A Handspun Sock Update: 2.5 Years Later

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

In 2016 I spun yarn to make a pair of socks. I used Louet Northern Lights Roving, which is a neither soft nor scratchy 100% wool, to spin a sock yarn with an opposing 3-ply construction. The one ply that is spun in the same direction as the plying twist is thought to add elasticity and durability because of the extra twist. I wanted to test this idea for myself. Would an opposing 3-ply be more durable than the traditional construction? I knit the yarn into a pair of socks for The Bearded One and they’ve become one of his favorites. They have seen constant wear during the chillier months for the past 2.5 years.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

So how are these two and a half year old socks holding up? Really well. There are no holes or thin spots threatening to become holes. The bind off at the cuff shows no sign of fraying or extra wear and tear. The soles may be more felted in spots, but overall the stitches are still distinct and can be stretched apart.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

The only real difference that I can see is how much the yarn has pilled on the inside. So far, this pilling doesn’t seem to affected the sole’s durability. If anything, the “loose” wool is making the socks more cushioned and insulating. The only other sign of wear is that the surface of the socks that rubs against pants and slippers aren’t as smooth as they used to be.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

As for how the socks are washed, I treat them no differently than any of my other handknit socks. They get a 20+ minute soak in warm water with Eucalan. Then I roll them up in a towel and squish out the excess water before hanging them up to dry.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

2 years ago I was curious if an opposing 3-ply sock yarn would be more durable than a traditional construction. I even shared an update showing how the socks were wearing after a few months. Comparing the then and now photos shows that the socks have held up wonderfully. I expect that it’ll be a few more years before I need to make any significant repairs. This is a major difference from thick house socks that I’ve knit from 100% wool commercial yarns. I’ve got a whole pile of them with holes in the toes, soles, and heels that I’ve been meaning to repair for years. It’s refreshing to see a pair of 100% wool socks that are still going strong after years of dedicated wear.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

If your interested in spinning your own wool sock yarn and ditching the nylon, check out the Tuff Socks Naturally project which aims to knit a sustainable sock without nylon or superwash wool. The #tuffsocksnaturally tag on Instagram has some beautiful and interesting examples.

I still can’t say if an opposing 3-ply yarn is more durable than a traditional 3-ply because I haven’t spun a traditional sock yarn yet. I’m definitely considering giving each construction a try so I can make a pair of handspun socks (or two) for myself.

How to Work Judy's Magic Cast-On in Knit and Purl

Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com

Judy’s Magic Cast-On burst into the knitting scene in the Spring 2006 issue of Knitty. The technique has become my default way for starting toe-up socks and other center-out projects because of it’s versatility. This cast-on is fast, seamless, and makes a great provisional cast on (but that’s another tutorial). And, if you change how the yarn is wrapped, the stitches won’t be twisted on the needles.

I recently cast on for a pair of toe-up socks that would need a princess sole - where the smooth side of stockinette is against the foot - and didn’t want a noticeable “seam” across the toes. Would it be possible to use Judy’s Magic Cast-On to get started entirely in purl? After a little fiddling and experimentation, I found that it is possible and just as easy to start Judy’s Magic Cast-On in purl as it is to knit.

Let’s start at the beginning. If you know how to work the knit version of the cast-on that doesn’t twist the stitches, skip ahead to Step 8.

Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com

Materials: You’ll need your yarn and a set of circular needles. It’s also possible to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On with double pointed needles, but it will be more finicky to work the first few rows.

Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com

1. Arrange your needles so that both tips are together and pointing left.

Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com

2. Pull the yarn between the needles - leave yourself enough of a tail to create the required stitches and weave in later. 8 inches, or about 20 cm, is usually enough to start a pair of socks. The working yarn will lay over the top needle and the tail will hang down in the middle.

Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com

3. Twist the tail and working yarn together around the top needle - this counts as the first stitch. The yarn will now form a V between the needles and your hand. The tail, which was at the bottom, will now be held at the top over the pointer finger. The working yarn will now be held at the bottom over the thumb.

How the stitches are wrapped is very important. When wrapped as demonstrated here the stitches will sit untwisted on the needles. If wrapped as shown in the original Knitty tutorial, you’ll have to knit through the back of the stitch to seat them correctly on the needle during the next round.

Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com
Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com

4. To make a stitch on the bottom needle, wrap the top yarn up and into the gap between the two needles.

Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com
Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com

5. To make a stitch on the top needle, bring the bottom yarn into the gap between the needles and then up and around the top needle. The movement is like working a yarn over.

Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you have the required number of stitches on your needles. Pushing the stitches together as you work will help keep them the same size. When a pattern calls for casting on 20 stitches with a toe-up cast on, that means to make 10 stitches on each needle because this cast-on creates pairs of stitches.

Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com

7. Take the tail yarn and tuck it between the needles next to the first stitches. It should sit on the same side as the purl ridge created by the cast on. You’ll have to hold in place until the first few stitches are worked, but then it will be secure.

8. Turn the work so the tips are now pointing right. The first stitch on the new top needle is the beginning of the round. If you’re starting a pair of socks, the top stitches form the top of the toe and the bottom stitches form the sole.

Here’s where things change depending on whether you want the knit or the purl side as the right side of your project.

Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com

To start with the usual knit side out, make sure the smooth side of the cast on is facing you and knit as usual.

Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com
Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com

To start in purl, keep the purl ridge facing you. The tail end of the yarn will be laying across the front of the stitches. Instead of knitting, purl the first round and continue as stated in your pattern.

If you’re working with circular needles, pull the bottom needle out and start working the first stitch of the top needle. If you used double points, bring in a third needle for half of the stitches on the top needle. After you’ve worked a few rows and created more structure, you can add additional needles.

One additional note: When starting a pair of socks, I like to work one plain round and then begin the toe increases. The extra row creates a smoother edge and gives a better base for increases.

Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com

Here’s what a finished sock toe looks like with knitting as the right side.

Learn how to work Judy’s Magic Cast-On to seamlessly start knitting in knit or purl. It’s a great cast-on to use for toe-up socks and other projects that start from the center out. #knitting #knittingcaston #knittingtutorials | withwool.com

Here’s what the purled sock toe looks like after all the increases are done. Not a seam or bunched up stitch in sight. I had already wove in the tail before taking this photo, but it will be hanging from the outside of your work when starting in purl. You’ll have to bring to the other side before weaving it in.


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A Knitting Conundrum

I can’t settle on a stitch pattern for this sock. Cables? Texture? Ribbing? 

This is a sock toe, and the first of a pair that I’m making for the Bearded One. It also happens to be one of my most confounding pieces of knitting I’ve got going right now. Not because it took frequent try-on’s to make sure the stitch count is correct. Not because of its 76 stitch circumference. Not because I’m knitting the sock inside out so I can skip purling a princess sole. Nope, all of that stuff is stuff I’m used too - even knitting a pair of socks inside out.  The problem is that I can’t decide what stitch pattern to use over the top of the foot and up the cuff.  

My original back of the envelope plan was to work an alternating 2x2 rib for the entire sock. For example, *k2,p2* for 8 rounds, and switch to *p2, k2* for another 8 rounds. Repeat until bind off.  Now I’m not sure. 38 stitches for half the sock is a lot of space to cover, and I wanted to add some interest both for the eye and my fingers. And of course I want the Bearded One to like them too. Does that mean cables? A simple texture pattern? Some sort of edge detail going up the side of the foot? I have no idea. Good thing the yarn is pretty and nice to look at while I ponder my choices.

Any tips to help me solve this knitting conundrum? 

FO: Meadow Multi Socks

Toe-up socks with afterthought cuffs make perfect travel knitting. | withwool.com

It’s March and it feels a little strange to be thinking about holiday parties right now, but that’s when I cast on for these socks. I needed something to keep my hands busy at a potluck last December and a pair of toe-up socks were just the thing. Then the pair was my constant companion, even if I didn’t always take them out of my purse. They flew cross-country and back, went to movies, binge watched tv, and went skiing with me too. I’ve got a lot of memories knit into these socks even if they are just a simple 2x2 rib.    

Toe-up socks with afterthought cuffs make perfect travel knitting. | withwool.com

The pattern is my own default toe-up vanilla sock with an afterthought leg. Ever since trying Cat Bordhi’s Houdini Socks pattern, I really prefer it over working an afterthought heel. When you bind off the cuff, you’ve got a finished sock - aside from weaving in ends - that’s ready to wear. That beats having to come back and add a heel any day of the week. 

