How Socks Are Made: Entire Manufacturing Process Explained


Have you ever tried making your own socks? 

The closest thing I have ever done to making a sock was decorating a Christmas stocking in grade school. 

Having two left hands, even that task was not an easy one for me.  

I applaud anyone who has ever made an attempt, whether you have failed or succeeded! 

Today, we will take a look at how that sock on your foot came to be. 

We will be exploring the sock-making process in detail.  

How Socks Are Made: Step-by-Step Explained

factory

The sock-manufacturing process is not an easy one.  

It’s actually one of the manufacturing processes that requires the most human intervention.

#1 Pattern Coding

When a sock pattern is chosen, it needs to be “translated” into a code the machine can read.  

Every pixel needs to be coded with a thread colour to correspond to the chosen design. 

#2 Choosing the Yarn

yarn

Is the sock being created for professional athletes? 

Or, is the sock created for the everyday consumer? 

Depending on the function and design of the sock, the yarn needs to be chosen based on its material and colour.

i. Material 

The fibre selected must fit the purpose in which it is created for. 

If your sock is designed for sweaty feet, you should choose a material that does not trap moisture.

We’ll discuss 4 common types of sock fibres in the next section.

ii. Colour

Choosing the precise colours is important in replicating the sock’s design. 

In terms of the colour selection process, the industry standard is the Pantone system. 

#3 Knitting Socks

knit patterns

Socks are knitted in a circular-shaped knitting machine which gives them its tubular shape.

By doing it this way, a side seam is not needed to connect the sock together.

Factory workers are stationed to monitor and inspect the process to make sure the machines are set up properly, so that mistakes can be avoided. 

Just imagine, the sock machines produce thousands of pairs of socks, but the spelling on every single sock was programmed incorrectly! 

Workers are a vital line of defence in making sure production is as error-free as possible. 

#4 Sewing Socks 

sewing

The knitting will create the tubular body of the sock, but we still need to connect the foot and toe part to the body of the sock. 

This process can be automated by a machine, or can also be done by hand. 

When done manually, workers will also monitor and remove defective pieces. 

#5 Shaping

Completed socks are put onto a flat foot form to be formed into the desired size and shape. It is then steam pressed to keep its shape. 

#6 Pairing 

sock pairings

This is the final step of the manufacturing process. Left and right socks are manually paired together. 

While pairing off the socks, workers will also inspect to see if there are any defects that have escaped the first and second line of inspection.

How Different Socks are Made 

Creating Different Types of Socks

There are various machines for knitting socks, the machines are changed depending on the sock that is being made. 

Let’s take a look at 11 classic sock types.

How Are Seamless Socks Made

A seamless sock, as the name suggests, is a sock that is created without any seams at the toes.

While some feet don’t mind the seams running across the toes of their sock, others do.  

The seam can be very uncomfortable and irritating for people with arthritis or sensitive feet.

Seamless socks are knitted by spinning yarn from one starting point all the way to the end.

This completely eliminates the need to sew separate pieces together and thereby effectively eliminating seams. 

How Are Dress Socks Made 

dress socks

Dress socks are socks that are usually worn with dress shoes. They come in a variety of colours, styles and heights. 

There are many different ways to make dress socks. They can be produced in a factory in large batches or custom-made and tailored specially for the wearer. 

How Are Printed Socks Made

printed socks

Printed socks feature a printed design or several printed designs on the body of the sock. 

Printed socks are crafted by printing a design on the surface of the sock with a special printer. 

How Are Patterned Socks Made?

argyle socks

Patterned socks are covered in prints all over. Some common example of pattern socks are stripes, argyle, or plaid. 

Patterned socks are made by knitting and interlocking different-coloured yarns together into a pattern by a knitting machine. 

How Are Tube Socks Made?

Tube socks are socks that have no heel. They don’t have a “foot-part” that is distinctive of most socks. 

