Well, what a day I had last Saturday! Sheffield, Sockmatician and stressy (but very inspiring and interesting) knitting!
For those not in the know, Sockmatician, AKA Nathan Taylor has a YouTube podcast, website and is an unusual entity; a male knitting designer and guru.
I’ve seen Nathan’s podcast and followed him on social media for a long while and so know quite a bit about his backstory, which he is always open about. If you haven’t come across him before you should be able to tell from this picture that his workshops are a lot of fun!
I admire him greatly – not only for his phenomenal knitting and designing skills, which I will talk more about in a minute, but because he strides on regardless, living the life that he wants to live. Which is a lesson for all of us. Too much of my life has been spent worrying what other people think and trying to ‘conform’ to the generalised notion of what is acceptable and average. Big mistake. Its only in my middle years that I’ve become a bit rebellious (I have to say not in a very dramatic way as this involves living a crafty life!) and now live just on my terms.
Compared to the challenges Nathan faces, however, continuing to push myself to do and achieve new things in my craft and business life and being an independent but cuddly middle aged mum/girl boss is not really on the same level. Not only is he a man who knits, Nathan is gay and living with HIV. He looks and dresses the way he wants to, he and his husband were the first same sex couple to marry in the UK when it became legal and they had it televised for Channel 4 and he is a vocal and thoughtful advocate of LGBTQ+ rights and fights to end the stigma that can still be associated with being HIV+.
The acting side of his life means he lives in London and combines his theatrical work with knitting design and knits in public every day riding the tube. And on top of all that, he is an inspired knitting designer, producing designs that are intricate, original and unlike anything that I’ve seen.
Nathan is a big exponent of Double Knitting, the technique, not the type of yarn. I’d first heard about double knitting from Dan of the Bakery Bears Podcast, who learned the technique from Nathan and showed his project a while ago. But I didn’t know exactly what it was, so when the chance came up to go to one of the sockmatician classes in Sheffield, at the new Wool Monty show (June 15/16 2019) I took it.
The wonder that is double knitting
Double knitting is essentially a way of knitting two layers of knitted fabric at once. OK, I hear you say, that would be a good method for something like a simple scarf.
That’s what I thought anyway.. I didn’t realise that its a method of knitting that can be applied to almost any pattern. It is possible to double knit in stocking stitch, garter stitch, cables, lace, ribbing, in the round or straight, using colour work or just plain.
I was amazed to find out that the shawl Nathan is wearing in the picture of me and him is double knitted. What????? I know!
This is another of his double knitting scarves and to see this in real life is a bit of a game changer. You can’t quite believe its been knitted without some sort of immensely complicated knitting machine.
The Sanquhar scarf by @sockmatician
The Sanquhar (pronounced ‘sanker’) scarf is a wide two colour wrap, very long with many different panels. It is stunning in monochrome but can be done in any two colours. Its also fully reversible and lies completely flat without ever needing to be blocked. The patterns came from traditional colour work mitten designs from Sanquhar, in Dumfries and Galloway. That was a coincidence because I’ve just been on holiday to that part of Scotland but had no idea about it being the source of such a rich knitting tradition.
All of the colour work designs in the scarf were transcribed by Nathan transcribed by hand in a museum as part of a collaboration. Nathan’s pattern for the Sanquhar scarf is on Ravelry and the pattern blurb contains more details And a pic of him wearing it…
Il Burato is another long wrap and is made with four colours. The colour work is to die for and, of course, learning how to do double knitting will take some time. But, as he says, once you have the basic technique, doing this is not more difficult than doing a much simpler design. And there are no floats. NONE!!!!
A Sockmatician double knitting class
I’ve attended quite a few craft classes over the years and most of them have been very good. Class tutors put a lot of effort and energy into them and you come away on a crafty high, inspired with new skills and ideas.
High points have been classes with Leonie Pujol of crafty TV fame, Lucy of Attic24 (I did her Bower Bird class years ago) and now, learning double knitting with Sockmatician.
The format of the class
What I really liked about this class is that most of it didn’t involve actually knitting! It was more an introduction to the possibilities of double knitting – the carrot to reach out for.
He brought quite a few of his finished projects, which range from fairly simple in double knitting terms to that complicated and work-of-art shawl.
Nathan told us a lot about how he started with double knitting and how its pretty much changed his life. I think he is currently doing far more knitting related work than acting as he is travelling around the UK teaching and combining that with vending at yarn shows. He has his own range of yarn that incorporates some possum fibre. That may or may not please you but I did do a bit of reading and apparently possums are destroyed as pests, so reusing the fur (?) means that doesn’t go to waste. Not sure about this as possums live far far away but someone on here might know more.
