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Filtering by Tag: socks

Fit Clinic: If Your Socks Sag, or Slide Off Your Feet...



Oftentimes, when a knitter first has a go at making socks, their initial pair comes out too big. In seeking to address this, the impulse tends to be, to reduce the number of cast-on stitches. Because fewer stitches equals a smaller sock, right? It also makes for less knitting, faster knitting! Not to mention it is more economical on the yarn meterage. 

Unfortunately, reducing stitch count doesn't always solve the saggy sock problem. The smaller-sized sock might start out fine. But it will quickly get stretched out with wear, and again start to sag and slide off. 

This is because, more often than not, the real problem is the density of the sock's fabric - i.e. gauge. If a sock is too drapey, that drape - no matter how few stitches you cast on - will result in the fabric stretching and sagging.

In order to fit well - and, more importantly, to retain their fit with repeated wear - socks must be knitted densely; at a considerably tighter gauge than a garment. 

To give you some concrete figures in relation to my own knitting: 

For fingering-weight yarn (400m/100g), my typical garment gauge is 28-30 stitches per 10cm.  
My typical sock gauge is 35-37 stitches per 10cm.

As far as how many stitches to cast on, that translates to around 64 stitches for a typical adult female foot (assuming, again, fingering-weight yarn, and fairly 'vanilla' socks with no colourwork, chevron, slip stitch, cables, or other motifs that call for modifications to stitch count). 

So let's take a scenario where you've tried knitting a basic 64 stitch sock but the result is too big. Take a ruler to it and check: are you getting gauge (of at least 35 stitches per 10cm)? If not, next time keep the same stitch count but go down in needle size.

Now let's take another scenario, where your go-to stitch count for socks is 56. Your finished socks start out the correct size for you, but stretch out with wear. What you need to do here is go up in stitch count to 64, and at the same time go down in needle size to meet gauge. The result will be the same size as your current socks, without the sagging.

And of course as far as what size needles to use, that will depend on your individual tension. Being a loose knitter myself, I knit fingering-weight socks on 2.00mm needles. Others can get the proper gauge on 2.50mms, while others need to go sub-2.00mm! Remember that needle size is only a means to get the correct gauge, so use whatever size works for you to achieve that.

I receive a lot of questions about saggy socks, so hopefully this is helpful. Most basic sock patterns offer sizes in increments of 8 cast-on stitches, so finding patterns with a 64 stitch count (including, ahem, my own!) should not be a problem.

Knitting socks at a tight gauge will not only prevent them from growing saggy with wear; it will also make them last longer. But that is a topic for another post!




As a cranky old do-my-own-thang knitter resistant to knit-alongs, I have finally succumbed! Last weekend, Bernie of Bear in Sheep's Clothing and Emma of Woolly Mammoth Fibres announced #anysockkal.

As the name subtly hints at, this is a knit-along for socks. Any socks! You are not obliged to use a specific yarn or pattern. Just knit socks and post snaps on instagram. Timeline-wise, this knit-along is pretty open. Every week they choose a captivating snap, and winners gets prizes. I donated a pattern to the prize pool and do not qualify for the weekly sweepstakes. But I am taking part anyway. And because both Bernie and Emma are using my Folksy sock pattern for their #anysockkal knitting, I am returning the 'shout-out' as it were by knitting a pair of socks with each of their yarns.


For the first pair, I am using Bear in Sheep's Clothing BFL/nylon sick yarn in the Killadoon colourway to knit some Sleeping in the Garden socks. (One sock is done, and shown in the top photo!)


For the second pair, I am using some Woolly Mammoth fingering/sportweight handspun, and designing a pattern specific to this yarn.


I think this one will be quite simple and minimalist, but I am still in the playing-with-it stage so we'll see! 

So those are my two #anysockkal projects at the moment.


Meanwhile, Emma is making good leeway on her Folksy socks.

You can follow our progress - and, better yet, join in yourself - right here.





I've Tiptoed Through the Tulips!


These beauties are one of the very few pairs of socks that I've knit for myself this year, and I've been wearing them so much that I wanted to take photos before they start to look tattered!

