sock ribbing help

I need help with my sock ribbing. I finished a pair of socks and something just isn't right with the ribbing and need help for my next pair. Basically it is too tight and too loose at the same time. It is too tight when I try to put it on. I have a really hard time getting it past me heel and ankle and I am worried that I am going to rip them. but once I get them on, they are sliding down my calf and not staying up.
So I can't make them looser since they are already falling down, but I can't make them tighter because I can barely get them on as is.

I need to know the proper number of stitches and type of ribbing that works for people.

QueerJoe's picture

What kind of yarn did you use? Did you knit them toe-up, or cuff-down?

I've found that some yarns aren't as elastic as wool, such as alpaca, silk and cotton...even when knit in a ribbing pattern.

I've also realized on my first toe-up sock, that my bind-off was too tight and had no stretch, so it acted like you describe.

knit_knot_eat's picture

The only thing I know about the yarn is that it "sock yarn". I went to Michaels, and bought sock yarn.
I am doing them cuff down so I started with the ribbing

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

It may be that your cast on was too tight. Finding one that suits you is just a matter of trial and error. I find myself going to the old Twisted Thumb Cast On a lot, yet the Twisted Long Tail works really well, too. (Meg Swansen has a good explanation in her books.) The one thing I always do is cast on over two needles held together, giving the edge a bit of looseness that helps defeat a tight top. Lots of luck. Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

YarnGuy716's picture

Jeff I echo the too tight a cast on responses. The looser your cast on for sock cuffs, the better. I cast-on to 2 needles held together and add an extra stitch for every 6 to 8 stitches, basically 1 extra stitch for twice my rib pattern. If I do a k2p2 rib I cast on an extra stitch for every 8 sts. If I do a k2p1 rib I cast on an extra for every 6. The first round I knit every stitch, the 2nd round I work in rib, knitting 2 together when I get to the extra stitch. This gives you a looser, stretchable cast on.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Wow, YarnGuy - That idea for an extra stitch as you cast on is a good one. I've never come across it before but it makes sense. When I do the increases for the leg of the sock I usually work them in the next-to-last ribbing row (knit front and back into a knit stitch) then do the last ribbing round with the extra purl stitches as needed. That helps ensure a good transition over the calf. Next time I work a pair of socks I'll try your tip for the top, especially if they are a gift. For my own socks, I've worked out the formula so they usually aren't too tight for my legs. Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Stan Stansbury's picture

It's hard to know for sure without seeing 'em. But my guess is that the yarn you used is not bouncy or whatever-you-call-it enough to be a really good sock yarn, and that your cast on was too tight. That's the only combination I can think of that would cause both problems at once.

For the next pair, use one of the twisted cast-ons that basically just use up more yarn and therefore have more stretch. The one I use is the twisted German, but there are lots and you can probably find them all on YouTube.
For the yarn, check the label and use something that has a good percentage of wool and elastic or maybe both. Wool returns to its shape much, much better than other fibers that folks knit with.

If you want to fix it the ones you've got you can do a couple of things:
Cut off the tight cast on row (takes some balls and a little expertise but you can do it), pick up stitches, knit up, and cast off LOOSELY.
You can run thin sewing elastic through the too loose leg in several places. That will pull it in.

HTH, good luck.

chipsir's picture

I do a longtail cast on for all my socks, it gives a really elastic cast on. Check the content of the yarn, don't trust the label just because it says "Sock Yarn". I find the the best content for me is 80 wool 20 nylon. the wool bounces back and the nylon gives it more wearability. You got a lot of very good advice so I guess it is just whatever suits you after some experamentation. Don't know if it makes any difference but I knit my socks with 5 needles instead of 4.

scottly's picture

My guess it that it's your choice in yarn. Michaels just doesn't really carry any quality yarn. Try some really good stuff from you local yarn store (lys). The cast on can make a difference as well. I always do a long tail cast on to a needle that is two sizes larger then the needles I am going to use. Many patterns actually suggest this.

HuskerChub's picture

Using 2 needles to cast on.

