Sock it to me
May 8, 2013 7:55 AM   Subscribe

How can I teach myself to knit socks?

I am a relatively new knitter, and I would put myself in the "advanced beginner" camp. I'd like to tackle basic socks next - what's my best resource? I'm thinking along the lines of a detailed blog post or a video tutorial.

Bonus: what are your favorite (beginner) sock patterns?
posted by kidsleepy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Looks like I didn't do my due MeFi diligence - a lot of great answers in this previous post!
posted by kidsleepy at 7:57 AM on May 8, 2013

If I had seen that previous thread, I would have added this book: Getting Started Knitting Socks. It breaks sock construction down into its basic parts (Cuff, calf, heel, foot, toe) and then provides stitch counts for a range of foot sizes, yarn weight, and needle gauge.
posted by usonian at 8:01 AM on May 8, 2013

Tangential to this, are socks really the best "advanced beginner" project? Based upon their experiences, what would the MeKnitters out there suggest is the progression through project types?
posted by TrishaLynn at 8:12 AM on May 8, 2013

Response by poster: @TrishaLynn: My progression was dishcloth(s), scarf(s), infinity scarf on circular needles, baby blanket, baby hat on DPNs, and baby hat on circular needles. I like small projects for instant(ish) gratification, which is why socks are next on my list. Also why I do a lot of baby-sized projects :)
posted by kidsleepy at 8:17 AM on May 8, 2013

The best progression is whatever you want to make. I know someone who wanted to make a hat with looping Celtic cables as her first project, so that's what she did. I wanted a boring simple scarf, so that's what I did.

My gateway to sock knitting was a pair of these -- felted slippers which are effectively giant socks. You might like them, OP; definitely quick gratification, and once you knock out a pair of those, you have all the skills you need for regular socks.
posted by clavicle at 8:23 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

My feeling on the subject of knitting project processions is this:

All knitting projects consist of some number knits, purls, increases and decreases, with occasional cable crosses thrown in for good measure. Once you can do those five things, there's literally nothing you can't knit. Some projects require more patience and paying attention, but you already have all the skills you need once you've completed anything with any shaping at all.

So the best next project to try is whatever you want to knit next.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:26 AM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

Tangential to this, are socks really the best "advanced beginner" project?

I'm more in the 'what interests you will keep you motivated' camp. As such, I've never knitted a pair of socks since learning to knit >5 years ago because I could never justify the need. But gloves... oh my, the number of gloves. I basically started with a wide scarf, interrupted myself halfway with gloves, a couple of hats, finished the scarf, made a number of lace shawls, finally finished that wide scarf, and then a long detour into spinning. Never made a single dishcloth. but it can depend on your natural mechanical aptitude, i think, to be able to simply jet off in this direction.

on preview: what clavicle said.
posted by cendawanita at 8:26 AM on May 8, 2013

I taught myself to knit socks as my third or fourth knitting project, so yea, go for it!

I used Silver's Sock Class (the one sock on 4 DPNs version) as my tutorial and I still have and wear the socks I made, 4 or so years later.
posted by cabingirl at 8:36 AM on May 8, 2013

The secret to a sock; no matter whether you're knitting top down or toe up (but particularly for top down) there will be a moment when you think, "Whaaaat, there's no way this is right." Keep going. It will work itself out. The first time you turn a heel is nothing short of sheer magic.

Are you already a member of Ravelry? There are lots of great beginning sock tutorials on there, including the super clear Lifestyle Toe-Up ones. (On phone so won't link, but I'll check back later in case you have trouble finding it!)
posted by estlin at 8:48 AM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

RE: Progression, what everyone else has said; if you've got the basics (knit, purl, increase, decrease) down then yeah, go for whatever it is that motivates you. There are so many video clips out there that even if you get a little bit stuck or confused by a step or forget how to do a stitch, you can head for YouTube and watch someone it do it as many times as you need before continuing. Which reminds me - Lion Brand has a good series of videos for top-down socks, which were the perfect complement to the written instructions in the book I linked to above.

Also: when I decided to attempt a pair of kilt hose I invested in a second set of double-pointed needles, and worked both socks in parallel; one cuff then the other, one calf then the other, and so on - in this way I successfully avoided "second sock syndrome", wherein you knit one sock, get bored with the project and never get around to knitting the other. (There is also the "two socks at a time on circular needles" technique, but I feel like I need to make a few more pairs of socks the old-fashioned way before I try to wrap my head around that.)
posted by usonian at 9:13 AM on May 8, 2013

I tried teaching myself from videos and books, but it didn't click until I took an actual "introduction to socks" class at a yarn store. I could ask questions that were specific to my situation, the teacher could explain things in ways I could understand.

(I, however, had no experience in circular knitting when I first went, so you're already ahead of me there)
posted by Lucinda at 9:19 AM on May 8, 2013

I think socks are a GREAT "advanced beginner" project. There's really no "progression" you have to follow as long as you are making things you find fun. Taking the leap from flat square things/small basic circle-y things to projects with lots of shaping/complex stitch patterns/seaming was SO NOT AS HARD as I thought it would be. It is so much fun to watch a sock come together - even having made quite a few at this point I'm still pretty amazed as the heel turns out looking like a heel every time!

