How to Knit Socks That Actually Fit (No Sagging! No Squeezing!)

Hand-knit socks should give you all the feels. They should be pretty, cozy and they should fit you like they were made for you (because, um, they were).

So why oh why is it so hard to get a perfect fit when you're hand-knitting socks ? Either they get all saggy and slide down, or they're so tight they strangle your ankles.

But there is a way to get your socks to hug your feet just right. Let's go over how to measure feet the right way so hand-knit socks fit . We'll also discuss how to compare feet to the pattern sizing.

Sock Sizing 101

Most sock patterns base their sizing on the foot circumference. But that's not the only part of the foot you'll need to measure to get the right fit. You can customize all kinds of other measurements to get a great-fitting sock.

Hint: If you're knitting socks as a surprise for someone, you can snoop around to figure out certain measurements like cuff length and foot length. How? Sneak a peek at the lucky person's favorite pairs — chances are they fit well — and measure those socks to get the right sizing.

Why Negative Ease Is a Good Thing

For some kinds of knitting, positive ease (when the knitting is sized a little larger than your measurements) is the way to go. In sweaters, for instance, more positive ease makes for a looser garment — and sometimes you want that. 

With socks, though, positive ease means your socks might slip right off your feet, or ball up in the back around your heel. No thanks.

What you want is negative ease. In other words, you want that sock to start out a little snug, then stretch out just a tiny bit so you get a comfortable fit. That's how the sock will stay put on your foot, without either drooping down to your ankles or squeezing the bejeezus out of your feet.

How to Measure Feet

Foot Circumference

Measuring the circumference helps you figure out if the number of stitches around the foot will end up creating a sock that's too large or too small.

Grab a tape measure. (Don't try to use a ruler for this, since you'll need to measure all the way around the foot.)

Start by measuring around the widest part, which is usually the ball of the foot near the toes. To get a true measurement, it helps to wrap the tape measure under the foot, then plant the foot on the ground. When you're wearing socks, you're usually walking around, so this will give you a true measurement.

If your sock recipient has any kind of swelling or bunions, don't include these in the measurements. They'll make the circumference of the foot seem bigger than it is, and mess up the overall fit. 

Now, pull on the tape measure so it's taut, but don't make it too tight or too loose. You want to be as accurate as possible with your measurement.

Cuff Height

This is all a matter of personal preference. The Craft Yarn Council lists sock heights for crew-style socks, so check their Foot Size Chart if it helps.

Otherwise, ask your sock giftee to weigh in on cuff length, or to lend you a pair of favorite socks to measure.

To get the height of the sock, measure from where you start to turn for the heel shaping, all the way to the top of the sock. Then you can customize accordingly if you want to.

Foot Length

This is the easiest part of the sock pattern to customize. To measure the total length of a foot, put a tape measure on the floor. Position the back of the heel at the zero mark on the tape, then measure to the longest toe. (Keep in mind that lots of people have a second toe that's longer than their big toe.)

As with the foot circumference, make sure the sock wearer's foot is planted on the ground so you can get an accurate measurement.

How to Customize a Sock Pattern

Once you have all these measurements, compare the foot circumference to the fit and gauge of the sock pattern. You may have to adjust the number of stitches to get the negative ease you'll need in the foot circumference: You'd increase the stitches if your foot is larger than the pattern measurements, and decrease them if it's smaller.

And there you have it: hand-knit socks that fit!

March 03, 2019
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How to Knit Socks That Actually Fit (No Sagging! No Squeezing!)