As you may have noticed, I don't normally knit from patterns or charts. But on occasion there are exceptions. And when I stumbled upon a picture of the Tiptoe Through the Tulips socks by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka Yarn Harlot), I knew that I had to knit them ...which is kind of nuts, considering how much I dislike intarsia. But the heart wants what it wants, and mine wanted beautiful tulips on my heels. 


The pattern is a free ravelry download, and is essentially a colourwork chart for the heel; you can knit the rest of the sock any way you like. The heel needs to be 32 stitches in order for the colour chart to work - so a 64 stitch cast-on for the sock. 

I wanted the heels to be the star attraction, so I kept the rest of the socks very plain, using a standard cuff-down construction in stockinette. As far as the yarn, I used some leftover Scheepjes Invicta which I happened to have in appropriate colours: a bright light green for the main sock, a dark green for the tulip leaves and the toe, and a deep burgundy-ish red for the flowers. 

Unsurprisingly for someone who dislikes intarsia, I did not love the process of knitting these socks - sitting there with a chart for an hour per heel is just not my idea of fun. But honestly it was worth it, because I love the result. And even though my colourwork is not exactly tidy, I don’t care - these socks are beautiful! I mean, there are tulips on my heels. Tulips!

Even though I finished these socks in back in April, I didn't manage to photograph them amidst actual tulips, during tulip season, so you will have to forgive me. 

Also, bear in mind that the photos were taken after I had already been wearing the socks for a good few months, so if you notice signs of wear that is why. That said, you can see the heels are holding up fairly well. So a thumbs up for the Scheepjes Invicta yarn in the durability department.

If you are a sock knitter and a fan of intarsia, you will love knitting these socks. If you are only the former, but are as smitten with the design as I am - well then I think it's worth the effort. The 3-colour chart is not difficult. It's just... well, you know! Intarsia, 

In any case, you can have a look at the ravelry pattern and see for yourself. I am glad I did, and a big thanks to Yarn Harlot for sharing the design.





Summer of Socks


I do not know how this became the Summer of Socks... 

Well, okay, maybe I do. It was around March that I received some custom order requests for 'lightweight' socks - as opposed to the Donegal tweed socks, which I'd knit almost exclusively up to that point. At the same time, a few local women asked me to teach them sock knitting. So I purchased a few different fingering-weight sock yarns. I immediately discovered that I liked some better than others. This made me curious and I did a whole bunch of research, and a whole bunch of test knitting, followed by aggressive test-wearing by my inhouse knitwear tester (aka husband!). There were clear differences in the feel, fit, and durability of the socks - as a function not only of knitting techniques applied (tension, stitch pattern, style of heel, etc), but also of the sock yarn itself.  Fascinated, I contacted some yarn sellers and knowledgeable fibre folk, and chatted with them about this. The result was more sock knitting... this time as part of a yarn-testing project. I discovered that yarn-testing was a 'thing,' and that I quite enjoyed it.

And then, there was Sock Class.


Having held a few casual sessions in random places and at random times, I mentioned to Lisa at Row by Roe that I was thinking of trying to organise a formal class. She said, we can try it here at the shop if you like? And we did! She announced the class, I set up the online registration. We capped the class limit at 8 and ended up with a total of 10, myself including. 

It was the first time I taught a class since my university lecturing days, which ended 5 years go. I knew that teaching a manual skill to a group of people was quite different from teaching information. But it still caught me by surprise just how different!  

For one thing, I know now that 10 people is too many for a workshop of this kind. I did not have as much time to spend with each person individually as I would have liked. It was also physically challenging to move around the intimate yarn shop space and position myself beside each person effectively, which was not something that had even occurred to me to consider in advance. In the future, I think 4-6 people for this kind of work is the limit.


I initially structured the class as a series of 3 weekly 2-hour workshops. But it soon became clear that we needed a full 4. So I ended up adding an extra session, and luckily everyone involved was able to attend.

