Anatomy of a Hand-Knit Sock

comments (1) August 12th, 2008     

Pin It

Cranky_Daphne Daphne Adair, contributor
Love it! 4 users recommend
An array of hand-knit socks. Front to back: Monkey socks for my sister in Artyarns 4-Ply; Monkey socks in Zen String Serendipity Fingering; Sport socks (basic pattern, but shorter leg) in Socks that Rock Lightweight; and a comfort ribbed sock in Dale Baby Ull.
The cuff of my STR sport sock. Most cuffs are knit in ribbing to help them stay up. This is a knit two, purl two rib for 1 inch, then a few inches of stockinette for the leg.
The Monkey socks heel, side view. The heel is just the section at right with the vertical stitches.
An array of hand-knit socks. Front to back: Monkey socks for my sister in Artyarns 4-Ply; Monkey socks in Zen String Serendipity Fingering; Sport socks (basic pattern, but shorter leg) in Socks that Rock Lightweight; and a comfort ribbed sock in Dale Baby Ull.

An array of hand-knit socks. Front to back: Monkey socks for my sister in Artyarns 4-Ply; Monkey socks in Zen String Serendipity Fingering; Sport socks (basic pattern, but shorter leg) in Socks that Rock Lightweight; and a comfort ribbed sock in Dale Baby Ull.

Photo: Daphne Adair

I love to knit socks. One should ignore the fact that at present, I'm not knitting any socks—and the ones on the needles have been in stasis since March—because I love to knit socks during sock season. Sock season, of course, is when I'm commuting by bus or train, traveling, or otherwise waiting. Here's a set of single socks representing a portion of the past 12 months' sock knitting for me:

 


An array of hand-knit socks. Front to back: Monkey socks for my sister in Artyarns 4-Ply; Monkey socks in Zen String Serendipity Fingering; Sport socks (basic pattern, but shorter leg) in Socks that Rock (STR) Lightweight; and a comfort ribbed sock in Dale Baby Ull.

 

Whether you're knitting or crocheting socks, the standard handmade sock is worked in the round as a tube that starts at the cuff, then moves down the leg.


The cuff of my STR "sport sock." Most cuffs are knit in ribbing to help them stay up. This is a knit two, purl two rib for 1 inch, then a few inches of stockinette for the leg.

 

It's then worked flat on half the stitches to create the heel flap; these stitches are then "turned" to create a fitted, three-dimensional heel.

 


The Monkey sock's heel, side view.

 

The heel flap is just the section at right with the vertical stitches; the turned heel is the part that curves out at the bottom. The bottom of the heel here has been darned, as my sister wears them a lot.

 


Here's a view of the heel straight on from the back. This is what it looks like as you knit it; the heel flap is the flat, main part that looks slightly ribbed; the turned heel is at the bottom.

 

More stitches are added (picked up) along the heel flap to create the instep (the vertical yellow line in this detail shot), which are then whittled away by decreasing to create the instep line (the slanted pink line) at the top.

 


Instep stitches are picked up and decreased away. Stitches are picked up all at once (in one row) along the sides of the heel flap (yellow line) and are decreased away over many rows as you knit down the foot of the sock (pink line).

 

 

Then the foot is worked evenly around until it's about 2 inches short of the total desired foot length, and finally, stitches are decreased again to create the toe. The last few stitches are grafted together to create a smooth and seamless toe.

 


The toe section of the sock. Notice the seam-free construction.

 

This is a "Monkey" sock from Cookie A's pattern on Knitty.com—I've made four pairs of these socks in different yarns.

Not all socks follow this construction—there are toe-up socks, short-row heels, and many other inventive socks being created all the time—but this is the "basic" sock formula.

Good times to knit socks

  • Commuting. Socks are a fantastic commuter project because they're small and repetitive—once you memorize your pattern, your bus or train ride will fly by.
  • When you're waiting on someone or something. Using DPNs means you only work about 16 stitches at a time. You can whip through that set of stitches in two minutes or less, so you can knit a row while someone runs in to drop off a library book or rental video; in waiting rooms; while the water's boiling for pasta—you get the picture!
  • In advance! Stock up on hand-knit socks throughout the year as gifts for birthdays and holidays. If you enjoy the process, you can pile up a number for gift-giving.

Not the best times to knit socks

  • On some airplanes. Even though knitting needles are allowed according to TSA rules, small double-pointed needles look sharp and menacing to some officials. You might want to pack your sock knitting in your checked luggage.
  • When you need to give a gift tomorrow. Socks can fly by when you have an hour on the bus every day to knit, or even a few minutes' break at work. They don't, however, fly when you're suddenly on deadline, and you can really stress your hands if you knit a sock in a day.
  • If you need to relax your hands. In other words, you might want to avoid knitting socks if your hands are overworked or show signs of tendonitis; socks are generally knit in small gauges on tiny needles. Try a worsted- or sport-weight yarn and accordingly adjusted pattern if you really want to make socks but have tendonitis or arthritis that you can still knit through—a bonus is they'll go faster, too!

The Monkey socks shown above were a gift for my sister, who, eight months pregnant with twins, patiently yarn-shopped with me as I tried to narrow down the list of gifts I planned to knit for her and the babies. She chose the yarn, and I knitted them while she was in the hospital having the babies. You know your hand-knitted socks are loved when they come back to you for darning, as my sister's did, or you get to see them on your partner's feet next bike ride:

 

Seth's "World flags" German or Belgian flag socks. I've also made him the Italian flag socks; it's way more fun to be chasing him up a hill when I'm staring at cute socks than when I'm staring at black sweat socks.

 

 

posted in: socks

Comments (1)

SusanElizabeth writes: So enjoyed above post. Have always wanted to knit socks but just haven't.
Posted: 6:40 am on August 13th
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.