Archives For Socks

In this last instalment of The Sock Series, we have one more technique to discuss: casting on. Choosing a cast-on method is a very individual thing: what one person loves another person might find tricky. It’s smart to play around with a few different techniques and practice a little until you find a method that suits you.

The type of cast on you need will depend on whether you’re knitting your socks from the top down or the toe up. I’ve collected some interesting methods and handy resources for you about both types of cast ons. These are just the tip of the iceberg, though. If you want to explore further afield, YouTube is full of clever knitters willing to share their sock cast on knowledge. If you want to save some time and learn a bunch of methods in one fell swoop, this Craftsy class: 40 Ways to Cast On and Bind Off (currently at a bargain HALF price) is a great way to get a PhD in casting on (and binding off), and it will set you up, not just for socks but for a whole range of future projects!

Top down: 

Top down socks are the most common construction. The main concern is to choose a very stretchy cast on, so that your foot can slide easily and comfortably into your sock, and the cuff won’t pinch or cut off the circulation to your foot! There are a lot of stretchy cast ons out there, but these are two that come highly recommended

Knitted cast on:
This isn’t the stretchiest cast on out there, but it is my go to cast on for most projects – its probably not the best one but it does the trick and sometimes you just need to get started with the skills already in the bag!  This is a great little video tutorial to help you learn the Knitted cast on, by the always fabulous Very Pink. A common alternative that lots of people already have down, is the long tail cast on, another good option.

German twisted cast on:
This is the cast on that my friend Dani of Little Bobbins recommends. This variation on the long tail cast on is simple to learn, and it’s very well suited to socks: very stretchy, deep, and sturdy. And with the extra twist, it’s a little fancy, too. There is an excellent lesson on this technique in the Craftsy class referenced above (40 Ways to Cast On and Bind Off). I’m planning on learning and practicing this one so I can have a lovely stretchy sock.

Toe up: 

There are many different ways to begin your toe up sock and a provisional cast on is one of the most common. One of the most popular is:

Judy’s Magic Cast On
The magic in this cast on is that it allows you to begin your sock with a seamless toe, so there’s no finishing! It can be a little fiddly to master this one, but I think the payoff is worth it. Craftsy has a free written tutorial which you can follow step by step. Again there is a really clear video lesson in the Craftsy class previously mentioned.

The first Handmade Sock Society collection will be mostly top down socks and there will be at least one toe up …just to keep you on your toes (sorry, terrible but I couldn’t resist!).


Casting on socks for the first time can be a little fiddly, so remember to slow down, breathe deep, and give yourself some grace to practice and start over until you’re comfortable. Once you’ve found the cast on that suits you, it will become second nature. If you would like to share your favourite cast on methods please come and chat in the Curious Handmade Ravelry thread for The Handmade Sock Society.

I hope this series of sock-knitting guides has helped you feel confident and prepared for knitting your own socks, even if you’ve never cast on a single pair before! If you’re feeling ready to dive into the deep end, The first season of The Handmade Sock Society is a great place to start. With six wonderful secret sock patterns to discover and a warm, supportive community to cheer you on, I think you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!

Part I of The Sock Series: Choosing Yarn
Part II of The Sock Series: Needles and Techniques

This is our second guide in my series of sock knitting advice, in honour of The Handmade Sock Society’s first season. I know there are a lot of veteran sock knitters in the Curious Crew, but I also remember how intimidated I was by the idea of knitting socks before I got my first one on the needles. As always, I love encouraging knitters to stretch and learn new skills! My hope is that with the help of these tutorials and resources, everyone who wants to try their hand at socks will feel confident and excited to begin.

Once you’ve chosen your pattern and your perfect yarn, the next step in sock knitting is to decide what type of needles you are going to use to knit your socks. Knitting a small diameter tube like a sock means knitting in the round, and there are two main ways to achieve this feat:

Magic Loop

It sounds very mysterious, but Magic Loop is actually a very simple way to knit socks. Using a long circular needle which is pulled back and forth as you knit, it allows you to knit in any small diameter. Craftsy has an excellent free tutorial on Magic Loop here. If you want to deep-dive into the subject, they also have a “Knit Smarter with Magic Loop” course taught by Lorilee Beltman (currently on sale)!

I love Magic Loop because I Iove just having one type of needles (ie circular) for all my projects and because it’s so portable. Magic Loop socks are the ultimate travel knitting, because you can move all you stitches to the cord for safekeeping and not worry about any slipping off in your bag.

