Beginner sock knitting: Sockalong – accessories and matching yarn

There’s just a week to go now before we start our Sockalong.  Excited?  I certainly am!  It’s been great to really think about what goes into making a sock and in which order to talk about it all.  I hope your tension squares are coming along nicely, and thanks again for all the comments and questions you’ve left me this week.  I’ve created a tab at the top of the page for the Sockalong so that it’s easy to find all the posts instead of searching through the blog – there are quite a few Sockalong posts now!

Today, we’re going to talk about matching sock yarn and the last few accessories that you will need before we get going.  Later in the week will be the final pre-Sockalong post and we’ll be looking at the anatomy of a sock (which sounds more technical than it actually is) and how we’re going to work on the socks over the weeks of the Sockalong itself.

Matching socks are one of those things that some people can’t live without and others don’t think twice about.  I fall into the first camp; I can’t stand it if my socks aren’t the same!  Plain sock yarn is no bother at all, but I will spend a long time matching the colours from my self-patterning balls of yarn to make sure that my socks are going to be identical twins.  I can see that some of you are nodding in agreement and I can hear the rest of you making a rude pfftt! noise in disgust that anyone can get upset about such a thing – I say that if we were all the same the world would be a very boring place!

**If you want to match the West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply Winwick Mum yarns, there’s a special tutorial just for that here**

The thing about self-patterning sock yarn is that it’s almost impossible to tell what the socks will look like before you start knitting unless you have a picture on the ball band, but the good news is that often the yarn has been dyed in repeats so that you can match the stripes if you want to do that.  So, if like me you want your socks to be the same, then this is how I take the ball apart to match the yarn.  Remember that I’m knitting with a 100g ball of yarn; if you’ve bought two 50g balls, you can start matching from the beginning of each ball without needing to pull the centre out.

To match the yarn for your socks, you will need to unravel the ball to find a colour repeat far enough into the ball to give you enough yarn to knit your first sock.  Do this by inserting your fingers into the end of the ball, grasping the yarn inside and pulling it out.  You are going to start knitting from the end of the yarn that was inside the ball (it’s always a good idea to do this anyway as you are unravelling the ball from the inside and it won’t roll about whilst you’re knitting).

You might even find it useful to weigh your two balls of yarn so that you know they’re roughly about the same weight; this will give you a guideline of where you are looking to start your colour repeats for the second sock.

You can see in the next picture that the tail end of my yarn is orange in colour, followed by a large section of yellow, then pink and finally yellow and green stripes.  I’m going to use those colours to match them with yarn further into the ball.  It’s important to keep using the colours in the same direction otherwise if you start to match with yarn from the outside of the ball, you’ll find that your stripes become reversed for one of the socks.

Now it’s just a question of matching the yarn colours from your two balls of yarn.  Let’s call the two balls that you have the “inside ball” (that’s the one you pulled out) and the “outside ball” (that’s the original ball).  Take the tail end from the inside ball of yarn and try to find the matching pattern from the outside ball of yarn, pulling the yarn out from the centre of the ball as you do so.  Take care that your yarn is pulling from the same direction so that your pattern goes in the same direction for each ball.

Sometimes you have to pull quite a lot of yarn out so that you can be sure that you’ve got the right pattern repeats, so be careful not to get your yarn tangled up.  Just take your time and you’ll be fine!  If you feel that it’s not working and you’re losing the will to live, then stop, take a break and come back to it later.  It’s only yarn and it’s only a pair of socks. Sometimes, close enough is good enough, even for me!

You can see in this next picture that I’ve found a match with my two balls of yarn.  It is never exactly perfect but you can see how I’ve found the point where the pattern changes at the same time on both strands of yarn.

Once I’ve got the colours matched up how I want them, I make loops at the ends where I want to cast on.  As you’ll know from the last pre-Sockalong post on tension squares, I use a cable cast-on so I need to start with a loop over the end of my needle. If you use a different cast on, that’s fine, but you may still want to create a loop to put a safety pin through so that you don’t lose the point where your yarn matches.

If you want to, you can cut the yarn so that the two ends start at exactly the same point. A word of warning, though – DO NOT CUT YOUR YARN UNTIL YOU ARE QUITE SURE THAT IT IS EXACTLY HOW YOU WANT IT!

Finally, you can wind the yarn back into two balls.  If you want to wind it into neater balls or cakes, just take care that you don’t wind from the wrong end and reverse the pattern. I’ve recently discovered how to hand-wind yarn into a centre-pull ball (I know, where have I been all these years?) using this website and it’s much better than having your ball roll all around the floor when you’re knitting.

