I finished knitting a pair of socks that I started ages ago in March, when we were in California.

Completed sock knitting project

One of my knitting mentors, my mom’s cousin Mary Turak, once told me how she could not understand the popularity of sock knitting. In her mind that is boring, they wear out, and it makes more sense to buy socks. For many years I never tried making socks because her words were in the back of my mind, the pattern seemed complicated, and I usually prefer knitting with thicker yarn and needles. In recent years I decided to take on the challenge and have made several pairs of socks with mixed success.

There are many methods for knitting a sock. You can start at the cuff and knit down to the toe, or start at the toe and knit up to the cuff. There are multiple ways to knit the heel, including the flap heel, short row heel, square heel, fish lips heel, and afterthought heel. You can use double pointed needles, tiny circular needles, or something called “magic loop” using a circular needle with a super long connector. You can have more or less ribbing on the cuff, you can make the cuff longer or shorter. You can make them very basic, or with a complicated stitch pattern.

Starting at the cuff with magic loop needles

Once at a fiber fair I saw someone with a cool antique circular sock knitting machine. You can buy a brand new circular knitting machine that can make socks and smaller tubular or flat items. There are also larger flat knitting machines. Is that cheating?

Page from an antique sock machine manual

For the current project I used some purple merino wool and nylon blend Madelinetosh yarn, and a pattern called “Smooth Operator Socks” by Susan B. Anderson that I purchased on Ravelry, where I get most of my patterns. I cannot recommend this pattern enough if you are a little nervous about knitting socks, or in any case. It is 20 pages long but includes a summary version as well as detailed explanations of every step, instructions for multiple sizes and gauges, many photos, and links for video demonstrations.

Cuff finished

The Smooth Operator pattern uses an “afterthought heel” which means you knit some placeholder rows where the heel is going to go, and then go back and complete the heel later. Some of the advantages of this method are that you can easily use a contrasting yarn, and it is easier to replace later if it wears out.

Preparation for the “afterthought heel”
The bamboo needles are on the heel stitches, the other needles are on the foot

I used a tool called a “sock ruler” for measuring how much foot I had knitted, so I knew when to start decreasing for the toe. It can also be used for measuring how much cuff you have, or if you started with the toe, how much foot you have knitted before starting the heel. It is more accurate than trying to measure the project on your foot or laying on a surface.

Sock Ruler
Measuring the length of the foot with the sock ruler

I love the dark purple yarn that includes tones of blue, but knew it would be harder to work with than something in a lighter color. I had to make sure to have plenty of light and wear the right glasses when knitting, or I was subject to mistakes and frustration with not being able to see what I was doing. Not surprisingly, I had to fix some mistakes.

Knitting the foot, with the completed heel underneath
Completed socks!

There was quite a bit of yarn left after completing the project, so I decided to knit a pair of tiny socks using a pattern called “Infant Socks” by Judy Ellis. I finished one baby sock using the cuff to tow with heel flap method, but have something else in my queue to work on before I finish the second one.

Adult sock with baby sock out of the same yarn

Now that this adult pair of wool socks is finished, it is past the season for wearing them. Oh well, fall will be here before we know it.

Published by Meg Hanson

Hello. I am a recently retired empty nester. My husband and I moved to Jewett Lake in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, after living most of our lives in the Minneapolis area. I have no trouble keeping busy with knitting and spinning of wool, selling yarn and handmade goods, reading, walking, watching movies, surfing on the internet, traveling, doing bookkeeping for our family cabin, and spending time with family.

6 thoughts on “Socks

  1. Love reading about your challenge to yourself to knit socks, Meg. Mary T will be proud of you! Gorgeous color of yarn. The baby sock is so cute, and will be appreciated by the recipient when the mate is completed. What I was taught to say is “darn, darn, darn!” as I throw away worn out commercially knitted socks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your socks are a nice accomplishment. While the process means more than just a money savings, I did pay a fair amount to purchase wool socks for my daughter at Christmas time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How very interesting. They look comfortable and heavy. Do you wear them without shoes?

    I remember Mary in Michigan and if I look when I leave the Willows in CA and return to Show Low, in AZ I think I’ll find a sweater I purchased from her.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How very interesting. They look comfortable and heavy. Do you wear them without shoes?

    I remember Mary in Michigan and if I look when I leave the Willows in CA and return to Show Low, in AZ I think I’ll find a sweater I purchased from her.

    No I didn’t say this before

    Liked by 1 person

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