Anyway, back to the class. A lot of it was talking and explaining, which seemed a bit strange at first. Most of the classes I’ve been too like to get you doing something with your hands within minutes. But the introduction was key to understanding what we could do with double knitting once we’d got the hang of it and when it came to doing the knitting part and having a go, it all made more sense.
He explained the technique very clearly, there was a 10 page printed handout with a video link to a tutorial on casting on and getting the edging right and Nathan walked around giving individual help as and when needed.
So what is double knitting?
Basically, its knitting two layers at once. You knit with two colours and work them alternately in the row, building up two layers of stocking stitch with the two right sides facing outwards.
As a technique it helps if you can knit and purl and maybe if you have done some colour work. However, its a bit like if you can knit and crochet and then try to do Tunisian crochet. What you know already helps, but its a totally new skill and it takes practice.
As a knitter who still struggles, although I am getting better, and a knitter who has tried colour work once and enjoyed it, I was worried. However, it was heartening to notice that the other ladies who were more experienced knitters than me, still struggled with getting going with double knitting! I felt less like I was knitting with two left hands!
The hardest thing is the yarn management and how to hold it. Once you crack that, I think you will really start to be able to make some amazing things.
This is the project that we were learning and none of use even got half way through it – its painfully slow to begin with but I think I was just getting the hang of it by the end of the class.
One of the problems I had is that my knitting tension goes haywire when I am trying out something new. In this case (and apparently its a common issue) my tension was way too loose. I also tried to be clever and use some of my own yarn that I wanted to test out for colour work. Will. I. Never. Learn!!!
Since the class I spent a bit of time on Sunday trying again. I chose two yarns that were identical this time (Stylecraft Bellissima) and cast in using a slightly smaller size of needle (3.5mm) and used my straight bamboo needles. I had another false start but then, the much awaited aha-moment happened and everything clicked.
The result is a bit of a wonky heart coaster that is certainly not perfect but this is my first double knitting project and I am so pleased to have managed it. I’m so pleased at finishing it that it might become a little wall decoration rather than getting squished by my pint mug of tea. And just to prove its double sided…
Pros and cons of double knitting
I thought it would be useful for you to know some of the advantages of double knitted fabric. They may be more, but these are the ones I can remember.
Double knitting is double thickness, so very warm and practically wind proof. The stitches are offset between the front and the back, so there are no holes, unless you make them using a lace pattern.
Double knitting is stocking stitch (stockinette) but it doesn’t curl. Not at all. You can make a scarf and it doesn’t need blocking. You can make a hat with no need for a ribbed brim.
Double knitting can be done in a colour work pattern, a lacework pattern, cables and textured stitches and anything you like.
You can increase and decrease while working double thickness work (which is why shawls are possible).
Double knitting colour work stretches. Frighteningly so. Nathan stretched that monochrome Sanquhar scarf to twice its width without any bad things happening apart from 10 women cringing. This is because its colour work but not stranded or intarsia, so there are no floats.
Double knitting is fully reversible. It is the same pattern on both sides, but the colours are reversed. So you can wear your scarf whichever way round you want.
You can work double knitting in the round, so you can do cowls and hats.
Of course, there are disadvantages to everything and these are the ones that I’ve identified with double knitting as a technique:
Its a new skill that needs to be learned and practiced.
Many double knitting patterns involve purling. I don’t know what happens in the round, but all stocking stitch worked on two straight needles involves purling. Double knitting, however, means knitting and purling every alternate stitch not alternate rows… So its like working in one by one rib, permanently.
Until you get really good I think its going to be a slow method of knitting. I find knitting slow anyway compared to crochet, so this could be a problem. I think the colour work aspect would help hold your interest though.
Apart from Nathan, few designers seem to be producing patterns that use double knitting.
The patterns could be very long and more expensive. However, I see that Nathan only charges just over £6 for his Sanquhar pattern though and that must have been months of work. I bought the Il Burato pattern for around £7 and that is 21 pages of explanation and charts and has several links to tutorial videos. He said the shawl pattern will be coming but it will be the length of a book…
What I got out of the class
It was a really good day out, very entertaining and fun and I really felt inspired and that I had glimpsed a world of yarn craft that I had never seen before.
