Sock Talk: The parts of a hand-knit sock

For a self-taught knitter in the early stages of the craft like me, there is truly something miraculous about discovering that not all knitting happens ‘flat,’ in 2 dimensions. After knitting scarf after scarf, I wanted to push myself to tackle a new technical challenge: knitting in the round. This method produces circular tubes instead of flat planes of fabric (and is the earliest form of knitting, it turns out). Whether using a circular needle, or multiple double-pointed needles, I find that knitting in the round challenges me to develop new skills.

With autumn slowly making its way in, I decided, over the last few weeks, to tackle knitting on double-pointed needles by making my first pair of socks. Socks were among the first knitted garments (!), with the earliest knitted socks found in the Middle East, dated between the 13th and 16th centuries (thanks, Vogue Knitting).

I’m grateful that sock-making traditions and knowledge are easily available for curious knitters. While helpful online tutorials on the topic abound, I found Ann Budd’s Getting Started Knitting Socks a clear and useful guide to the terrain. It begins by introducing one basic all-around sock pattern, adapted to multiple yarn weights and gauges so that knitters can get started with whatever materials they have on hand.

What follows is not a detailed sock-making tutorial, but more of a very rough guide to the steps I followed to make my first pair of socks, a kind of sock anatomy 101. Goofy pictures included (advance apologies for the inconsistent colours).

Following Budd’s pattern for my yarn weight, I cast on 44 stitches across 3 double-pointed needles (US 3) and started with the leg, which I decided to rib for the entire length (knit 2, purl 2). There’s a lot of creative lee way here. Will it be a knee-high or more of a footie? A deep or shallow cuff? (oh, the possibilities). I stopped at around 7″.

Knit that leg.

After the leg, I knit the sock’s heel flap that covers the back of the heel. This area is knit flat using only 2 needles, and calls for a slipped stitch pattern which produces a slightly thicker and denser fabric. Heels get a lot of wear and need some extra reinforcement:

Heel flap.

After the heel flap comes my favourite part: turning the heelor using a series of strategic stitch decreases and short rows to create the little curve of the heel area. I don’t understand how exactly the decreases create this shape, but they do, magically.

Turning the heel: knitting magic.

After turning the heel, I ‘picked up’ new stitches on each side of the heel flap and distributed them across 2 needles. The remaining stitches were held on a 3rd needle, allowing me to continue working in the round again. I continued knitting in the round, decreasing stitches on every other row from there to form the triangular gusset.

Back in the round again (left). Completed gusset, and looking more sock-like (right).

From there, completing the remainder of the sock was a matter of knitting the foot in the round, then using a series of stitch decreases on alternating rows to create the rounded sock toe

Finished the foot, shaping the toe. The awkwardness of 4 needles.

Working until only 8 stitches remained, the last step was to use the kitchener stitch to ‘graft’ the live stitches together and close up the toe for good. Weave in the loose ends and we have a seamless handmade sock!

sock 8.JPG


The initial amazement and excitement of creating a three-dimensional object out of yarn and some sticks (I gave myself a day to revel) is soon tempered by the sobering realization that you have to do it all over again. Sock knitting is a great apprenticeship in endurance, perseverance and, as the final pair reveals, good humour.

An odd couple: experimenting with different sock sizes and cuff-lengths yielded a pretty hilarious pair. I tried to improve on the blunders of my very first sock (left). The second sock (right) is a better fit.

As a hand-making  project, knitting socks is a fun process. Despite the glaring errors (re-see above), I was happy to have some new needle skills, and some bright, handmade hosiery.



9 thoughts on “Sock Talk: The parts of a hand-knit sock

  1. nicely done! Those are cute ribbed socks! I’m working on my first pair of knee socks now–it took me a while (and a lot of smaller socks) to get up the gumption! But I found a pattern I love and one sock is finished! Looking forward to catching up on your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Socks are a fun knit. Knee socks sound exciting and definitely will come in handy this season. 🙂 Congrats on the first one! It’s super to find a great pattern, isn’t it? Likewise – looking forward to more knitting and spinning news from you!


  2. Loved reading this! I was shown the magic loop method, where you use a ciircular needle instead of four double pointed needles, to knit socks. It took some getting used to, but in the end is a less cumbersome method.

    Liked by 1 person

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