Socks for Beginners

In honor of the Interweave Store's The Story Behind Your First Knitting Project: Blog It to Win It Contest, Sockupied has some tips for knitting your first pair of socks.

Not many knitters decide on socks as their very first knitting project; knitting in the round and using double-pointed needles can look scary when you're just learning to make a knit stitch. Still, socks are a good project when you have a scarf or two under your belt. (If you've made a hat, you're totally ready!) Here are a few suggestions to make your first pair easier. 

1. Go big—and small. 

Sock yarns are simply gorgeous, and it's convenient to buy 100 grams or 4 ounces of fingering-weight yarn with confidence that you'll have enough to complete a pair. But it can be challenging to see what you're doing on tiny needles-and you want to finish your socks fast! So give yourself a break and work with DK-weight or even worsted-weight yarn. In the same vein, consider making your first pair of socks in a child size–especially if you have a patient young foot model.


2. Cast on as loosely as possible.

Experiment with a few cast-ons for socks until you find the stretchiest one you can work comfortably. You may be disappointed if your cuff is a bit loose and floppy, but that's nothing compared with how sad you'll be to finish a whole sock and find out it doesn't fit over your heel. If you just can't cast on loosely enough, cast on a few more stitches than the pattern calls for and decrease them away in the first few rounds. (Check out video of some of our favorites in Sockupied Presents: Cast-ons for Top-Down Socks.)

3. Try it on.

Especially if you're working with double-pointed needles, you may be tempted to keep on knitting to avoid stabbing yourself with sharp, pointy sticks. But trying on your sock early and often is the best way to make sure it will actually go over your foot in the end. If it doesn't fit, rip back ruthlessly—or resign yourself to giving the socks to someone with little feet. Keep a length of smooth waste yarn and a yarn needle handy and use it to hold the live stitches while you (don't be alarmed) remove the needles. With the stitches on this flexible holder, go ahead and try on your socks. Resist the temptation to try on the socks with dpns in place. Even if you avoid breaking a needle or stabbing yourself, you won't get a very accurate picture of the fit. Replacing the stitches on the needle can be a little tricky: slip each stitch back onto the knitting needle and try to keep it in the same orientation, then take care on the next round to knit through the right side of the stitch.

4. Pick a good pattern . . . and trust it.

Many sock-knitting maneuvers are counterintuitive. To turn a heel, you stop knitting in the round, knit a rectangle, and work short-rows at the bottom edge? Sounds crazy, but it works. Choose a well-tested pattern—we suggest one from Simply Sockupied or Ann Budd's terrific book Getting Started Knitting Socks—and do a quick check for errata. If you read through the directions and fear they don't make sense, give them a try before you despair!

5. You don't have to Kitchener.

The Kitchener stitch isn't so bad once you get the hang of it, but if you really want to avoid it, just put the stitches from the top of the toe on one needle and the bottom of the toe on another, then work a three-needle bind-off. It won't be as smooth and even, and if you have very sensitive feet you might feel the seam, but it's quick and easy and totally acceptable. (It's all right to leave grafting for your second pair of socks.)


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