Another slippery slope, maybe, but as I’ve been doing more knitting I realise that I am easily bored by it and need to have a challenge or a goal to move towards. I’ve tried making simple projects but maybe its time to go for something a bit more complex and really get going with colour work and, maybe even double knitting.
If you ever get the chance to book onto one of Nathan’s classes I would highly recommend it
Unlike the other yarns that I offer in my shop, this DK yarn is not dyed by me. They are spun in the UK from wool tops (a blend of Corriedale and Polwarth) that have already been dyed. This is done commercially in large vats and batches, so the colour is very consistent within each skein and also between each skein of the same batch.
My thinking is that these colours would be perfect for jumpers, sweaters, cardigans, shawls, hats, scarves and almost anything. Unlike hand dyed yarn, you don’t have to alternate skeins when working on a large project. Whether you are knitting or crocheting, that is a HUGE pain in the you-know-what.
The colours go really well together but I’m also planning to get some of the same base undid so that I can dye up some semi solids and hand painted colour ways to coordinate for colour work projects, shawls, scarves and wraps,
As the dyeing has already been done for me for the solid colour ways, I’m able to offer them at a very good price – making a sweater quantity less likely to burn a hole in your bank account.
The yarn itself is 100% British wool. It has no nylon, acrylic or any other fibre. The wool comes from sheep that graze freely in the Falkland Islands or in the UK (the blend uses fleece from both locations). The wool agent I deal with knows the farmers who supply the fleece, he oversees the grading and production of the tops, the dyeing process and commissions the spinning from mills in Devon (John Arbon) and in Yorkshire (Laxtons and others).
He is local (good Yorkshire lad) and likes to know where his wool ends up too, so he drops the yarn off to me at my house on his way between mills and other customers.
I like knowing exactly how the wool is produced and the fact that one person knows all the steps that it goes through. Its the best way to be confident that the wool is ethically produced and good value because there are fewer ‘middle-men’ involved.
It may be possible in the future to have a say in the next batch of colours in the range (I dropped heavy hints about purple!!), which is really exciting.
Now all I need is to get going on using my samples of this gorgeous stuff! But I’m not waiting for that before listing it in the shop. Its available now and if you make something before I do (VERY likely), I would love to feature a photograph of your project on Instagram and here on my blog.
The last podcast before my holidays and I am so looking forward to it… I shall be enjoying the beauty of Scotland, walking on the coast and in the vast Galloway Forest of Dumfries and Galloway and taking a break from yarn dyeing and Etsy shop management but not from all things yarny, of course.
I’ve also invested in some lovely new crochet hooks so I thought I’d do a bit of a review to tell you more about the ones I’ve been using. I also chat about a couple of projects and show how my solar dyeing experiment went.
There is a wonderful giveaway in this episode and I have a very important section about Sandra of Cherry Heart. This link takes you to her main website, from where you can access her podcast on YouTube and her Ravelry store. She is a fabulous crochet designer and has very kindly offered half a dozen of her patterns as a giveaway to celebrate my 3 year podiversary and 70 episodes. It should have gone into the last episode but that was long already and I wanted to show you the designs in more detail.
At the end is my Etsy shop news – the shop will remain open while I’m on holiday but I won’t be here to process your orders. I’ll be putting messages in the shop but all orders placed between the 7th May 2019 and the 19th May 2019 will be processed and packed the week afterwards. You will get a dispatch notification as each shipment goes to the Post Office.
The sock club for May is now with, or on its way, to everyone who has preordered. I’ve sent out 20 sets this month, so only have 15 left now for the reveal, which I’ll do around the 21st May.
The June sock club is all dyed up and will be going out to international pre-order customers in time for June 1st. Canadian orders (which take the longest) will go out before I go on holiday and USA and European orders will go out just after I get back. The UK preorders will be dispatched around the 28th May.
Thanks for watching – I may update these notes with more info if I get chance today but I have put relevant links in the video as captions. Otherwise, please ask any questions in the comments here or on YouTube.
You can find my Etsy shop here and if you would like to subscribe to my Patreon space to access early viewing of my videos, audio podcasts and special offers, please take a look.
I was watching a podcast earlier today that I’d missed at the beginning of February and the podcaster was talking about January being the never ending month. Which it was – the start of 2019 seemed to go oh-so-slowly.
So what happened then? A time warp speed up? February, March and now April have zipped by and Easter weekend is over.
It was a stunner too. I can remember so many Easter weekends when it was cold, grey, pouring with rain and possibly sleet or even snow. But 2019 was a mini heatwave. Not a cloud in the sky, 24 C and sunny for the entire four days. We spent most of it in the garden room and even had to put up the big parasol for shade.
