Customising crochet socks to fit: Sockalong 2018

Customising Socks Crafternoon Treats

Hello lovelies! I’m sorry to have been away for so long but the publishing project I’ve been doing flat out is now coming to a close and I’ll be back to a regular schedule of blogging and podcasting in November.

I am really disappointed not to have played more of a part in the crochet sockalong. The return of the project I was working on earlier in the summer was a bit of a surprise but having committed to it initially, I felt duty-bound to see it through to the next stage. It is craft related but I can’t tell you anything at all about it unfortunately as its a feasibility study. It may be that I can in the future, but that depends on all sorts of factors.

Anyhow, my blog post for the sockalong is now published on the last day of October and will bring this really lovely crochet event to a close. And its all about customising your crochet socks to fit.

Crafternoon Treats Crochet Podcast Episode 1 - survival socks pattern by Elin Stoodley

My first ever crochet socks. The pattern is by Elin Stoodley on Ravelry (the Survival Socks) and I think I managed to make them fit because I am a loose crocheter. The pattern uses dc stitches, which tend not to stretch

Why is it tricky to get crochet socks to fit?

Its not really the fault of patterns, different yarns or technique. The sad truth is that crochet fabric does not have the same stretch as knitted fabric. And as socks are traditionally made using knitting, when we crochet socks its like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.

Knitting has lots of sideways stretch and with a stretch cast on or cast off, its not too difficult to construct a sock to fit snuggly on your foot. The knitting fabric stretches out to accommodate that widest part of your foot around the heel, and the knitting just snaps back into shape once the sock is on.

Crochet is different. If you crochet a sock using UK dc stitches (US sc) and ‘copy’ a vanilla knitted sock, you can produce something that looks the business but even if its the right width and length, it can be impossible to actually get on. And that’s because crochet fabric does not stretch very easily sideways. Lengthways is better, so if you do manage to overcome the ‘getting over the heel’ issue, its more straightforward to get the foot of a crochet sock to fit perfectly.

My most recent socks – from the Rohn Strong book. Made in Drops Fabel, which stripes surprisingly well in crochet

Why doesn’t my crochet sock fit?

The first thing to accept is that everyone’s feet are different and the stretch of crochet fabric means that you will need to customise most crochet sock patterns to fit you. Its not that the pattern is wrong, its just that it can’t account for all variables that you come across.

These variables include:

  • Your foot size and shape
  • The stretch within the yarn you are using
  • Your individual crochet tension
  • Your technique in working the crochet stitches in the pattern
Crochet sock clinic saunders socks featured

The Saunders socks by The Crochet Project – made in West Yorkshire Spinners Aire DK. Note the hobbit feet appearance!

Strategies to make your crochet socks fit better

Or at least to make them so you can actually get them on!

Measure your foot size

Its a bit tedious but the first thing you need to do is to get to know your feet. You will know your foot size but measure it anyway in cm or inches. Measure the circumference at several points. Around your mid calf, lower calf, ankle, around your arch, around your foot in several places (including around your toe cleavage).

Do you have flat feet or a high arch? Do you have wide feet? Again, you will probably know this because if you have feet that are not sort of average, you will have trouble getting shoes and boots to fit. You can do a wet test, as recommended by running shoe manufacturers, to find out whether you have a high arch/high instep as this can be a stumbling block to crochet sock making.

Check your crochet tension

Some knitters don’t do gauge swatches but many do as its crucial to making knitted garments that fit. Crocheters are generally very bad at doing gauge swatches because gauge doesn’t tend to matter for things like blankets or shawls. But with crochet socks, you need to make sure your crochet tension matches the pattern.

If you crochet tightly you are likely to have much more trouble with crochet socks because your crochet fabric will have the last amount of sideways stretch.

Try to get the same gauge by going up hook sizes (you can go up half sizes to fine tune) until you are more or less there. But when you crochet, try to relax so that you don’t pull too tightly was you work.

Choose your pattern and yarn carefully

Check out the Sock it to me chatter thread in Claudia’s Ravelry group (Crochet Luna Podcast) to see how other people have found different patterns. Something with a good stretch, particularly in the leg, and with a heel flap and gusset may be the best starting point.

I made my Super Sonic sock pattern free on Ravelry if you want to try that. Its a very basic top down, heel flap and gusset sock that most people who’ve tried it have managed to make successfully. Using a contrast for the cuffs, heels and toes give the socks that ‘knitted’ look but you can easily make them with the same colour yarn throughout.

