Knitgrammer’s no swatch, any stitch count, any yarn sock pattern. Part 1: Planning

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This article is the first part of my no swatch, any yarn sock pattern. For introduction and outline of this pattern see: Knitgrammer’s no swatch, any stitch count, any yarn sock pattern.

Next article: Casting on and making the toe for your sock.

In this article I explain how to measure your foot (or how to estimate the measurements based on shoe size) and then decide what size socks you should make. I also provide help with yarn and needle size selection. If you are a seasoned sock knitter you can skip this article and go directly to selecting the toe pattern.

1.1 Take measurements

If you are knitting the sock for yourself the first thing you need to do is to measure your foot circumference. Take the measurement around the ball of your foot, which typically is the largest circumference. Do not include a bunion in this measurement. You should be standing when you measure your foot.

The next thing is to measure the length of your foot. The easiest way to do this is to place a piece of paper on the ground and then trace around your foot. Make sure that you’re having your full weight on the foot while tracing. If your foot does not fit into one paper, tape two pieces together. Then take your drawing and measure the outline from the back/central part of the heel to the end of the longest toe.

If you are not able to measure the circumference or the length of the foot (for instance because you are going to gift the socks) you can use the foot size chart for sock knitting to determine the foot length and average circumference based on shoe size.

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1.2 Calculate the dimensions of the sock

Now that you know the measurements of the foot the sock is going to be knitted for you can calculate the dimensions of your sock.

Plain stockinette or ribbed socks should be worn with a little bit of negative ease meaning that the circumference of your sock should be smaller than the circumference of your foot otherwise the sock won’t stay up on the leg. The rule of thumb here is that the sock should have approximately 10% of negative ease. You get this number by multiplying the circumference of your foot with 0.9. Feel free to use the calculator below.

(″ or cm)

The circumference of your sock with 10% negative ease is 0 ″ (or cm).
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1.3. Selecting the needles and the yarn

1.3.1 Yarn weight (the thickness of yarn)

If you want to wear your sock in shoes pick fingering weight yarn (also known as sock weight yarn or 4ply yarn) or if your shoes are loose fitting you can pick a little bit thicker sport weight yarn. For boot socks select DK or worsted weight yarn.

If you are not sure how much yarn you need for your pair read this article: How much yarn do you need for a pair of socks. Because this pattern is a toe-up pattern it is quite easy to optimize the yardage and you can leave the cuff a little bit shorter.

If you have trouble choosing your yarn I have listed a few of my favorites below from Lovecrafts & Knitpicks (affiliate links):

Fingering: Knitpicks Felici is quite affordable basic sock yarn. It’s a self-striping yarn with very addictive colorways (one more stripe) and it’s merino which makes it soft.

If you like more solid colors and rustic yarn check out Lang Yarns Jawoll, Regia 4ply or West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 Ply. Some of them have also self-striping options.

DK: My current favorite is Novita Nalle which is a bit rustic, machine washable, light DK weight yarn. It has a beautiful stitch definition and it knits up quite fast but the sock is still thin enough to be worn in shoes. Nice yarn for cables and colorwork and I have used it for mittens as well. It has solid colors and many self-striping options as well.

Worsted: One could say that Novita 7 brothers is some kind of national sock yarn of Finland. Here in Finland you can find it in almost every grocery store. It knits up super quickly and it’s perfect for boot socks or house socks. It is durable and machine washable. For non-Finns it’s available on Lovecrafts which ships worldwide. You can find there both solid and self-striping options.

If you are looking for a bit more luxurious but still not too expensive sock yarns check out the hand dyeyed sock yarns by Knitpicks.

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1.3.2 Selecting the needles

After you have picked your yarn it is time to pick the needles. This pattern is written for the magic loop method (for long circular needle) but you and adjust it for the double pointed needles as well. The important thing here is to find needles that get you a good gauge. If you want to make a lasting sock your fabric needs to be dense enough. The gauge is, however, a matter of taste and you may also knit with a looser gauge if you prefer softer fabric over more long-lasting sock. A good rule of thumb is that the fabric should not be see-through.

Usually, fabric knitted with wool also relaxes a bit after you have given it a soak and dry so knit rather with a bit too tight gauge than a bit too loose.

Below you can find the most common gauges socks are knit with. The more there are stitches / 4” or 10cm the more durable the sock will be.

For instance, I knit my socks with gauges 32 sts (Fingering), 28 sts (DK) and sts 21 (Aran) / 4” (10cm).

Yarn weightStitches / 4” (10cm)
Fingering30-36
Sport24-30
DK22-28
Worsted19-23

From the table below you can check the typical needle sizes that are used to knit socks. If you are a loose knitter you should select a smaller needle size than if you are a tight knitter.

For instance I’m quite a loose knitter so I knit my fingering weight socks with US 0 (2mm) needles and gauge 32 sts / 4” (10cm), DK weight socks with US 1.5 (2.5mm) and gauge 28 sts / 4” (10cm) and Aran weight socks with US 2.5 (3mm) and gauge 21 sts / 4” (10cm).

Yarn weightUSmm
Fingering0-1.52-2.5
Sport1-2.52.25-3
DK1.5-42.5-3.5
Worsted2.5-63-4

1.4 Selecting a stitch pattern

I like to make my socks either with plain stockinette or then I use either 3 by 1 or 2 by 2 ribbing on the whole leg and on the instep. The sole I almost always knit with stockinette. I like ribbing because it adapts better to the shape of your foot. For instance, I have quite skinny ankles and ribbed socks aren’t too loose on the ankles unlike plain stockinette socks.

You can of course add cables or colorwork but remember that affects the ease and amount of yarn you need for your socks. If you are looking for some inspiration for stitch patterns see a list of 9 of my favorite knitting stitch dictionaries.

Now you should be ready to cast on and make the toe for your socks.

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