Wednesday, January 17


Socks custom knit for me by me! I learned a lot knitting these. Mostly I learned that understanding socks doesn't have to be so hard, so why don't knit designers explain this better? Lots of folks talk about knitting socks to custom fit, but I haven't found a source that explains how.

Perhaps I just haven't found the right source. Sockknitters club,, random other internet places? Nothing that really explained to me how all the pieces interacted and how I can adjust to fit. Everyone just assumes some proportions are a given and don't suggest you could change them to fit your foot.

Yarn: my hand-dyed aurora 6 100% merino
Needles: Brittany US 3 DPNs

My details:

Cast on 64 stitches and work k2p2 rib for 42 rows = 5 inches.
Decrease to 54 stitches and work 18 rows (2 inches) in stockinette.
Examine the sock so far. Pooling? Striping? Choose a front and maneuver so that 24 stitches for the heel are on one needle, the 30 for the instep are evenly divided on two needles.

Yes! Use any number of stitches you want for the flap. Half is arbitrary. Does any sock designer tell you that? Not that I can tell. Neighbor Nancy gave me this suggestion. My ankles are kinda pointy and skinny in the back and this worked.

Choose a flap stitch. I have found three. All three have you slip the first stitch of each row.
  • Regular stockinette, slipping the first stitch every row
  • Slips on RS rows. With even number of stitches, (RS: *[Sl1 k1] WS: Sl1 p to end)
  • Slips every row. With even number of stitches, (RS: *[sl1 k1] WS: *[sl1 p1])
the second two flaps pull in narrower and are, of course, thicker. I chose the third one.

Choose how long to make the flap. Up to you. The number of rows will depend on which heel flap stitch pattern, how wide or narrow the flap and how tall the instep. I did 30 rows for 2 inches. That slip stitch really shrinks up the row gauge.

Choose a short-row method for turning the heel. This includes choosing how many stitches to leave in the center. Neighbor Nancy said traditionally there are 4. For different stitch gauges, wider or pointier heels, change this accordingly. (here's something that irked me about Vintage Socks. Nancy Bush describes six different heels, but all except one have the exact same heel flap. The differences are in the short row heel turning instructions. So much wasted space given to duplicating the heel flap instructions over and over again and so much wasted space on the vintage photos that don't demonstrate the short row differences.)

What I did:
RS row 1: k14 (ie, half the heel flap stitches plus 2), k2tog, k1 turn
WS row 2: sl1, p5 (ie, til one stitch before the gap), p2tog, p1 turn
continue appropriately til all stitches are worked.

On my second sock I did all the k2togs through the back loop. My p2togs were fine, except that last p2tog was done TBL to cinch it down.

Pick up gussets.

Here, those slipped stitches on the heel flap become the pick-up spots. So you wind up picking up half the number of rows of the heel flap, plus one or two at the ends to tighten it up and avoid holes. I picked up 17 stitches on each side. Some of them I was having a challenge picking up without leaving holes. In these spots I twisted the stitch.

Choose decrease rate. Another item that you get to decide. Fine yarn and high insteps? Decrease every third round (or fourth?). Since my row gauge on the stockinette was 9 stitches per inch (where something like Koigu can have 15 to 18 stitches per inch), I decreased every other round.

Choose when to stop decreasing. The patterns all say to decrease til you have the same number of stitches you started with at the ankle. Why? Is everyone's foot the same width as their ankle? What about differences in arches?

I have a highish arch so my foot circumference gets small, but the ball of my foot is wide. So, I did the gusset decreases til there were 50 stitches on the needles, then worked straight for 20 rows, then increased four stitches for the wider part of my foot.

This also had the effect of providing a stitch count divisible by 3. I knit the French toe from Vintage Socks, because this decreases fast and results in a wide toe, to fit my feet.

Voila! Finally, I understand how to make socks that fit.


Kathleen said...

Yay! And they are mahhhvelous, dahlink!

Cat Bordhi's next book is what you need! :) Customizing socks for feet is at least one of the topics she'll be covering. I supplied some extraordinary foot measurements for her (boys wear size 13 of 14, depending on the shoe, one has a wider foot and high instep than the other).

kmkat said...

Wonderful! I suggest you submit this post to Yarnival ( for the February 15 issue or write it up for There have to be lots of other knitters who would love to do this. Go, you!

Kris said...

I love the color. Those look fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Hi Aunt Dorothy,

How cool that you can make a sock! I heard they are really hard and you have to do a lot of math to get it right. But I never knew it was *that* much math to get the right fit for a person. I like the colors you used to dye the yarn. I think it will be a while until I will be able to make socks like that. Until then I'll stick to scarves and doll house carpets and blankets! Jenna

Dorothy said...

Aw shucks, Kathleen, Kmkat, Kris, thanks.

Jenna, thanks too. It's really not that hard. confusing at first, but then easier. If I can get us to Germany, I'll teach you. I don't think we can come in '07 though. Perhaps '08.

Anonymous said...

I was just looking at Sensational Knitted Socks, by Charlene Schurch, and it did go into altering patterns for fit, I believe. I *think* it mentioned changing the proportion of the heel flap: certainly there were lots of details. (ALA is great, by the way, am going back tomorrow to pick up more freebies -- lots of review copies! whee! -- though obviously not of things like knitting books, though they're probably discounted).