Some people even knit two socks at a time using the Magic Loop Method! My friend Mina of The Knitting Expat podcast, has a brilliant episode on this technique.

You can knit Magic Loop on any circular needle, as long as the cord is long enough: 32″ or 80 cm is most popular, though if you’re doing two socks at once you may want to go up to 40″ or 100 cm. You want a circular needle with a flexible cord and smooth joins. If you can afford it and are planning to knit a lot of socks, this is somewhere that investing in high quality needles can really pay off. Using less expensive or stiffer needles, you may find it difficult to move the stitches back and forth, which can be frustrating.

Newer on the market are 9 inch Circular Needles such as these Clover Takumi Bamboo Circular needles where you don’t need to do Magic Loop, you simply knit around and around. They have a short cord and short needles. Some people love them because they are faster because you can simply keep going around and the fabric is more consistent. Some people don’t love them because they feel too small to hold comfortably and they can also be harder to find in shops.

Double Pointed Needles (DPNs)

While Magic Loop is considered the sock-knitting standard by many, a lot of knitters prefer using double pointed needles for socks. The triangular shape created by three DPNs holding stitches as you knit has a lot of fans. Some people prefer the rhythm they achieve knitting with DPNs, without having to move the loop around. For others, it’s a matter of time-honoured tradition!

DPNs can look a little scary if you haven’t knit with them before: all those needles, all those ends…is that a knitting project or a hedgehog? While working with DPNs for the first time can feel a little fiddly, it’s really much more simple than it appears. You can also look at the process step by step in this free article from Craftsy and again, if you want to get really confident about double pointed needles before THSS begins, there’s a Craftsy class from sock expert Ann Budd called “Essential Skills for Sock Knitting” that includes a section on DPNs and lots of other sock knitting tips.

DPNs are available in a wide range of materials, from wood to metal and plastic. Wood needles tend to be a little more “grippy” or “slow” than super smooth metal needles. If this is your first DPN project, you might find it easier to keep all your stitches where you want them on wooden needles.

Two Sets of Circulars

When I sent out the email version of this guide, two very helpful members of the Curious Crew wrote to me to remind me of another great way to knit socks: using two sets of circular needles. Some people find this message easier than Magic Loop and gentler on their hands than DPNs. The recommended length for circular needles using this method is 24″or 60 cm. This tutorial at The Spruce has great pictures and lots of advice on mastering this technique, and there is also a very clear video here on Youtube where Amy Detjen walks you through circular knitting using two circular needles!

I write my patterns for the Magic Loop method, because it’s my personal favourite. You can convert a pattern written for Magic Loop to DPNs and vice versa, usually without too much trouble. If you do want to use DPNs instead, you’ll just need to divide the stitches evenly among your needles. If you’re using 4 needles, your double pointed needles 1 & 2 will be the “Needle One” referred to in the pattern, while needles 3 & 4 will be “Needle Two” in the pattern.

Just for reference, switching a pattern written for DPNs to Magic Loop is even easier: just pop all the stitches onto the loop and use stitch markers to mark where each DPN would begin or end.

I hope you’ve found this overview of sock needles helpful! Whenever I’m trying to master a new technique, these kinds of resources make it all so much easier. My wish is that these guides will do the same for you.

In the run up to our first season of The Handmade Sock Society, I decided to put together an email series to encourage new or hesitant sock knitters who want to challenge themselves to knit their own socks. I know newish knitters can sometimes find the idea of socks daunting. Socks have a somewhat fearsome reputation, but once you’ve knit your first pair, I bet you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. There was such a lovely response to the emails that I decided to republish them here on the blog, so that anyone thinking about taking the plunge into sock knitting can use them! These are some of the hints, tips, tricks and techniques I’ve found most helpful in my own sock knitting journey.

Choosing yarn for socks

With any type of project, yarn choice plays an enormous role in how the finished object fits, looks, and performs over time. When it comes to picking out yarn for socks, there are some particular qualities to look out for and some things to avoid so that your lovingly handmade socks spend more time on your feet than at the back of the drawer.

Fit and comfort

A sock‘s fit is largely determined by the design of the pattern and your knitting gauge, but fibre and yarn type choice can make a significant difference. Socks get stretched and pulled a lot more than other handknits every time they are pulled onto a pair of feet, which means that you need a yarn that is bouncy and resilient by nature. An elastic, springy yarn will help your socks keep their shape, which is important because saggy socks are no fun.

