The Secret to Super Speedy (and easy) Sock Knitting

The secret to knitting super speedy (and easy) socks. Almost everything you need to know to fill up that sock drawer, pronto.

I hereby announce I have solved all your problems.

Okay. Revised. I hereby announce I have solved all your sock-knitting problems.

Double okay. That also might be an over statement. But I’m trying, okay?

To be completely up front, I’ve barely been knitting socks for a year, which might technically mean I’m not even a “sock knitter.” That said, since casting on my very first pair, I now ALWAYS have a pair of socks on my needles, and I’ve gained some insight.

For those of you stitching away toward Operation Sock Drawer-type sock knitting enthusiasm, the following unsolicited tidbits are thus offered as my words of wisdom on the matter. Take it or leave it. I love you either way.

Simple knit man socks in Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in the Whiskey Barrel colorway. Quick and easy beginner sock pattern!

(These socks are fresh off my needles, constituting my second pair of Man Socks knit in Madelinetosh Tosh Sock’s Whiskey Barrel colorway. I quite like the color for being boring brown. They are just plain ol’ ribbed in no particular pattern.)

Use Pointy, Metal-Tipped Needles

Until recently, I knit my socks using the magic loop method on Size 2 (US)/2.75 mm bamboo-tipped Hiya Hiya needles. As far as bamboo needles go, I’d say these are on the pointier side of the spectrum for a wooden-tipped needle. However…I went through two pairs this year alone due to breakages (I would argue once wasn’t my fault and the second time was definitely my fault) and, weary of buying not-inexpensive needles multiple times per year, switched to using my metal-tipped ChiaoGoo needles* instead.

Holy crap.

I thought I had been cruising along at warp speed with the Hiya Hiya’s. Nope. I had been limping along on the Santa Maria and didn’t even know it. Now that I’m working with sharp, metal-tipped needles, my sock knitting is progressing at Mock Speed.

Seriously.

So, if you are a sock knitter and have been dedicated to working with wooden-tipped needles (even if theyย seem sharp), just try using a metal-tipped needle, whether you are using DPN or the magic loop.

Trust me on this one.

Knit Plain Ol’ Vanilla Stockinette Socks

I know there are five zillion and one gorgeous sock patterns floating out in the universe, many of them enticing and tempting and all that wonderful socky goodness.

Fine.

Personally, I feel like my socks are hidden in some sort of shoe half the time and no one will notice my hard work on some fancy pancy stitch pattern. I’d rather save the complicated stuff for a shawl or something that might actually see the light of day.

As far as sock patterns go, I’ve stuck to simple stuff over the past year: ribbed, Hermione’s Every Day Sock, and numerous pairs of Blueberry Waffle socks. They were all free and easy patterns, suitable for a novice. Top down. One at a time. Nothing too complicated.

It wasn’t until I knit my first pair of straight-up stockinette socks that I realized how QUICKLY knitting a pair of socks could go. It’s like I blinked and they were (both!) off the needles.

After knitting many pairs of gifting socks (which I learned I prefer to do ribbed so I can fret less about the fit) and am focusing on knitting socks JUST FOR ME, I am just doing stockinette socks for the time being. All the pretty gradient, self-patterning, and self-striping yarns make them interesting and beautiful and I don’t feel like I am losing out by not working from a pretty sock pattern.

Walk and Knit

The other benefit of knitting simple ol’ stockinette socks is that it is much easier to walk and knit at the same time. I’ve tried walking and knitting with ribbed socks and it’s achievable…but walking and knitting with stockinette socks is much EASIER.

If you are anything like me (e.g., prioritize knitting over exercise and just about anything else) and also perpetually failing to achieve a higher state of desired personal physical fitness, let me suggest taking your socks on a walk during mild temperatures (my fingers get too cold during the winter to make this possible). I keep my socks in my Go-Knit* pouch and have made great knitting strides, although my waste band begs to differ.

Would you like another M&M?

Take Your Socks Absolutely Everywhere

Don’t just walk with your socks. Take them everywhere. I admit I have developed a sort of neurosis about leaving the house without my knitting. I barely ever do it. As luck would have it, as soon as I go somewhere without a knitting project I of course end up with an hour to kill that I otherwise COULD HAVE spent knitting.

The worst.

So, the socks always go. They are small and uncomplicated and travel well. Road construction with lengthy delays? Knit socks. Waiting for an appointment? Knit socks. Inadvertently find yourself at a bar drinking a bloody mary? Knit socks. Someone else is driving and your are the passenger? DEFINITELY knit socks.

