Is it easier to knit or crochet socks?

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It’s usually easier & better to knit socks than crochet them. But it depends what type of socks you want to make. It’s quick and easy to crochet baby booties and chunky slipper socks for example. But knitted socks are the best choice if you want something closer to traditional socks or want to wear socks in shoes.

Why it’s better to knit socks than crochet them

Knitting is better suited to making socks than crochet, mainly due to the differences between knitted and crocheted fabric.

Crochet doesn’t stretch the way knitting does, so it’s much harder to get crocheted socks to fit well. Heck, it can be tricky just getting some crocheted socks on & off your foot. Socks have an L-shape with a heel, so you rely on them stretching out nicely to get around your ankle and up your leg and then contracting back to give a nice snug fit. Knitted fabric has a natural elasticity to it but crochet is more solid and does not have much stretch.

Knitted pieces also feel smoother than crochet, which is important for handmade socks. You want to have a nice soft and smooth feeling underfoot as you walk.

Finally, if you want to make socks to wear in shoes, you need them to be fine. Knitting produces a thinner, lighter fabric with more drape, whereas solid crochet fabric is more dense and bulky.

Aside from crochet fabric not working as well, you need to use a very small crochet hook to make standard socks and and it’s very fiddly work. While crochet is usually much faster than knitting, crocheting socks can be slower and with a poorer end result after all that effort.

Crochet slipper sock patterns

If you’re not a knitter, crochet can work well for chunky slipper socks you wear around the house. Here’s a few free chunky sock crochet patterns to try:

What do I need to knit socks?

Sock knitting needles

You knit socks in the round rather than on straight needles. So you’ll need either circular needles or a set of short double pointed needles.

I prefer circular needles (called the magic loop technique) because it’s easier to try on socks as you go. If you are more used to DPNs, I’d suggest sticking with those at least initially. Once you learn how to knit a basic sock, you can try out knitting a sock with circulars and switch if you prefer it.

Socks are usually knit at a tight gauge to create a dense and durable fabric. Sock knitting patterns typically use 2.25-2.75mm (size 1-2 US) needles, but the exact needle size(s) will depend on the pattern and your gauge. Patterns with a ribbed cuff may need 2 needle sizes, one for the main sock and a smaller one for the ribbing.

Sock yarn

You use fingering weight yarn to knit thinner socks that you can wear with shoes. Heavier fingering yarns are similar to 4 ply weight. Some sock yarns are designed especially for making socks, although you can of course knit anything you like with them. Most sock yarn is 75% wool and 25% nylon. The wool makes the socks warm yet breathable while the nylon makes them hardwearing.

There’s a wide variety of sock yarn designs available: plain shades, marled and variegated textures, multicoloured fair isle effect prints and short and long self striping sock yarns. With these multicoloured yarns, you can knit a simple stockinette sock pattern and end up with very fancy socks, letting the yarn do all the work.

You can also make thicker bed socks and cosy slipper socks with worsted / aran or chunky / bulky yarn and much larger needles (5-8 mm, size 8-11 US approx). I highly recommend knitting a pair of thick socks first, because they are much quicker and easier to make. See suggested patterns below.

Handknit striped socks
It’s quick work to knit worsted weight socks. I knit this pair with self striping yarn – no colour changes or calculations needed, the yarn does all the work 🙂

Top down vs Toe up sock knitting patterns

There are 2 types of sock knitting patterns: top down and toe up. With top down sock knitting patterns, you start by knitting the cuff and leg of the sock first and finish at the toe. Toe-up patterns work in reverse, starting with the sock toe and ending with the leg.

Top down patterns are more popular and easiest for beginners. Once you have got the hang of making socks, try a toe up pattern too to see which type you prefer. I prefer toe up socks because I can keep trying it on and make sure I get a good fitting sock from the start.

Tips for knitting the right size socks

Commercial socks fit so well because they use spandex or elastane. But handmade socks don’t and are made from a mix of wool and nylon. While knitted socks do have natural stretch, it can be surprisingly difficult to get a good fit. 

My top tip for knitting the right size socks: choose the size based on foot width rather than length.

You buy socks based on shoe size, but don’t do this when knitting socks, even if the pattern suggests it. The key measurement in knitting socks is the foot circumference

Measure around the widest part of your foot (below your toes) with a measuring tape. If you want a good fit there should be negative ease, so knit socks about an inch smaller (2-3cm) than your foot circumference. 

Most sock patterns come in a few sizes at most. For knitting adult socks, a good rule of thumb is to make the medium size, unless the person has very wide feet.

You can simply increase or decrease the foot length a bit to account for shoe size. It’s easy to change the foot length of any sock knitting pattern. So you don’t need to look for patterns for your shoe size. 

I’ve big feet and used to make the mistake of knitting large or extra large size socks which always ended up huge. In fact I’ve a bag of over a dozen abandoned single knitted socks that don’t fit!

If in any doubt, size down. If your sock doesn’t look much too small at the start, it will end up way too big. The same goes for knitting gloves by the way.

Beginner sock knitting tutorials and patterns

When knitting socks for the first time, choose a worsted or bulky/chunky weight yarn basic sock pattern. This first project will teach you the key components of a sock and in particular how to turn the heel. Your sock will grow really quickly whereas finer socks knit with fingering weight or sock yarn take ages!

A popular free beginner sock knitting pattern and tutorial is Tin Can Knits Rye sock. This top down pattern uses worsted or aran weight yarn.

I can personally recommend Ann Budd’s Getting Started Knitting Socks book. Firstly, it explains all the parts of a sock in detail with lots of tips and tricks for avoiding common problems. Then, there’s a very clear and detailed basic sock pattern for all yarn weights. There’s also several other sock pattern variations you can use after you get the hang of the basics. It’s an excellent reference book I return to again & again.

I hope this post has helped explain why knitting socks is easier than crocheting them & given you some helpful pointers for knitting your own socks. Of course, there is no law against crocheting socks! Crochet can work well for chunky slipper socks & there are crochet sock patterns available for finer socks too. But sock knitting is much more popular & the easiest way to make comfy socks that fit well.

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