When I began to design my Snowfall crochet sock pattern, it became obvious very quickly that I had a lot to learn about sock construction.
Just like when I started designing sweaters, I went down a rabbit hole researching all the different options available when it comes to how to actually construct a sock!
Most of the resources I found were related to knitting so, just like my post giving an overview of the various ways to construct a crochet sweater, I thought I would put together a similar post for crocheting socks.
Whether you are hooking up your first pair of socks using a pattern or looking to design some yourself, I think you will find this post useful to get a good overall understanding of what goes into the making of a sock!
The Anatomy of a crochet sock
Lets’s start with a quick list of the basic parts which make up a crochet sock:
- Gusset and instep
For clarity, the picture below shows you where these are located.
Sock patterns tend to use the same terminology as we do for the foot so most of the terms are familiar but the ones you may not be familiar with (I certainly wasn’t!) are the gusset and instep.
The Gusset and Instep of a crochet sock
In my experience, a gusset is something you find in a pair to tights / pantyhose, not something I would expect in a sock but the term is used here nonetheless!
The gusset of a sock is essentially the area of decrease from the end of the heel to the main part of the foot. Not all socks are worked with gussets.
Gussets can also be referred to in context of a ‘gusset heel’ as the gusset is worked immediately after the heel.
In some designs, after working your heel, you end up with more stitches than you want around the foot, This is often intentional to make it easier to get your foot into the sock.
You use the gusset section to make decreases on the underside until you have the correct number of stitches to continue with the foot section.
The style and shape of the gusset can change with the design style but that’s really as much as you need to know to get your sock done!
The instep of the sock is essentially the top of the foot where the gusset decrease is worked. In terms of foot anatomy, I would refer to this as the bridge of the foot.
Note that gusset decreases should be made on the underside, at the arch of the foot. If the decreases are made around the top (instep) of the sock, this can make it too tight around the bridge area, resulting in an uncomfortable fit.
Now we’re all on the same page about our terms and sock parts, we can start to have a look how socks are designed.
The basics of crochet sock design
The fist thing to do when looking at crochet sock design is to answer a couple of important questions about how you’re going to approach the construction.
- Are the socks going to be crocheted cuff to toe (top down) or toe to cuff (bottom up)?
- What type of heel is this sock going to use?
I have allocated sections below to answer each of these questions one by one but just before I get to that, here are some other important facts to know about crochet socks:
- Socks are made with negative ease. By that I mean that they are smaller than the actual foot they are made for.
- On average, a sock should be about 10% shorter than the foot they are aiming to fit.
- The stitch pattern you use needs to be able to stretch to fit and snap back into place so it clings around the foot.
Crochet vs knit sock design
Crochet fabric stretches in different ways to knit fabric and this needs to be considered when choosing a stitch pattern for your crochet socks.
Basic crochet stitches tend to stretch vertically (in rows) rather than horizontally (in stitches) whereas knit fabric tends to stretch horizontally, which is helpful for socks as it means the fabric will cling to the foot.
With this in mind, when crocheting socks, you need to work with a stitch pattern which has some horizontal stretch (along the stitches). Shells and v-stitches are great options but there are others which can work well too, such as the stitch pattern I eventually chose (after much swatching) for the Snowfall socks.
That’s the key difference between knit and crochet socks so let’s move on to look at construction.
How to construct a crochet sock
Crochet socks are generally worked in the round as a tube. There are various ways to work the heels and toes and each have their benefits.
Below I will review the most common options.
Should I work my socks cuff to toe or toe to cuff?
With crochet garments in general, I favour top down construction because you can try the garment on as you work. This is true for top down socks but it is also true that if you work from the bottom up you can also try on as you go. So from that perspective there’s not much difference.
However, a major advantage of top down socks is their longevity because they are easier to mend!
Have you ever noticed that it tends to be the heels and toes which wear out first? With a top down sock, it is much easier to repair a toe than it is with a toe up sock (we’ll talk about heels in a moment!)
Other than reparability, top down and bottom up is essentially a style choice.
3 ways to crochet a heel
In my research I came across 3 main types of heels used for crochet socks. I found that heels are often (but by no means always) worked in a single crochet stitch (UK double crochet). This is likely because it is a pretty robust, hard wearing stitch and the square shape of it makes the shaping more straightforward.
I will go over the 3 heel styles below and how they relate to overall construction. There are other approaches but these seem to be the the most common.
1. The afterthought heel
This is the method I used with the Snowfall socks, and it can be used with cuff to toe or toe to cuff designs.
