Tools for sock-knitting success (+ giveaway!)

Martingale's Knit and Crochet Friday

The Sock Knitter's HandbookWe’ve all heard that using the right tool makes any job easier, and if you’ve ever tried to loosen a screw using a butter knife, you know those words are true. Well, they apply to knitting just as they do to any other activity. Having the right yarn and needles for the project is key to achieving a good result. And having the right kind of guidance—clear, understandable, truly helpful, and perhaps most important, there when you need it—is essential. This is especially true if you’re doing something that has the potential to be challenging, something like, say, knitting socks.

I’m very fond of knitting socks but I don’t do it often enough to have a favorite pattern or to be able to get from start to finish without having to look up at least something along the way. And my go-to resource for all sorts of sock-knitting answers is The Sock Knitter’s Handbook. It’s the right tool for the job! Are you familiar with it? We introduced this handy little gem in early 2012, and it’s been a big hit with sock fans everywhere. In fact, it’s been so popular we decided to release it in a new format: it’s now available in paperback with a clever lay-flat binding.

You say you missed the book’s debut? Well, here’s your chance to get to know it. My colleague Karen Soltys did a wonderful job describing the features of the book in her post about its original release. Here’s what she had to say:

The book is jam-packed with photos and illustrated instructions for all sorts of cuffs, heels, heel flaps, and toe options (for both toe-up and cuff-down socks, mind you). You’ll also find trouble-shooting tips, some favorite stitch patterns for socks, and a handy index for locating exactly what you need. This is one sock book you won’t want to live without.

Did I mention that this book is the perfect size to tuck into your knitting bag, so you can have it handy whenever you feel the urge to cast on a new pair of socks?

Feeling apprehensive about trying your hand at sock knitting? Authors Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott explain in the introduction to the book that socks don’t have to be intimidating. “Knitting socks is really just about putting together a series of several different knitting techniques—knitting in the round, turning a heel by knitting back and forth, picking up stitches for a gusset, or shaping a toe.” Here’s an illuminating excerpt from the book’s overview of sock architecture.

Sock Architecture
From The Sock Knitter’s Handbook by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott

Fundamentally, a sock is a tube of knitting that has one open, stretchy end to let the whole foot enter, a sharp turn for the heel, and then a closed end to fit the toe smoothly. You can start knitting this structure at the top, at the toe, or somewhere in between, such as at the ankle just before the heel. Knitters have been exploring these alternatives forever and no doubt will continue to do so as long as knitting is the best way to make a sock. In this section we describe the individual sock elements and some important fit and wear issues for each one. These examples, one top down and one toe up, have the same elements. Some sock architectures combine or omit an element or two.

Sock architecture

The cuff is typically stretchy enough to hold the sock on the calf; it’s often worked in ribbing (alternate knits and purls) for elasticity. The top edge of the cuff needs to be loose enough to allow the heel to fit through it.

The leg is generally a straight tube that is also elastic enough to accommodate the difference in circumference between the calf and the ankle. Some knitters like to add shaping to this section around a calf. Stretchy patterns work well for the leg, but this is also the area where some knitters do dazzling pattern work.

The heel is where the tube makes a turn. At its most basic, the heel requires more fabric on the heel side than on the instep side. There are a large number of structures to accomplish this, and there are quite a few techniques for heels covered in the book.

The foot section is a straight tube between the heel and toe. Many times it’s knit in stockinette stitch for speed or ease because it’s hidden in the shoe. You can also knit the instep of the foot using the same decorative pattern you used to knit the leg. For those with a narrow foot, an elastic instep pattern such as a rib will help the sock fit comfortably.

Not all feet are created equal. Some of us have long toes, some short; some have rather square toes, and some quite pointy. This is one area where you can customize your socks to fit the toes you have. The choice of toe can be based on technique, the length of the toe, or the look.

Now that the knitted sock has been demystified, you’re ready to cast on! The helpful information in The Sock Knitter’s Handbook will guide you through every step. You can purchase the book in either hardcover or paperback today at—and as always, when you purchase the book, you’ll get an eBook copy of the book to download for free right away. Do you have a pair in the works but need a little help? No need to wait to pick them up again!

Where do you typically hit a snag when knitting socks? Tell us below in the comments and you could win a copy of The Sock Knitter’s Handbook eBook! We’ll pick a winner one week from today and let you know by email if you’ve won.

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Thanks to all who entered the drawing! The randomly chosen winner is Linda, who writes:

“I have started probably 20 times, and ripped them back out because they were so terrible. But I keep trying. One of these days, I’m going to get the hang of it! ha.”

Linda, we’ll email you about your prize. Congratulations!

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