Adventures in sock knitting

Almost a year ago, I published this post about knitting socks for the first time.  Once I'd mastered the basics I knitted quite a few pairs of socks as gifts for friends last year.  The pattern is a straightforward one and I enjoyed knitting them but soon I wanted something a bit more challenging.  I have size 7-8 feet so this pattern didn't fit me - I did try to adapt it, but I decided I wanted a different pattern altogether.

Socks can be knitted in two ways - cuff down (my first socks were cuff down) or toe up.  I wanted to learn to make toe up socks, as this way the socks can continually be measured to ensure they fit well.  
Off I went to learn Judy's Magic Cast On which is an incredibly clever method of creating a toe.  It took a while to master (especially as I was using DPNs rather than circular needles) and quite a bit of restarting, but eventually I got it, and I was away.

I'd found a pattern for a toe up sock, which had a bit of a pattern in it but nothing too complicated.  It also came with instructions for knitting different foot sizes and different calf widths.  I measured the widest part of my foot and got knitting, following the instructions to the letter.

Knitting the foot was great fun.  The sock was on four needles, two for the top of the foot and two for the sole.  The pattern was only made on the first two needles, it was an easy repeat to memorise and I loved how it was turning out.  I measured it on my foot often and whilst it was a bit big I didn't really mind, as these would be bed socks.  The had been a repeating error in the pattern ("you should have 80 stitches in total, 40 on your front needles and 36 on the back needles") but I thought I'd sorted that out and just kept going.

I did make a couple of mistakes, but nothing too major.  At the top of the photo below you can just about see where I got the pattern wrong.

I kept knitting, as the mistake was only little and I was enjoying knitting it so much I wanted to keep going and get a whole sock.  A friend of mine has also been knitting socks and we emailed each other regular progress throughout an evening of knitting.

I got to the heel, which can be notoriously tricky.  I read the pattern several times, I looked at YouTube videos to understand a couple of terms I hadn't come across before and then I read the pattern again.

When I was confident I knew (sort of) what I was doing, I started the heel.  The pattern said to knit to the centre of the back needles, then start the pattern.  I merrily found the centre and started knitting.

After 15 or so rows, I noticed that the heel wasn't opposite the toes, it was off to one side.  Sigh.  I realised that rather than finding the centre of the two back needles, I'd found the centre of just the first back needle, so of course my heel was in the wrong place.  Then came a painful few minutes when  I pulled back all these rows and started again.  

I got back to where I'd started the heel and this time I knitted it in the right place.  Result!  I finished the heel and then I read through the pattern several times again to work out how I now turned the heel into the leg of the sock.  Despite following the pattern to the letter, it didn't look right, so I tried it on (it's quite hard getting a sock over your ankle when there are many small stitches spread out over four small needles).

It was definitely wrong.

The photo above shows a lot of unnecessary sock at the front of the sock.  The heel fit my foot fine (albeit a bit big, but the whole sock had been a bit big from the beginning) but there was just all this extra sock and I don't know where it came from.  I followed the pattern so closely, because it was new to me and I continually checked I was doing the right thing.

So I unravelled the whole thing.  I could have just taken back the heel bit and returned to the foot bit, but there were errors in my knitting before that and it was a bit really, I think I'd be happier in the long run if I started from the beginning and got more of it right.

I'm still confused as to where I went wrong - I think I need to find another pattern, or at least another pattern about how to do the heel, as I do like the look of these socks but clearly something went wrong along the way!

I was despondent when I had just a pile of sock wool on the floor - that represented a lot of work and I now had nothing to show for it.  But whilst I don't have a sock, I did learn a lot: I can now do the magic cast on and (attempt to) knit toe up socks.  I learned a few nifty knitting tricks and some new terminology, which should hopefully improve my knitting in the future.

I think that's the thing about crafts and making things - you're unlikely to get it right first time but you learn from your mistakes and hopefully that will improve your skills in the future.

Right now, I can't face knitting another sock, I think I need a bit of a break from it and to make something else in the meantime.  But I will try again, and next time I hope I will get it right - or at the very least have a sock which looks, and fits, like a sock!


  1. I think you're right, anything crafty comes with the whole trial and error thing. I've never even been brave enough to attempt socks so kudos to you! I had a similar experience knitting my first ever jumper, it turned out not quite right but I couldn't face trying again right away. It's great that this first go hasn't put you off and I'm sure you'll get it right next time :) positivity & perseverance

    1. Absolutely! I'm not going to be beaten by a half-knitted sock!

  2. Good on you for trying out a new sock pattern! Even if it didn't go well, it is a good learning curve. I have been trying to figure out where the excess sock bit comes from, but the only thing I can think of is that perhaps you knitted across all needles where you would only have had to knit across two for a while. The heel part really is the trickiest, including the gusset, if your sock pattern calls for one. That's where my mistakes happen, too - and I have been an obsessed sock knitter for years!

    1. I've no idea where I went wrong - because it was all new to me (pattern-wise) I read it through really, really carefully to make sure I was on the right track, and I thought I was, but clearly not! I think this might be one of those occasions where I need a real person to assist me, rather than just online videos!

  3. I know this pain!! I absolutely would have done the same thing in your position - unravel and don't face again for a while! Sock knitting is so difficult, and I've only really tried simple ones. I did follow a vintage pattern once for a sock because I thought it would be neat to follow an old pattern for a present - it was aaaawful the sock, definitely didn't try that again! well done for giving it a go and I bet you will get back on the sock wagon in time :) sorry I can't shed any light on what might have gone wrong! jenny xx

    1. Exactly, I'd rather unravel and use the wool again than keep a sock which blatantly doesn't fit and I don't like! Love the idea of using a vintage pattern, but I might need to master modern ones first! I'll be back on the sock wagon soon, think I've got my sock anger out now!


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