While it was mostly a time for lazing around, eating, drinking and chatting, I tinkered with some solar dyeing and made a few stitch markers early on Saturday morning, before everyone else surfaced.
And the blossom… just magnificent.
Fast forward a few days and I realised yesterday evening that I’m going on holiday in less than two weeks. Panic has now set in about how much I need do to before that. I could do with a time warp or the ability to clone myself into five Crafternoon Treaters, all raring to leap into action.
So why did I think it would be a great idea to pick today, a wet and gloomy post Easter Saturday, to totally spring clean, declutter and reorganise my bedroom. As I sit in bed writing this on Saturday evening, shattered and surrounded total chaos, I’m wishing I had thought this through.
The decorator’s fault, of course. He did such a good job on my daughter’s room and the spare room just before Easter. They are now fresh, gleaming and a peaceful haven of white walls and cleanliness while my room, formerly the best bedroom in the house, has been relegated to third place (son’s room is bottom of this particular league table). And so I threw a little tantrum and set about transforming it first thing this morning.
Several hours later I was demoralised and sweating with the effort of removing what seemed to be decades of dust. Why is it that a room seems perfectly clean until you start moving the furniture and looking on the top of the wardrobes? Then you feel like you’ve become Miss Havisham in that Charles Dickens novel …
It is obvious to me now that the room needs redecorating too, which is unlikely to be possible for another month. Unless I do it myself… in the 12 days before I go on holiday.
But what about all the other things I have earmarked those days for. Posting out the UK preorders for the May sock club. Recording another podcast. Dyeing the sock club yarn for June. Finishing writing a couple of patterns. Like the shawl I showed in Episode 70 and that I’ve now blocked.
Completing two projects for a London publisher. Recording a little mini video on my solar dyeing experiment. Sorting out loads of fun and new projects to take on holiday (ideally with freshly dyed yarn), having finished multiple makes in progress to ensure this can be done guilt-free.
Come back January all is forgiven.
Tomorrow I’ll do what I always do in these circumstances. Make a list then faff about doing things that are not useful, do not bring me any closer to any goal and that definitely will not result in being guilt-free.
Like take more pictures of things in corners of the newly decorated bedrooms because they look nice.
This is really a throwback project – my daisy ripple cushion, that I did as a free pattern yonks ago…
Reflections on the last three years of podcasting and all the things that have happened to completely change my life. If you want to revisit previous episodes you can access the full list from the menu above here on the blog, or look on the YouTube channel and look for all the videos there.
27.19 to 42.11
Finished makes and makes in progress
Well, maybe that is quite momentous but I’ve actually finished two things.
The first is the retro granny square blanket that I’ve been working on almost since I started podcasting… but it did turn out well in the end. I didn’t follow a pattern – well, I started with the retro granny square that I used in my retro granny square bag and then added a few rows of linen stitch (UK dc, ch1, dc etc) and then just worked a giant granny square.
I’ve also completed a shawl, which is going to be a new design… eventually. I’m trying not to overpromising and say it will be out soon. But I’m working on it and it will be going off for testing in the other Dreamcatcher colour ways and hopefully in some of my own yarn too.
Like many people, I have oodles of projects that I’ve started and not finished. Some I work on fairly regularly and am content for them to ease towards completeness at a snails’ pace. Others I’ve lost my mojo about and could do with a bit of a kick to get them done.
So I’m thinking of launching a summer finish along again with plenty of time to get all those forgotten, long-standing makes out of hibernation and back on the needles and hooks.
Two of the projects I’ve made progress with since we last chatted are my socks using the first ever sock yarn I got at Loop many moons ago and the Dathan Hap by Kate Davies, which I’m working up in the Colourwork Jewels that I saved for myself.
I don’t mention this but it seems appropriate to put the link in here. I also published a video this week with my musings on learning to make socks. Its mainly insights from my sock making journey but many of the observations are also very relevant to making crochet socks. You can see the accompanying blog post here.
Crafternoon Treats: Musings about making socks - YouTube
42.11 to 47.35
Sock club news and some experimental crochet
I dyed up a mini egg colour way for the April sock club as it was so tempting to do something Easter related. The main colour way is Ostara and the two minis were Vintage Cadbury and First leaves. People have been making some gorgeous things with them and one of my tasks high on the to-do list is to put together a section on my website to feature each month’s colour way and the makes.