Toe-up socks with afterthought cuffs make perfect travel knitting. | withwool.com

The weather’s been on the weird side for the past few weeks. It snowed for a couple of days, and by the end of the week temps were in the 70’s. I didn’t need a jacket, let alone a pair of wool socks. And now it’s chilly again. Weird. At least the socks are ready to warm my toes when it does get cold. 

Toe-up socks with afterthought cuffs make perfect travel knitting. | withwool.com

The Specs

Pattern: My Default Toe-Up Sock with an Afterthought Cuff

Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Multi - Meadow Multi

Needles: 2.25 mm circulars

Dates: December 13, 2016 - February 18, 2017 

@Ravelry

Handspun Experiments: Opposing 3-ply Sock Yarn

Is handspun 3-ply opposing sock yarn more durable than a traditional 3-ply construction? | withwool.com

The end goal for this yarn was always going to be a pair of socks. So I followed the internet’s advice which recommended spinning a high-twist opposing 3-ply construction. What makes this construction special is that one ply is spun in the opposite direction which is supposed to add elasticity and increased durability. I started with 8 oz of Louet Northern Lights Top, color Blue Spruce, which is space-dyed and a blend of similar wool types. It’s not as soft as Merino, but seemed much more durable. 

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I split the top lengthwise into 3 more or less equal sections for each of the 2 skeins. I spun each ply with a fairly firm twist to stand up to the extra wear and tear of socks. 2 of the plies had Z-twist, and 1 had S-twist. Plying a balanced yarn was a trial since the S-twist skein took in even more twist and would kink up when given half a chance. Next time, I’ll experiment with putting less twist on the opposing ply and make up for it during plying. You can read more about how I spun the yarn here.

Is handspun 3-ply opposing sock yarn more durable than a traditional 3-ply construction? | withwool.com
Is handspun 3-ply opposing sock yarn more durable than a traditional 3-ply construction? | withwool.com

I didn’t photograph the pair (find all the knitty details here) when I finished them, and the socks got about a month of regular daily wear before camera time. While spinning the yarn, I was worried about holes. Now I’m pretty sure the socks will felt before a hole even thinks about opening up. The stitches on the bottom of the sole have already started felting together and loosing some of their stretch. The stitches on the side and top are still distinct and flexible though. Any eventual repairs I have to make will probably be more difficult because of the felting, but at least I’ll notice the holes before they get too big. 

Is handspun 3-ply opposing sock yarn more durable than a traditional 3-ply construction? | withwool.com

The jury is still out on whether or not the opposing ply yarn construction is more durable than a traditional 3-ply. I will keep you updated though as things develop. And when I spin a traditional 3-ply as sock yarn.

There’s one other skein of opposing 3-ply sock yarn stashed away for me. This skein is my first attempt at an opposing ply sock yarn. It’s a true fingering weight spun from Falkland top. Once I’m ready to whip up another pair of vanilla socks, I’ll give this yarn a try. I can’t be the only one without handspun socks in this house after all.

FO: My First Handspun Socks

My first pair of handspun socks is off the needles and on to happy feet! | withwool.com

When I was first learning spin, one of my far way goals was to spin durable yarn for socks. It took me a few years to reach the point with my skills and confidence to try and actually succeed. Then it took me another year (or was it two?) to spin more sock yarn and finally use it for socks. This pair was for the Bearded One, which is why I finally took the plunge and cast on. When I knit to keep my own toes warm, other sock yarns and fun patterns somehow keep distracting me.

My first pair of handspun socks is off the needles and on to happy feet! | withwool.com

The yarn was always going to be the star of the show. When I sat down to design the pattern, I knew that the striping and mottled colors would only obscure a more detailed stitch. So I went with my standard vanilla sock with 2x2 rib which would also make for a well-fitting sock. I also added a princess sole, where the stockinette side of the fabric is against the foot, to smooth out any bumps that might have come with using a sometimes thick-and-thin yarn. The downside to the princess sole was that it slowed me down since I had to purl a big chunk of every row. That changed when I knit the second sock inside out, and worked the reverse of pretty much every stitch. Take my word for it, it’s much easier working lifted increases on the knit side of a fabric. 