All those random rounds add up and, BAM, you have a sock.

Some neuroses pay off more than others.

Set a Daily Goal

I have been coaching a knitting friend through her first pair of socks. I can’t say we’ve made a ton of progress, but this is what I told her: just knit eight rounds every night. That’s about an inch (2.54 cm). After a week or so of that, you’re ready to turn a heel. DOUBLE BAM. Eight rounds is NOTHING. You probably spend more time than that thoughtlessly scrolling through Facebook.

Knit your eight rounds (or whatever goal you otherwise set yourself), and you can thank me later.

Knit Smaller Socks

I’ve noticed socks commonly come in patterns based off 64 stitches. For me, working on Size 2 US/2.75 mm needles, 64 stitches comes out WAY too big. I use 64 stitches for Man Socks only, or women I know to have particularly thick feet and ankles.

When knitting socks for myself or averaged-footed ladies to gift, I go with patterns that use only 52 stitches for a better fit. Fewer stitches=smaller socks. Smaller socks=less time.

If you need to knit a gift for a man in your life, consider a hat instead. In worsted weight. Save the sock knitting for smaller feet.

Sock On!

That’s all I’ve got, knitters (for now). I’ll be thinking good socky thoughts for you and your soon-to-be cozy feet. Happy knitting!

ย *Affiliate links. Thanks for your support. xoxo

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39 Comments

  • Reply vann54 September 18, 2016 at 5:18 am

    I love the portability of socks and have a special pouch from my mother in law (who is now deceased) in which I carry my sock of the day. I think of her as I knit socks , she was an English knitter and did such beautiful work!!

  • Reply slantedstitches September 18, 2016 at 5:32 am

    Agree on all counts. Except I’d add switching to either 2 circular needles or magic loop. I was forever dropping and loosing my DPNs. That slows progress down to a halt. Although working with DPNs looks like magic or a contortionist to the non knitting public.

  • Reply Katie September 18, 2016 at 8:06 am

    I totally agree with all of this, especially metal needles and always taking your sock project with you. They’re small. Just shove em in your purse as you leave the house and you’re never without knitting. For myself I always knit plain stockinette, ankle socks. It’s what I enjoy wearing the most and they totally fly off the needles.

  • Reply pumpkin sunrise September 18, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Seems you have covered everything there is to make a speedy pair of socks….now I feel the need to cast them on….

  • Reply Juniper Roots September 18, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    I always loose interest after the first sock. I’ve considered switching to the two-at-a-time method, but I haven’t tried it yet. I’m a little reluctant to really switch over to hand knit socks because I’ve had problems with their elasticity in the past.

  • Reply Alina September 18, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    This makes me want to cast on my first pair of socks! I will have to do it one day, right?!

  • Reply Julie Crawford September 18, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    these are all really great tips!! especially about the smaller socks/stitches, and walking and knitting.

  • Reply Kat with a K September 19, 2016 at 6:09 am

    I chuckled over this post, because it is all true! Vanilla socks on metal dpns that travel with you wherever you go are just the best thing!

  • Reply Cheryl September 19, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Agree, agree and agree more. I only make socks for me, and I like a snug sock on my size 9 feet, so I use #1 Chiagoo’s and 50 stitches. Saved my sanity on a recent airplane trip!

  • Reply Sierra September 19, 2016 at 11:20 am

    I walked all over Europe this summer knitting socks! I finished 4 pairs in 4 weeks! I totally feel you on the bring it everywhere front. I always have knitting…even the movie theaters.

  • Reply Kristin September 29, 2016 at 7:25 am

    Where do you find sock patterns that have only 52 stitches? My small feet would like to know this. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Rhonda Hall October 5, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Have you tried the 9″ Chiagoo circulars? Loosen up the wire a bit, and I can speed knit. I keep a stitch keeper and one DPN in my bag for turning the heel and decreases.

  • Reply Marylouise October 10, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    I agree! I always have my knitting with me. Socks are such an easy pick up and go project. Love my nickel plated size 2’s. You are enjoying also right about now one seeing a fancy stitch. With solid color yarn, I sometimes do a fancy stitch just until starting the heel. Then change to stockinette. No one looks inside your shoe anyway. Color changing yarn is great for ribbing down to the heel. 2×2, 4×4 etc. If I try only stockinette, they end up too loose around my leg.

  • Reply Kate October 13, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Hi I’m a sock knitter too. Love knitting them! I mostly give them away. I live in a cold climate so it’s a useful thing to do. I’m interested presently in alternate methods of constructing them but top down is still mostly my favorite. Thanks for a fun article! Enjoyed it.