Sign ups for the sock club from May until September are now available in my Etsy shop. The May sock club is already in the process of shipping (international pre-orders have gone off) and UK pre-orders will go out at the end of April. There are some pre-orders left and the colour way will be revealed towards the end of May and the remaining sets will be available for sale once revealed.
I’ve also reserved a set of the April sock set for myself this month and have been doing some experimental crochet. Not a sock but a wrist warmer. This isn’t quite right, so I intend to frog it and redo it but I thought I show up my thoughts so far.
I went to Spring into Wool at Leeds Grammar school last weekend and got just two things – but they are both very exciting.
The first were a set of three gorgeous hand thrown pots which turned out to have been made by Fay of the Crochet Circle Podcast. She was vending with her business, Knit it – Hook it – Craft it. I didn’t know that she had made the pots when I asked to buy them, but this revealed something very interesting…
The only other thing I came home with was a gorgeous plaited fibre from WitchyCraftyLady… this will get me my spinning mojo back, I’m sure.
1.01.09 to end
Finally chatty bits and news about the Etsy shop video…
Celebrating three years of podcasting
As a big thank you, I’m going to offer a 10% discount code for my Etsy shop to last 2 weeks from the release of the podcast. You can see a separate video about all my new colour ways and a bit of information about what is coming after Easter. I was going to do this as part of the podcast but it would have been waaaay too long.
Crafternoon Treats: Dyeing to share: In my Etsy shop this Easter - YouTube
I’ll also be offering a special giveaway in Episode 71 – I want to give this a good amount of time in the podcast and there wasn’t time in today’s episode.
Thanks, as ever for watching and if you like what I do on YouTube and want to support me with a small subscription to my Patreon space each month you can access all my videos 24 hours early and get the first news of discounts and special offers. I also do an audio podcast just for $6 a month patrons. Some of the content is public so you can have a look without subscribing xxx Kathryn
Although crochet has almost always seemed like second nature to me, knitting definitely hasn’t! Its been a struggle but I’m not a quitter and I like many aspects of knitted fabric and the way it can be used in garments. So my journey with sock knitting has been slow and tortuous and times, but I think I’ve now come through onto a slightly smoother path.
While I’m at this point I thought it would be useful to others on this journey to document my thoughts and aha! moments and to try to think through all the things I know NOW that I wish I’d known THEN, when I was starting out.
Major To-Do list for making socks
DO believe that you can knit or crochet socks. This sounds a bit like psychobabble but I think that self belief is a big thing with sock making. Loads of other people have learned to knit and crochet socks and you will too.
DO expect your first socks to be far less than perfect. Its easy to be intimidated by the gorgeous perfect blocked socks on instagram but remember that the makers have been through what you are going through to get there.
DO expect to have to practice and put the work in. When I started knitting socks I became demotivated and left socks in limbo for weeks, if not months. Keep at it. Even a round a day is a round nearer to a finished sock
DO other projects that enhance your knitting and crochet skills. I’ve found knitting socks a lot easier now that I’ve had some more experience of knitting generally, particularly continental knitting on circular needles.
DO start out with inexpensive sock yarn. That way if you totally muck up the socks and many attempts mean that the yarn has to be binned, its not a financial disaster and you won’t feel as bad. Drops Fabel sock yarn is terrific and costs about £2 per 50g ball.
DO expect to make a sacrificial sock. I’ve said this about crochet socks many times and the same is just as true for knitting socks. With Drops Fable, why not buy three 50g balls for your first socks – then you have more chance of ending up with a pair.
DO start with some good and well regarded tutorials and resources (see below for my suggestions for sock knitting). Look at several sources too. We all learn in different ways and one tutor might explain something and you won’t get it, no matter how many times you watch or read, then another tutor with a different approach will click everything into place.
Starting out on the sock knitting journey
Most newbie sock knitting resources that I know if show how to work a plain vanilla sock from the cuff down to the toe.
I would recommend THE place to start is the blog Winwick Mum by Christine Perry, whose sockalong has now become the starting point for so many newbie sock knitters.
Christine shows how to knit using double pointed needles (DPNs), small circular needles and the magic loop method.
When I first started out, getting my head around the different parts of a sock was quite a struggle, even though socks are everyday items. You just need to start looking at them in a different way once you start making them. I’ve labelled the different parts in the photo below using my crochet sock – the only socks I’ve made with contrasting heel, toes and cuffs.
