Troubleshooting socks

I love knitting and wearing hand-knit socks. However, mine all inevitably end up looking like this:

Troubleshooting Knitted Socks by Allison O'Mahony at

Troubleshooting Knitted Socks by Allison O'Mahony at

I usually just darn holes or re-knit the toes of socks that wear out, but looking at the basket of sad, holey socks that sits next to our chesterfield (and the appearance of some repeat offenders in there), it’s become clear to me that I need to look into some new ways to help my socks last longer.

My socks develop two problems that needs to be addressed:

  1. Pulling/wearing at the toe decreases (cuff-down)/increases (toe-up); and,
  2. Wearing thin/developing holes at the ball of the foot.

Some possible solutions I’m going to combine and try out on my broken socks (and use on new ones going forward):

  • Alternate toes styles. I have only ever worked socks with a standard toe, where decreases/increases are worked on both sides of the top of the foot and instep every second row, and my socks always wear at the increases/decreases (i.e. the sides of the toe). A short row toe doesn’t have increases or decreases, which I’m hoping will make for a stronger toe.
  • Using reinforcing stitches while knitting. I rarely get holes in the heels of my socks, which I work with a slipped stitch pattern for reinforcement. Techniques like slipped stitches, double knitting, yarn held double, etc. could be used to strengthen the ball/toe.
  • Reinforcing after the fact. If I catch them before holes form, duplicate stitch could be used to reinforce weak areas at the ball of the foot.
  • Tighter gauge. The socks that have lasted the longest are the ones knit at the tightest gauge, because the stitches don’t move around/rub up against each other as much. I really need to be knitting sock yarn with a 2.00 mm needle.
  • Carrying a reinforcing thread along with the working yarn. Ravelry tells me that Wooly Nylon is pretty good. There are those who think that the nylon thread actually rubs the wool, causing it to wear out more quickly, but I’m willing to give it a try. In any case, when the wool does wear out, the nylon thread will remain, preventing a true hole from forming and allowing me to duplicate stitch more wool back in.
  • Using only sock yarn with a quantity of nylon. As above, some will say that even nylon content spun into the yarn is abrasive and wears at the wool. But I’ve knit two pairs of socks with 100% wool, and both wore out depressingly fast.

First up: my first real “sock yarn” socks, my Vezina Socks.


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