It’s the time of year where the idea of a Christmas stocking comes to mind (or, we are sometimes forcibly reminded of our foolish promises to make them for our nearest and dearest).
In this post I don’t have a pattern per se. Rather, I discuss how to make one of these without a very good plan, which is often the way I end up making mine (see picture above). I also provide some resources towards the end.
This “recipe” will work for both single- and double-bed machines in all gauges. But, I think it is “intermediate” since ideally you will have made a sock before. (If you have never made a sock before on your knitting machine, see my note at the end of the post).
My rules of thumb for Christmas stockings is that they should be bigger than a normal sock (sometimes much bigger!) and that they should in some way incorporate something distinctive, so that you can tell apart family members’ socks.
(I should probably add that I come from a family where we always used normal socks for Christmas stockings and I’ve only recently realised you could have special exciting socks that do the job.)
Design rule number 1: Always make a sock that is an even multiple of your punchcard or design width.
Design rule 2: The sock should be bigger than a normal sock.
Design rule 3: If you are making your sock flat, add 2 stitches for seaming.
Design rule 4: Make it fun!
Leading us to general sizing guidelines:
- For standard machines with 24-stitch punchcards, you probably want a 96-stitch around sock (four repeats). 2 stitches for seaming, 98 stitches.
- For standard machines with 40-stitch punchcards, you want an 80-stitch sock (two repeats). If you have a Passap Duo80 or later, you can work fair isle in the round with a Jac40 as I did with my sample sock; on other models work it flat add 2 stitches for seaming.
- For bulky machines, a 72-stitch sock (3 repeats), plus 2 stitches for seaming, 74 stitches.
- For electronic machines you can program whatever width design you want, generally, but again, larger than your average sock! My average sock (women’s size 8.5 American, 39 European) is 68 stitches around on an standard gauge in sock yarn just as a guideline.
If you will be hand-selecting your design, or working stripes or self-striping yarn, keep in mind these general guidelines but you can of course pick any amount of stitches that match the patterns you want to work. A good rule of thumb for hand selection of stranded work is to combine simple repetitive patterns where you can use every-other-needle or every-third-needle stitch selection patterns, and only occasionally do more figurative patterns. Unless you have mucho brain power for that kind of thing. You will see from my sort-of hand-selected sock pictures, below, that it’s difficult at least for me to keep the pattern straight, and that I did best with the geometric patterns.
For CSM knitters, the possibilities for stranded work may be limited (my CSM is terrible with this!) — so, if you don’t want to use special “Christmas” yarn, you might consider embroidery as a second option.
Speaking of yarn, have a look at these Etsy search results for self-striping Christmas yarn – some beautiful yarns are available which might save you all the trouble!
Christmas stockings take more yarn than a single sock, but less than a pair. If you are working stranded designs, you can gather up a range of leftovers. Or you can buy some lovely matching colours. About 100g of sock-weight yarn is probably what you will want, more if giant-sized. I used a new skein of dark green, plus remnants of red, cream, light green, and a variegated red.
Decorating your sock
I like stranded socks for Christmas. I think every machine manual has a little recipe for how to work stranded/fair isle/ jacquard patterns, so that is where to turn for instructions on how to do this technique. On simple machines you are usually pulling some needles out to hold, knitting across, and then manually laying the yarn in the hooks and knitting each stitch, or using an intarsia carriage, or sometimes you switch out the yarn in the carriage and reverse the needles. On a more complicated machine you may be able to carry the two yarns at the same time, which makes stranded knitting by machine a real pleasure.
Other options are plain stripes with a bit of embroidery or Swiss darning. Or maybe beading and sequins (do your christmas tastes run to bling?) or sewing on little animals or who knows what you will get up to!
Here are some free Christmas stocking patterns and resources for your perusal. First, machine-specific patterns for flat-bed machines. In general these are simple patterns, and it’s a great way to practice socks if you haven’t made them before (but see the note at the end of the post)!
- A standard-gauge single-bed pattern with charts from Susan Guagliumi’s Tips & Tricks. This one has a really good schematic of the flat-bed construction and a form for filling in your own gauge/number of stitches etc. A really nice starting point – and really, you could use this schematic for your own sock, whatever the gauge, bearing in mind the rules above. Has some stranded charts as well.
- A mid-gauge pattern from Marg’s Knitting Place
- An enormously giant sock on the Bond bulky machine from the Bond website. In addition to being comically large, the pattern has a nice chart of letters in case you want to knit in someone’s name.
- Another mid-gauge pattern from slisen
Second, hand-knitting patterns for inspiration/conversion:
- A 40-stitch repeat hand knitting pattern from General Hogbuffer on Ravelry (useful for Passap machines with 40 stitch Deco cards)
- Patterns for 4 hand-knitted Christmas stockings from Dale of Norway with great charts – 2 socks are 72 sts around (perfect for mid-gauge) and 2 socks are 96 stitches around (perfect for standard-gauge)
- Another hand-knitting pattern from Garnstudio, with 20-, 10- and 6-stitch repeat charts
For mini-borders that can be made with 1/1, 2/1, 2/2, and 3/1 needle selection tools – do a Google image search for “peeries” — many of the traditional fair isle borders are perfect.
About Knitting Socks on a Machine
In my experience socks are both easy and awesome. Christmas stockings don’t need ribbing so they are easy to do on a single-bed machine if you don’t mind seams. For single-bed knitting you need the following skills:
- Provisional cast on
- Hanging a hem
- Working short rows
The wonderful Diana Sullivan has done a three-part video series on knitting socks on a single-bed machine. The link opens the first video.
For double-bed socks you need almost the same skill set:
- Provisional cast on for circular knitting or ribbed cast-on
- Hanging a hem or working ribbing
- Changing from rib to circular knitting (if knitting rib)
- Working short rows
- Decreasing on both beds
All the double-bed machines I have used contain a basic sock pattern. I just follow those directions.