How Do You Knit Socks?


Although I spent most of my weekend working on the house (more to come on this in a later post) I was able to get in some knitting time on Sunday afternoon.
This is my pretty basic sock, but I did an afterthought heel instead of a short row heel. I wanted the colors to form a nice circle instead of awkwardly butting up against each other.
Changing up the heel got me thinking about all the different ways one can knit a simple pair of socks. Here are my preferences:
Toe-up or Cuff-down: Hands down it’s toe-up
Needles: 2 24″ Addi Turbos. I love the feeling of bamboo but I prefer the way my knitting looks with 2 circs (and I think it’s easier to try them on with the circs too).
Length: I’ve been doing the leg as long as my foot, but lately I’ve been thinking I’d like to go higher. Doing that will require me to do a few increases though — my big calves short legs won’t let me go any longer without widening the cuff as well.
Toe: Figure 8 without a slip knot. This lets me go back and tighten up the cast on after I’ve knit the toe.
Heel: Short row. I used to prefer a no-wrap short row, but I’ve recently noticed that my short rows look better with the wraps. I’m not saying this is the case for everyone, but it does seem true for me.
Cast-off: I typically go for the Sewn cast off but it is S-L-O-W. I’m definitely open to other possibilities here (and no, Margene, knitting them cuff-down is not a possibility!)
Peeves: Spiraling (Lorna’s Laces and others), knitting the yarn too loosely so it doesn’t fit well and doesn’t wear well, and anklets. I know I won’t win any popularity contests about the anklets, but I hate em! They remind me of this awkward time in grammar school and I just can’t wear them because of that. Silly, yes. But keep those damn anklets away from me.
Ahh, I feel better now.
So, what do you like to do?
Feel free to share whatever comes to mind — great techniques…favorite yarns…wonderful patterns…horror stories. And don’t be shy! De-lurkers are encouraged to comment (so yeah, that means you!). Include links if you have them and if there are enough I’ll pull them together into a follow up post for all of us to use.

13 thoughts on “How Do You Knit Socks?

  1. I hate anklets too. They slip down into my shoes and turn themselves into little rock-hard balls of socklet torture. And then I end up not only feeling half-dressed but I end up walking funny, too. Very attractive. My nightmares of teaching a class in my underwear are bad enough…I don’t want to repeat it in real life in the form of aberrant knitwear.
    I tried the figure 8 and it gave me fits, but damned if it doesn’t look beautiful and avoid ridgy thingies. I haven’t reached the heel yet, but will most likely do the short-row, wrapped. I have to learn how first :-)
    I’d be interested to hear how you deal with the desire for length combined with the need for added width. I’m a tiny woman, but the genes conspired to give me mini-Barney-Rubble feet and “substantial” calves. If you’ve got a nice way of introducing the increases into a pattern you love, let us know.

  2. I haven’t learned to knit socks on 2 circulars yet, so that leaves me with DPN’s, but I like my metal one better that my bamboo. I also like toe up, figure 8 without the slip knot, and the short row no wrap heels. I just haven’t knit enough socks yet to figure out how to get my verigated yarn to match up the same for each sock! Drives me crazy. I like to work a pattern on the top of the foot and up into the cuff to break up the boredom. And I have to say that even though I’m impatient, and like to knit short socks, I like to wear longer ones. I also like to use Artyarns Supermerino.

  3. I love the Yarn Over short row method. It gives the look of wraps with out the (in my opinion) fiddly-ness of picking them up and knitting them in. Prisilla Gibons-Roberts has the best directions in Simple Socks, Plain and Fancy.
    I also like worsted weight boot socks, especially in Artyarns Supermerino.

  4. Me know not much about sockies – but I do know that I like that yarn that you used! My favorite yarns for socks are Opal, and Koigu. That’s the only thing I can contribute.
    And that socks I have made tend to scoot down on the person wearing them…so the next pair I make, I will have to look into solving this problem-o.
    Happy Knitting!

  5. I’m personally partial (in my limited sock experience) to a short row toe. It’s a bit of a hassel to pick up the original stitches from the provisional cast on, but no more so than any other toe method. And I’m with you on the toe up thing. It’s great to try on the sock as you go, then you just knit till you use up the yarn you have or reach the length you like.
    I tend to prefer solid colored or self patterning yarns but am not so fond of variegated yarns. I think it offends my sensibilities that you can never make them a good match.
    I really don’t care for the magic loop or two circ method for circular knitting. I find it slows me down too much and I inevitably get wonky tension where the two circs meet. It’s probably more a matter of my inexperience than a flawed method, though.

  6. I’m finally really grasping short rows, so a short row heel is my current favorite. I usually do top down (when I’m not knitting sideways!) with a plain old paired decrease toe. Not sure why I prefer that to a short row toe, but I do. I use two circulars, either wood or bamboo as metal hurts my hands (bit of arthritis that I’ve had since my 20s). I have rather impressive calves, so none of my socks ever go above ankle length, unless they’re just long enough to fold down. I don’t like self patterning socks and pooling really bothers me, but I love handpainted yarns with a singular passion. Mostly I just love knitting socks!

  7. I learned Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’ short row method and adapted that into Wendy’s toe-up sock formula. It made it very easy for me to incorporate my own lace or cable combinations into a project. Solid and variegated yarns are my preference, but I can’t give you a recommendation on sock yarn yet because I haven’t tried enough yarns! Margene has a great post on this, btw.

  8. Oh man, I’m addicted to socks right now. I’ve basically been making the same pair over and over in different yarn and slightly different ribbing. I knit them cuff down, on five dpns, starting on size 4 bamboo and then switching to my size 3 lantern moon needles so they have a little bit o’ leg shaping. I made the leg 7 1/2″ so I can wear them with my boots. I cast on using that weird cast-on you do with your fingers and the looping (I don’t remember its name, the one from stitch n’ bitch). I use a heel flap heel, and I kitchener the toes.

  9. I like Wendy’s fabulous toe-up sock pattern ( but I do it on one long circular. I love the crochet chain provisional cast on, the toe and heel are knit up the same way which gives them a pleasant symmetry. There are no seams anyhere, so they are comfy, but with no grafting (unless you graft-bindoff the ribbing, you masochist). I use a decrease bindoff, which is more attractive and has more stretch than a standard bindoff, but does not require all that fiddling with a tapestry needle. The decrease bind-off is simply *k2tog, slip st back to left needle, p2tog, slip st back to left needle, and repeat from * (or for other kinds of ribbing you just match your decrease to the second stitch that will be in the decrease). You can refer to Montse Stanley’s Knitter’s Handbook for illustrations of the decrease bind-off or for other interesting methods of binding off (or casting on, or almost any other technique in knitting, for that matter).

  10. I’m an ol’ fashioned grrl. Top down, bamboo dpn and any pattern by Nancy Bush. I do like a variety of toes, however…as long as they don’t involve Kitchener stitch. One thing that might work for your bind off is the modified conventional cast off by Lucy Neatby.

  11. OK, I have to know what the after-thought heel is, in pattern-speak. It looks great with that yarn! Can you give us some details?
    I’m not experienced enough with socks to really have a preference – I’ve just done the same pattern a couple of times. It is time to branch out, I think.

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