Techniques in Depth: How to Make Socks That Last

November 20, 2019

Leave a Comment

46 Comments
  • Great tips. Thank you.

  • What a great use for those little bits of KSH floating around. Fuzzy heels for the win!

  • Been knitting socks for years and you’ve proved there’s always something new to be learned. Love the reinforced heel bottoms, and the fuzzy toes!

  • Brilliant, thank you!

    • I’ve found eye of the partridge works perfectly for short row toes – the last slip stitch of each row is the one you wrap and turn. I do all my socks toe up, and if they are for me I use that pattern, because toes are where I get holes. If I’m making them for my sister it’s regular toe, eye of partridge short row heel, because she wears her heels out. Sometimes I continue the eop up the back of the leg an inch or so for her (she wears clogs at work).

  • Why do I always wait for the hole to break through and then struggle with my darning egg and the hole (always where the heel turns)? Because it never occurred to silly me to darn before the the hole breaks completely through. Thank you the tip!

  • Thank you for the tip on reinforcing the bottom. Brilliant! I will be doing this on all my socks now.

  • I have eschewed sock knitting as the couple pairs I made weren’t comfortable, despite the right size. I get why – my knitted fabric was too loose (despite making gauge) and I can feel the purl bumps under my feet when I wear them. I need much smaller needles to make denser fabric. The fuzzy toe ideas are also making me re-think sock knitting!

    • You may want to try a princess sole, where you put the purl bumps on the outside, instead of the inside. I also know someone that does two socks at a time on two circulars and she uses a smaller needle for the sole than the top of the sock.

      • It tickles me so much to learn that this technique is called a princess sole! Like The Princess and the Pea, for sensitive souls/soles.

    • I had to make several pairs of socks before I started making comfortable ones!

  • Great information……just started to researching this very topic….Knitting on my first toe up sock…DEB

  • Love article and it is saved. Have a question, the yarn you sell for socks is merino and article discourages using merino?

    • Most of our sock yarns do have nylon or silk in the blend as Kate suggests, and the others are engineered to add strength via additional plies. All are designed for sock knitting by clever yarn makers, and none are the loosely spun singles Kate is most concerned about.

      Someone once made me a pair of cashmere socks and they practically wore out before they hit the floor; I’m still sad about it!

      • I am always astonished when people talk longingly about cashmere socks, and silently hope they are intended as truly luxurious wearing-in-bed socks only. On the other hand, my hot water bottle has a cashmere cover, and I haven’t regretted that for a minute!

  • I love the striped sock! Is there a pattern for it?

    • That is just a plain stockinette sock using a yarn that is dyed to knit up into stripes all by itself.

  • Do you sell the heel reinforcement yarn?
    Yes, I’ve been bitten by the sock knitting bug…

    • We don’t as yet. There is always more to learn and do! I bet you will have luck finding it at a local yarn shop.

      Have fun with the sock knitting bug!

  • Perfect timing as I am making a pair of socks for a very good friend. I hadn’t knit a sock in such a long time that I had to go to a basic book! But, now I am having FUN and I only knit for those I love Thanks for your well-timed article

  • Wow in this little article I have learned so much!!! Thank you!

  • Great tips, especially love the idea of carrying a lace weight reinforcement. I have some lovely stuff in the stash to try.

    For spinners, I recently read an article in Ply magazine that concluded that cabled yarns make the most durable socks. I haven’t yet tried it but it sounds intriguing.

  • I’m going to start pre-darning on the bottom of all my socks from now on. The freaky thing is I only get a hole under the ball of my right foot. I wonder what is off in my gate that would cause this?

    • Very often folks have one leg a tiny bit longer than the other leg. The other situation altering one’s gait is surgery or an injury I had both on one ankle. Left is smaller as a result.
      Great article, really helpful.

  • How do you reinforce the bottom of a heel with the fish lip heel?

    • Maybe do preemptive Swiss darning here?

    • This is one of the challenges with that type of heel – not easily reinforced!

  • The first row goes slip1, knit1 and the third row is knit1, slip1 so the stitches don’t line up to make the rib effect you get on heel stitch. I had to read the instructions twice to spot the difference even though I knew what I was looking for.