Essentially when working the sock tube you leave a gap where the heel would be then come back and ‘fill it in’ with the heel at the end.
The afterthought heel would be worked around the gap with decreases being made at the sides until there are no stitches left or stitching together the last few stitches to make a seam.
You could also work an afterthought heel with an adaptation of the short row method (described below).
A benefit of afterthought heel is that they are the easiest to replace when they wear out. You can just pull out the worn yarn and rework the heel section without having to frog half the sock or use darning methods.
2. The heel flap with heel turn
This heel style works with cuff to toe, top-down sock designs.
As you reach the bottom of the ankle, you the start to work the heel flap in rows – normally half the circumference of the ankle. When you reach the point where the sock would hit the bottom of the heel, you ‘turn the heel’
In heel flap designs, turning the heel involves working a short row in the centre of the flap to about a 3rd of the width of the flap, then working in increasing rows picking up the stitches on either side as you go. At this point, the flap starts to fold back on itself to create the cup shape ‘turned heel’.
You then work across the end of the flap, up the side / row ends of the flap, over the instep, down the row ends of the other side of the flap. If necessary you decrease over the gusset and continue to work the foot.
The Crochet Project’s Riley and Saunders Sock Pattern uses the heel flap with heel turn method. I am just in the middle of making a pair for my brother so can share what this looks like!
It sounds a lot more complicated than it is! It’s just one of those things you just need to try to really get!
3. The short row heel
The short row heel can be worked with toe up or cuff down constructions.
Using half the circumference of the foot or ankle, work the heel in rows, decreasing evenly on both sides until your row is only an inch or two long.
You then start increasing again and joining each increase row to the corresponding decrease row with a slip stitch to create the shaping. The joined row ends will form those diagonal side seams you see on sock heels.
Note that you can just work the increases without joining to the corresponding decrease rows and stitch the two sides together to create seams afterwards. It’s maker/designer’s prerogative, but, for me, if there’s a way to avoid sewing seams I will take it!!
How to crochet the toe of a sock
Like heels, toes are also often worked in single crochets (UK double crochet) for durability.
The type of toe you would work depends to some extent on the construction method you use but it’s normally a variation on two options;
- A circular toe – increased from a magic ring or decreased evenly from the foot to close
- A seamed toe – worked around a foundation chain increasing at either end, or decreased at the sides of the foot and seamed to close
With a toe-up sock, the first type of toe might start with a magic ring and work out in evenly increasing circles to the foot width.
The second type starts with a chain or foundation chain (which represents the toe seam you would see on a traditional manufactured sock) and work in the round around it, increasing at the sides until the foot circumference is reached.
If you’re working the sock cuff-to-toe then the same approaches are worked in reverse. So you would decrease in an even circle to about 6 sts then sew closed or, for the second option you would decrease more sharply at each side of the foot and slip stitch together or sew the last bit up to create the toe seam.
Again, with top down socks, the toes are easier to replace when they wear out.
Both these toe options have their merits so, once again it’s a style choice. For fitted socks, I prefer the seam option as I find this comfier. However, if you are making slipper socks which tend to be more oversized then there isn’t much in it!
What yarn should I use for crocheting socks?
Before I go, I want to touch on the type of yarn you should use for crocheting socks. I am not an expert in the twist and construction of yarns for this purpose. There is a huge amount of information online about this for knitted socks and I’m not about to wade (no pun intended) into that debate!
What I will do is give you a few tips to consider:
- Socks take a battering so choose a durable fibre
- A wool and nylon blend is often the go-to for sock yarn because of the sweat wicking properties of wool and the durability of nylon (yes, they may be synthetic fibres but they last longer!)
- If you use acrylic yarn things might get a bit sweaty
- Don’t use cotton! This one is from my experience – unless you have a magic supersoft blend, it can be like walking on crazy paving!!!
- Sockweight yarn is not the same as sock yarn
- If in doubt, check with the yarn company if their yarn is suitable for sock making
- Non blended pure wools / alpaca / cashmere are beautiful, warm and soft for comfort or bed socks but will wear out quicker if worn day to day
Getting your sock on
I hope you have found this sock exploration interesting and decide to give it a go. I can definitely see more socks in my future after this adventure.
If you are looking at designing socks yourself, I would definitely recommend making a few in different styles to get a feel for the process and decide which construction method resonates most with you!
If you found this post useful I would love it if you could help get the word out by sharing it on Pinterest or on your socials!
And if there’s anything you think I’ve missed or if you have a super sock tip, please do leave a comment below.