Overall, I think Sock Class was a success in the sense that we had a good time, everyone 'got it' by the end, cake was involved, and I met some lovely people. It was tremendously satisfying to watch the socks grow on everyone's needles! I will do it again, with some modifications that will hopefully improve the experience for all.

With all these projects happening, I was of course knitting lots of socks. And eventually I began writing up the patterns. I have published two so far, and still have a few in the works. Once those are done, I am absolutely promising myself to take a sock break!

I do not think of myself as primarily a sock knitter; I am mainly a sweater and sweater-dress person. But from an educational standpoint alone it was useful to go through this intensive sock period. I have learned a great deal about yarns, and have made connections with people I would not normally have. I might even have a pair or two for myself in the end... although of course I am afraid to wear them, lest I should need them as samples!  


Yarn Impressions: Woolly Adventures


For both personal, and design / custom order projects, I have been trying out lots of new sock yarns this year. So I've been meaning to start posting about my experiences with the various yarns - focusing particularly on local indie dyers. And what better way to start, than with a dyer brand new to the scene? 

Based in Cullybacky, Northern Ireland, Woolly Adventures are Dani and Sam - two young ladies who make no secret of their ambitions: 'wool domination, one colourful skein at a time.' Having just dyed up their very first batch of sock yarn, they brought a sample over to Row by Roe for test knitting, and well - here we are. I think the yarn had barely dried when I started knitting with it!

Now, I should preface by saying that I am sort of ambivalent when it comes to variegated yarns. And the reason, is that I often love how they look in the skein, only to get disappointed by the knitted-up result. The Woolly Adventures 'Secret Lagoon' colourway actually looks better knit up than it does in the cake. So that cheered and impressed me quite a bit as I worked on the socks.

The yarn also most definitely does not look like a first attempt at dyeing! The 'Lagoon' is a vibrant (but not too vibrant) minty/seafoam sort of colourway - predominantly turquoise, with bits of white, green, and darkish slate blue. The colour distribution looks dynamic but well-controlled, with a lovely sense of movement throughout. The colours are crisp, with no 'dirty' looking patches where colours that weren't meant to mix, mixed.

If you are very observant, you can see that there are more dark patches in the first half of the skein (sock on the right, in the photo below). But, I have seen this same effect even in commercially dyed yarns, and some might consider this a feature rather than anything that warrants criticism. In any case: for their introductory batch this is beyond stellar, I think!


The yarn base itself is a fingering weight superwash merino/nylon blend. Of all the other sock yarns I've tried so far, it reminds me most of the yarn used by (Belfast dyer) Fine Fish. It is soft, and quite smooth - without feeling slippery, with a pleasant, faint scent to it. It is also definitely on the finer end of fingering weight sock yarn, so that my first test sock (on the right) - an experiment in 'old shale' lace repeats with a 54 stitch cast-on - came out tiny. So I revised the stitch pattern, allowing me to do a 64 stitch cast-on, and that is coming out spot-on for a woman's Small. I should add that I used 2.25mm DP needles for both socks - but my tension is a bit more relaxed than average, so that would be equivalent to a 'normal' person using a 2.50mm.

Overall I did enjoy working with this base yarn, and would knit with it again should they keep it as part of whatever range they eventually settle on. I cannot, however, comment on its durability at this time, as the test socks have not been finished or worn just yet.

What else... You can see in my photos how this yarn knits up in stockinette on the foot, in single rib on the cuff, in slip stitch on the heel on one of the socks, and in the lace repeats along the leg. The colourway is very versatile and looks just lovely throughout. So mainly I just want to reiterate that this is most impressive for a first attempt at professional yarn dyeing!

Congratulations to Dani and Sam on their new venture, and I wish them all the luck.  I believe they are in the process of setting up an online shop, and in the meanwhile you can visit them on instagram at @woolly_adventures, or, if you're local (defined by willingness to travel!), see the first batch of their work at Row by Roe in Limavady. 

Edited to add: the Woolly Adventures shop is now up online!

Also, the socks in the photos are my new Michelle pattern, which you can get here. The sample pair is on display at Row by Roe.