    • I’ve looked at R1 and R3 over and over, and although the parentheses are in different places, both rows begin with a “slip 1 wyib” and end with a “k1,” and alternate between the two stitches. I imagine Kate meant to write what is in her book, “Custom Socks,” for Row 3 of Eye of Partridge:

      “Row 3: (right side) Slip 1 purlwise while holding yarn in back, *slip 1 purlwise while holding yarn in back, knit 1; repeat from * to last stitch, knit 1.”

      I hope this helps.

    • Not sure if you’ll see the reply below. Silly typo – look below for update, and we are fixing it! Sorry about that!

  • One of the reasons I love top-down socks, is that when the toes wear out, I can cut off the damaged part, pick up my stitches, and make a new toe, either with leftover yarn, or I tend to have a couple of balls of Knit Picks laying around for this. (There’s only so many times you can darn a toe before it becomes all darn…)

  • I’ve got a darning basket that would make Jo March tear her beautiful hair out. Always the bottom of the heel and ball of the foot, and it seemed like about ten pairs developed holes at a similar time, even though they were of different vintages, patterns, and even fiber. I knuckled down and tried my darning “skills” on a pair of socks recently when the power was out and I was wearing a headlamp. Since that night I have been afraid to look at them! 🙂

    • Another headlamp knitter here! I once kitchenered a toe when the lights were out because I just had to finish that sock.

  • Agree totally on dense knitting as one of the keys to long sock wear. I take it even further – working on 000s or smaller, doing toe-ups on a minimum of 76 stitches (more if they are for me, or for someone special).

    Also, I find that considerate care and having MORE socks really helps extend life. Hand knits – even from superwash yarns – require a bit more care than plain white cotton athletic socks. While they can be washed in the machine with a cool water wash and rinse/gentle load, they do benefit from being confined in a net bag, and avoiding the dryer. The less chance they get to rub up against other items, the better, especially snaps, hooks and zippers. Don’t tumble dry, even if the yarn label says you can. Dry flat, or draped over a line, preferably not in full sun (which can weaken all fibers over time).

    Why MORE socks? Because invariably every time I knit a pair for someone they fall in love with them, and quickly wear them to death. They kill the new pair in a matter of a month or two, while my own socks – worn in rotation with their siblings – last years.

    How to wear socks to death? Aggressive laundering (see above); wearing the same pair every day for a week before washing, with little chance to let them dry out; wearing them without shoes (especially on carpeting – slippers extend sock life); and stuffing them into shoes that are too tight (you may find that your feet are more comfortable and your socks wear longer if you go up a half size or get slightly wider walking shoes).

    Keep on knitting! (Especially socks).

  • Brilliant. The bottom of the heel on my socks thank you.

  • Good tips. I like the Poste Yarn from Simply Socks myself (superwash Corriedale and nylon). I knit toe up, use contrasting yarns for toes, heels, cuffs. One mistake I make all too often is knitting the sock too small for the recipient. An overly stretched out sock will wear out faster.

  • would love to be able to print this article

  • You’re correct; the EoP row 3 is incorrect. It should be slip two sts, then K1 sl 1 . . .

    • Yup, sorry! We’re fixing it!

      • It’s fixed!

  • Excellent article.

  • Not sure if you’ll see the reply below. Silly typo – look below for update, and we are fixing it! Sorry about that!

  • Ohhh my gosh, I will always add some fuzzy laceweight to the toes from now on. My toes are often cold (frostbite damage) and I never thought to do this. Thank you!!!

  • Thanks Kate. I come back to this for help every time I make socks. Your instructions are the best.
    Happy New Year.

  • The situation I’ve got is that a sister of mine is absolutely, totally, completely allergic to animal fibers (including alpaca, softest merino, etc.) and I’m wanting to reinforce the toes of her socks (usually knitted with Plymouth Diversity or CoBaSi). I’d seen on a youtube video that poly thread could be used, but after reading your post, I’ve got my doubts. What could you recommend? Thanks!