Travel Knitting & Sock Tubes

Spring Break is quickly approaching for my kids and that has me thinking a lot about travel knitting. We don’t have any big trips planned for the break from school but we will be doing a bit of local travel and knitting is always at the top of my necessity list (you know, because sanity is important when going anywhere with kids). 

Travel knitting for me means socks because they are perfectly packable, easy to pick up for a few quick rounds and easy to put down at a moments notice. I love working afterthought heel socks as a travel project because I can just knit and knit round and round without worrying about where to start my heel or if the foot is long enough to start the toe. With just a general idea of the length sock tube needed for the kind of socks I want, i.e. bootie, mid-calf, or use up all the yarn length, I can knit a sock tube without a second thought.

Sock tube knit in NoDa Sock Pollen Season & Stand

Travel sock knitting necessities: 

  1. Awesome yarn. Whether it be spectacular speckles, fun variegated, or potato-chippy self-striping, the yarn is the most important part of travel knitting! Pick something that you are excited about, maybe even something that speaks to the type of travel or adventure you are embarking on. 
  2. Small, squishable project bag. These are key for me as I like to shove my sock project into whatever bag I’m using for the day- sometimes thats my pocketbook other days it’s a backpack. Having my project in its own little bag makes it easy to move from one to the other.
  3. Mini notions pouch. I don’t like to carry my full size notions pouch with me when traveling so I have a small one that includes only the necessities for sock knitting: tape measure, small scissors, a couple of locking stitch markers (I like those lightbulb kind) and a darning needle.
  4. Needles. I’m most likely to use a 9” circular when traveling because that makes my sock even easier to pick up and put down but I also pack a 32” circular for working cuffs, toes and heels. I don’t recommend DPNs for travel knitting because they are easy to drop and lose.

General sock knitting sizing tips:

Gauge matters and, along with foot measurements, should be used as a guide to choosing how many stitches to cast on. As a general rule of thumb (or toe) 10% negative ease is necessary for a good fit.

  • To avoid a baggy sock deduct 10% from the foot circumference when to choosing how many stitches to cast on. 
  • To avoid a floppy foot, deduct 10% of the foot length as well, working this deduction in when determining where to cut in your heel. 

Travel sock knitting tips:

  1. Cast on before leaving home. I’m most often a cuff down sock knitter and I absolutely love using the tubular cast on because it is stretchy but doesn’t flare. The long tail tubular cast on tutorial by Ysolda (see link below) is great and shows the way I do the tubular cast on.  There are other methods but with some practice this one has become my favorite. I like to work the initial cast on, the 2 set up rows and one full round before leaving home. Having a sock already on the needles is so nice, especially if you are the snack getter in the car or when you find a few minutes while waiting in line for something. 
  2. Think about sock tube length. You can knit 2 matching sock tubes by casting on each one, working the cuffs, the tubes and finish with the toes. You can also knit one long tube with cuffs on each end and cut it in half to add toes. About what size shoes does the lucky recipient of these socks wear? How long do you want the socks to be (bootie, mid-calf, super duper tall)? Shoe size will give you an idea about how long the foot of the sock will need to be and from there you can decide how much additional tube you want to knit for the leg of the sock.
  3. Know your toe options. There are many types of toes in sock knitting and some are easier to work, especially when traveling, than others. I prefer a wedge toe (see link below) with decreases every other round because it is easy to tell where I am by looking at the previous round. Another great option is the round toe (see link below) which makes cutting in your heel really easy because you won’t have to worry about making sure you are using only “sole” stitches as determined by toe shape.
  4. Determine where to cut in the heels. This is where the tape measure from the mini notions pouch comes in handy! I use a chart by Zappos (see link below) to decide where I need to cut in the heels on socks for me and my family. Be sure to deduct 10% of the foot length in your measurement to ensure a great fit. Mark the center sole stitch where you will cut with a locking stitch marker.
  5. Afterthought heels. I like to use a 32” circular for picking up the stitches on either side of the cut row (as marked with the locking stitch marker). I LOVE the tutorial that KirbyWirby posted (see link below) and use her technique to avoid holes at the sides of my afterthought heels. I work about 5 rounds of heel plain before beginning any decreases to give extra depth to the heel and then I decrease every other round, exactly as I do for the wedge toe. 

Helpful links for techniques mentioned above:

Round Toe Tutorial by knitgrammer
Wedge Toe Tutorial by knitgrammer
Cutting in the heel Zappos Foot Length Chart
Safe Travels & Happy Sock Knitting!
❤️ Christen

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