From Socks to Stockings: Calf Shaping

Are you a sock knitter dying to learn how to design your own knitted socks? If your answer is “Yes!”, these sock design tutorials are the one-stop resource for you. Today’s topic is calf shaping: what turns socks into stockings?

Sock Knitting for Everybody: Table of Contents

Calf Shaping: It’s All About Anatomy

You all know I’m attending Med School, so I’m pleased to introduce calf shaping in sock knitting from an anatomy perspective today! Let’s have a look on human calves: why do they look that way after all?
calf shaping in sock knitting
The hidden secrets of human calves: muscles.
Your calves are shaped by a muscle group called Musculus triceps surae, consisting of three parts: Musculus gastrocnemius (Caput laterale and mediale) and Musculus soleus.
Men’s calves are usually more prominent than women’s. Men’s stockings definitely need calf shaping, but it’s a nice feature anyway – women come in many different shapes, too!
So let’s talk about shaping: how can calf shaping be achieved in sock knitting?

Calf Shaping in Sock Knitting

Calf shaping is achieved by increasing (or decreasing, when working top down) your stitch count from the point on where your calf starts. For me, this is about 6 inches (15 cm) measured from the start of the leg section after working the heel (yes, I’m working toe-up mostly).
For women’s socks, I’m increasing from my standard 60 stitches to 80 (ish), for men’s socks I’m increasing to 96 stitches. You want your increases to be more at the beginning (say, two stitches every other round), then switching to two stitches every 4th round after approximately 6-8 increase rounds.
An example chart (taken from one of my Alpine sock knitting patterns) is shown below.
calf shaping in sock knitting

Do You Knit Stockings?

And if yes, how do you implement calf shaping? I’m curious to hear your story – please leave a comment below!


PS. The extended version of this series is available in book form and called Sock Knitting in Plain English – I’m sure you’ll like it!





3 thoughts on “From Socks to Stockings: Calf Shaping

  • April 3, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    I am currently working on the increases issue for tall full leg stockings. If I do just stitch increases it will bring me from my (11 st/in gage) 84 stitchesat foot and ankle to something in the ballpark if 175 to work around the upper thigh. Lots of yarn. I considered doing needle size changes. Easy enough to figure out the stitch gage required for my circumference and negative ease. 84 / (.8× circumference) = … I like what you said about needle size changes. I worry that it will look oversized but I’m going to add a lifeline, find some required stitch gauges and see what it looks like. I added a back leg purl seam so I can do easy increases as needed but I am also trying to conserve yarn.

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  • September 10, 2017 at 11:07 pm

    II also prefer toe up socks & I like to use lace stitch patterns on the leg. I am, however very poor at math, so I can’t figure out how many stitches to increase/decrease & still maintain the pattern. So what I do instead is to increase needle sizes. The foot is US1.5, the heel & ankle is US2, the calf is US3,4 & possible 5, depending on the person’s calf circumference. Then I reverse 1 needle size at a time until I get back to US2 for the cuff. It works pretty well for me & I don’t have to do any math!


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