My own knitting experience: I learned to knit as a kid from my mom, didn't knit at all through middle/high school, and picked it back up in college when one of my RAs organized a craft store trip as a hall activity. I spent about 3 years only knitting flat square-y things (so... scarves and dishcloths), because I was really intimidated to take on anything like shaping, seaming, cables, basically anything tougher than just knit/purl stitches. At some point I just got so very bored with what I was knitting and thought, "screw this, I want to make a sweater!" I picked out one I liked in a book, bought the yarn and MADE A WHOLE SWEATER. I was really surprised at how much it felt like just a natural progression from my earlier knitting, and not some huge conceptual jump. While socks and sweaters look much, much more complex than scarves and dishcloths, the secret is that at any given point in the process you're still just using knit and purl stitches, along with increases/decreases to create a certain shape. You already know how to follow patterns, and that's basically all you're doing in making socks. You can definitely do it.

As for patterns/yarns/resources: For patterns, has a huge collection of great free sock patterns, many of which are written by really well-known pattern designers (I love Monkey and Pomatomus by Cookie A., one of my sock knitting heroes). I have pretty average-size feet, and I've found these two patterns to be very forgiving size-wise, so that while I was knitting them I could just focus on the pattern and less on my gauge/tension. I'd also recommend getting some yarn that is fairly smooth for your first socks (I LOVE Noro sock, but it twists up like crazy and is kind of a pain to work with, so I'd save that for future projects). BMFA Socks that Rock and Dream in Color Smooshy are some of my favorites, both for colorways and how easy they are to work with. Additionally, for general technical help TECHknitter is my anything-and-everything goto site. She writes extremely clear descriptions and includes equally clear diagrams which have helped me learn techniques that I have a hard time picturing on my own.

On preview - estlin describes exactly how I've felt (and still feel sometimes!) on pretty much every sock I've made. You'll be like WAIT HOW WILL THIS EVER BECOME A SOCK, and then there'll be this moment where your heel becomes a heel, and it really is magical. Have fun with your socks!
posted by augustimagination at 9:25 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

As clavicle mentioned above, I also started knitting felted slippers to get comfortable with turning a heel. Much more forgiving, since felting hides errors! After making tons of felted slippers, I made my first pair of 'normal' socks this January.

I did purchase this book but I could have learned the technique without it (I'm someone who learns best using books and/or videos instead of attending classes). I'd recommend that you check your library to see what books they have available before purchasing any. And another recommendation for joining Ravelry for patterns, help, and ideas.
posted by bCat at 9:36 AM on May 8, 2013

Socks are a perfect advanced beginner project -- I knit socks as soon as I could manage a scarf.

I highly recommend Knitty's Sock 101 (I can't link right now but google it) and make a plain stockinette sock before you get fancy.

You may find you prefer using circular needles (either two, or 1 using Magic loop) or double-pointed (you may like wood over metal or vice versa).

The first time you turn a heel you think you made magic!
posted by hrj at 9:41 AM on May 8, 2013

I like The Knitter's Book of Socks. There is a link from that review to a free pattern called "Stepping Stones." It's a great first sock pattern. If you haven't learned it yet, the magic loop technique makes sock knitting a breeze. No dpns to fumble with! I learned magic loop making fingerless gloves and I think it really helped me to get over that first sock hurdle.
posted by atropos at 9:55 AM on May 8, 2013

Knitting Christmas stockings for my nephews was my introduction to socks! They're usually knit with worsted or heavier yarn, so they knit up fast and you can more clearly see what's going on with heel turning and kitchener-stitching the toe. Bonus: no "second sock syndrome".
posted by lovecrafty at 10:16 AM on May 8, 2013

Ravelry shows 2 local yarn stores in Hoboken. Getting help in person (whether a class, tutoring session, or knit group) is better for most people than patterns, books, or videos. My favorite is 2 at a time toe-up on 1 long circ. Wendy Johnson's Socks from the Toe Up is a good guide.
posted by rikschell at 10:21 AM on May 8, 2013

I used a beginner pattern from Lyon Brand yarn, and they had a link to a video that guides you through the tricky parts. I found double-pointed needles to be easier than circular needles for some reason.

Making some simple arm warmers (wrist to bicep) is a good starter project. You need to learn to increase/decrease in the round.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:41 AM on May 8, 2013

I posted the previous linked AskMeFi, and can say now, quite a few pairs of socks later, that Silvers Sock Class was the best steer I got for making my and my husbands' first pairs.
posted by bearwife at 12:19 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Knitty Socks 101/training sock (same as linked from previous thread). You get a baby-sized sock out of it. I really like this as a an advanced-beginner project because it's fast because it's so small but it still feels really cool because it has all the construction of a sock--definite toe, midfoot, heel, and ankle/cuff. Then when you're making a full size sock you at least know what the plan is.
posted by anaelith at 4:37 AM on May 9, 2013

Socks are actually a lot easier to knit than they look! I taught myself from a magazine years ago, but the suggestions of Getting Started Knitting Socks and the Knitty Socks 101 are great.

I find double-pointed needles to be a lot less fiddly than circular needles, but that's really a matter of preference.
posted by sarcasticah at 4:35 PM on May 9, 2013

Total self-link in that Kate Atherley (of the training sock from Knitty linked above) is one of the authors my company publishes, but her book Beyond Knit and Purl actually has a chart in it with suggested next projects, i.e. if you've knit X successfully, why not try Y?

I really do believe that as long as you can perform the requested skills for a pattern or are willing to learn (such as a new decrease, increase, whatever), you can knit anything YOU want to knit. I knitted my first scarf for YEARS and never finished it. A wise LYS owner got me started on my first cardi and pow, done in a month. So really, it's about what you want to do -- you can do it!

Nthing sarcasticah on needle choice -- in my opinion, finding the configuration that works best for you is the toughest part of the battle, sockwise, so don't feel bad for switching up if the first method you try isn't right for you.
posted by at 1:41 PM on May 12, 2013

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