This is the top section of the sock that fits around your lower calf. It is usually made using some sort of ribbing. Its purpose is not really to keep the sock up (although it certainly helps do that), its really there to stop the stitches at the top of the leg of the sock rolling over. This is particularly necessary in knitted socks, as stocking stitch/stockinette rolls in on itself naturally.
What I’ve learned about knitting a sock cuff
I have tended to knit quite tightly when making socks – its the stress that does it! Its better to relax and allow the stitches to be looser rather than tighter in your first go. You can always adjust your tension as you gain confidence.
The cast on needs to be loose. This doesn’t mean going up a needle size – that won’t really make much difference. As you cast on, leave more space between the cast on stitches. It will look ‘gappy’ but those gaps will give the top of the cuff the stretch it needs and will not be noticeable once the ribbing is finished.
This tutorial by Mina Phillip of the Knitting Expat podcast shows how to do this – the main tutorial is on two-at-a-time socks but Mina’s tips and tricks are valuable to sock knitters at all stages and using all methods
How To Knit Socks - Two At A Time Cuff Down - With The Knitting Expat - YouTube
Using this method, I now find it possible to cast on using a small circular needle and knit in the round straight away from round 1. If you find it tricky when using this method, knit the first two or three rows of ribbing on straight needles and then join and transfer to your small circular.
There are many ways of doing the rib, but most people start with a basic knit 2, purl 2 ribbing thats around 15 to 20 rounds deep. Once you get going you can try a knit 1, purl 1 rib or a twisted rib, where the knit stitch is made into the back of the stitch rather than the front. And you can make the cuff as deep as you like. The minimum is probably about 10 rounds but you can make a very long cuff to turn over if you like.
IMPORTANT: when making your first sock, note down exactly what you do; how many stitches you have cast on, how many rows of rib in the cuff and so on as you continue through the sock. This is the only way you will be able to make an identical second sock.
The leg is the part of the sock between the cuff and the start of the heel. Its knit in the round without increasing or decreasing and is one of the more relaxing parts of sock knitting.
What I’ve learned about knitting the leg
I love knitting the leg but I don’t like my socks to be too long, so I generally knit between 30 and 50 rounds. Christine’s sockalong pattern suggests 75 rounds I think. If you like long socks, just be aware that very long socks might take more than the standard one ball or skein of sock yarn. This is particularly true of men’s socks where the man has a large shoe size.
The heel flap
When people tell you the heel is not the scariest part of the sock, they are right, but you won’t believe them. I didn’t.
But it is actually not that bad. The heel flap is just a square of knitting done backwards and forwards while the front of your sock is left on a stitch holder or spare needle.
Generally, there is an accepted formula for the number of stitches and rows. If you have cast on 60 stitches in the round for your leg, you knit half of those as the heel flap, so 30 stitches. And then knit 30 rows.
If you are doing a DK sock or heavier yarn still, and have 40 stitches in the round, your heel flap is 20 stitches wide and 20 rows deep.
This is a starting point through. You will need to make your first pair of socks and then see how well they fit. Then you can adjust. If you need a wider or deeper heel, try it out on your next pair until you develop a recipe for your own feet.
The patterns for a heel flap also vary but many contain slip stitches to make the heel flap thicker and more padded so that its comfortable and also wears better. Christine’s pattern uses the Eye of Partridge stitch, which is very easy to do but it does require you to know how to slip a stitch and how to purl.
The heel turn
This is a tiny section of the sock but its basically what makes a sock a sock. Its just plain knitting going backwards and forwards again but you will do something scary called short rows.
All this means is that you knit to about two thirds of the way along the first row, turn early, then purl back to one third from the end, turn early and knit to the point where the ‘gap’ is. The stitch before and after the ‘gap’ are knitted together, then one more stitch is knitted before turning early again and doing the purl row. Again, purl together the stitches before and after the ‘gap’ then purl one stitch and turn again.
Once you get going you can see the gap so easily and you don’t have to count – just keep going, knitting or purling together the stitches before and after the gap, then adding one more stitch before turning again. Eventually you run out of stitches and your heel turn is done.
Picking up stitches prior to knitting the gusset
This can also be quite daunting as a newbie sock knitter. I’ve found that adding three stitches of garter stitch to either side of my heel flap really helps me see what I am picking up.
You need to pick up the stitches along one side of the heel flap, across the top of the heel turn, and then along the other side of the heel flap before resuming the knitting along the front of your sock.
You are likely to get a little hole at the point between the heel flap and the front of the sock – but its easy to just darn it closed once you are finished. Or try picking up extra stitches at that point. You can get rid of them again as you decrease in the gusset section.
