Sunday, 2 November 2014

A Burning Sock Desire - tips for knitting socks

                           A Burning Sock Desire … sock knitting in the 21st century

(First, my disclaimer - if this is hard to read, my apologies.  Guess what font I had to use???  Footlight of courseJ )

                                       Do you have a burning sock desire to knit socks?  

What is it about sock knitting that frightens us all?  I  suffered from the same condition – anxiety about starting that first sock.  I don’t know why I was so nervous because making socks  doesn’t have to be difficult.  Of course, once the first sock is  finished, there’s the dreaded SSS - second sock syndrome, though my theory is that those who have SSS are really just too excited to wait - they just have to start a NEW sock design!!! ( Solution : to avoid SSS, before you finish the FIRST sock, cast on the second and do the cuff,  et voila!  No dreaded SSS.  J

There’s no doubting it – sock knitting is addictive! And don’t even START me on sock yarn.  I collected  more than enough sock yarn during my too-scared-to-make SOCKS period!!!!!!


Sock yarns come in many colours and create more varied designs  once knitted than you could imagine!    Take Miriam's socks (left)  (Instagram - @meriamiriam ) This is self striping yarn so you just knit and the yarn does the work! 

After trailing through the internet and the library, and making some socks of my own (to which I keep adding) I have collated some tips and techniques that you might find helpful, whether you’ve been making socks for a long or short time.  I’m sure you have many tips of your own.  (Feel free to  send me some of your own in the comments. )  And if you have problems with some techniques, do what I did –  take a basic class.   

 The three main practical components when making socks are

                  1.  durability
                  2.  managing the moisture  and
                  3.  stretch.

 First, the anatomy of a sock.  Cuff, leg, heel flap, gusset, instep, sole and toe.  
                                    (find this  here :


Several balls of self striping yarn

* Wool mix as opposed to 100% acrylic or 100% cotton is preferable as it has natural stretch and durability.
* Try never to use just synthetic. It has no give, causes sweating as it can’t breathe and becomes smelly.   

* 4ply or fingering weight is great (but some patterns do use sport, dk and in some cases, worsted and  coordinating sized needles)

* The best mix for sock yarn is a wool and synthetic blend. (Wool for stretch, synthetic for durability.)

* Cotton and alpaca have less stretch than wool. 

* Hand dyeing yarn is becoming more popular. There are kits, but you can also use aeroplane jelly and Koolaid * (USA) a cordial drink hard to find in Australia 

These wound cakes are hand dyed by Donna Martin, New Zealand

*  Washing your handknitted socks in hot water may cause them to shrink.
(@oocha  on Instagram) Jesse's socks ready to be handwashed.  

* Drying your socks in a clothes dryer tends to deteriorate the fibres over time

* Remember, if your shoes are a snug fit, you may need to purchase a size larger  shoe if you intend to wear hand knitted socks through winter.



* Gauge is important so you might find you have to go down a needle size if you are a loose knitter or up  a size if you are a tight knitter.  Do a swatch.

*Sock guage can be anywhere between 6-8 stitches per inch.

* The circular needle cable (cord) needs to be at least 80cm (some knitters like the tiny 30cm circulars.  I find them too tight to work with, especially for new knitters) 

* Wooden double pointed needles seem to be the favourite over metal dpns. (Wood grips the yarn  better than metal.)

* Wooden circulars are preferable to metal circulars.  Something about the bamboo!
Using bamboo Knit Pro DPNs for these Cuff down Socks in Zauberball yarn from Tangled Yarns, Brisbane, Qld.
*For 4ply yarn, 2-2.5mm needles are suitable.   

* Dental floss is a great thread for a life line. (A life line is loose length of yarn threaded through the stitches at particular stages of your knitting.  If you make a mistake, you can unpick back to the lifeline without losing stitches.)

Ladders – the bane of all sock knitters – are those open-weave lines noticeable down the length of the sock made by the space created between the needles.  

 * To lessen the ladders with dpns (and the ladder that can come with circulars) make the second and third stitches at the start of each needle tighter

* Blocking your socks helps to minimise the ladders.


Aileen's socks ( Instagram - @bellasocks ) note the ladder to the right of the stitch marker.
This will disappear  to some degree once the socks are blocked.