Because the tube sock is missing a shaped heel and toe section, they are much faster to produce - approximately 30% faster than a regular sock with a clear-cut heel.

How Are Compression Socks Made? 

Compression socks are specialized socks that help the flow of circulation.

They are made from a special elastic material that fits tightly at the feet and loosens towards the calf.

How Are Heated Socks Made? 

Heated socks are battery-powered socks that keep your feet warm and toasty.

They’re great for people who have cold feet or spend long hours outside in cold climates. 

Heated socks have a rechargeable battery component attached to them.

The heated element is wrapped around the feet and toes for warmth. 

How Are Waterproof Socks Made?  

waterproof socks

Waterproof socks are socks that are, you guessed it, waterproof!

They are entirely waterproof so that even when you put your sock-covered foot into a tub of water or puddle, it doesn’t get wet.

Most waterproof socks are made by combining three essential elements: an outer sock, a waterproof membrane, and an inner knit sock.

How Are Wool Socks Made? 

wool socks

Wool socks are socks that are made entirely of wool, or a blend of wool and another fibre.  

In large batches, wool socks are manufactured in factories following the 6 steps in the first section. 

Wool socks can also be made entirely by hand through knitting or sewing.  

How Are Bamboo Socks Made?

bamboo socks

Bamboo socks are breathable socks that can keep your feet dry.

Bamboo socks are made from extracting and steaming the softer components of the bamboo tree, such as bamboo leaves and the inner pith. 

How Are Possum Socks Made?

Possum socks are socks made from possum’s fur.

Since the hair of the possum is hollow, it is extremely water-resistant and able to provide incredible warmth.

Possum socks are great for cold and damp climates. 

What Are Socks Made out Of?

There are many different types of yarns available to make socks. But we will be discussing the most common 4 types as they make up 90% of the socks manufactured around the world. 

Cotton

cotton

Cotton is a lightweight and breathable material, making it one of the most commonly-used fibres for manufacturing socks. 

Polyester

polyester

Polyester is a synthetic material that is warm and soft. It is arguably more durable than natural fibres, which makes this material another excellent choice. 

Wool

Wool is a great insulator. Socks made from wool are extremely warm, which makes it the perfect option for colder climates.   

Nylon

nylon

Nylon is a versatile material. While alone, nylon socks are water-resistant and not breathable, it is usually added to other fibres in blends. By adding in nylon fibres, the new blend will become stretchy and more durable. 

Where Are Socks Made?

What Country Are Socks Made In?

factory

Curious as to where your socks are made in? 

Listed below, are the top 3 sock-producing countries. 

Unless you handmade your own socks, there’s a high chance your socks came from one of these countries.

The number one producer of socks in the world: China

The second major producer of socks: Turkey

The third major producer of socks: Italy

Did you know?

Roughly one third of all socks are manufactured in China.

Where Are Socks Made in China? 

As the sock capital of the world, China is responsible for the socks on a third of the world’s population. 

In China, sock-production is centralized in the town of Datang in the Zhejiang province, which produces 70% of the socks made in China.

Where Are Socks Made in Turkey?

As the second largest exporter of socks, Turkey produces 10% of the world’s demand for socks. 

Istanbul is home to 85% of Turkey’s sock export. 

How Many Socks Are Made Each Year? 

24 billion  

It is roughly estimated that 24 billion pairs of socks are produced each year.

Yes - you read correctly. 

Let’s take a look at this from a different angle. 

The world’s population is at roughly 7.6 billion people. 

That means each person buys a little above 3 pairs of socks each year.

That’s a lot of socks! 

How Many Socks Do People Have on Average? 

This number varies and depends on the person.

A short survey we conducted, found that the average number of socks people own is about 16 pairs.

Of course, depending on preference, frequency of doing laundry and many other factors, this number will fluctuate. 

Let us know - how many pair of socks do you own?

The Verdict 

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, but a video speaks at least a million.

So, here’s a brief informative clip where you can see the actual production of socks.


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