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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.

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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.

Cuff-Down Version

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!

Toe-Up Version

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.

This could come in handy!

Here’s how to save this article in your MDK account with one click.

About The Author

Kate Atherley is a teacher, designer, author and technical editor. She’s also the publisher of Digits & Threads, a magazine all about Canadian fibre and textile arts.


  • My granny used to knit us dk weight socks as welly socks. <3

  • Brilliant. Just brilliant as we cruise thru Autumn and into Winter in the Southern hemisphere. I even have sock DK on hand. (Important in these days of lockdown)

  • Thanks. This is certainly one to bookmark. A great way to use up the DK stash which has not been getting much attention since I discovered sock knitting! Now I can cast on some winter weight boot socks.

  • Wow, this is a keeper, especially for all that math so clearly laid out for us. Thank you, Kate and MDK. Be well, all.

  • Thank you, thank you! I have wanted the “math” of this for a long time! I actually love the math part but didn’t have confidence where socks were concerned. Just see,Ed daunting to me!

  • This is so great! When I first saw the photo at the top I thought what the heck is that?! I soon realized it and loved it. I’ve tried swatching in the round and was never sure about it so this really helps.

  • Thank you!! How does one know if a DK yarn is sock worthy? And I’m going to try that swatching method!!

  • I have seen other sock patterns for DK yarn, and my question is always, how can I wear thicker socks with my everyday shoes? I would need to buy bigger shoes! Can anyone clue me in?

  • When I am knitting stockinette, I will often knit back and forth, without turning the work to the purl side. Would this work for swatching in the round,, since I am not purling?

    • Hmmm… I suspect it wouldn’t. The goal with your swatch is to replicate how you make socks, and if you don’t knit backwards in socks, then you don’t want to knit backwards in your swatch. Does that make sense?

  • This is perfect- I have been wanting to knit the Wanderlust patterns with DK for ages. Of course, I have just cast on a pair in 4ply, but these will be next in the queue! Thank you x

  • Great column! Very clearly written, as always. One question on the last point: when increasing for k2, p2 ribbing, wouldn’t you (k1, k1fb, p1) at the two increase points for a set of four stitches?

    • Goodness, yes, you are right! I will fix the column. Thanks for the nudge.

  • awesome posts. excited to make! now how much yarn do i need? 😎

  • Thank you so much! You always point out the logic in knitting, I appreciate it!

  • I usually make DK weight socks; some results with my own designs better than others. This will help. Thanks.

  • This is a keeper. Thanks! DK socks are my new preferred knit for husbands size 14 feet.

  • I’d love to knit socks with DK yarn, but doesn’t that make your sock too thick to fit in your regular shoes?

  • This is exciting. Thank you. I have been tempted to try to make socks but haven’t gotten up the courage to do so. Now is the perfect time. I want to order the paperback “Wanderlust Field Guide,” the yarn and needles so that they all ship in one package. Since I can’t read the pattern until after I buy the guide, can anyone tell me roughly how much of the Shakti DK and how much of the Barnyard Knits fingering weight yarn I should order to make a pair of men’s (foot size 12) standard cuff length socks out of each yarn? Thanks in advance.

  • DK weight socks are great for me bc I often wear loose clogs (for work), boots, or winter footwear. Or around the house!
    The few shoes I have that this would be too tight for a summer shoes where I probably dont want a thick sock anyways. Although I go to school with many young women in their early 20s and apparently socks with sandals is totally a thing – they wear it with purpose and confidence! And they tend to be bright fun socks and Birks or Chacos/Tevas.

  • KATE!!! You are a life saver (without a hole in the middle). My poor MIL suffers from water retention and is unable to find socks that fit her. Now in her 90s, her feet and legs get very cold in cooler weather.
    Never having knit socks before, I was fearful of making socks that would not fit her. Thanks to your GENIUS ‘recipe’, MIL will have long socks that fit, made with thick, warm, long-wearing wool. I can hardly wait to see the expression on her face!!!

    Thank you for that… and for your Sock Recipe.

    God bless and keep you WELL and SAFE.

    Your friend,
    MJ, the SKEINdinavian

  • Where do you purchase your yarn and swatch guage?

  • Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! The yarn producers will thank you too, because now I can buy ALL THE YARNS. I started knitting socks just a few months ago and I can’t stop. Your instructions are immeasurably helpful and I can’t wait to start the next pair. I’m an MDK and Kate fan for life!!

  • I’m finding this post way later…. Question about ease in DK vs in fingering. You have recommended 10% negative ease in sock yarns. Why, in this article, do you recommend only 5% negative ease in DK? Something to do with the thickness of the yarn? Thanks, Kate!

  • Best describtion I found so far! Thank you!

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