Phew!  Sometimes it can be a bit of a frustrating job and sometimes it works brilliantly well and you’re done in ten minutes, it all depends on the pattern in the yarn.  For me, it’s always time well spent as I will be wearing my socks for a long time!

There is now a video to go with the matching yarn tutorial – click below!



Finally, let’s take a quick look at any extra accessories you’re going to need and then we’re done for today.  If you’ve already done your yarn and needle shopping, you’ll be pleased to know that all of these are either items you’ll already have around your house or you can improvise without having to buy anything else.

First of all, a wool or tapestry needle for sewing in ends, a pair of scissors and a tape measure (a ruler will work just as well if you don’t have a tape measure).

Next, stitch markers.  Mine have been collected over the years that I’ve been knitting.  All of them except for my lovely Herdy ones came free with various knitting magazines, and my Herdy ones were a Christmas gift one year from my brother and sister-in-law.  You can see at the bottom of the picture that I’ve even used pieces of knotted yarn and they work as well as anything else.  You don’t have to have technical or expensive stitch markers; you just need to see where your round starts and ends.

Finally, you need some way of tracking your rounds so that you can make sure your socks are equal in length.  I have this rather scary-looking sheep counter (another magazine freebie!) and you can buy similarly scary-looking counters very cheaply as well as many other styles.  Before I had this, I used a piece of paper and a pencil and this worked extremely well!

And that’s it for today!  Don’t forget to ask any questions, and if you’re close enough to come to Black Sheep Wools on Saturday 2 May 2015, then it’ll be lovely to see you.  I’m officially listed as being around from 9.30am to 12.30pm but I’ll be there for most of the day as I want to see some of the other demonstrations too!  This is the programme for the day (it’s a bit of a skew-whiff photo as I was so excited to see my name up there when I called into Black Sheep the other day that I didn’t hold the camera straight!)

If you don’t live near to Black Sheep but your local yarn shop is taking part in Yarn Shop Day then do pop along and support them – as much as we can buy on the internet easily and cheaply, we still need our bricks and mortar yarn shops!


These Sockalong tutorials are free and will always remain so, but if you have enjoyed using them and would like to buy me a brew, it will be much appreciated!  You can find the donation button on the sidebar on the left hand side.  Thank you! xx


Basic 4ply Socks pattern copyright © 2014 Winwick Mum   All rights reserved.
Sockalong tutorials copyright © 2015 Winwick Mum   All rights reserved.


More Sockalong posts:

Sockalong – yarns

Sockalong – needles

Sockalong – tension squares, casting on and stitch calculations

Sockalong – anatomy of a sock

Sockalong – Week 1 – Cast on, cuff and leg

Sockalong – Week 2 – Heel flap, heel turn and gusset

Sockalong – Week 3 – Foot, toe and grafting the toes

Sockalong Basic 4ply Socks pattern

Sockalong successes

Facebook Sockalong group for help, advice and encouragement


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29 Responses

  1. Unknown says:

    I'm in. I've bought my wool and am ready to make my first pair of socks. I'll blog about it this week x

    • Winwick Mum says:

      That's fabulous! Thanks for joining in – and thanks in advance for your blog post too! Looking forward to seeing your finished pair in a few weeks' time 🙂 xx

  2. Unknown says:

    Cannot wait to start the sock-along. Just hope I can keep up as I am also taking part in the crochet waterlily blanket crochet-along. Can't help myself really, just love joining in and being inspired with what everyone is doing. xx

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Ooh, the waterlily blanket is lovely! Don't worry too much about keeping up; I've got a link up at the top of this page to a Sockalong page where all posts will be listed so it will be easy for you to find them if you need to catch up. Socks are such a portable project, though, that you might well find yourself taking them out and about and you'll be ahead of me! 🙂 xx

  3. Amy at love made my home says:

    I would totally be with you on the matching socks! They would either have to match or be totally different if I was knitting them – which as you know I will not be! However, I am loving reading your posts and finding out more and if – when??? – I ever knit socks, I will most certainly be coming back here for all of the tips and information that I need!! I hope that you enjoy your day at Black Sheep! xx

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Thanks, Amy, I'm really looking forward to Yarn Shop Day next week. I'm glad you're finding the posts interesting reading even though I haven't persuaded you to cast on yet … I'll live in hope! 🙂 xx

