Tips for Getting Started Knitting Socks

Some folks asked for good tips on getting started knitting socks, so I'm going to post how I came to knitting and knitting socks specifically, techniques that I like to use, and some resources to help you get started. Most of the pictures posted here are my own that I either took while writing or had in my Ravelry account. They're not good quality but are meant to just give you an idea. Sorry about the couch looking a little shabby.

These are just things to get someone started and aren't meant to be a tutorial - and lots of things will be missing. Other sock knitters are more than welcome to throw in their thoughts in the comments!

If you'd like to knit in general but don't want to go down the sock path, here's a gif tutorial that cheerfulexgirlfriend linked to on Gizmodo that's pretty helpful.

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I started knitting about a year and a half ago for a few reasons, but mainly, I was spending more and more "screen time" in the evenings and on my commute, and I wanted to get away from that. Once I started knitting, I loved it, made some scarfs, and hats, and finally found my way to socks.

Tip 1: Sign up for Ravelry.com.

It's free, and there are thousands of free patterns for every type of knit or crochet item under the sun. I'm going to link to some patterns here to get you started.

Tip 2: Simple socks are not more difficult than knitting other items.

If you've ever knit anything with shaping using increases and decreases, you can knit socks. If you can knit in the round, you can knit socks. If you'd like to learn knitting in the round, increases and decreases, a good place to start is hats, particularly the "slouchy" type. Here's the one I made to learn.

This is a YouTube Video for knitting in the round on one circular needle.

This is a YouTube Video for knitting in the round using double-pointed needles (or DPNs).

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Here's the main difference for socks: thickness of yarn, size of needles. Lots and lots of people make their first socks using worsted weight yarn and larger needles. I did not, but this makes for fantastically thick, warm, house socks.

Socks can be knit both from the toe to the leg (toe-up), and from the leg to the toe (top down). They're not objectively more difficult one way or the other, however, if you only know one cast on (like, say, long-tail cast on), you should learn how to do a toe-up or provisional cast on - I recommend Judy's Magic Cast On.

Tip 3: Choose your tools.

If you want to make most sock patterns, you'll need a few items. Fingering weight yarn (I know, I know), needles, and a couple of stitch markers. You have some choices with your needles!

My favorite needles to use are two circular needles.


When using two circular needles, you want half of your stitches to be on one needle and half on the other. You'll use the same needle the stitches are on to knit them. Make sense?


Here's a picture of these needles in action from the top down:


And here's a picture of them in action from the toe up:


You can also use one very long circular needle. This is called the "Magic Loop" method (video here). Using magic loop will have half of your stitches resting on the cord, and half of your stitches being worked on the "needle" parts of the needle.

Your needle will look like this:


And here's what your sock will look like working magic loop on one needle (don't worry - you don't need to have both socks on the needle here - just imagine that there's only one there). I find working toe-up on magic loop is easier than working top-down.


Double Pointed Needles (DPNs) look like this:


Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of a work on DPNs because they're not my favorite way to work. But here's one from the internet:


I would recommend trying all three of these (at least a cast on + knit a few rows) to get a sense of what you like.

Next you want to choose your yarn. Many socks are made with "fingering weight" yarn - here's what the ball band looks like:


That "1" is really important! MANY sock patterns are written for Fingering, "1", or "Four-ply" yarn. If you're not paying attention, you could end up with socks that are much too big or much too small (ask me how I know).

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Additionally, I like to use a sock yarn that has a percentage of nylon in it, for strength.

Tip 4: Choose a pattern that lots of people have knit.

This is a huge strength of looking for patterns on Ravelry - you can see how many people have knit it, and also pictures of finished objects and even sometimes progress. You can also read people's notes on the pattern - what they found difficult, what was easy, and so on.

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If you're jumping in with both feet and using fingering weight yarn, I would recommend this pattern for top-down socks, and this pattern for toe-up socks. I've knit both of them, in fact, the top-down sock was the first sock I ever made.

The reason you want a pattern lots of people have knit is two-fold: if there were mistakes in the pattern, typically they've been pointed out and "fixed," and you may be able to find someone on Rav who can answer questions you have. The first reason is especially important for Tip 5.

Tip 5: Follow the pattern. Do not deviate. It looks crazy, do it anyway.

If you're an experienced sock knitter, you can deviate. But part of sock knitting is trusting the pattern. Half of the directions seem totally crazy. Turning your work around in the middle of the row? Really? THAT MAKES HOLES WHAT ARE YOU DOING? However, sometimes holes are necessary for things like heel turns, because you close them up on the next round. So please, follow the pattern.

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And those are my tips to get started! If you're looking for video tutorials for the parts of a basic top-down sock - here's a helpful YouTube Search. If you're looking for photo tutorials - start here!