So as I’ve written, I’ve been knitting a LOT of socks lately. And one thing I haven’t done is blocked my socks. (For non-knitters, blocking is when you wet a project and stretch it into it’s intended finished shape and let it dry that way. This eases out any kinks and unevenness in your knitting tension and gives the project a finished, professional look and can help hide any goofy little mistakes.)
Pretty much the only tool you can use to assist in blocking socks, besides your feet, are called sock blockers. But in my research to purchase sock blockers, I found that they’re all pretty much ridiculously over priced for something I could easily make myself out of some wire coat hangars. So, I thought I’d share my process.
Luckily, materials are easy. Just grab some wire hangars from your closet or get some nicer ones from the store – mine I stole from my partner’s closet (with permission) but we think they’re from Target. They’re a nice silver and a thicker gauge metal than what I was thinking of so they kind of wrecked my hands, but they look really nice. You’ll also need a ruler (not pictured), pen or pencil and 1-2 sheets of paper that your foot will fit on. Printer paper will be fine for most unless you have ridiculous clown feet (no judging). You may also choose to use some heavy pliers but I found it was much more effective to just use my hands.
Step 1: Trace your foot! It doesn’t need to be beautiful, just be sure to put some standing pressure on your foot to get your full-size foot print. Then measure the longest and widest parts of your feet. Now take your nearest modern device that can do some calculations and take your two measurements and multiply them by 0.9. This shrinks your foot measurements giving the sock some negative ease so it will still have some “hug” left in it to stay on your foot. So for example, my measurements were or 9.875 inches long by 3.875 inches wide. Multiplied by 0.9 gives me 8.9″ by 3.5″ (rounded to the nearest tenth). (Calculations from this blog post of a similar tutorial for cardboard sock blockers.)
Step 2: Draw these two new smaller measurements onto your second piece of paper to start drawing the shape of your sock blocker. I aligned mine to the corner of the paper to give some room for the angle of the leg. Draw out the shape you want. I like a nice big rounded toe, and be sure to increase the width of the ankle/leg as it goes up to account for any calf shaping that went into your socks. Don’t stress over getting this perfect, you won’t get the hangar to bend perfectly to this shape, but this will just give you a guide template to compare to as you begin bending.
Step 3: Start bending metal!
I tried using pliers, but they weren’t big enough for the hangars I had but they may work for you – although if they have the grooved teeth, they may leave marks in your wire which may snag your yarn – so use at your own discretion. I just used my hands, but found the hard plastic arm of my office chair to be a great tool to press against to create gentle curves with pressure from the palm of my hands rather than just killing my thumbs. The edge of a table would work just as well, but the chair arm I could fit inside the space of the hangar as well for interior curves. But work with whatever you’ve got!
Reverse-bend the sharper corners that the hanger starts with to try and straighten them out as much as possible before beginning the sock shape. This will minimize any of kinky-weirdness you may get from those being bent already (unless you’re into that sort of thing).
If you want the hook to be in the top-center of the leg, then start with the top two corner bends (1, 2) in the mid-calf area, then do the top-foot corner bend (3), followed by the toe (4), then the heel bend (5) last. This means that the toe bend will not be the exact opposite center of the hangar from the hook. The “middle” of the hangar will actually be somewhere on the ball of your sock blocker’s foot, so resist the temptation to just pull down the middle like a kite shape to start the toe.
Refer to your drawing often as you’re bending your sock blocker to make sure all the bends are landing in the right place. Don’t worry too much about perfect angles and curves, you’ll have time to perfect the shape at the very end.
When you think you’ve got it about right, stick a pair of socks on and see if they fit!
When I first put this sock on, it was loose in the inner-foot bend, and wasn’t filling out the heel enough so I adjusted my bends to make the heel a bit sharper and the inner-foot a bit flatter and further away from the heel to get rid of the looseness. Above is the final result! Below you can compare my drawing with my final sock shape to see what adjustments I made.
My final sock blocker measurements are 8.75″ from toe to heel, about 3.4″ wide in the foot, 3.5″ at the ankle and about 4.25″ at the top of the leg. Just about perfect I think!