The gusset and the decreases
In your first socks, you will probably start decreasing after doing one round of knitting after picking up all of your stitches around the heel flap and heel turn. If your socks fit fine, that’s perfect. But if you have a high arch, you may find the stitches stretch across the front of your foot. If this happens, try adding three or four rounds more of plain knitting before starting your decreases. It adds a bit of extra width at this point, which can really help.
I still can never remember which decrease goes on which side of the sock, I always have to look it up. The complication arises because you need a left slanting decrease on one side and a right slanting decrease on the other to get a neat gusset line.
Using markers with SSK and K2T prompts really helps, which is why I’ve ended up producing them for my Etsy shop. Basically, as you knit down the side of your heel flap, just before going across the front of your sock, you need to knit two stitches together, then knit one stitch before you slip your marker. Once you have knitted across the front of the sock, slip the second marker and knit one stitch. Then make a slip slip knit (SSK) decrease before carrying on up the second side of the heel flap and across the top of the heel turn to complete the round.
Making an SSK as neat as possible
I’ve tried various methods of doing this and the one that is neatest for me involves:
Slip a stitch as if to knit, slip the next stitch as if to knit, pass both slipped stitches back to the first needle and knit them both together normally (not through the back loop or anything).
Other sources suggest slipping purlwise and other variations – you need to try all of them and see which one works best in your knitting.
The gusset is a long and slow section of a sock!
Once you are through the heel you will probably feel quite elated but then depressed as the gusset takes FOREVER. It is quite a long section as you make a decrease round and then knit a plain round, so you only decrease 2 stitches over every two rounds. But keep going. Those stitches do decrease and the aim is to get back to the same stitch count you had in the leg of the sock. Note at all the decreases are at the back of the sock; the front part of the sock always has 30 stitches (or whatever you started with).
The foot is again a relaxing part of sock knitting, as it involves just going round and round. The downside of having small feet, as I have, is that its over all too soon and then its time to start the dreaded toe!
You need to knit your foot so that it ends just as your big toes separates from its neighbour – the big toe cleavage some like to call it. Then you know you have enough stretch once your toe is finished to allow your sock to fit snugly. When making crochet socks, make your foot even shorter. Off the feet, crochet socks look like they should fit a Hobbit but they stretch to fit your feet.
Christine’s sock pattern shows how to knit a wedge toe, by making decreases at either side, and then closing the toe with a grafting technique called the Kitchener stitch.
Most sock knitters dislike doing it, but its only a few stitches. This is the best explanation of the Kitchener stitch that I’ve found:
Memorize the Kitchener Stitch - YouTube
If you do really hate the grafting, there are also plenty of other toe patterns to try. A star toe or a round toe, for example, use decreases spread evenly around the sock and end by threading the tail end through the last 8 stitches before weaving it in. Just google sock knitting star toe and you will find loads of sources for different ways of doing them.
Avoiding second sock syndrome
Yes, its a common affliction that many sock knitters develop. After all that effort, you feel great when the sock is finally done. Only to then experience the sinking feeling that you need to do it all over again in exactly the same way so your socks match.
I definitely have this problem and am trying to get over it by knitting the different sections for both socks, before going onto the next. So, in my latest socks, I’ve knitted the cuff and leg and I’m now going to cast on the second sock to get it to the point before starting the heel flap on the first sock.
You might also want to work towards making your socks using the magic loop method two-at-a-time.
Some knitters work two pairs of socks in tandem; make sock 1 of pair 1, then make sock 1 of pair 2 using a completely different colour/style of yarn, then go back to sock 2 of pair 1 before doing sock 2 of pair 2.
What are your thoughts on sock making?
Lots of people who watch the podcast have vastly more experience than me in making socks, both knitted and crocheted, so please do leave a comment here or on the video on YouTube. What are your best tips about starting out with socks? What was your main aha! moment? How have you solved problems with knitting or crocheting socks?
My sock knitting journey began around this time of year in 2015. Four long years ago. I bought my first sock yarn in the only yarn shop in Doncaster on a bleak February Saturday together with four double pointed needles (dpns).
King Cole Zig Zag sock knitting yarn
Sock knitting with dpns didn’t last very long. I hadn’t really knitted much since I was a teenager and even then I didn’t get into it properly. Crochet was always my thing. Holding these little sticks and trying to knit in the round was so painful. I kept dropping them, dropping stitches, the stitches were far too tight… I gave up. A few weeks later I had to go to London for work – it was around the middle of May and I remember that day so well.
