Sock Loom Knitting Is Easy, I Promise!

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When I posted I Made Socks and You Can, Too! I had no idea it would garner so much attention. People from all over the world stopped by to leave comments about their projects, but also to ask questions. A lot of questions. Over the last couple of months, the comments section has turned into a full-scale conversation forum about troubleshooting everything from wide cuffs to gauge issues.

Loom knitting is very different from traditional needle knitting, so of course, it has its own set of issues. However, after working with my loom on more than 20 projects, I’ve figured out a few things that makes the process much easier. Some of the common questions that have popped up on my post are listed below along with some tips and tricks.

How many pegs should I use?

The instructions that come with the KB Sock Loom are quite good, but they might scare those who are bit squeamish around math. For my first pair of socks, I bugged my husband and his calculator brain instead of doing it myself. Then, I realized there was an easier way to “calculate” pegs: know your shoe size and check out sock loom patterns. They will tell you how many pegs to use for various sizes.

When I bought my sock loom, I bought a pattern book that turned out to be my lifeline, Sock Loom Basics (Leisure Arts #5651).  Inside, there are fantastic visuals for casting on, and turning the heel, but what makes it golden is the fact that it has patterns for various sizes of socks that include specific peg counts.

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Ahhhh! How many pegs do I need? Don’t worry – it’s easy!
Photo by: c.b.w. 2014

My ideal peg count is 52, but I’ve also realized different yarns and patterns call for different peg counts. This isn’t an exact science!  When it comes to socks you just have to get close enough. When I’m using thicker yarn like Paton’s Kroy, I know I’m going to get a bigger sock, so I can go down to 50 or 48 pegs. If I’m using a thinner yarn like Premier sock yarn, I know the stitches will be smaller, so I need to go up to 54 or 56 pegs.

Another thing to keep in mind is elasticity. More elasticity means your socks will stretch more and therefore can accommodate various sizes. When using a plain flat stitch, there will be little or no elasticity, so that means a couple pegs more might come in handy. When knitting a rib pattern, there will be more elasticity, so subtracting a couple of pegs will create a more ideal fit.

Ultimately, it all comes down to trial and error. My first pair of socks were knit on 48 pegs. They fit snugly and I liked them, but I realized I wanted a little more ease, so for my next pair I added four pegs, to arrive at 52. The trick is remembering it doesn’t have to be perfect. Most socks will stretch enough to fit, so erring on the side of a bit too small is best.

The bottom line: Don’t be afraid to experiment and try a count that’s a little bigger or smaller than you calculated.

Why is the cuff so wide?

Cuffs are tricky business on a sock loom! Everything from gauge, yarn, tension, and peg count can effect the overall size and elasticity of a cuff. Despite all the variables, I have one simple answer to this question. In my experience, the K2,P2 rib pattern creates the best cuff in that it is simple and has fantastic elasticity. It works on multiple weights of yarn and compliments just about every pattern.

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The ideal cuff “tucks in” a bit, but don’t expect it to be tight without a little help from elastic!

In my humble opinion, the K1,P1 pattern that is often called for in knitting pattern does not work on the loom. I’ve tried on multiple occasions and I always end up with a wide-mouth cuff that never shrinks down with any sort of elasticity. I rip it out every time and reknit with a k2,p2 pattern instead.

That being said, for bulkier yarn (Weight 3), I’ve found a k3,p1 rib creates a nice, elastic rib. For anything thicker, upgrade to the KB Sock Loom 2 and revert to a k2,p2 rib.

Another simple fix involves a trip to the craft store. In the knitting aisle, look for a spool of elastic yarn thread. For those who like a tighter cuff than average yarn can provide (no matter how stretchy the rib), this super thin elastic is knit right into the sock via the working yarn and blends in completely.

What yarn should I use?

Yarn labeled as sock yarn will work 99% of time. I typically stick to Weights 1 and 2, but will go as high as 3. Just remember thicker yarn (in terms of gauge or ply) will create larger stitches and thinner yarn will create smaller stitches. Some of my favorite brands include:

  • Paton’s Kroy Sock
  • Premier Yarns Serenity Sock
  • Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet
  • Misti Alpaca Hand Paint

How do I make the toe longer?

You don’t. The KB sock loom uses the short row method to create both the heel and the toe. Once both circuits of wrapping stitches have been worked, the toes is complete. Adding more rows will create a bubble on the seam of the toe that can’t be fixed. Instead, think about adding length to the foot. The toe typically adds 1.5 to 2″ to the length, so always knit the foot about 2″ shorter than the desired length. I’ve gone as far as trying on the sock while it’s still on the loom. When the last row reaches the base of my big toe, I know it’s time to start working those short rows!

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Ultimately, loom knitting and knitting in general is a lesson in patience and experimentation. A failed project is frustrating, but it always leads to a project that succeeds. Just remember, if something doesn’t work, so what! Rip it all out and start again. That’s the beauty of knitting – mistakes disappear into a ball of yarn and nothing is wasted.

Got more questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below. Next time, I’ll have some other helpful tips to help knitters get great socks while using the KB Sock Loom.

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c.b.w. 2014