Socks are a project that is intimidating even to the most experienced knitter. I never had the desire to even knit my own socks although I knew all the techniques used except for the Kitchener stitch to seam to the toe. THAT is what intimidated me more than anything. But questions are asked often regarding loom knitting socks. How do I knit sock on a loom? What loom is best for knitting socks with sock yarn? How do I keep my stitches from getting too tight? How do I keep from having holes when working short rows on the heel and toe? With all those questions and more, let’s talk socks!
I have recently started knitting my own socks. AND I LOVE IT!! Completely surprised me how much I have enjoyed knitting my own socks on the extra fine gauge sock loom. And now I would love to share with you some things I have learned along the way.
Why would I want to knit my own socks when I can buy them?
While it is easier and cheaper to buy socks, you don’t have that same sense of accomplishment and pride as when you make your own socks.
Are socks hard?
Not as hard as you might think. Socks are fun to make. While there are lots of different patterns out there and the combination of stitch patterns, cuff, toe, and heel types are limitless, the basic sock itself is really not that hard. There are only 4 techniques you really need to get started making your own socks. Knit and purl stitches, short row shaping using the wrap and turn technique for the heel and toe, and closing the toe with the Kitchener stitch.
What kind of yarn do I use for socks?
You need to use the yarn that is best suited for the type of socks you are making and the type of loom. You will want to use a wool blend yarn.
Yarn that is labeled as sock yarn is a 1 weight yarn. It usually has a fiber content of 75% superwash wool and 25% nylon. Why? This blend of yarn helps give the sock memory when it gets wet. There are some brands that do make a wool-free sock yarn for those that are wool sensitive.
What is superwash wool, and why is it different than plain wool?
Superwash wool will not shrink or felt when washed in warm or hot water. This yarn is machine washable. While most superwash yarn says it can be dried in the clothes dryer, I prefer to just shape my socks and let them air dry on a towel.
Do I need a sock loom to make socks?
No. You can use any loom as long as you can get the fit you need. I will say this though. If you are wanting to make socks to wear with shoes, you will need to use sock yarn on a fine or extra fine gauge loom. The larger the weight of yarn you use, the thicker the sock will be. Worsted weight and bulky yarns make wonderful slipper socks to wear around the house.
I will also warn you that not all companies that make looms use the same terminology for loom gauge since there are no universal guidelines set up for this. It gets confusing for people, when new looms come out , when the looms are listed as fine gauge when another company that has been making them for years has that same gauge loom listed as small gauge. You can refresh your memory on loom gauge in Loom FAQs: What is gauge?
Is there only 1 way to work a sock?
No there isn’t. A sock can be worked from toe up where you start at the the toe and work work your way up to the cuff or from top down where you start with the cuff and work down.
What are the parts of the sock?
There are 5 parts to a sock.
Cuff – This is the top of the sock. Most patterns use a 2×2 ribbing for the cuff since it has the most stretch and helps keep the sock from falling down the leg.
Leg – This is between the cuff and the heel. It can be any length and any stitch pattern preferred. I love to wear ankle socks so I only work about an inch and a half between the cuff and the heel. Different people like different heights of socks. The leg part of the sock is where you make the height of your sock to your liking.
Heel – This is the part between the leg and foot. Tube socks won’t have a heel so they will bunch up in front of the ankle. Turning the heel will give the sock shape so it will be no bunching at all.
Foot – The foot is between the heel and the toe. Seems a bit obvious… But still. There are actually 2 parts of the the foot. The top half of the foot is the instep. Lots of patterns will work the instep in the same stitch pattern as the leg. The bottom half of the foot is the sole. It is almost always worked in stockinette or plain knit stitch so it’s more comfortable to walk in.
Toe – The toe of the sock is just that: The part where the toes fit. It is shaped so that there is not extra knitted fabric around the toes.
How many ways are there to turn a heel or work the toe?
I know of at least 16 ways to turn a heel. There are probably more. And almost as many ways to shape the toe. Everyone has their favorite way to work the heel and toe.
What does it mean to “turn” the heel? This just refers to the way the heel is worked to cause the heel to bend into the shape of the sock.
Which knit stitch do I use?
It depends on which gauge you are using. The finer the gauge, the harder it is to use the true knit stitch. Lots of people do use the flat knit for fine and extra fine gauge socks since it’s less time consuming.
I do NOT recommend e-wrap knit at all for socks of any kind. I do know lots of people do for slipper socks on large gauge looms. But you must remember that when you use e-wrap knit while working in the round, the twist of the stitch while going in the same direction each round will cause a laddering effect between the columns of stitches.
What is laddering? This is when you can see a bar of yarn between each stitch instead of each stitch sitting nicely side by side. You can learn more about that in Loom FAQs: What is Laddering?.
