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Easy Sock Knitting

Updated on November 30, 2014

Sock Knitting for Beginners

Are you interested in learning how to knit socks? Looking for easy sock knitting patterns? Have you ever seen someone knitting a sock and wondered why they would bother?

I'll discuss the basics of knitting socks: sock yarn and needles, both double pointed and circular, the parts of a hand-knit sock, ans also provide links to many sock patterns, both easy and beginner sock knitting patterns, and more challenging patterns. Along the way, I hope you learn why people knit socks and why you might want to knit a pair for someone you love.

Have you ever knitted a pair of socks? Let us know!

Do You Knit Socks?

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... and, Have You Ever Worn Hand Knit Socks?

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About Sock Knitting

Why do People Knit Socks?

There are two main reasons people bother with sock knitting: people like to wear them and knitters like knitting them.

Wearing Hand Knit Socks:

- they fit. Hand knit socks can be made to fit perfectly, no matter what size and shape your feet are.

- they feel good. Yarn for sock knitting is made from top-quality fiber, often blended to last a long time.

- they are warm. Most hand knit socks are made with wool, which is warm and breathable

- they are seamless. For people with sensitive feet, hand knit socks have no seams, bumps or lumps, and can be knit from non-itchy yarn.

Knitting Socks:

- they're small. A sock project is very portable and can fit in a tiny bag.

- Socks can be knit quickly. Though there is the dreaded "second sock syndrome", see later in this article.

- the yarns are wonderful. Sock yarn comes in many, many varieties, from plain dark colors to hand-painted brights to specially printed yarn that makes color patterns for you. Or you can experiment with dyeing your own yarn. A pair of socks takes only 1-2 balls.

Sock Yarn from eBay

Although any yarn can be used for sock knitting, a true sock yarn has two special qualities:

- it is smooth, dense and long wearing

- it contains a small amount of nylon, for elasticity and durability.

Below is one sock yarn from eBay. This selection will change from time to time. Many sock yarns are sold at eBay ... search for "sock yarn" to see more.

More Sock Yarn from Amazon

Sock yarn also tends to be fairly fine, knitting at between 6 and 8 stitches per inch. Heavier yarn can definitely be used for socks, and boot socks do use heavier yarn, but yarns in the 6-8 sts per inch range fit inside standard street shoes.

Here are some selected yarns from Amazon, to show the range of types of sock yarn.

Basic Sock Yarn

If you are just starting to knit socks, you might want to start with an inexpensive, basic yarn. The yarn shown at right is economical, easy to knit, and comes in common sock colors.

Malabrigo Sock #474 Caribeno
Malabrigo Sock #474 Caribeno

Yarn from a sustainable South American cooperative.

 

Color block Yarn

Often, sock yarns have different colors in one ball. When the lengths of each color are short, you get small dots of color or a heathered effect. When the runs of each color are long, you get stripes or "pools" of each color.

Fortissima Color Sock Yarn - #1776 American Flag Fairisle
Fortissima Color Sock Yarn - #1776 American Flag Fairisle

This yarn knits into an American Flag pattern.

 

Patterned Yarn

Some sock yarns are dyes in such a way that, when knit at the expected gauge and using an adult sock pattern, you get a specific design.

The yarn shown here will make red and white stripes, and blue stripes with white "stars". Fourth of July socks?

Knitting Needles for Socks - Double Pointed Needles

Traditionally, socks were knitted on double pointed needles. These needles can knit a tube of any diameter, and though they appear intimidating, are not difficult to master.

Because socks are knit at a fine gauge, small needles are used. The best material for sock needles is metal. Plastic is too flexible in these sizes, and wood, though very comfortable, can break. Still, some knitters are willing to deal with breakage and buy wood or bamboo needles anyway.

Here are some examples of sock knitting needles.

Bamboo Circular Knitting Needles "Takumi", 9-Inch Size 1
Bamboo Circular Knitting Needles "Takumi", 9-Inch Size 1

A good quality bamboo needle, in a very short length.