  NEEDLES - Circulars

* Judy's Magic Loop  is brilliant for avoiding some of the ladders of DPNS. You only have two points where the needles meet instead of 4 (with DPNs) and they are easier to handle, not so many pointy bits contained in such a small area to deal with!

Knitting with 2 circulars
* use cables of different lengths so you can tell which needle you’re working on (no shorter than 80cm). 

* Put a dot of fingernail polish onto one set of circulars so you can tell them apart.

* A long-tail cast on is a great start for socks – it’s stretchy 

Cuff Down tips - (socks can be started from the cuff down or the toe up.)  
cuff down socks

* Weave the beginning tail in as you knit the next row.
* If you want a longer cuff, add more stitches as your calf is wider than your ankle. Don’t forget to decrease these stitches when you get closer to the ankle so your pattern reads correctly again.
* To obtain a neater cuff if working in rib, knit through the BACK of the knit stitches for the cuff only. 

*  To help avoid the gap you get between needles at the beginning - Cast ALL of the stitches onto the one circular needle and knit that first row before separating onto the two needles.  (This could also be done with dpns)

*  Another tip to avoid the gap between needles at the beginning -  cast on an extra stitch, then start by knitting two together. This tightens things up.

* As a guide, the number of ROWS in a heel flap should equal HALF the number of stitches you have in the cuff.

* Work the foot of your sock until about 3cm shorter than the desired length of the foot.  Try it on as you work. ( I love seeing the many IG photos of half-made socks on feet!)


*Don’t forget to reverse your pattern if it’s directional like cables in Socks on a Plane by Laura Linneman.  ( I had two left socks and had to frog.)

*Frogging – (the most unpopular term)- the act of unravelling your knitting and starting over

Socks on a Plane, by Laura Linneman, toe up design
Amanda (@yarnenabler Instagram)  starting long socks for her daughter from the toe up...these are lacy socks


*The heel flap is worked back and forth, not in the round.

* To tighten the join between the heel flap and the gusset, go through the back loop of the stitches along the heel flap

* In general, the first stitch of every row of the heel flap is a slipped stitch.  slip this stitch in a PURL manner. (Later, you will pick up this stitch and because it’s slipped, the edge will look neater.)

* My first socks tended to have a hole right at the gusset/heel point. To avoid this, pick up an EXTRA stitch at the point where the heel flap and the gusset meet.  Work this stitch in with the edge stitch.  (Tthis is like knitting two together)

*The Afterthought heel is gaining popularity J check it out here…

And some wonderful tips on the afterthought and the forethought heel can be found here -


* Use a long tail cast on or a thumb cast on. (Thumb cast on here: 

*Judy’s magic loop is a great way to start if using a circular needle.  

 *No matter whether you’re doing cuff-down or toe-up, always do the cuff loosely.  Ie. Cast on loosely for cuff-down, bind off loosely for toe-up.

* I don’t have sock blockers but they can be made from cardboard or foam core board.  (See some here… )

* Blocking relaxes the fibres and helps the sock  to settle into the  shape you want them to take on.

Kitchener stitch is still my favourite to close up a toe, but that’s just me. I think every time I do it, I find myself saying:

                   It works, it really works!    

     Find Kitchener stitch here:   

 SET UP:    Place the needles parallel to each other in your left hand if you are right-handed, and the reverse if you’re left-handed.  The right side faces toward you, the wrong sides are between the two needles on the inside.        
  Read through the instructions below first so the Kitchener Tag makes sense.

:Thread a tapestry needle up with the length of yarn you’re working with…  ‘Purl on’ means  take your tapestry needle through the stitch on the needle as if to PURL but leave the stitch on the needle, pull the tapestry needle through and then go into the back needle like you are going to knit. 

Leave that stitch on the knitting needle. Then return to the FRONT needle and insert the tapestry needle like you are going to knit but take that stitch OFF the needle. Continue in this manner following the instructions.  Another mantra to chant is knit purl…purl knit

The easy way to remember Kitchener is to
a) print out this tag ( right) 
 b) punch a hole in the top corner
      and slip it onto a key ring holder attached to your bag.   ;-)    

 A big thank you to Donna Martin in New Zealand for providing me with a second pair of eyes and by  reading through the post.

 Thank you to all of the  Instagram friends who gave me permission to use their photos in this blog post.  I want to celebrate some amazing, inspiring sock knitters so if you get the chance, go to Instagram and check them out. They are queens of sock knitting and lovely people too –

Aileen @bellasocks  - the person who got me inspired v after I discovered this picture below...:-0

Feast your eyes on this drawer of handknitted socks.   Envy! 

