Sock-A-long: Getting Gauge and Getting Ready


Let’s make socks! I’m so happy to be having a Sock-A-long that I’m jonesing for my time at home with the yarn like a true addict. I’m making Cirque Socks, a free pattern by the Sexy Knitter (aka Sara Wilson) and I invite you to make some with me! Or, make any sock you like! Or just read along and get vicarious thrills from my sock-making adventures!

At this particular moment in my sock adventure I don’t have a clear idea of how many posts I’ll make for our Sock-A-Long. However many I feel inspired to write probably. I’ll definitely hit all the key parts of the Cirque Sock pattern. Here is what I have in mind… but its subject to change:

Sock-A-Long: A Prelude

Sock-A-Long: Getting Gauge and Getting Ready

Sock-A-Long: Cuff and Cables

Sock-A-Long: The Discipline of Knitting the Whole Leg and Not Skipping to the Heel (because I know how I am)

Sock-A-long: Don’t Get Flapped by the Heel Flap

Sock-A-Long: Turning a Heel is Like Freaking Magic

Sock-A-Long: Knitting the Foot is Like Freaking Boring

Sock-A-Long: Toes and Done!

As promised there will be sock-y tips and there will sock-y rambles. In fact let’s have a ramble right now. I like rambles.

Ramble #2: Socks Ain’t No Small Thing

You may fall into the trap of thinking socks are small projects. I’ve fallen into that trap myself. Then I crawl out of it, kick myself for being so naive, and grind through an epic round of sock knitting. Then a month or a week or an hour later I convince myself that I can whip out a quick sock, no problem!

Nope. Socks, socks made in fingering weight yarn on US size 2 needles, are not quick knits. They are small in physical size only. There are lots of stitches to make. If you are using a sock yarn for an adult sized sock and it has a modest 6 inch leg on it, you’ll be knitting about 10,000 to 12,000 stitches for each sock. I’m not saying knitting socks requires the marriage-level commitment like sweater knitting does. But it ain’t so weekend fling like a worsted weight hat.

Yes, socks are serious knitting. It pays to do a bit a prep work. By prep work I mean getting your gauge before you start. (And I heard you sigh and I saw you roll your eyes and don’t even pretend that you aren’t scrolling down to skip the you-should-get-gauge lecture!) I make sure to check my gauge before I start a pair of socks. Not because I’m a goody-goody who always does as she is told. I check my gauge before making socks because I’m really, really picky about how my socks fit.

I’m not alone in that. Practically everyone on planet Earth is picky about how the things that go on their feet fit them. I bet you are too. If you want your socks to have even a prayer of fitting they way they are intended/the way you would like, you have to be knitting at the correct gauge. To make sure that you are, you have to knit a gauge swatch. Sorry, but there is no way around it.

So now that I have convinced you to knit a gauge swatch, and you are doing it with a smile and a good attitude and everything, I just want to say this: knit your swatch exactly the way you will knit your sock. Knit it in the round, on the needles you intend to use, with the yarn you intend to use.

I’m going to knit one sock on double pointed needles (and if you’d like a refresher on that I have a video tutorial right here) and one sock on a circular needle using magic look (and yep, I have a tutorial for that right here). I’m planning to have mini-tutorials in this Sock-A-Long and I want to be able to show how certain things are done with each type of needle. So I had to knit two gauge swatches, one for each.

(Do you feel sorry for me? I didn’t think so.)

In the Cirque Sock pattern, Sexy Knitter specifies

“32 stitches/48 rows = 4 inches in stockinette”

That translates to 8 stitches and 12 rounds (yes rounds, not rows) per inch or 3.2 stitches and 4.8 rounds per centimeter. To get that gauge I need a US size 2 needle. I know that Sexy Knitter suggests a US size 1 needle but… that is just a suggestion. I, and you, need to get 8 stitches per inch. How I, and you, get that gauge is not really important. So cast on 40 stitches and start knitting in the round with the needle you think is going to get you the right gauge.

There is a nice side benefit to making a gauge swath. You get to see right away how your yarn will work up.


Once you know what needle you need to use to get gauge, you might consider dividing your yarn into two equal cakes. I do that.

I suffer from Second Sock Syndrome. If you’ve never heard of that then you must be a very disciplined sock knitter. I’m not. I know that after I have made a sock the last thing I want to knit is another exact copy of that sock. So I don’t. I don’t make the second sock. They only way around Second Sock Syndrome is to grow up and be a responsible knitter to make both socks at the same time. I’ll be accomplishing that by knitting a few rounds on one sock followed by a few rounds on the other. There are other ways to combat Second Sock Syndrome and I HIGHLY encourage you to employ them.

Next I get all my notions together. I love this part.

That’s stitch markers for my sock on the circular needle, some paper clips to help me keep track of “needle 1, needle 2, needle 3, needle 4” as the pattern specifies (more on that in the next post), a round counter, some bread ties which help me wind up my tails, highlighter tape to track where I am in the pattern, and a cable needle. I like these hook-shape cable needles best. If you don’t happen to have one, don’t sweat it and don’t put off starting your socks.

Just cannibalize one of your paperclips and you’ll have a perfectly good cable needle.

Okay, now I’m officially ready to start my Cirque Socks. It may seem like a lot of fussing and farting around but socks are serious knitting. Plus I like the fussing and farting around before a projects. Its part of the fun.

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22 Comments on "Sock-A-long: Getting Gauge and Getting Ready"

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Your yarn is purty! Love the colors, especially in the close-up pictures.
I told myself I was making a circular swatch, but I was knitting it while getting totally blown away by the Hamilton documentary so it grew into a cuff. Then I thought I might as well change to the stitch pattern for the leg “just to see” and now it’s three inches long, so…I’ve started my socks 🙂


I’m worried that your gauge will be different with the two different styles of needles. Will you have two different size socks?


Ooops. I have only done cuff down socks once. They ended up two different sizes and neither fit. Since then all my socks have been toe up. Dare I try cuff down again???


This sounds fantastic and just what I need to help me begin my new life as a sock knitter. You seem to have my every fear covered. But Boy Hody! do you even have a lot of knitting notions!


I do cablework without a cable needle now! 0.0