heel which makes my heels a bit deeper. You may not need to do anything here or you may prefer to do a gusset.
For this sock, I am using a German Short Row Heel. A couple of rounds before I want to work the heel I increase 2 stitches on either side of the heel stitches with a Make 1 stitch. This makes the heel a little deeper as you are working across more stitches. This is usually enough to provide a bit more give across the top of the foot where the ankle starts. I prefer to do this than do a gusset, but that’s just me. Experiment and see what you like.
Step Five: The Heel
The two heels I use the most are the Afterthought heel and German Short Row Heel. In this post, I will show you how to do the German Short Row Heel. I will share the Afterthought Heel in a future post.
The German short-row heel doesn’t involve wrap and turns, is fairly easy to remember and do, and allows you to knit your sock continuously. This is great if you want to be able to try on your sock every step of the way. When you work the heel you are only knitting on the heels stitches and will knit in rows rather than rounds. The heel is knitted in two parts the first half uses double stitches and the second half uses slip stitches. Once you have finished the heel don’t forget to decrease any extra heel sts you may have added for your heel.
German Short Row Heel Part 1
German Short Row Heel Part 2
Step Six: The Leg
This part is plain sailing. Knit in the round until your sock is the length you like. I usually fold my sock over and when the leg is the same length as the foot I start the cuff.
Step Seven: The Cuff
The cuff is what helps hold your sock up. I usually prefer a 1x1 twisted rib which is knit 1 through the back loop, purl 1. My other go-to cuff is a 2x2 rib. I work the cuff for at least 15 rounds.
Step Eight: Bind Off
The way I bind off is usually dictated by how I work the cuff. If I have knitted a 1x1 twisted or regular rib for the cuff I will do a tubular bind-off. If I have knitted a 2x2 rib or something else I will finish with a sewn bind-off. I always bind off on the loose side so it is nice and stretchy. These are the two types of bind-off I use most. They look neat and I find them to be very stretchy.
No Sew Stripes
I enjoy making striped socks. They are always fun and I always look forward to changing colours. Sometimes it's the only way I can finish a pair of socks. They are also a great way to use up leftover yarn. One thing I don’t enjoy that much is sewing in ends. It dawned on me that I could deal with the sewing at the same time as I knit rather than doing it at the end. I don't even have to get my darning needle out. I do this for my socks and also a lot of other projects where I have to change yarn and it won’t be too noticeable. I hold a strand of the yarn I am changing from and a strand of the yarn I am changing to together for about 8 stitches. Then I let go of the previous colour/yarn and continue with the new colour/yarn on its own. This effectively is like sewing in the ends while knitting. I do this change under the foot and at the back of the leg or the most unnoticeable place I can. When I have finished knitting I cut the ends of the yarn and leave a little tail of a couple of centimeters so I can pull them tighter if I need to at any time. You can sew your ends in if you prefer.
I hope this will help you on your sock journey whether you are a new sock knitter or a seasoned sock knitter. Making socks is a great way to try new things and learn new techniques on a smaller scale. There is nothing like a well-fitting sock that you have made with your own hands. Happy Sock Knitting!