A DK-Weight Sock Recipe
Yes, DK socks! DK yarn is fair bit thicker than the more typical fingering-weight sock yarns. This means that the resulting socks will be thicker and warmer—and quicker to knit! These are all wins.
The two sock patterns—cuff-down and toe-up—in MDK Field Guide No. 11: Wanderlust are pleasantly tidy, in that the only number you really need is the number of stitches for the circumferences of leg and foot. The other numbers are ratios of that one: the heel is worked on half the total number of stitches; the number of stitches that remain unwrapped in the middle of the heel turn is about a third of that; and the stitch count when you end the toe is about a third of the total number.
Let me teach you how to adapt these template sock patterns to a DK-weight yarn.
Step 1: Measurement
Measure your foot. Measure around the ball of the foot, and the narrowest part of your ankle. They’re likely to be pretty close measurements; if they’re different, take the larger of the two.
Multiply that measurement by .95. That’s the Finished Circumference of your sock. For ease, round that to the nearest quarter inch (half centimeter).
For example, my foot is 8 inches around. 8 x .95 = 7.6, which rounds to 7.5 inches. That’s how big around I want my sock to be. A metric example: if your foot is 23 cm around, 23 x .95 = 21.85, which I would round to 22 cm.
Step 2: Gauge
Determine your own gauge. This isn’t difficult or scary, it won’t take long, and it opens up your world to making your very own custom-designed socks.
A DK weight yarn is typically worked on needles size US #5-6/3.75mm-4mm. For extra longevity, we want to work on smaller needles. Start with US #3/3.25mm needles—the ones you’d use for making the socks—and cast on 32 stitches. Knit 1 row.
You’re now going to work the world’s silliest i-cord. Instead of working back and forth in rows, you’ll work only on the right side, knitting every row, to replicate knitting in the round. (Did you know that your gauge is often different working in the round than flat, since many knitters purl looser than they knit?)
*Slide the stitches back to the start of the needle, and pulling the yarn very loosely across the back, work across the sts as follows: k1tbl, k to last st, k1tbl.
Knitting the first and last stitch through the back loop—tbl—stops the edges from getting loose and sloppy.
I get the yarn nice and loose across the back by wrapping it over my hand before starting the next row.
Repeat from * until the piece is about 3 inches tall, which won’t take long in this nice, thick yarn.
Turn, and bind off knitwise on the wrong side. Don’t cut the yarn.
Soak the piece in lukewarm water for 20 minutes. Squeeze it out in a towel and let it dry overnight.
The purpose of this swatch (YES I SAID IT THIS IS A SWATCH) is to allow you to assess the fabric, and measure your own gauge.
Assess the fabric:
How does it look? How does it feel? Rub the inside of the swatch, letting it stretch out a little.
Does it feel dense? It should. You don’t want to feel the individual stitches, the purl bumps. If you can, the sock will be less comfortable, and it will wear out faster.
This step requires honesty and patience. It’s an investment in your knitting. If the fabric is too loose, the socks won’t last as long. If you feel like it could be better, cast on again from the ball, leaving the first swatch attached. (This seems allows you to preserve the yarn.)
Once you’ve got a fabric you like, measure your gauge:
Count the number of stitches in 2 inches (5 cm). Measure in three or four places, and take an average. What you want is the number of stitches in 1 inch/2.5 cm. If I can measure 13 stitches in 2 inches, then I’m getting 6.5 stitches in 1 inch. Don’t round this number, you want it to be as precise as possible.
You’ll get a more accurate result if you can measure a wider area – it reduces the likelihood of having to measure and count partial stitches.
Looks like I’m getting 12 stitches in 2 inches, 6 stitches in 1 inch.
In the MDK Shop
Step 3: Calculate Your Sock Number
Take the number from Step 1 and multiply it by the number from Step 2.
That is, take the Finished Circumference and multiply that by the stitch gauge.
If you’re working in inches, as in my example, it goes like this:
7.5 inches x 6 sts per inch = 45 stitches. Round to the closest even number—in this case, that’s 46.
Step 4: Work the Sock
This is the fun part: Undo your swatch and start knitting.
Cast on the Sock Number from Step 3. Follow the pattern until you reach the heel.
The short-row heel is worked on half the Sock Number.
Work back and forth, wrapping and turning, until about a third of the heel stitches remain. It doesn’t have to be exact—your heel stitches might not divide evenly by three. Get as close as you can. You’ll end with a WS row, always, so that there are the same number of turns on both sides. Make a note of the number of stitches that remain unwrapped in the middle—you’ll need that for the toe.
When working the toe, work the decreases as set, decreasing until you’ve got the unwrapped heel number on both the top and bottom of the toe.
For example: If you had 9 unwrapped stitches on the heel, you’ll work toe decreases until you have 18 stitches remaining—9 on the top and 9 on the bottom.
And that’s it!
Divide the Sock Number by three, and round that to the nearest even number. Call that Toe Number. But before you cast on, you need to make sure that Sock Number minus Toe Number equals a number divisible by four. If it doesn’t, add two and you’re good to go.
For example, say your Sock Number is 46. 46 ÷ 3 = 15.33. We’ll round that up to 16 and check it:
46 – 16 = 30.
But 30 ÷ 4 = 7.5. No good! So I’ll add 2, to get 18. That’s the number I start the toe with.
The heel is worked on half the Sock Number, just as in the cuff-down version above.
Now follow the pattern to the end.
Adjusting for 2 x 2 Ribbing on the Cuff
If you want to use (k2, p2) ribbing on the cuff, you can cheat a little bit. If your Sock Number divides evenly by four, no adjustment is necessary. If it isn’t, you’ll need to adjust the stitch count by 2, just for the cuff.
If you’re working cuff-down, cast on 2 stitches more than your Sock Number, and work (k2, p2) ribbing to your heart’s content. When you change to stockinette stitch (or other pattern) for the leg, work k2tog twice in the round, once near the start, once about midway through, to get to the Sock Number. Then continue normally.
If you’re working toe-up, when you’re ready to start the ribbing, increase 2 stitches, as follows:
K1, kfb, p1, (k2, p2) to about halfway around, k1, kfb, p1, (k2, p2) to end of round.
Your ribbing is set, and you can work it as much as you want.