Are you new to sock knitting and not sure which size of socks to knit? Or, maybe you're not new to sock knitting but aren't sure how long or wide to knit a sock for a foot that isn't yours.
I'm here to help!
If you're just here for the spreadsheet, let me save you some scrolling time.
will take you to my Google Sheets spreadsheet, which you are free to use for sock sizing.
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Now that we have that out of the way, lets talk about measurements and using the spreadsheet!
In order to get the best fit when you are knitting socks, you need a few basic measurements for the intended wearer:
- Circumference at the ball of the foot (that's just below the toes, at the widest part)
- Length of Foot or shoe size
Finding Foot Circumference and Length
The easiest way to find circumference is to have the intended wearer place their foot on the ground and encircle it with a measuring tape at the ball of the foot.
Another method (and the best way to measure length) to to have the intended wearer place their foot on a piece of paper while standing up.
Use a pen or pencil to outline their foot (approximation below).
Measure the distance from the longest toe to the heel (red lines on graphic below). This is your foot length.
Measure the width of the foot at the ball of the foot (widest part); write down the width and double it for foot circumference.
**Note this method is less reliable for circumference as it does not account for the thickness of the wearer's foot, which can vary significantly. If at all possible, use a flexible measuring tape for circumference.
Alt Text: An outline of a foot with red lines at the toe and heel. A double ended arrow runs between them with the words "measure between red lines for sock length. A blue line runs across the widest part of the foot." An arrow points at it with the words "Approximate location to measure foot circumference. If measuring flat, record the flat width and double it." The lower right hand corner shows the Ruth Brasch Design logo and words.
Great, Ruth, but how do I make a sock fit?
Now that you have your circumference and length, you're ready to start looking at a pattern!
Most sock patterns will give sizing for the foot circumference. Sometimes you see this written as ankle circumference; if you want to know why that is, measure your ankle circumference and compare it with your foot circumference!
Words to look for in sock pattern sizing:
Check whether the pattern give you a "finished sock circumference/measurement" or "to fit foot circumference."
"Finished sock circumference/measurement" means the actual circumference of the fabric that will be knit if you match the gauge of the designer.
"To Fit Foot Circumference..." is letting you know that the designer thinks this size will best fit your foot.
Example: "Size 4 has a finished sock circumference of 8" (20 cm) and is designed to fit a foot circumference of 8.5-9" (21-22.5 cm).
In the example above, the sock is intended to be worn with 0.5-1" (1.25-2.5 cm) of negative ease.
Ease is the amount of fabric that exists relative to the part of the body it is being worn on.
Positive Ease means there is more fabric than body (ex: a 50" (125 cm) sweater on a 44" (110 cm) chest/bust will fit loosely (it will not be tight against the body).
Negative Ease means there is less fabric than body, like the sock sample above.
How much ease do you need? It depends on the fabric being made. In the case of socks, a good starting point is to have 1" (2.5 cm) of negative ease in circumference. For fabrics with lots of stretch, such as lace, you may need more. For fabrics with less stretch, such as cables, you may need less.
Stranded knitting should be knit to the exact circumference desired as it has very little stretch. If stranded socks are worked with negative ease they will not fit over your instep and heel when being put on. Knitting an entire pair of socks that won't fit on your feet is an awful feeling.
Thankfully, there's another way to help ensure that your socks fit: gauge.
If you've been around me for any length of time, you've probably heard me mention swatching or gauge.
Gauge is the number of stitches and rounds (or rows) of fabric within a certain measurement. A swatch is a small to medium piece of fabric knit as you would knit the project you want to make, which has blocked and measured. Blocking is the process of treating your finished garment as you would when you wash or clean it. It helps to even out the stitches and, in many cases, can change the shape of your project entirely. It certainly has an effect on gauge.
A knitting pattern **should** include gauge that looks something like this: 32 stitches / 40 rounds = 4" (10 cm) in unblocked stockinette in the round.
But Ruth, I thought you just said gauge swatches should be blocked!
I did. For most projects that's very true, but for socks you can cheat.
If you are going to knit a toe-up sock and are unfamiliar with your sock-knitting gauge or are using a new-to-you yarn, you can simply cast on as the pattern instructs and knit the toe of the sock, then measure it to check your gauge.
If you are going to knit a top-down sock and are unfamiliar with your sock-knitting gauge, or are using a new-to-you yarn, cast on 60 stitches, join to work in the round, and knit in stockinette for about 4" (10 cm). Then, check your gauge.
If your gauge does not match the pattern
If you have more stitches than the designer (eg. you have 40 stitches over 4" (10 cm) and the designer has 32), use a larger needle size and try again. If you have fewer stitches than the designer (eg. you have 28 stitches and the designer has 32), use a smaller needle size and try again.
A note about sock length
If you are knitting socks for an adult, or a teen whose feet have likely stopped growing, I recommend 0.5" (1.25 cm) of negative ease in length. That means you want to knit the sock shorter than the intended wearer's foot length so it doesn't start sliding off their foot when they walk and the stitches loosen up a little.
If you are knitting socks for a child, knit to their exact foot length or even a smidge longer. Kids' feet grow QUICKLY. I'm at the point of knitting only tube socks for my daughter because her feet outgrow socks before I can finish knitting them.
So, now you know how to find your stitch gauge, which size to choose, and have a size chart as a jumping off point for foot circumference and length.
This is a good place to start your first sock!
If you would like a free pattern that includes video tutorials, please check out my Boiled socks.