There are many ways to knit socks

There are many ways to knit socks

Are you sitting down? I'm going to talk you through the many ways to knit socks. 

Last year I received a refund request from a customer. They weren't happy with their sock knitting kit and wanted a refund on the needles. The customer's words were something like "there's circular needles in here. No good for knitting socks!" 

Let's ignore the fact that the contents of the kit will have been clearly listed before purchase and that I am a knitwear designer and hopefully know a thing or two about knitting socks. Let's focus on the "no good for knitting socks!" How do you know? Have you tried? 

After talking the customer round (excuse the pun) they were willing to give the circulars a try. I introduced them to the method of magic loop knitting. They had never heard of this before. If you knit, every day is a school day. There are many, many ways to do something that achieves the same results as something else. Magic loop is just one method. 

Long circular needles (magic loop)

Long circular needles aren't just for hats and garments. You can use them for knitting flat as they are lighter and more compact than traditional straight knitting needles. What knitters do to make socks with long circulars is to choose circulars with a very long cable. I usually recommend 80cm or 100cm for socks. This cable is then pulled through to provide a loop on either side of the work. 

how to knit on magic loop

I seem to find that if I was to join in the round at cast on (by pulling the cord through the halfway point of the stitches) I end up with a tangled mess and twisted stitches. This can be avoided entirely by knitting the first round in one flat row. When you have established the first row, simply pull the cord through the halfway point of stitches and carry on knitting. You will be left with the smallest of gaps at the top of the cuff but you can easily seam it closed at the end.

Louise Tilbrook has a really handy tutorial for magic loop here

Knitting on short circular needles 

There are also short circulars. They're brilliant for knitting the legs and the feet but you will need to switch to other circulars or DPNs for toe shaping. That's not a preference thing- it's just not physically possible to shape toes on 9 inch circulars.

addi sockwonder short circular needles


What I will say about the 9in circulars is that they create a tighter knit in my opinion. You definitely need to review your tension compared to when you use other methods. 

Louise Tilbrook has a tutorial on knitting with tiny needles here. It can be hard to get to grips with them at first but if you can, it's worth it. 

Knitting with niche needles 

There are also these funky little thigs called CraSyTrio. I think they're awesome because they have the flexibility of the circular needle but a similar setup to double pointed needles. 

Double pointed needles


Your experience with these will vary from "knitting ninja" to "fighting with a hedgehog" but if you persevere, I think you'll be all right. I was wary of double pointed needles for a long time. I feared the complicated set up and when I started out, I would get myself into a tangle or lose my patience when one of the needles kept slipping off. 

You may want to consider starting your DPN journey with something bigger like a sleeve or a hat. This will help you to practice and there's more chance of you noticing dropped stitches with thicker yarn. 

DPN hack: Cast on all of your stitches on one slightly larger needle. Using your smaller DPN needles, knit the set amount of divided stitches onto each needle. You will then have all stitches accounted for without having dropped your DPNs during cast on. Some patterns even tell you how many stitches to have on each needle e.g. there may be more stitches on the 3rd needle as that is the heel needle.

 You can knit socks flat

Even though knitting socks in the round is incredibly popular, there will always be knitters who prefer knitting them flat. I believe that these knitters are often left behind when it comes to sock design. Luckily, you can get a good range of flat knit socks thanks to the internet. I have a pattern for flat knit socks here that avoids all the requirements for stitch holders and multiple seams. Just sew up one seam at the end and you're done. 

I hope you can find the time to explore all methods or practice a favourite. 



Simple beginner sock knitting kit 

Sock knitting patterns 

Things I wish I'd known as a beginner knitter 

Socktober superstar patterns 


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