Super sonic socks on

Fay has done a wonderful and detailed review of sock yarns but, similarly, for your first socks, choose something with a bit of stretch. Put a few cm of yarn between the thumb and forefinger of each hand and pull apart to check how much springiness there is in the yarn. The more spring, the better!

Be prepared to make a sacrificial sock

Checking tension and gauge is important for both the cuff and the main pattern, so the easiest thing to do is to actually work a sock. Be prepared to have to pull this out, or to keep it as reference. Either way, you won’t be wearing it so don’t choose an ultra expensive yarn to start with.

I have found Drops Fabel sock yarn to be perfect. When its on sale you can get two 50g balls for less than £4, so not too much cash to splash on the sacrificial socks. Or you can choose one of the commercial yarns that retail for £6 to £7 for 100g – Stylecraft Head over Heels, West Yorkshire Spinners sock yarn, King Cole, Regia or Opal. Choose something with a nice long repeat as the pattern will come out better when you crochet with it.

Try the sock on as you make it

As often as you can really. If you are working heel down, you will probably work the heel in back loop only rib, which is then joined. Try this over your foot to make sure it passes over your heel and is then not too loose around your lower calf. You can easily adjust it before moving on to work the leg of the sock (normally done at 90 degrees to the direction of the rib stitches).

Tunisian crochet podcast episdde 6 Crafternoon TreatsClose up zig zag sock-tile

I’ve had more success with top down crochet socks like the one middle and left. Making the cuff with back loop only stitches gives it a really good stretchiness and then its easy to join and turn to work the leg. My toe up socks (right) failed because the yarn was not at all stretchy and I went down a hook size to get nice stripes! No, they did not fit

Try on again after a couple of rows of leg – those first rows can be the tightest so you need to adjust the stitch count if the sock is too tight or too loose.

Try on before and straight after the heel (once you have started working in the round once more). When I make crochet socks I often find that I can reduce the stitch count around the foot to a lower number than the original stitch count I used in the leg. As long as you have an even number, it will be OK for when you get to the toe decreases.

Don’t forget to add some ease to your sock length. Start doing your toe decreases when your crochet foot has reached your toe cleavage. One the toe is complete, it should be about 2cm shorter than your foot so that it stretches to fit when you wear the sock. Whatever your foot size and shape, your crochet socks should always look like they were made for hobbits!

If you are making a sock toe up, the same rules apply. Try on often and adjust as you go.

Make notes!

Don’t assume that you will be able to remember what you did at each stage. Its impossible. Make notes either on paper or on your phone. Take photos or even a video and describe the changes you’ve made to the pattern. This information can then be collated into some neater notes to keep with the pattern so that you can go on to make the same changes again.

Gusset tip for high arches

If you do have high arches (also known as a high instep), the width of your foot around the heel is higher than average, so your sock needs to stretch even further for you to get it on.

Try to compensate for this by making your gusset longer. If you are working heel down, don’t start decreasing straight away. Work three or four rounds without any decreases first, to give your sock that extra width. Similarly, when working toe up, finish off after the gusset with some non-decrease rounds before starting your heel.

Obviously this is general advice – there are so many heel variations its difficult to tell you exactly how each can be modified. But, if you do have a high arch/instep, its probably best to steer clear of after thought heels as these give the least amount of room at that point.

Crochet sock clinic Crafternoon Treats

Normally a pattern asks you to work in the round and make gusset decreases straight away after making the heel flap and turning the heel. Adding a few rows without decreases before you start the gusset can help you get a sock to fit if you have high arches

Try hybrid socks

Knitting podcasts often talk about Frankensocks but mean socks you make out of scrap yarn. You can make hybrid socks by combining knitting and crochet. I’ve tried knitting the cuff and crocheting the rest of the sock and was quite pleased with the result. But, as in knitting, its all too easy to get second sock syndrome and I never did complete the pair!

Be careful when washing your socks

Having made a pair of crochet socks to fit, its best to hand wash them (even if you’ve made them with super wash yarn). I’ve found that crochet socks are more temperamental and likely to suffer overall shrinkage or foot stretch if they find their way into the washing machine.

Wash by hand, spin dry (a salad spinner is good for this) and then dry on sock blockers so that the socks keep their shape and continue to fit perfectly.

Crochet sock love Episode 51 Crochet socks on blockers

Happy sock making. Remember, the sockalong can be for life, not just for October.

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