My first pair of handspun socks is off the needles and on to happy feet! | withwool.com

I had a few worries when I cast on for this pair. One, would the half pound of yarn I spun be enough? It’s not like a I could go to the store and buy more. Two, would knitting smooth out the unevenly plied and unruly sections of yarn? Now I know the answers to both those questions are an obvious yes, but figuring that out definitely kept me on my toes. I have a few yards leftover for darning. Plus, I can’t point out the sections where the yarn was more snarled than smooth. 

The best part is that all that work - picking a yarn construction, spinning the yarn, setting the twist, designing the pattern, and then knitting two huge socks - has been rewarded. This pair is the Bearded One’s new favorite out of the many pairs of socks I’ve made for him. Knowing that does a spinner/knitter’s heart good, and makes sure the hand knit socks keep coming. 

My first pair of handspun socks is off the needles and on to happy feet! | withwool.com

Pattern: My own basic vanilla sock with 2x2 ribbing and a princess sole

Yarn: Tour de Fleece 2016 Sock Yarn 

Needles: 2.75 circulars

Dates: September 22 - December 11, 2016

@Ravelry 

Knitting Handspun Socks Part 2

I’m knitting a sock inside out! | withwool.com

I’m still knitting my first pair of socks from handspun (you can read part 1 of the tale here). It’s also the first time I’ve tried adding a princess sole - the smooth side of stockinette stitch is against the sole of the foot instead of the bumps - to a pair of socks. The socks have been great purse knitting, but the making the first sock was slow going because off all the purling on the sole and gusset increases. 

I’m knitting a sock inside out! | withwool.com

Why is so easy to overlook the simplest solution to a problem and instead go with a more complicated fix? After I turned the heel and knit the heel flap, a light bulb went off in my head. I could knit the second sock inside out! The only purling I’d have to do would be for the top half of the toe and the ribbing. I used the same cast on at the toe and the same increases. Instead of purling the sole, I purled the top half of the toe. I reversed the rib pattern from *k2, p2* to *p2, k2*. I’m glad I went with a simple stitch pattern over the foot otherwise knitting the sock inside out would be a little more complicated. 

I’m knitting a sock inside out! | withwool.com

The little bit of effort I put in upfront has been worth it because the second sock is zooming along. It’s almost time to knit the gusset which will actually be easier to work inside out. The combination of purled increases and marled yarn made it really hard to tell if I’d correctly worked an increase row on the first sock. Or if I was even on an increase row. Happy to have solved that problem this time around.

Okay, now it’s time to double check my gusset math and get back to the gift knitting. 

Knitting A Handspun Sock

I’m knitting my first pair of handspun socks. It was a nervous cast on, but the first sock is going really well even though I ripped out the gusset. Knitting A Handspun Sock | withwool.com

On one of the rare occasions when The Bearded One went into a yarn shop with me, he found a half pound of spinning fiber that he liked. Second to me, he has the greatest appreciation for my fiber goodness, so I was all to happy to promise him something made from handspun. We eventually decided on a pair of socks. Tour de Fleece came along this year and I got spinning. 8 oz of Louet Northern Lights turned into 2 matching skeins of opposing 3-ply sock yarn

The yarn didn’t turn out like I’d planned. Instead of solid stripes, the yarn marled. Instead of fingering weight, I got sport weight. Instead of a smooth 3-ply, the opposing ply made a kinked up and uneven yarn. Plus, I didn’t get anything close to the yardage I was expecting. Ugh. 

I’m knitting my first pair of handspun socks. It was a nervous cast on, but the first sock is going really well even though I ripped out the gusset. Knitting A Handspun Sock | withwool.com

I wasn’t sure what would happen when I cast on. To be completely honest, I didn’t think the yarn would work as a pair of socks. Happy to say I was wrong though. I only ripped out once and that was because I messed up the gusset increases. The marl is beautiful with subtle stripes. Knitting with sport weight means even a US 14 sized sock works up fast. There’s enough yardage too - my fingers are crossed though just to make sure. Of everything that that could have gone wrong, I was worried the most about the yarn making a bumpy, uncomfortable sole. That would have a deal breaker for sure. So I’m working a princess sole, and it seems smooth and comfy. Definitely worth all that purling. 

