Vanilla sock calculations

My earlier post Sock gusset calculations has proved very popular so I thought I would provide a similar calculator for the rest of the numbers in my  Free Vanilla Socks pattern – how many stitches to cast on, how many to increase for the gusset and how many to wrap for the heel.

You’ll still need to look at the other calculator for where to start your gussets, because that applies to all the patterns.

Note that, although this is intended for use with my patterns, the calculation for how many stitches you need will hold true for any sock pattern you choose to knit.

Sock gusset calculations

Anyone who has used my sock patterns will know that I think it’s important to make sure your socks fit properly, and the only real way to do that is to use a little bit of maths. I’ve always tried to make it as easy as possible, but I know that some people have still struggled – I get it, some people just have a blind spot about numbers.

A kind friend, who has insisted I don’t name her, gave me a spreadsheet she’d created for herself that helped decide where to start the gussets, which is really the hardest part. With her blessing, I have tweaked it a little and now it is available for you to use.

Short row sock heels

Jo Torr Perfect vanilla socks free short row heels

There are a lot of methods for making short row heels for socks, this is the way I like to do it.  This method can be worked either toe-up or top-down, and can be substituted into any pattern.

The heel is turned on approximately 1/3 of the sole stitches, though this can be varied if you need to make minor adjustments to the fit.

Part one – decreasing

  1. (RS) Knit to 1 st before the end of the sole sts.  Turn work so the wrong side is facing you.
  2. (WS) Place marker, slip 1, purl to 1 st before the end of the row.  Turn your work.
  3. Place marker, slip 1, knit to 1 st before the marker.  Turn your work.

Repeat rows 2 and 3 until 1/3 of the stitches remain in the centre, and 1/3 is on each side, with markers at each turn.  You should finish after a purl row.

Part two – increasing

  1. (RS) Knit to 1 st before marker.  Slip 1, remove marker, pick up bar before next stitch, knit together with slipped stitch.  Turn your work.
  2. Slip 1, purl to 1 st before marker.  Slip 1, remove marker, pick up bar before next stitch, purl together with slipped stitch.  Turn your work.
  3. Slip 1, knit to 1 st before marker.  Slip 1, remove marker, pick up bar before next stitch, knit together with slipped stitch.  Turn your work.

Repeat rows 2 and 3 until all markers have been removed and all stitches are included in the row, finishing with a purl row.  As you turn and begin to knit again, this is the start of the first round of leg if you are working toe up, or foot if you are working from the cuff, and you have returned to your original total number of stitches.  To make sure you don’t get a hole where the heel joins the leg/foot, in this first row you should pick up the bar before the first stitch on each needle, twist it to form a loop and slip it onto the needle, then knit it together with the first true stitch.

All the markers have been placed during the decreases

Knit side

Purl side

If you want to see this heel in action in a sock pattern, then please try my  FREE Perfect Sock.

Reinforcement for walking socks

jo torr walking socks

My husband and I are enthusiastic walkers and are lucky that we can easily reach both the River Thames and the Kennet and Avon Canal from our house, both of which have wonderfully maintained paths for walkers.  Our goal is to walk the full length of the Kennet and Avon, though not all in one go.

As a walker, the most important thing is appropriate footwear; in my opinion a very close second is a good pair of socks.  Of all the shop bought socks I’ve owned, I think I hate the walking socks the most – I’ve never found any without a seam across the toes and after a few miles, believe me, that starts to rub.  But we are knitters, and if you can knit socks then you only need a few modifications to make a good pair of walking socks.

Pattern – walking socks don’t need to be anything fancy, I like to use my free Vanilla pattern with a heel flap and gusset.

Yarn – unless you have allergies, then wool is ideal.  It lets your feet breathe and you won’t get sweaty feet (yuk!).  As ever, with socks, I recommend a proportion of the yarn (20 – 25%) to be nylon, for its durability.  So basically, your standard sock yarn; the only difference is that it really needs to be thicker.  Regia and Opal both do an 8 ply/ DK sock yarn which is perfect, but there are plenty of other options too.  For a pair of adult socks you’ll need approximately 150g.


  1. I like to do a plain stocking stitch foot, I find this most comfortable in the boot, with a 2 x 2 rib for the leg, ending with my standard twisted rib for the last 2″/5cm or so.
  2. I know that the place I get most wear is on the ball of my foot so I like to add some cushioning to that part of the sole. The way I do it is this:
  • Work the toe as usual, then knit until the sock has reached the start of the ball of the foot (you’ll need to try it on).
  • Work a section of about 2″/5cm (how long you need will depend on your foot; it needs to cover the ball of the foot) using the stitch pattern charted below. It’s similar to Eye of Partridge except that you have no plain rounds, there are slipped stitches on every round.  Do this just on the sole, work the instep in stocking stitch as usual.

