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Why knit socks - sock knitting for beginners - where to find the best patterns, resources and tutorials online

Updated on January 2, 2014
A pair of knitted socks
A pair of knitted socks

Sock knitting is great. It's a small portable project, that doesn't require expensive yarn or needles, and once you figure out basic sock construction you don't even need a pattern. It's easy, so suitable for even beginning knitters, but advanced knitters can make it as challenging and complicated as they want. A single sock doesn't take a lot of time to complete. Hand knitted socks are incredibly comfortable, so your finished objects will definitely get used, and because they do wear out after a while, you can never knit too many socks.

If you're looking to begin knitting socks, this is the place to start. This is not a tutorial, but an overview on why you'd want to knit socks in the first place, what you need to get started, and where to find the best resources and tutorials on the internet.

Second Sock Syndrome

The fact that you have to knit two socks to make a pair can be a downfall for some people. Knitters often refer to it as 'Second Sock Syndrome'. Once you've knitted the first sock, the excitement of knitting a new pattern with new yarn is over, and it can be difficult to get motivated to knit the second sock as well. One way around this is to knit two socks at a time on a circular needle.

Work in Progress (WIP) - a knitted sock partially done on Double Pointed Needles (DPNs) using variegated sock yarn.
Work in Progress (WIP) - a knitted sock partially done on Double Pointed Needles (DPNs) using variegated sock yarn.

Why Knit Socks?

Why would you knit socks in the first place? Let's face it, it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. A single sock contains thousands and thousands of tiny little stitches, and represents hours of work. You'd think there is a better way to spend all that time and effort than on something that is going to be worn on a sweaty foot. Even worse, as it's inevitably going to be walked upon, a knitted sock will take a lot of abuse and will eventually wear through. A knitted shawl or sweater, with proper care, will last a lifetime.

So why bother knitting socks?

The answer is twofold.

To begin with, sock knitting is fun. It's a small project; a single sock knits up quite quickly. And although it seems very complicated to the uninitiated, knitting a sock is actually not that hard. Once you've figured out the basic template, you can knit a sock without a pattern. This makes sock knitting an ideal project to bring travelling. You can knit your sock in the car (if you're not driving, of course), on the bus or train, to the doctor's waiting room. Because socks do get worn out, it also means that you can never knit too many of them. With knitting things like shawls and hats you can reach a point where you simply don't know what to do with them anymore.

The other reason is that once you've worn a pair of hand knitted socks, it's hard to go back to ordinary, shop bought socks. It is very easy to adapt a sock pattern to fit your foot exactly, and there's nothing quite like it. The sock will fit snuggly, will be warm and far comfortable than any sock you can buy in the store. And I personally found the skin on my extremely blister prone feet is in much better shape since I started wearing my hand knitted socks. Although it seems like a lot of work for something that will go on your feet and will get sweaty and worn out relatively quickly, it is definitely worth it.

Sock Knitting tools and materials

What do you need to begin knitting your own socks? Not a lot, fortunately!

First, you'll need yarn. Ideally, you should use sock yarn. This is typically made up out of 75% superwash wool, and 25% polyamide. The wool ensures your socks will be warm, even when damp. Superwash means that the wool has been treated with chemicals that allow you to just thrown them in the washing machine. Don't tumble dry your socks though! You should dry your hand knitted socks flat; fortunately, this doesn't take very long at all.

The polyamide in the sock wool makes the yarn more durable. Pure wool socks will wear through much more quickly.

To knit your socks, you will also need needles. Here, you have a choice. Traditionally, knitting in the round (as most socks are) was done on Double Pointed Needles, also called DPNs. Many knitters, myself included, still prefer them. But these days circular needles have also become very popular. This is a set of needles connected by a flexible cable. Using a technique called magic loop, you can easily knit in the round.

There's other ways of doing it as well, but DPNs and circular needles using magic loop are the most common methods used in sock knitting. It is really a matter of personal preference what most knitters chose to use. I'd recommend that you give both methods a go before settling on the one you like best.

Socks are typically knit using yarn that has a thickness of roughly 4ply, on 2.25 mm to 3.25 mm needles (or 3 to 5 in American needles sizes). This will give you a tight gauge, tighter than you would use for most other projects. This has a practical reason; you'll get a better fit and the fabric will last longer.

Neither sock wool nor needles need to be very expensive. Although beautiful and expensive hand painted sock yarns are available, you can easily get started for less than $10.

Online Sock Knitting Resources and Tutorials

There's a ton of free online sources out there to help you get started sock knitting. I knit my first pair of socks using just online tutorials, and I still actually haven't paid for any sock patterns or sock specific books.