I’m knitting my first pair of handspun socks. It was a nervous cast on, but the first sock is going really well even though I ripped out the gusset. Knitting A Handspun Sock | withwool.com

After being nervous that my handspun sock yarn wouldn’t make a good pair of socks, I’m relieved thateverything is working out better than I planned. Here’s hoping the second sock and the second skein do as well together. 

New Socks For Winter

There’s a new pair of socks tucked away and waiting for a snowy Winter.  New Socks For Winter | withwool.com

Yesterday was an autumn day when the wind didn’t stop. It roared outside my walls and took all but the most stubborn leaves off the trees. I’m going to miss waking up and seeing branches covered in red and yellow.

There’s a new pair of socks tucked away and waiting for a snowy Winter.  New Socks For Winter | withwool.com

When I started these socks, it was summer and and they were good travel project. When I bound off the cuffs, the weather still felt like summer. I washed them and tucked them away in my sock drawer for winter. Now that the days are getting chilly I’m glad I didn’t slack off and keep putting these aside for more interesting projects. This pair is another of my basic ribbed vanilla sock pattern. To keep them from feeling like a complete slog since my last pair of socks had a 2x2 rib, I went with a 3x1 rib. It’s not as stretchy, but shows off the random patterning of the colors much better. Also, I’m really glad I don’t have to make all my socks match perfectly. It would have been impossible with this yarn and would have driven me up a wall. 

There’s a new pair of socks tucked away and waiting for a snowy Winter.  New Socks For Winter | withwool.com

Ya know, knitting socks is an awesome thing to do any time of year. They were one of the things I wanted to make when I first learned how to knit. Even my rage-inducing first attempts with DPN’s could not persuade me otherwise. I’ve lost count of how many pairs I’ve knit over the years and in climates where wool socks weren’t exactly a necessity. Now that I live in the land of snow, wind, and really cold winters, all these wool socks I’ve made seem even better than they did before. 

There’s a new pair of socks tucked away and waiting for a snowy Winter.  New Socks For Winter | withwool.com

Self-Striping Travel Goodness

Simple, self-striping socks are a perfect travel project, especially with afterthought heels or legs. Self-Striping Travel Goodness | withwool.com

It’s almost surprising how much knitting I get done when I actually work on a project. I’m traveling this week and somehow convinced myself to only pack one project, a pair of toe-up socks. Unlike my last sock project which lingered for months, this pair is going pretty fast since I'm not just carrying them around in my purse.  Some credit for my voracious knitting goes to the the self-striping yarn by TurtlePurl Yarns. I keep thinking that I’ll finish just this stripe. Then that I might as well start the next one. And repeat. Add in bits of down time and a simple 2x1 rib - my favorite for self-striping yarn - and I've got most of a sock. Or parts of two. I’ve been jumping back and forth between the two and working on whichever was shorter. It’s how I combat second sock syndrome which seems to work most of the time. 

Simple, self-striping socks are a perfect travel project, especially with afterthought heels or legs. Self-Striping Travel Goodness | withwool.com

Since this is self-striping yarn, I don't want skew the color repeats with a gusset and heel flap. The plan when I cast on was to knit a toe-up tube and drop in an afterthought heel. For whatever reason, matching the stripe pattern and coming back to knit the heel seemed like a lot of work. So, I’m doing an afterthought leg instead a la Cat Bordhi’s Houdini Socks. An afterthought leg and an afterthought heel are the same amount of stitches and the same steps, but a different order. What seemed like work was continually checking if I had enough yarn to knit the heel starting with the right color.

Simple, self-striping socks are a perfect travel project, especially with afterthought heels or legs. Self-Striping Travel Goodness | withwool.com

The first foot is almost finished and the only thing left to do is close up the heel with kitchener stitch. It’s a happy coincidence that the heel used most of a stripe repeat and I’m almost back to the the green I need to start the leg. This afterthought leg thing just keeps getting better. 

