Constructing Socks One Stitch At a Time

The instant gratification of knitting with thick yarn and large needles is hard to beat. That’s why I long resisted the idea of knitting socks. Tiny needles, fine yarn – worse yet, you have to make two!

A few years ago a great knitter I know, Ruk, took a sock making class and really loved it. She suggested I try it and sent me one of her favorite patterns. That’s back when I was blogging for a yarn company that gave me free access to all kinds of gorgeous yarn so I had no reason not to give it a try. I requested some fun, self-patterning sock yarn, bought a set of size 3 double pointed needles, and gave it a go.

While there are thousands of sock patterns to choose from, the basic construction is usually quite similar. The stitch counts mentioned below are specific to the pattern I used.

Adjusting to such small needles was frustrating. Despite each round being only 48 stitches, I was knitting at the sluggish speed of one inch per hour. It took days to knit the leg of one sock:

Measuring leg of second sock against the first sock to see if it's long enough.

Measure leg of second sock against the first to see if it’s long enough.

By the time I got to the heal flap of the first sock I was hooked. The heel flap and heel turn are my favorite parts of the sock because 1) only half the stitches are worked, 2) nearly every other stitch of every other row is slipped, not knitted, and 3) after a couple inches you start decreasing. All of which makes the work go even faster.


The heel flap starts with 24 stitches, but the gradual decreases of the heal turn leave you with ten stitches on the needle.

The next section is the gusset. Because you pick up new stitches along the edge of the heel flap and continue knitting in the round, this is when you’ll have the most stitches on your needles. That’s to make enough fabric to accommodate the ankle, foot and heel. There are decreases in every other row (until you’re back down to 48 stitches) which keep the work interesting.

Working the gusset (shown from heel side).

Working the gusset (shown from heel side).

Working the gusset.

Working the gusset (shown from the top of sock). Note the top two needles both have far more stitches than the bottom two. Those needles include stitches picked up after the heel turn.

The really cool thing about the gusset? The decreases create a graceful curved line at each side of the foot.


Speaking of the foot, that’s when the inch-per-hour frustration once again rears its head. You need to knit several more inches until you’re just shy of the desired foot length. (The upside: you can custom size socks for people with hard to fit feet.) Once there, a few rounds and some strategically placed decreases round off the toe.

The toe.

When only eight stitches remain, I use the kitchener stitch to seamlessly join the toe, then weave in the yarn tail.

The pair of socks shown here were made (upon request) for my cousin Mark. They’re made with Patons Stretch Sock Yarn in “Mineral.” To be honest the yarn didn’t feel as soft as other sock yarns I’ve used, so I’ll be curious to hear how they compare with Mark’s other socks.

I’d intended to finish them for Christmas but was so far behind that Mark got a box of yarn instead. He finally got his new socks in January – just in time for the Polar Vortex!

For some reason unknown to the rest of the world, Mark likes wearing socks with flip-flops that have divided toes. Even in winter. When I asked for a photo of him wearing the socks, he replied, “With or without flip flops?” When I said without, he said, “Well, okay, if I must.”


Looks like they’re holding up pretty well despite being stretched around those toe dividers!

Have you tried knitting or crocheting socks? If so, do you love sock making or do you hate it?

About Paula Hendrickson

I'm a full-time freelance writer with an addiction to yarn, cooking and all kinds of crafty things. I come from a long line of creative and entrepreneurial types on both sides of the family, making creativity almost like competitive pursuit.

Posted on February 21, 2014, in DPNs, handknit socks, Knitting, Projects, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. So impressive!

    • Paula Hendrickson

      I hope the fact that they’re seamless means they’re extra comfy, too. (I have to turn store bought socks inside out because the toe seams irritate my feet.)

  1. Pingback: Stupid Cute Sock Crafts | Melissa LeGates freelance writer

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