For more information on the different knit stitches and how they are worked on the loom, please refer to Loom FAQs: Which Knit Stitch??
How do I keep my stitches from getting too tight?
This is very common when using the flat knit or even the u-wrap knit stitches. Here is how I keep my stitches from getting too tight while using the flat knit stitch while making socks.
I hold the working yarn taunt across the front of the pegs so that the yarn is not pulled over the peg with the loop I am knitting over.
When I pull the loop over the top of the peg, I let go of the working yarn and gently pull back on the loop to the middle of the loom causing the stitch to loosen.
Even if you loosen the flat knit stitch, it is still the flat knit. It is the method of carrying the yarn across the front of the pegs instead of wrapping it around the peg that makes it the flat knit. You are just controlling the tension by loosening each stitch as you go to keep it from being too tight.
How many pegs do I use?
The number of pegs depends on which loom you are using. If you are using one of the KB sock looms, the instructions that came with the loom includes how to measure the foot to determine how many pegs.
Otherwise math is involved more heavily… And working a swatch… All those evil things that make me laugh like a mad scientist…
Um huh… Pardon me for getting distracted. Back to calculating peg count.
First you will need to work a dreaded swatch for a stitch count. If you need a refresher course on working a swatch, you can find it about the middle of Loom FAQs: What is Gauge?
Once you find how many stitches per inch you get with your yarn on the loom you are going to use, you need to measure your foot or the foot intended for the sock. Using a sewing tape measure, wrap the tape around the ball of the foot at the widest part. Do not squeeze it tight. Take that measurement in inches and subtract 15% of that measurement. This is what is called negative ease. Otherwise the sock will be too big. If you multiply the number of inches by .85, you will get the same answer as if multiplying the measurement by .15 and subtracting that number from the original measurement. What??? Give me a bit and I will put into an equation…
Now multiple that number by the number of stitches you got in an inch with your swatch. That is the number of pegs you will need to cast on.
Now to put that into the equation.
A = measurement of foot around the ball in inches
B = number of stitches in an inch from the swatch
A x .85 x B = number of pegs to cast on
Is there a formula to making socks?
Oh! I am so happy you asked! I love formulas. I love math. I think you know this by now unless you are new to reading my articles. For those who keep saying that they never use algebra as an adult, I will talk to you later….
YES! There is a formula for making socks on any loom. I will go through the process of working top down.
First of all, you will need to know which loom you want to use depending on yarn weight. Please refer the previous section on peg count to calculate the number of pegs you will need to knit a sock to fit the foot you desire to sheathe.
Which peg is the first peg?
When working on any loom, you need to decide which peg is first. It really doesn’t matter. Just so long as you mark it and use that peg as peg 1 throughout the pattern. When using any of the adjustable sock looms, I always use the peg on the side next to the slider. This is how I know I have finished a round after working the pegs on the slider. It also makes it easier to know where the 2 halves of the loom are.
Now you are ready to cast on. I would recommend casting on with a method that will stretch and work well with ribbing. I like using the YO cast on. This method gives the stretch needed without the need to tighten up the cast on when using the e-wrap cast on. Some people refer to the YO (yarn over) cast on as the double e-wrap cast on.
Now you are ready to work the cuff. Work the cuff in whatever method desired. There are several different cuffs depending on what look you are going for. Most common is the 2×2 ribbing. It has the best elasticity to help keep those socks from sagging.
On to the leg, work it in any stitch pattern you desire for whatever length you desire. It is your sock after all.
Now for the heel, this is where the math come into play.
Formula for working a short row heel on any loom
While there are numerous ways to work a heel, I will be only instructing you on how to work the short row heel so that this article won’t run on for days.
First the loom will need to be divided into half. Divide the total peg count by 2.
# of pegs / 2 = half the peg count
The first peg to the middle is the the pegs the heel will be worked over. As the foot is worked, these are the pegs that are the sole.
Peg 1 on this loom is marked with the green stitch marker on the right.
The last peg of the first half is on the left marked with the purple stitch marker.
While you work the heel, the other half of the pegs from the middle to the last peg are left unworked. These pegs are the stitches that are the instep on the foot section of the sock.
To work a short row heel, the half of the loom you are working over needs to first be divided into thirds. It will not always be divisible by 3. If this is the case, you will either have 1 section that has either 1 peg more than the other 2 sections or 1 less peg than the other 2 sections. This section will always be the middle third of the heel.
Either mark the loom or keep up with the rows.
Since you will be working a flat panel now, you will need to do a wrap and turn at the end of each short row. If you don’t do this, you will have a holes where you start back in the other direction.
Wrap & Turn
Wrap and turns are abbreviated in patterns as W&T.
Work the first short row in knit until you reach the last peg of the heel portion. This is how you work a W&T:
Holding the yarn to the side of the peg that the working yarn is on,
lift the loop off the peg.