How To Do The Math For Toe Up Sock Gussets

How To Do The Math For Knitting Toe Up Sock Gussets | withwool.com

I am a toe-up sock knitter. There are lots of reasons why I made the switch to toe up socks after knitting a few pairs of cuff down socks but the main reason is pretty straightforward. I, and most of the people I knit socks for, have big feet. Working from the toe-up means I can increase until I reach a stitch count that fits at a gauge that will make a comfortable, durable sock.

There are plenty of options for heels to work on toe up socks: heel flaps, short rows, afterthought heels, and all manner or hybrids. I usually go for a heel flap with a gusset because that style fits me the best. Luckily, the math to figure out where to start a gusset is easy-peasy.  I do this math for every pair of socks I knit, whether I working from a pattern or making it up on the fly, and it takes less than 5 minutes. Those 5 minutes are worth it to get a great fitting pair of socks. 

To get started you need your stitch count, row gauge, and the finished foot length. When you do the math on the back of an envelope, this is what it looks like. Seriously, the hardest thing about the whole process is measuring the row count. 

Stitch Count x .5 = gusset rows

Gusset Rows / Row Gauge = Gusset Length

Foot Length - Heel Turn Length - Length of Gusset = Where to start gusset

How To Do The Math For Knitting Toe Up Sock Gussets | withwool.com

I’m working on pair of 2x2 ribbed socks that I’m going to use as an example. Here are the numbers and the math.

64 x .5 = 32 sts

32 sts / 13 rows = 2.46”

10.25” - .75” - 2.46” = 7.04”

Stitch Count: 64 sts

Row Gauge: 13 rows/inch

Sock Length: 10.25”

Step 1: The usual number to increase for a sock gusset is 50% of the stitch count. For this pair, that means increasing 32 stitches before beginning the heel turn. 

The typical gusset construction of increasing 2 stitches on one row and working a plain row the next makes figuring out the gusset’s row count really easy. The answer is 32 because I’m increasing 32 stitches. Here’s why:

32 stitches / 2 (because increases happen twice on increase rounds) = 16 increase rounds

Add an equal number of plain rows and: 

16 increase rounds + 16 plain rounds = 32 gusset rows

If you’re knitting a sock to fit a high instep, you’ll probably need a taller heel flap. Increase 60% of the stitches instead of 50%. The rest of the math is exactly the same. 

Step 2: Now to find out how long the gusset will be.

Gusset Rounds / Row Gauge = Gusset Length

32 gusset rows / 13 rows an inch = 2.46” 

Step 3: Now that we have the length of the gusset, we can figure out where to start it. I estimate needing .75” for the heel turn. If you’re making socks for smaller feet, .5” is a good estimate. For a more exact number, measure the length of heel turn on a sock you’ve already knit. 

Foot Length - Heel Turn Length - Gusset Length = Where to start the gusset

10.25” - .75” - 2.46” = 7.04”

After rounding down the final number to get something easier to work with, the gusset needs to start 7” from the tip of the toe. That's all it takes to figure out the increases and where to start a sock gusset. Happy sock knitting! 

How To Do The Math For Knitting Toe Up Sock Gussets | withwool.com

Simple Socks

After the complexity of the Shur’tugal Socks, a simple pair of socks seemed like just the thing for purse knitting. The pattern shouldn’t take a year to knit not should it get left behind for something less complicated. Before it got too big, the Amiga Sweater and all of its stockinette was fine purse knitting but it’s time to get back to socks. 

I spent way too much time trying to find the perfect simple but not boring pattern before picking the Business Casual Socks. The pattern seemed easy enough to mod for toe-up knitting and into knee highs. Unfortunately, the tiny cables kept getting lost in the different colors. Next I tried variations of ribbing but nothing lived up to my expectations. Eventually, I stopped fighting the simplicity and went with the plain jane stockinette that looked so awesome in the toe. The colors are wild and interesting enough to keep me from getting too bored. Plus, stockinette socks are great tv knitting since you don’t have to look at them when you’re not turning a heel or increasing a gusset. 

It’s not just the colors that are making these socks such a pleasure to knit. The yarn, Koigu KPPM, has great bounce and softness. I don’t have to use my smallest size 0 needles to get a nice, squishy fabric either. If this pair goes well, my stash is going to have a lot more Koigu in it.