Silver's Sock Class
I can't recommend this website enough. Guided by Silver's excellent tutorials, I was able to knit my very first pair of socks. And they fit, too! A year on, I'm still wearing them all the time. In fact, I have them on now.

What I really like about Silver's sock tutorials is that they are not just a pattern for making socks. Once you've finished her class, you'll actually understand how to construct a sock. Once you understand these basics, you can continue on knitting socks from patterns, or just create your own by plugging interesting stitches into the basic sock template.

Another thing I really like about these tutorials is that Silver gives you a range of options. Do you like to work with double pointed needles (DPNs)? There's a tutorial for that. Prefer circular needles or magic loop? No problem, Silver has got you covered.

Silver's tutorials are based on photographs. Some might prefer video tutorials, but the pictures are very clear and show exactly what you need to. If you want, you can supplement Silver's class with youtube videos of particular techniques, though I personally haven't found it necessary.

Knitty Socks 101 & 102
Knitty is a free online knitting magazine. It's got many excellent patterns and tutorials, and I strongly recommend that you have a look at their website anyway. Specifically for sock knitting, there's two articles that are pretty much compulsory reading for anyone starting out to knit socks.

First of all there is Socks 101. This excellent article explains very clearly the anatomy and basic construction of a knitted sock and walks you through knitting a sock from a template. It covers how to fix common mistakes, and it explains how you can adapt for size and how to insert simple patterns. This article also refers to the pattern for a simple 'training' sock to get you started.

The second Knitty sock article I have found invaluable is Socks 102. This article goes into how to insert a pattern into the basic sock template in some more detail. What I personally found very useful though, was the way it lists a number of different heel and toe options. Once you've knitted your first pair of socks, you'll likely want to start experimenting with different ways of doing heels and toes to find the method that suits and fits you best. Socks 102 is a great place to start.

No list of sock knitting internet resources can be complete without a mention of ravelry. Of course, you need to sign up, but it's free and it will give you access to thousands of free sock patterns.

When learning how to knit socks, however, what is invaluable is also the community. There's a number of sock knitting groups. The forums belonging to those groups are full of people more than willing to give advice to a novice sock knitter looking for help. Even just searching the forums will turn up a ton of information. If you're looking for a specific pattern to suit your needs, you'll find guidance.

Two groups I personally follow and have found very helpful are Sock Knitters Anonymous and Sock Knitters. Both these groups also do monthly knitalongs (KALs) and even award prizes to participants.

Video Tutorials

If you prefer to learn how to knit socks by watching videos, there's a bunch of helpful tutorials on youtube to help you get going. I've included two below that I think are very good; one for knitting socks on circular needles using magic loop, the other for using DPNs. Pick whichever method you like best.

Note that both tutorials come in multiple parts; I've only posted the first video of each. Be sure to click through on YouTube to watch the other parts as well!

Knitting a sock on a circular needles using Magic Loop

Knitting socks on DPNs

The next step

Once you've figured out the basic 'sock recipe', there's thousands of fun and great looking sock patterns out there to try.

But it's actually quite easy to create your own pattern as well. Just find a stitch pattern you like and substitute some of the stockinette stitch.

If you don't own a stitch dictionary, there's plenty of free collections of knitting stitches to be found online: #mce_temp_url#

Painting of an old woman knitting a sock; people have actually been knitting socks since the time of the ancient Egyptians!
Painting of an old woman knitting a sock; people have actually been knitting socks since the time of the ancient Egyptians! | Source


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    • profile image

      Carole Fuller 

      2 years ago

      I,m a beginner knitter and I,m anxious to learn how to improve.

    • jennabee25 profile image

      Jenn Dixon 

      6 years ago from PA

      I enjoy knitting socks, but do get "second sock syndrome" from time to time.

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I don't knit, but I know people who do and these look great. Voted up and shared!

    • Cleio profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Ireland

      Thank you! I love crochet too, though I haven't done much of it in recent years. I do have a crochet ripple sock yarn blanket on the go; all my left over bits of sock yarn get added to that. It'll take many years to complete I think :-)

    • Tealparadise profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub!!! I personally stick to crochet but I certainly respect knitters! Sharing the love :D

    • Cleio profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks for the compliments! I suppose what I didn't cover is how addictive sock knitting can be. Once you get started it's not easy not to want all the pretty yarns and patterns.

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 

      7 years ago from USA

      Great hub! There are a lot of beautiful sock patterns and yarns available to get anyone excited about knitting. Thanks for sharing! Voted up!!


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