After keeping my dad in hand knit socks exclusively for 3 years I've learned a thing or two on how to make long lastings socks. In fact my dad hasn't thrown out a single pair yet and only one pair has been in need of darning. I've boiled my experiences into 5 essential keys to knitting long-lasting socks.
1) Choose your yarn wisely
It's difficult to say what the most important aspect of long-lasting socks is, but your result will have a lot to do with the material you choose to work with.
While your soft and beautiful silk- and cashmere blends turn into both beautiful and soft socks, they don't often make long-lasting socks. If you want socks that can handle a heavy rotation, then choose a simple 80% super wash merino and 20% nylon blend.
You may have to try out a few brands, but once you find one that suits you, I would recommend sticking to it.
2) It's all about gauge
Once you have a great workhorse yarn, the next essential key is your gauge. The tighter your gauge, the longer the sock will last in my experience. I tend to knit on 2,5mm needles at a gauge of 32 sts per 10cm. It's still a soft a comfortable sock, but it has a strong hold to it and the stitches do not have room to move a lot, which leads us to the next point.
3) The perfect fit
When you wear the socks in all kinds of footwear it is essential that they have a good fit. If your socks are slightly too big they will move around more between your foot and your shoe. With friction comes additional wear and tear, such as felting, as well as discomfort and what's the point of hand knit socks if they aren't comfortable?
Heels and toes are the most important. Don't be afraid to create your own toes. I had to tweak my dad's for a while until we finally found the perfect fit. It looks odd when not on the feet, but once on it's obvious that they fit him perfectly.
Once you've find your perfect heel and toe, it's fairly easy to use them in almost any pattern of your choice.
4) Wear them well
When you have found the perfect fit, it's time to wear your hand knit socks. Many Westerners are accustomed to wear a pair of socks for one day and then tossing them into the wash. If you have sweaty feet, then by all means do so. However, if your feet don't get really sweaty then consider wearing them for 2-3 days before tossing them to wash.
5) Wash them well
The final essential key to long-lasting hand knitted socks is how you wash them. You can hand wash them with special soap, but frankly, I would never convince my mum to do so. Mum simply tosses the socks into her regular wash with similar coloured clothes on 40C. I wash our socks on 30C, but as long as you keep the cycle fairly cool you should be fine.
Let the socks air dry. Your worst enemy on the quest to long-lasting socks may just be the dryer.
There you have them, my 5 essential keys to long-lasting socks. Do share your tips, tricks and experiences in the comments.