-Yarn weight: The weight of your sock yarn is usually determined by the pattern, and it has a large impact on how a pair of socks will fit. There’s a reason that finer yarns are popular for this purpose: handknit socks are much thicker and bulkier than store bought socks. Heavier weight yarns can be great for bed socks, boot socks, and kicking around the house, but just remember that they require a lot more shoe real estate.

– Fibre: Natural fibres such as wool tend to have the best memory and will spring back into shape, which makes them an excellent base for sock knitting. Anything with a lot of drape, however, like cotton, bamboo, or silk, can end up droopy after a few wears. For socks, I would avoid yarns with more than 10% or 15% of any of these fibres.

– Spin: The way a yarn is spun can also affect the way it will behave. Tightly spun yarn with a high twist can also add structure to a sock, helping it keep its shape even with heavy wear.

Durability and ease of care

Unlike a shawl or even a cardigan, socks need to withstand a lot of friction and a lot of washing. That can be a tall order for handknits. Once again, the fibre of your sock yarn and the way it is spun can have an effect. We’ve mentioned that wool makes a brilliant sock yarn, but 100% wool has its drawbacks. After a day stuffed into a warm shoe, pure wool yarns can end up felting. The same felting friction can also cause holes to develop in wool socks, particularly in the heels and toes. While it’s a hundred times easier to darn a handmade sock than a store bought sock, we want that to be a last resort.  So what can we do to chose yarn that will stand up to the demands of the sock life?

Wool type: There is a lot of variation in wool types from different breeds. Sometimes there’s a compromise to be made between softness and strength. Abrasion can be tough on soft wool, causing pilling and holes in your socks. The super-soft merino we cherish for scarves and other accessories which sit close to the delicate skin on our necks and faces isn’t the hardest-wearing fibre. Good news: the skin on our feet is a lot less sensitive, and often the harsher, more rustic yarns you couldn’t use for other projects are perfectly comfy in socks.

– Spin and ply: As mentioned before, a tightly spun yarn has more structure, and makes for a sturdier sock. More plies also mean more strength. You should probably stay away from lofty single ply yarns for all but the most decorative of baby booties.

– Blends: Designated sock yarns are usually a blend designed for a good balance of comfort and durability. Usually, the secret ingredient is a man-made fibre like nylon or polyamide, at anywhere between 10% and 25%. If you choose a yarn without a “strength” fiber like this, you can consider knitting thin nylon thread doubled with your yarn in the heels and toes of your sock. Mohair blends are a lovely natural alternative for anyone trying to avoid nylon content.

– Superwash: Socks need a lot of washing. There is a lot of conversation these days about superwash wool vs fibre-conscious alternatives, and it’s a decision each knitter needs to make on their own. But many if not most commercial sock yarns are made with superwash yarn. Even if you do choose a superwash yarn, most handknits are still better off with a hand wash. A drying rack full of handmade socks is really a delightful sight!


Socks offer an amazing opportunity to branch out and explore shades and colourways that you might never choose for a garment. One skein is usually a low-stakes investment, which explains why so many of us have stashes full of single skeins of vivid, beautiful sock yarn. Colour is such an individual choice, but there are a few rules of thumb I keep in mind when choosing yarn for socks.

Pale, light colours can show dirt and stains more quickly, which is something to keep in mind if you’re knitting boot socks for heavy hiking wear vs fancy special occasion anklets.

Dark colours hide dirt, but they can also hide delicate stitch patterns and cables.

– Variegated yarns can also obscure fancy stitches, and may show some pooling or flashing of colours. Again, socks are one place it’s easy to go a little crazy, so experimenting with some really out-there variegation can be a lot of fun.

– Self striping yarn can be very motivating as you watch the colors change row by row, even on simple socks! They type of heel you do on your sock will have an impact on the striping action.

I love speckles for socks right now: they really are the best of all worlds. The specks camouflage flecks of dirt while the lighter colours let the stitchwork shine.

So there you go! That’s everything you need to know about picking out sock yarn! I hope that was helpful. Next time, I’ll walk you through some of the most popular cast on methods I know for socks.

Happy sock knitting!

Part II of The Sock Series: Needles
Part III of The Sock Series: Casting On