 

Sock Knitting on Circular Needles - The New Method

In the past few years, people have started knitting socks on circular needles. You can buy very short circular needles, but the point sections tend to be short as well, and few knitters ever get comfortable using them.

But you can use two circular needles instead, and make a tube of any diameter. The trick is to always knit the stitches on one circular needle with the tips of that needle - never knit onto the other needle. This method can work very well, as long as you watch out for any looseness where you switch needles. The needles don't need to be the same length.

Some knitters can knit small tubes on very long circular needles by pulling out loops of needle and re-arranging the stitches frequently. I've never had success with this method.

Here are some circular needles that can work well for sock knitting. All are available in other sizes and lengths.

Short Needles

To the right is a 9" circular needle. This needle can be used for most of the sock, but you'll need to switch to a different method to knit the toe.

Addi Turbo Circular - 40" US 2 (3mm)
Addi Turbo Circular - 40" US 2 (3mm)

A long needle if you want to try the one needle method.

 

Long Needle

The 40" long circular shown here is great for the "magic loop" method of knitting a small tube on one circular needle.

Parts of a Sock

Cuff

Heel flap

Heel turning

Gusset / Instep

Foot

Toe

Easy Sock Knitting Patterns for Beginners and Others

If you want to get started with sock knitting, here are a few books and patterns with easy socks, or where the instructions are especially easy to understand.

  • Sockupied is an interactive e-magazine with knitting patterns, videos, yarn reviews, even a cartoon. It looks like a wonderful way to learn to knit socks. Patterns can be printed on your printer to take with you.

    Sockupied eMagazine

  • If you can knit and purl, you can knit your very own socks, and veteran sock knitter Ann Budd shows you how in Getting Started Knitting Socks.

    Getting Started Knitting Socks!

  • From Debbie New, who I profiled in my article on her book Unexpected Knitting comes these simple but very different socks.

    Better Mousetrap Socks Pattern

  • Nancy Bush has written several excellent books on knitting socks. This one is designed to be taken with you, and its eighteen sock patterns are easy and fun, with simple, graphic, easy-to-follow instructions for learning to knit, start to finish.

    Knitting On the Road

Other Sock Knitting Patterns

These books and patterns are either challenging, unusual, or both.

  • A fun, not too difficult stranded colorwork sock pattern.

    Bazaar Sock Knitting Pattern

  • If you are interested in spinning yarn for socks, making beautiful hand-painted yarn, or just in sock knitting, this book is excellent. Any of the three sections is worth buying alone, the other two are bonuses. Highly recommended, even if you don't knit socks.

    The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook

  • Travel the world by foot in this irresistible collection of 26 original sock designs inspired by global knitting traditions. This link is for the paperback book, an e-book and a combined set are also available.

    Around the World in Knitted Socks

  • Baby socks take so little time to knit, you can do complex work and still finish quickly. And they won't wear out! These intricate baby booties feature cables, pointed cuffs, and garter stitch soles.

    Cabled Baby Booties

  • Another book by Nancy Bush, this one features 24 vintage sock knitting patterns, updated or today's knitters with gauges, up-to-date yarns, and twenty-first-century methods and sizes. Patterns include men's sock knitting patterns, bed socks, and baby booties.

    Knitting Vintage Socks

Not Exactly Socks, but Feet Like These Patterns

Here are patterns for leggings, slippers, and other not-quite-socks.

  • Leggings are socks without feet, and much easier to knit. This pattern adds some cable work.

    Cabled Leggings

  • A pair of easy slippers worked in stockinette and garter stitch with eyelet holes added for visual interest.

    Easy Peasy Slippers

So ... Are You Going to Knit Socks? - Why?

Now that you've read about sock knitting, are you planning on knitting any? Why or why not? Let the opinions fly!

Tell us your sock stories? Ever get some awesome socks as a gift. A gag gift? Please share with us!

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