This stitch pattern makes you a lovely dense fabric that is really comfortable under foot BUT it does have the drawback that the row gauge is different to the gauge of the instep, meaning that the sole will be shorter than the instep.

  • To compensate for the difference in length, you need to work some short rows on the sole, as follows:
    • After you have finished working the slipped stitch pattern, knit one full round and the instep stitches of the next round.
    • Knit the sole stitches to 1 stitch before the end, then turn. I have tried a few short row methods and have found that the German Short Rows work best here.
    • Purl the sole stitches to 1 stitch before the other side, then turn.
    • Knit across the sole stitches again, dealing with the “double stitch” as you come to it.
    • Knit one full round, dealing with the second “double stitch” as you reach it.

This short process has added two rows of length to the sole, bringing it closer to the length of the instep.  If this enough,  then great, just carry on knitting your sock as usual from this point.  If not, then repeat the process as many times as necessary, with one full knitted round between each pair of short rows until the lengths of the sole and instep are the same, then continue as usual.

Be warned that your sock might look a little odd off the foot, but once it’s on you won’t see any difference.

I hope you’ll try this and let me know how you get on.  Happy knitting and happy walking!

Jo Torr Walking Socks Reinforcement

Jogless single row stripes

It is a truth universally acknowledged that ….. you just can’t beat a good striped sock (at least among the members of one of my favourite Ravelry groups).

JogYou’d think that striped socks would be easy wouldn’t you?  Knit a bit, change colours, knit a bit more, what can go wrong?  The dreaded “jog” that’s what!  If you don’t know what this means, it’s the point where you change colours and the stripes stutter a bit and get a little step in them, in a line, all the way up your lovely sock.  It’s something that all sock knitters (or hat knitters, or jumper knitters, anyone knitting in the round) will want to learn how to avoid.

Spiral1To understand how to deal with it, the first thing is to understand why it happens.  Think about how knitting in the round is constructed – when you’re knitting flat, you go backwards and forwards and each row is distinct from the one before and after it: when you’re knitting in the round you’re effectively knitting a spiral and you don’t reach an end until you bind off.


Spiral3What this means is that at the point where you change colours, the “end” of your round is above its “beginning” and that is what causes the jog.




Spiral2When your stripes are a number of rounds deep, then there are a few ways to deal with this issue, but single round stripes are a special case that can’t be solved by the usual methods. To deal with it we must go back to the notion of circular knitting being a spiral and instead of fighting it, we use it to our advantage.  Instead of a new colour breaking into that spiral, we let it create its own spiral and the two colours chase each other round the knitting without ever meeting.

How do I do this?

Cast on half your stitches with the first colour, then the remainder of your stitches with the second colour.  You are now back at the start of the round (SOR) with Colour 2, and Colour 1 is dangling halfway round.  Carry on with Colour 2 and knit until you reach Colour 1 (so you’ve knit half a round).  Drop Colour 2, pick up Colour 1 and, without twisting them together, knit a whole round till you are back at Colour 2.  Continue in this way, each time you’ve knit a round, pick up the other yarn and knit a round with that.

Jogless Stripe

Close up of the colour change – no jog!

What if I want a plain toe/cuff?

Knit your cuff or toe in a single colour then when you are ready to start the stripes leave your working colour where it is and slip half the stitches.  Now introduce the second colour and continue as before, swapping colours every time you get back to where the other yarn is waiting for you.

What if I want more than two colours?

Follow the same instructions as above, but split your stitches by the number of colours you want to use.  The number of colours you can use is limited only by the number of separate balls of yarn you can juggle without tangling.

What if I want wider stripes?

It’s possible, but you need to have one ball of yarn for each round of a colour that you want, not just one for each colour.  Say for example, you want to have a stripe sequence where you have three rounds of red followed by one round of blue – begin with three balls of red and one of blue, then continue as before, dividing the stitches by four.

Any other uses for this technique?

I’m glad you asked.  If you’re a fan of mosaic knitting, you’ll be aware that it involves knitting a single colour on each round, then changing to the other colour for the next round.  See the similarity?  Mosaic knitting presents the same problem with the jog and can be addressed by the same solution, the only difference is that you’ll be slipping some stitches as you go to form the pattern.

Want to put this into practice?

My latest pattern, Walk on the Wild Side, uses exactly this technique and is available now – Walk on the Wild Side.Jo Torr Walk on the Wild Side Socks

If you do have a try at this, then I’d love to hear how you get on!