Bring the working yarn behind the peg in front of the loop to the other side of the peg.
Place the loop back on the peg bringing the working yarn around front of the peg.
Knit the next peg leaving 2 loops on the wrapped peg.
Continue back to the first peg.
Wrap the first peg in the same manner as before
by lifting the loop off the peg
bringing the working yarn behind the peg and placing the loop back on the peg.
Knit back until you reach the peg next to the wrapped peg and wrap that peg.
Continue going back and forth wrapping the next peg over until 1/3 of the pegs are wrapped on each side leaving the middle pegs unwrapped.
Now to work your way back out…
Knit until you reach the first peg with 2 wraps.
Knit both loops over.
Wrap and turn on the next peg by lifting both loops and placing the wrap under them. Be careful that both loops are placed back on the peg over the wrap.
Now you have 3 loops on that peg.
Knit back again repeating the W&Ts until all the pegs have been worked leaving 3 wraps on the first and the last of the first half of the pegs.
On the first round of the foot, you will start with peg 2 after completing the W&T on peg 1. When you reach the last peg of the first half that has 3 loops on it, knit over all 3 together and continue on the instep side. When peg 1 is reached again, knit over all 3 loops together.
Do I need to lift the top loop for the W&T?
Some people prefer not to lift the loop and just wrap the peg above the loop. This does create a more seamless join. But it does leave holes. Also it will put those wraps on the inside of the sock creating a seam that can be irritating to the heels and toes.
After the heel, the instep and sole of the foot is worked. The first half of the stitches will be the sole and is usually just worked in stockinette. The second half of the stitches is the instep. Usually the stitch pattern used for the leg is continued on the instep half of the stitches.
Measure the foot you are fitting from the back of the heel to the end of the longest toe. Then subtract 1.5″ or 2″ (depending on how snug you like your socks) from that length. Work the foot until the foot measures the length just calculated from the heel. I usually just stick a ruler into my sock with the end at the heel and measure at the short end of the sock loom. Despite the work still being stretched out on the pegs, this method of measuring is fairly accurate.
Then work the toe. Use whichever toe method preferred. I use the short row that is the exact same as the heel. If you prefer the seam to be on top of the toes, work the short rows over the first half of the stitches exactly like the heel was worked. If you want the seam under the toes, knit the first half of the stitches then work the toe on the second half of the pegs.
Does the Kitchener Stitch require knowing how to needle knit?
No it doesn’t. Only thing the needles are used for if to hold the stitches. You actually use a tapestry needle to sew the loops together to create a seamless join.
What does DPN mean?
DPN knitting needles are what is used for the Kitchener stitch. DPN stands for Double Point Needles. These needles have points are both ends and are used in needle knitting to knit in the round. These needles are sold in sets of 5. You will only need 2.
What size DPNs do I use?
I recommend using the next size needle down from the needle equivalent to the loom gauge you are using to make your socks. You can find the rough needle equivalents close to the end of my article Loom FAQs: How Do I Convert?
What exactly is the Kitchener Stitch and what does it have to do with kitchens??
The Kitchener stitch is a method of joining or grafting 2 rows of live stitches in a nice seamless manner using the working yarn on a tapestry needle. And it has nothing to do with kitchens…
Why is it called Kitchener stitch?
Well history has it that an Englishman by the name Horatio Herbert Kitchener, First Earl of Kitchener of Khartoum, developed the seamless graphing join during World War I to prevent the damage done to the soldiers feet because of the seam on the toes.
While this is when this technique first came into being and while Lord Kitchener did head up the campaign of getting women in Britain, America, and Canada to knit comfort items from a booklet of patterns during WWI that included socks using the seamless join, there is actually no concrete evidence that he actually developed the seamless join himself. But it was named after him, and he will forever be joined to the knitting community. Way to go, Lord Kitchener!
How is the correct way to load the stitches onto the needles?
The stitches do need to be loaded or put on the double point needles in a certain manner, or the join will not be seamless.
Start loading the stitches from the last stitch on the first half and work back to the first stitch.
Lift the stitch off the peg and put it on the DPN by running the needle from the front of the stitch to the back.
Then repeat that with the next stitch working back to the first peg until all the stitches on the first half of the loom are on the needle.
Now all the stitch on the first half of the loom are on the needle.
Then repeat on the second half of the stitch by starting with the last peg and working back to the first peg of the second half.
All stitches are on 2 DPNs with the working yarn on the right. The first half of the stitches are the needle closest to you or the front needle. The last half of the stitches are on the back needle.
If you are left handed or just work in the opposite direction, just reverse what I did.
Do I have to use needles to close the toe for the Kitchener Stitch?
No. There is a way to work the Kitchener stitch while the stitches are still on the loom. While I prefer to use the needles to hold my stitches while I work the seam, it can be done on the loom.
