Tube Socks Made Simple

Tube Socks Made Simple
Intimidated by sock knitting? Fingering yarn seems really skinny, and the different parts of a sock seem really technical? Yes, it can be daunting to start that first pair. Fortunately, tube socks make that first project a great deal easier!

As the name implies, tube socks are knit in the round with little shaping. One can start at either end, but the simplest way to proceed is to cast on enough stitches for the leg, knit cylindrically until the piece is an appropriate length, and then decrease for the toe area. While socks are generally knit in fingering yarn so that the pieces fit between the foot and a shoe, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, particularly when it comes to house slippers. Why not begin your sock-knitting journey by creating a pair of tube socks knit in DK weight?

To start, make a gauge swatch. Really. Socks need very little or negative ease, and so it’s important to know how many stitches per inch you’re getting with a particular yarn. You want to use a needle size that creates a thick fabric, so for a DK yarn you might start with a size 4 needle and see if the resultant textile feels good against the skin. When you know your gauge per inch, measure your ankle and foot circumferences, and multiply the stitches per inch by the size needed. For example, my foot is approximately seven and a quarter inches, and my ankle seven and a half. If I am getting a gauge of six stitches per inch, I would need to cast on around 45 stitches.

Don’t start yet! First, determine if your stitch pattern requires you to adjust the number of stitches. For example, if I use a K2, p2 stitch pattern for the aforementioned measurements, I would need to cast on either 44 or 48 stitches. Knowing what I do about sock ease, I would cast on 44.

Many sock patterns tell you to cast on and then join for knitting in the round. I prefer to cast on and knit two rows flat first; this established the pattern and makes it easier to be sure that I’m not twisting the fabric when I do join. It leaves a bit of a gap at the top of the sock, but that’s easy to hide when you weave in the end. When you do join, you will then adjust the stitches for your type of needle: two circulars will require half your stitches on each needle, while short double-points can be engineered somewhat differently. For the above sock, I would have twenty-two stitches on each circular needle; for double-points I might put twenty-two stitches on the first needle, with 11 each on the second and third. If doing so requires you to start a needle with a purl stitch, make sure to keep it fairly tight so that you don’t end up with a line of loose stitches at the edge.

At this point, continue to follow the pattern in the round until your cuff reaches roughly two inches. You now have a decision to make: do you want to knit the back of the tube sock in stockinette, keeping the pattern on the front of the foot? If so, make the change now; if not, continue in the pattern across the entire piece. Keep knitting until the sock is long enough to cover the foot and lower leg.

When you are ready to decrease for the toe, you will drop the patterning and knit only in stockinette. The easiest decrease? Knit two stitches together, repeat together all needles. Knit a row, then knit 2 together across all stitches, until you have approximately six to ten stitches left. Cut the yarn, leaving a longish tail. You’ll use a tapestry needle to loop the yarn through the live stitches. Thread the yarn to the inside and darn in the end. Darn in the end at the top, and presto! You have a tube sock. Now it’s time to make a second one.

Once you’ve created a pair of tube socks, you might be ready to learn the different techniques required to further shape a sock. If so, congratulations – you’re becoming a sock knitter!

You Should Also Read:
A Few Good Reasons to Knit Socks
Three Non-Wool Sock Yarns

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