I had a meeting around lunchtime so got down there early and went to Loop, the iconic yarn shop in Islington to buy my first small circular needle. Now, I know that Loop can have a reputation for occasionally being a bit aloof in the way they treat customers but that day, they absolutely went out of their way to help me and I will love Loop forever.
Loop yarn emporium, Islington
I bought the needle but one of the women serving that day advised me that learning to knit socks using magic loop would be much better than small circulars. I went back after my work meeting and she spent an hour on the sofa with me in the upstairs showroom and patiently showed me how to cast on and start knitting the rib using magic loop on a Addi circular with an 80cm cable.
I did try, I really did. I wanted to prove worthy of all this attention from Loop! I tried on the train, I tried at home. And I gave up AGAIN. I just couldn’t get going beyond a few rounds of the cuff. Back then, I never thought of looking on YouTube so just got stuck.
Then I saw Christine’s sock along at Winwick Mum was starting and I got the small circulars out and eventually, 20 months later, completed my first pair of socks in that original yarn. I even got to show them to Christine when visiting Coopers in Skipton and meeting up with the lovely Lucy of Attic24.
I was proud of the achievement but looking back, its just ridiculous that I haven’t become a sock knitting machine by now. But no. I am still describing myself as a novice sock knitter FOUR years on.
I’ve just been thinking about why this is and I’ve decided that there are three elements that have held me back.
The first is the dogged belief that I am not a good knitter, I can’t knit well, I will never be able to knit socks or sweaters or cardigans or anything complicated.
The second is that I have not really put the time in. I have flirted with sock knitting and tried different needles and techniques and generally faffed about. I have not really been committed to putting the work in. I’ve almost expected the socks to knit themselves.
The third is that I’ve not sat down and developed a plan. A strategy. A way forward to really get the hang of sock knitting and get to the stage where I can make a pair of plain socks without falling into despair or throwing the half finished socks on the floor and stamping on them.
I’ve had a talk with myself and this is all going to change. I’ve made a start this week by learning how to knit using the magic loop method. I’ve been making another plain sock and have got the hang of doing that OK.
While I was struggling with the needles and avoiding ladders and dropped stitches, I also recognised that I have become more comfortable with knitting. I managed to make a colour work hat last January so I must be getting better!
Although learning magic loop took some concentration and the result is nowhere near perfect, I did find it much easier than that first attempt four years ago.
So, a word I often say on the podcast (and often vow never to say again), I’ve decided to make a proper plan and stop buggering about on the sock knitting front. After all, in the four years since that first sock yarn purchase, I’ve become a dyer and have just started my own sock yarn club. I need to get a grip.
The new sock knitting plan
I am going to make 5 pairs of plain vanilla socks without trying out any new techniques or patterns. After 5 more pairs, I will think about maybe trying a different pattern. But, for now, I’m going to put the work in to really get the hang of sock knitting. I may do all one colour socks, or do some of the five pairs with contrasting heels and toes.
But definitely no more second sock syndrome. Although I’m not going to knit socks using the two-at-a-time method where the socks live on the same long circular I am going to knit a pair of socks in tandem. Do the cuff for both, do the leg, do the heel flap and turn, then work both gussets, then both feet and then both toes. I now have enough knitting needles of all sizes and cable lengths to open my own shop, so it won’t be a problem!
To achieve this I will always wind my sock yarn into two cakes or balls of 50g each before starting the next pair of socks.
I am going to stick to the same sock knitting method and needles and work as follows:
Using a 2.5mm small circular, I will work the cuff (15 rounds), leg (30 or 40 rounds), heel flap (some variation of eye of partridge with 3 stitch garter edge), heel turn, gusset and foot.
At the foot, I will change to a 2.5mm circular with a 120cm cable and work the toes using magic loop. For these five pairs I will knit each toe in turn but, and only after 5 more pairs, I may try working the toes on the large circular using the two-at-a-time method.
I am going to put the work in. Even if its just a few rounds, I will work on my sock knitting every day until those five pairs are complete.
Every single day. EVERY SINGLE DAY.
I’m writing this post to inspire myself as much as anyone else but if you are struggling to get to grips with sock knitting, I am planning to share some insights into my sock knitting journey over the next few vlogs and podcasts
I’ve also chatted about sock knitting and what I’ve been up to outside podcasts with my Patreon community. You can subscribe from $2 per month to access all my YouTube content early and get the audio podcasts and other content too.