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Socknitter FAQ - What?


Q: What is gauge?

A: Gauge is the relationship between the number of stitches and the actual length or width of knitting that those stitches produce. It is typically given as sts per inch (or cm) or row per inch (or cm). It can be sts/rows per 1 inch (or 2.5 cm) or 4 inches (or 10 cm).  See:  and


Q: What is frogging?

A: Frogging is the process of ripping out. It is used frequently on the Internet because rip-it, rip-it sounds like the noise a frog makes. 


Q: What is OT?


A: OT stands for Off-Topic. On lists like Socknitters, which is an on-topic list, it is frequently used to indicate that there is no sock knitting content in the email. Other acronyms you will see are

OSC for Obligatory Socknitting Content,

OKC (Obligatory Knitting Content),

LYS (Local Yarn Store),

LYSO (Local Yarn Store Owner), and

D followed by H, S, D, GD, GS, BF, SO, etc. These refer to Dear Husband, Son, Daughter, Grand Daughter, Grand Son, Boy Friend, Significant Other, etc. 


Q: What do the different yarn weights/sizes mean?




Q: What is the copyright law and how does it apply to knitting patterns?


A: and provide information on copyright for crafters. Note that both of these apply to US and Canadian law in most cases. Laws vary by country. Check your government’s copyright office for accurate information. The US site is very readable and can be accessed at with frequently asked questions answered at 


Q: What is CIC?


A: CIC stands for Children In Common, a charity that takes socks. See for details. Many members of Socknitters knit socks for CIC so it appears frequently on the list.   



Q: What is Kitchener?


A: Also called grafting, it is a way of creating a row of knit stitches using a tapestry needle. It is usually used to join two sets of live sts, like at a toe. Instructions can be found at:


Q: What are felted socks or slippers?


A: Felting or fulling is the process of getting the little barbs on the surface of wool to interlock with each other. This creates a durable, almost wind-proof fabric that is very different from the knitted fabric. Felting is the process of converting yarn to felted fabric. Fulling is doing the same with a finished object. Fulling makes the finished object smaller. Read what makes wool felt here: Here is some information on felting knitted objects:

There are commercial patterns for felted socks and slippers. Here is a free pattern: You’ll find more patterns here:   



Q: What is Kool-Aid Dyeing?


A: The dye in Kool-Aid is an acid dye and Kool-Aid contains acid so it is a very effective self-contained dye for protein fibres. It is also easily available. It is frequently used as an introduction to dyeing yarn or finished objects. See:

for information on Kool-Aid dyeing.


Q: What is a short row heel?


A: It is a heel that is similar to a commercial sock heel. You knit one fewer st on each row to gradually decrease the number of sts that are knitted. The non-knitted sts are just left on the needle. When the heel width is reached, you knit one more st on each row to gradually get back to the original number. This creates a diagonal line across the heel. Short row heels are worked the same whether the sock is toe-up or cuff-down. There are many different variations to make the heel look symmetrical and without holes along the diagonal line. Instructions can be found in many sock knitting books or Many of the free sock patterns listed above also use short row heels. Many commercial patterns also use short row heels. Priscilla Gibson Roberts book ‘Simple Socks’ includes detailed directions. Also, see


Q: What is a short row toe?


A: It is identical to a short row heel but worked at the toe. Some people prefer the fit of this toe. This pattern shows step by step directions for doing a short row toe with a provisional cast on:


Q: What is a provisional cast on?


A: A provisional cast on is a way of beginning a piece of knitting so the cast on is invisible, and can be knit from either direction.  In socknitting, it is useful for doing toe-up socks with a short-row toe.


Q: What is a gusset?


A: A gusset is a triangular section. On a sock, it is the part just in front of the heel where the sock narrows from the width of the instep to the width of the foot. It is created by either increasing (for a toe up sock) or decreasing (for a top down sock).


Q: What is Eye of Partridge?


A: It is a st pattern that creates a honeycomb like look on the heel flap. Instructions can be found at


Q: What are the different kinds of heel flap stitches?


A: Many different dense sts are used on heel flaps for durability and comfort. The most common ones are heel st and eye of partridge (see ‘what is Eye of Partridge?’ above). Heel st is working alternate rows of k1, sl1 (RS) and p all the sts (WS). It creates a series of parallel rows of slipped sts on the heel. 


Q: What do you do with the tail ends of yarn?


A: These should be woven in. See - this is a pattern but it includes tips for weaving in ends.


Q: What can I knit with if I'm allergic to wool?


A: Many people who are allergic to wool actually have a sensitivity to wool rather than an allergy. This means that you might find wool irritating but it is not a true allergy. Try using a softer wool like merino. Alternatively, it could be the processing that you are allergic to. Try lightly processed yarns from small producers or ecologically focused producers like Green Mountain Spinnery. Sometimes the superwash process can help with an allergy as some processes coat the yarn in a resin that prevents contact with the skin. If you truly have an allergy to wool (which comes from sheep), you could try yarn from other animals like goats (mohair), llamas (alpaca), or camels (camel hair). Lastly, try cotton mixed with lycra (some brand names are Cascade Fixation and Heirloom Breeze). Cotton by itself is not elastic enough for socks that fit well. You could also use acrylic or other synthetics but they don’t breathe enough for some people and result in sweaty, clammy feet after a while. This does depend on your own constitution and it may work for you. The key is to keep experimenting until you find something that works. Don’t give up on sock knitting!   



Q: What kind of yarn makes good socks?


A: Socks tend to take a lot of abuse. Therefore, the fabric and the yarn have to be durable and tightly spun and knit. One can compensate for loosely spun yarn by knitting tightly and vice versa but loosely spun yarns can pill and look rather messy after a while. Look for tightly spun yarns with long staples and knit to a firm, dense fabric for the best durability and comfort. Sock yarns with nylon spun in are durable and relatively affordable but many regular, non-sock yarns make good socks. 


Q: What do I do with the little spool of thread that came with my yarn?


A: Some brands of sock yarn provide little spools or butterflies of matching thread to reinforce the heels and toes. Start knitting the thread when you begin the heel flap (for a heel flap/gusset heel) or when you start the heel (for a short row heel). Continue using it until you start knitting in the round again at which point you cut it off. Ends do not have to be woven in as the thread is knitted with the yarn. Cut it close to the last st being careful not to cut the yarn. Start using it again when you begin the toe decreases/increases.  


Q: What do the different knitting abbreviations mean?




Q: What might happen if I switch needles in the middle of a sock?


A: It all depends. Some people’s gauge changes a lot based on the type of needle, e.g. they might knit more loosely on wooden needles. So switching needles could have the effect of changing the size of the sock. However, it can be a very slight change and therefore might not be noticeable. The same comment applies to switching techniques (from knitting on dpns to knitting on 2 circs to knitting on 1 circ). So, don’t be afraid to try this but be prepared to measure and check before you go too far. 


Q: What are those funny symbols on the yarn label?


A: In order to be able to use the same symbols internationally, there are standard symbols for both the gauge and for how to care for the item made from the yarn. You will start seeing the following standard symbols from the Craft Yarn Council in magazines and on yarn labels: Here are the laundry symbols for yarn care: Finally, you will see a little graphic of a swatch with the number of sts and rows per 4” or 10 cm to tell you the recommended gauge along with a graphic of a pair of knitting needles and a crochet hook to tell you the recommended needle and hook sizes.      


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