Worsted yarn means a quicker made sock but the  sock is thicker. 

 Jesse (@oocha) lives in Canada and this year, decided to aim for 13 pairs of socks. She is currently on to number 20!!!!!!!!! Jesse writes a blog, Wee Pleasures...

Jesse's sock blockers used after washing

This yarn is OPal, Vincent Van Gogh and these were Jesse's 7th pair this year

I have a soft spot for Socks on a Plane
I  made my own pair but forgot about reversing the pattern and had two left socks!
jesse is working these two at a time and on two circular needles

The collection of some of  Jesse's  #operation sock drawer socks for 2014 

Miriam @meramiriam  Miriam knits and crochets at choir, at home , at work I( only on her breaks!!) and anywhere you can take needles. 

I love seeing the progress shots.  

Monique @blueberryfields  Lucky for those who don't knit - Monique has an online shop where you can request your own pair of socks or mittens.  (
Children's socks are quick to make and rather cute!

I will never tire of the random colourway of  some sock yarn 

Monique is knitting heel-less socks  perfect for yoga  or dancers...

Donna  @deedeegirl8
Dee, like many of us, tries to do some knitting every day and the yarns she uses for her socks are divine!  These are sourced from all over the world - the joy of having the internet! 

This yarn, Smile,  from Lollipop yarns, is gorgeous!  

I think if Miss Molly  could hold needles in her paws, she'd be knitting too!  These are Christmas socks..

Vintage Doc Martens with vibrant socks

Tea and alpaca socks...a great combination

Mette @mettemhegdahl  (amazing marius socks) I just stare at Mette's socks in awe...I don't think she has a plain sock in her stash! 


There are socks for every occasion.

I love these socks - farmer boy socks!   Kate (@foxslane) said her husband chose the yarn and she knitted them.  She hopes one day to be using wool from her own sheep!  Keep us posted, Kate!

Donna's Halloween socks 

(yarnenabler) Amanda's Halloween socks. Love that purple stripe!
 Amanda also dyes her yarn and the names for the yarns are worth reading...


This sweet pattern is called Coffee and Cupcakes (by Socal Meaghan) and are just delightful.
Sachi knows how to choose yarn and her knitting is exquisite! 

I fell in love with these socks pattern, Lausox, by the Unapologetic Knitter, Meaghan 

Other sock knitters I'm inspired by are: 
Dag @paperdag 
@knitabulls – the lovely fun Diane
Stephen @sowaters who constantly makes me laugh with his antics
Sheri @spintoknit 
Allie @handdyedbyalliecat (beautiful yarn too!!!!!!!!!!) 
Kimberly @sockbunny

Last of all, I’m giving a shameless plug for my stitch markers and Guardian Angel stitch markers.  Christmas is a great time to buy  yourself or some friends  a gift they can use all year round.  I make them in my studio in glass or use ceramic beads.  I can send them anywhere in the world on your behalf if you wish to do a multiple purchase as gifts for your knitting friends!  

Sampling of Guardian  Angel Stitch Markers  - great as fillers at Christmas or birthdays for knitting friends
Request colours you'd like by emailing me at

Guardian Angel -  attach to your knitting, bag or key ring.

little people series

red,yellow, blue, green and pink owl sets, birds to come, hearts,
the little people series (light fimo clay)
guardian angel stitch markers in all colours - more to be uploaded

Check out my ETSY site for details.

And some references to patterns and books I found useful:
Socks Soar on Two Circulars, Cat Bordi  (book) 
Sock Knitting Master Class (book) Ann Budd (includes a DVD with techniques)
Socks on a Plane (Laura Linneman –  pattern - Ravelry)
Monkey Socks (Cookie A – pattern - Ravelry)
Knit Socks with Gapless Gussets – Kate Atherley’s Video ( Sorry, this is not a free video)
The Knitters Book of Socks (book) Clara Parkes
Socks from the Toe Up  (book) Wendy Johnson

Your library may have some of these books. 

INSTAGRAM  - Join the sock knitters ho are  accumulating socks by tagging your sock pictures with   #operationsockdrawer and the new hashtag I created with the help of the lovely Dag at @paperdag - #burningsockdesire
Have fun socking it tonight!

Lu x

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