I see that lots of you all are being helpful with the cast on ideas! However, and take this with a gain of salt, I'm going to get on my soap box. My soap box is tall and there are guys on here who really don't like me because they don't like my soapbox (or maybe it's just me they don't like)...whatever. Anyway, yes you probably need a stretchier cast on. However for those who propose casting on over 2 needles all you are accomplishing is making a messier, not stretchier cast on. Notice in a long tail cast on the yarn that goes around the needle IS NOT the part that stretches, the stretch comes from the yarn BETWEEN the sts on the needles. Cast on 5 sts longtail over one needle and 5 sts longtail over 2 needles and then pull out the "extra" needle. Now really look at what you have and study will see that you have sts 2x's taller than what they need to be but the distance between them is exactly the same so all you've gained is a taller stitch but no more give or stretch.

Try this instead. Using a longtail cast on hold 2 needles in ur right hand BUT make one 2-4 sizes smaller than the one you will use for the knitting e.g. knitting on US 3, use a US3 and a US1 held together. Now the trick, do the longtail caston but only over the US3 needle, when you drop the loop off your left thumb catch the loop with the smaller (US1) needle. You will have a st on the larger needle and a loop on the smaller needle below it. Cast on 5 sts and pull out the smaller needle and see what happens. The yarn that is between the sts is now about 1/16" long instead of right next to it...thus you have S T R E T C H in the cast on with no ugly tall sts in the first row. Quickly getting off my soapbox before someone pushes my fat butt off and I hurt myself! I'm really only here to help so if this does not make sense to someone, PLEASE email me and I'll try to make it more clear. I really need to get pics or a video of this online somewhere. It really is a life saver and gives the greatest stretch...however be warned the 2nd need MUST be smaller or you will get a very messy UGLY caston that looks like you did it with your feet and not your hands LOL. Oh and by the way, Thank You to David X from XRX for teaching me this great cast on.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Hey HuskerChub - Great tip on the needles being different sizes. Your point about loop size versus gap size is a good one. It made me realise that when I do the Twisted Thumb Cast On, the loop is important for the extra ease because it's all one strand. However, when I use a 2 strand cast on (like Twisted German) I usually use the tip of my thumb to make a space so I don't snug it up the stitch next to the previous one. That way (something I "unvented) I had the extra gap needed for stretch in the top. Just one of those things I now do automatically after all these years. Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

teejtc's picture

One other suggestion - if you like the yarn you've used, you could add a little elastic to the cuff. There are two ways of doing it. Either (1) you can knit the elastic in while knitting the sock, or (2) you can take a needle and sew it in -- it's not thick or visible elastic, it's very, very thin and adds some stretch without the rubbery feeling that elastic sometimes has.

I've used option 2 a couple of times and been happy with the results.

Grace and Peace,

New York Built's picture

See my blog posting under What's Next, for my ramblings about twisted stitches in ribbing.

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

Nashrunner's picture

I always use long tail cast on for socks. I usually cast onto a larger needle than I am planning to work with. If the cast on is too tight, it feels like you're not going to be able to get the sock over your heel/instep, which for most guys I guess is the widest part of your foot. When I join in round to start the first row I always knit a couple stitches with both the working thread (you can tell I'm old school) and the end of the long tail. This keeps the "cusp" of the first row from being held together by just one ply of yarn, until subsequent rows can be completed. As far as the ribbing is concerned, I have found that 2X2 is more elastic than 1X1, or at least the way I knit it seems to be. The great thing about knitting in the round is you can gouge that puppy up over your foot while it's in process as long as it does slide off the ends of the needles! As far as number of stitches is concerned, if you're using standard fingering weight thread (there I go again-you can tell I was taught to knit by people who were born in the 1800's) a good number is usually 68-72 using size 2-3 needles. If you're using sport weight yarn, maybe 52 or so on size 5's maybe. If you're using worsted weight, maybe 48 or so using size 7 needles. And yes, I have made a couple with bulky, using size 11 needles and and think it's only about 36 or something. Unlike life, if it doesn't come out right the first time, you can yank it out and start again. Don't I wish that were true of a few other things. Good luck!