Currently there is a video out there that demonstrates how to do the Kitchener stitch on the loom. I find it confusing since none of the stitches are removed as you go making it harder to see where you are and easier to miss a stitch.
I have come up with a way to use the loom to work the Kitchener stitch in the same manner as using needles where the stitches are removed as you go. This makes it easier to see if all the stitches are being worked in order, and none are being skipped.
How do I set up the loom for the Kitchener stitch?
To work the Kitchener stitch on the loom, you will need to move the first half of the stitches over onto the second half of the pegs. This way the first half of the stitches are sitting on the pegs above the second half of the stitches.
Load all the stitch from the first half onto something to hold them. I use a DPN. You can use a stitch holder or even a yarn lifeline.
Now move them over to the other side of the loom.
Place the each stitch onto the peg on the opposite side.
Continue with each stitch making sure the stitches are not twisted until all the stitches from the first half are on the pegs from the second half.
All stitches are on the same side of the loom.
In order for the Kitchener stitch to be worked on the loom exactly like it’s work on needles, the loom needs to turned upside down so the first half of the stitches is closest to you and the last half of the stitches are further from you. The working yarn on the right.
How do I work the Kitchener stitch?
Now let me show you how to work the Kitchener stitch on needles AND the loom. I will show the same thing on the needle first then show how on the loom.
When working the Kitchener stitch, whether on the loom or needles, each stitch must be worked twice in the opposite direction in order for the join to be seamless. Now let’s get started.
Let’s first discuss what the terms “as if to knit” and “as if to purl” means. This is the direction the yarn will be threaded through the stitch.
On needles, “as if to knit” means to run the tapestry needle through the stitch from the left to the back of the stitch.
On the loom, “as if to knit” means to run the tapestry needle through the stitch from the top of the peg to the bottom.
On needles, “as if to purl” means to run the tapestry needle from the right through the stitch to the front.
On the loom, “as if to purl” means to run the tapestry needle through the stitch from the bottom of the peg to the top.
Now to start the Kitchener stitch:
The front stitch is on the needle closest to you.
The back stitch is on the needle at the back.
The front stitch is the stitch at the end of the peg closest to you.
The back stitch is the stitch at the bottom of the peg.
To set up, insert the tapestry needle as if to purl on the front stitch. Pull the working yarn completely through the stitch pulling snug. Leave the stitch on the needle or peg.
From right to left.
From bottom to top.
Then insert the tapestry needle as if to knit on the back stitch pulling the working yarn snugly all the way through the stitch. Leave the stitch on the needle or peg.
From left to right.
From top to bottom.
Now to actually start removing stitches from the needle or loom as the Kitchener stitch is worked.
Insert the tapestry needle as if to knit through the front stitch REMOVING that stitch from the needle or peg as the working yarn is pulled all the way through the stitch that is removed. Be careful not to pull the neighboring stitch off the needle or peg.
From left to right.
From top to bottom.
Now insert the tapestry needle as if to purl on the next stitch on the front LEAVING the stitch on the needle or peg pulling the working yarn all the way through. Do not get the working yarn twisted around the needle or peg.
From right to left.
From bottom to top.
Now we will work the stitches on the back.
Insert the tapestry needle as if to purl in the stitch on the back REMOVING the stitch from the needle or peg and pulling the yarn snugly through the stitch.
From right to left.
From bottom to top.
Now insert the tapestry needle as if to knit in the stitch on the back LEAVING the stitch on the peg while pulling the working yarn snugly though the stitch.
From left to right.
From top to bottom.
Now you can see how 2 stitches are worked on the front removing the first but leaving the second then working 2 stitches on the back in the opposite way removing the first but leaving the second.
Here is how I keep up in my head as I work the stitches.
Front: as if to knit, remove the stitch, as if to purl, leave the stitch
Back: as if to purl, remove the stitch, as if to knit, leave the stitch
Then repeat. Over and over and over…
You can see how the seamless grafting is looking as I go.
Continue in this manner until there is only 1 stitch each left on the front and back.
Insert the tapestry needle into the front stitch as if to knit REMOVING the stitch while pulling the working yarn snug.
From left to right.
From top to bottom.
Insert the tapestry need into the back stitch (only stitch left) as if to purl REMOVING the stitch while pulling the working yarn snug.
From right to left.
From bottom to top.
Look how pretty!!
Now there is what seems to be a rather large loop left.
Just run the tapestry needle through the the last stitch into the middle of the sock pulling that loop through and weave in the end.
Whew!!! That is a lot to cover for something that only covers feet…. Once you make that first pair, there will be no stopping you! Do not be afraid to try different heel and toe methods. Different ways will fit differently. Each foot is unique so our socks should be just as unique as our feet. Best to have unique socks is to knit those unique socks ourselves!
As always, I hope this helps. Happy sock loom knitting!
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