The unfortunate fact about socks and all clothing is that they eventually wear out. Socks are particularly problematic because of the wear and tear they undergo inside your footwear. I’ve purchased socks that didn’t even last a month. But I do find that hand knit socks last longer than purchased ones, if you follow these suggestions.
Tips For Longer Lasting Socks
- Choose the Right Yarn – The yarn used for knitting socks should be firm and tightly twisted. Wool is the fiber of choice because of its innate elasticity, warmth, and high level of moisture absorption. Many sock yarns are reinforced with a small amount of nylon for added strength. I prefer 100% wool, or no more than 10% nylon combined with the wool. 100% cotton or silk yarns are not good choices, because they are not elastic enough, and will stretch out of shape. Nothing is more annoying than socks bagging around the ankles or bunching inside your shoes.
- High Quality Sock Yarn – Because the average pair of socks requires a small amount of yarn, go ahead and splurge on the best. Your socks won’t pill or wear out too quickly.
- Knit the Correct Size – Socks that are too big will slip around in shoes and boots, and actually causes more wear.
- Knit Socks Tight – Loosely knit socks won’t withstand the pressure from foot movement, and will wear more quickly. Socks have the best fit and durability when knit to gauges of 7 to 8 stitches per inch. Some patterns knit even tighter, depending on the fineness of the yarn. This doesn’t mean the tighter the better; you don’t want to end up with socks that are so firm that they are uncomfortable. As with any knit project, make sure to achieve the correct gauge.
- Reinforce Heels and Toes – Some yarn brands come with an extra ball of finer yarn or thread to knit together with the sock yarn for the heel and toe sections. Another approach is to knit the foot of the sock on a smaller needle, forming a denser fabric with increased durability. My favorite way to reinforce heels is to use the heel stitch or slip stitch pattern. The heel stitch is a common way to create a dense heel flap, that wears better in your shoes. The leg of the sock is divided so that one half of the stitches are used to form the heel flap. The basic heel stitch is worked back and forth, repeating two rows: Row 1(RS): *sl 1 purlwise, k1, repeat from * to end of needle; Row 2: sl 1 purlwise, p to end of needle. There are other methods to shape heels and toes, such as a short-row heel.
- Sock Care – Laundering socks properly will help them last longer. Remove any pilled areas before washing. Turn your socks inside out to protect the outside of the socks from getting fuzzy. Place socks into a laundry bag before tossing into the washing machine. Use the delicate or gentle cycle with cold water (not hot water!) and a mild detergent. Hand washing is the best for the longevity of socks. Soak socks in room temperature or cool water and mild soap for approximately half an hour. Rinse, then roll in a towel to remove excess moisture. Lay flat to dry. Machine drying breaks down fibers, and is a fast way to wear out those coveted socks.
In the end, you probably wouldn’t want your socks to last forever. Nothing is more satisfying than new socks right off the needles. My final suggestion is to make many pairs!
(updated September 19, 2019)