  4. The House with the Blue Door says:

    I love the yarn and plan to knit socks one day, but think I'll enjoy being an observer this time. Having a knit-along is a fantastic idea. Looking forward to seeing your finished socks 🙂
    Cathy x

    • Winwick Mum says:

      The Sockalong posts are going to stay up on the blog even after it's finished, Cathy, so whenever you feel like picking up the needles you can join in! 🙂 xx

  5. Unknown says:

    Oh definitely matching! Unless of course you're my 16 year old daughter who only ever wears odd socks . . . 😀

    • Winwick Mum says:

      It's probably the law when you're 16 that you need to do that – although it's never been a law tha I've stuck to! 🙂 xx

  6. Plain Jane says:

    Now in typical impatient me fashion I've thrown caution to the wind and started a sock – aaaargh – it's a very simple one but I'm about to 'turn the heel' and now I'm scared! Brilliant tutorial again though – I never even considered that self striping yarn had pattern repeats! I hope you don't mind but I've given you a mention on the latest allotment video – not only has my mint been sunk in a pot but my lemon balm too! Have fun on Saturday – would love to pop in but think we are away next weekend x Jane

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Turning the heel is the fun part! You'll be absolutely fine, and I'm looking forward to seeing your finished socks. I'm very proud to be mentioned on your allotment video, thank you! Would have been nice to see you on Saturday but have a lovely weekend away xx

  7. Jo@awholeplotoflove says:

    I'm definitely in & looking forward to it. I'm stocked up & raring to go & shall try hard to blog about it this week too. xx

  8. Anonymous says:

    I've just got to the turning heel part of my first sock and its gone horribly wrong. I managed to knit/slip 56 stitches ,then ended up that the stitch would not stretch to knit onto DP needle. Lots of swearing and undoing followed,if you understand what I mean,any advice about how to resolve the problem before I throw it in the bin������

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Oh, that doesn't sound right! Your heel flap should be half the number of stitches that you cast on – 56 stitches would suggest that you cast on 112 which I'm sure isn't right. Can you email me a photo at winwickmum[at] so that I can see what you've done? It'll make it easier for me to help you if I can see xx

  9. Bellknitting says:

    Thank you so much for explaining how to knit matching socks from 100g ball of wool.

  10. janet powell says:

    Hi Christine
    I've been to Yarndale, bought the sock wool and needles, worked out the tension and know how many stitches to cast on, but really struggling with how I match the yarn to make a matching pair of socks!!
    How do I know how much to pull from the inside of the ball to find the repeat pattern to make 2 balls ?

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Hi Janet, I hope you had a lovely day at Yarndale! You want to pull about half of the inside of the ball out – it'll be around 50g (put it on your scales and weigh it if you're worried you don't have enough) because then you'll know what you have enough yarn to knit both socks. My size 5 feet take about 35g of yarn so I generally know that if I pull half the ball out the chances are that I'll find a match somewhere around the middle of the ball and I'll have enough. Which yarn did you choose, just out of interest? xx

  11. Anonymous says:

    After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked
    the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I recieve four emails with
    the same comment. Is there an easy method you are able to remove me from that service?

  12. Winwick Mum says:

    Sorry to hear you're suffering from comment overload! I'm afraid that comment notifications aren't something that I have any control over but I've googled and the options that have come up are for you to uncheck the "notify me" box on the post if you can, or to see if there's an unsubscribe option on the emails that are coming to you. Fingers crossed that helps! xx

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  15. Unknown says:

    I can not tell you how much I am enjoying the tutorial. Thank you so much!

  16. Unknown says:

    I can not tell you how much I am enjoying the tutorial. Thank you so much!

  17. Rolien Verbruggen says:

    Thanks for this great tutorial! I just finished my first pair of socks using your sockalong posts. Now I'm starting a new pair in selfstriping yarn (Drops Fabel, 2 balls of 50 g).

    I had a really hard time matching the yarn, so finally I just started the first sock to see what it would look like. Then I discovered that in the second ball of yarn, the colours were running in the opposite direction. Really! I'm 100% sure that I started both balls from the inside. Now I'm fairly confident that I will get matching socks. Your post was really helpful, otherwise I would just have given up.

    NB Technically this wasn't my first pair of socks, as I knitted several pairs of socks when I was a teenager (more than 30 years ago) but I had completely forgotten how to do it.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      It's quite common for Drops Fabel to be wound in two different directions – not so much of a problem if you know about it and are ready for it, but definitely a hindrance if you didn't know that would happen! I'm so glad you found the Sockalong tutorials useful, here's to many more pairs of socks! xx

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