  • Reply Tess October 13, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    I really like your style! You seem to have the same sense of sarcasm that I have found in so many other long-time knitters. We tell a story with our knitting. Sometimes its witty and sarcastic and sometimes, its melancholy and tender. I pray when I knit unless I’m frogging something for the umpteen millionth time then I may be cussing as I guzzle wine but my knitting always tells a story about me, the time in my life, or the person I love enough to painstakingly create the impossible for. Thank you for this blog…..I will be following you : )

    • Reply Andrea @ This Knitted Life October 13, 2016 at 11:02 pm

      Glad to have found a kindred spirit

    • Reply Patty Soriano December 29, 2016 at 6:29 am

      Tess…I love your honesty that truly turns into humor as to knitting calamities. I too chuckled at your comment, been there done that ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply 8 Must-See Absolutely Free Sock Knitting Patterns - This Knitted Life October 26, 2016 at 4:03 am

    […] for casting on 60 stitches with top down construction and a grafted toe. This is a simple pattern, which I favor for speedy socks. The upper sock is ribbed, but the foot is all […]

  • Reply Chris October 31, 2016 at 4:47 am

    Been knitting socks for last decade, when I knit I pray for whomever receives them so each step is covered in prayer. ๐Ÿ™‚ You tips are right on the spot, a grab-n-go project is always needed.

  • Reply Saundra Neely November 11, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Girlfriend you have dandy ideas about knitting sox. They are highly appreciated by recipients. My son says they’re totally luxurious. I love the Chiagoo circulars but am a Magic loop gal so I use a fairly long one. Have to include a crochet hook for picking up the sides of the heel flap (and the occasional dropped stitch), two stitch markers, and a double point bamboo needle for the heel flap. I’m with ya’ on making use of ANY spare time with my little take-along-bag. Have to take the idea of knitting while walking under advisement. I always have my dog with me on walks!

  • Reply Judith Asbell November 13, 2016 at 5:49 am

    After l knit my first pair of socks, I was addicted. They are my favorite thing to knit. I found a great pattern for worsted weight socks that are super quick to knit up. They make wonderful slipper socks to keep my feet warm in the winter. I loved your post!

  • Reply Karen Berns November 13, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    I had trouble with one sock syndrome when I first started making socks about 14 years ago. I have found that I finish both socks by doing this: buy 2 needles, I use 1.2 mm addi turbo sock rockets, I start one toe. When it is done I do the second toe. Then I do first foot then second foot, first heel second heel and so on. When I’m ready to bind off I do both of them and my socks are done. This has helped me tremendously. Hope it helps someone else.

    • Reply KK January 1, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      Karen Berns – this is exactly how I make socks. I was tired of not getting row counts exact on both socks. It is easier to remember what I’ve done with one sock when I do the next right after. ๐Ÿ˜€ Great sock knitting article.

      Kristianna (lifelong knitter)

  • Reply Cyndy November 28, 2016 at 5:35 am

    I have a sock pattern that uses worsted weight yarn, and size 4 needles. I can knit a pair in a day, so of course I have several dozen pair, and all of my friends have several pair

  • Reply Raevyn Smith November 30, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    You can do 64 stitches for women’s socks just use smaller needles. Size 2mm are perfect for knitting socks

  • Reply iwsandliz December 27, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    Hiโ€ฆI use bamboo needles because I find the metal ones make my teeth crawl rather like chalk on a black board! I have had all the metial removed from my teeth but stilll I cannot use metal needles!

  • Reply B December 30, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Great advice!

  • Reply Great Tips for Knitting Faster Socks โ€“ Knitting January 6, 2017 at 11:45 am

    […] Knitted Life has a great collection of tips for knitting socks faster, including using metal needles in your preferred configuration, knitting plain socks and using […]

  • Reply cffong1721 January 9, 2017 at 1:57 am

    Thank you for your suggestions! I especially appreciated your comment about 64 stitches being too big. I found this out the hard way, now having to rip out a sock almost 3/4 finished. The sock ended up very slouchy and loose. I’m glad I ran across your post – never too old to learn! Thanks.

  • Reply Marlene January 19, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Save even more time by knitting your socks on a 9″ needle. I love my ChiaoGoo needles!

  • Reply Laurel February 25, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    I have my first sock on needles; it’s a pattern from my LYS owner and her sock club for the first quarter of 2017. I was using magic loop but prefer the Addi new 10″ sock circular needle, I can knit much faster than ml and that extra inch really helps. I dream of knitting a zillion pairs of socks ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

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