Blank slate Christmas stocking

When I left for 16 months of fieldwork in Delhi, India for my PhD research in 2014, one of the two suitcases I checked was entirely full of yarn. Because I had to bring the yarn with me, I planned projects months ahead of time, including Christmas stockings for the family that had become like my own in Delhi. They had to be simple (I needed to make 4) and yarn-efficient (as I had to carry all the yarn with me), but like all Christmas stockings, they also needed to be durable and classic.

For yarn, I settled on Rowan Cocoon, a bulky merino with a touch of mohair that has a lovely sheen and comes in some classic but subdued Christmas colors. My goal was to get the biggest possible Christmas stocking out of one skein, so I decided to work the stockings like basic bottom-up socks and knit until I ran out of yarn.

For my sister's birthday this year, I made Christmas stockings for her and her boyfriend (and their pup), who just moved to San Francisco together. I used the same pattern and yarn as I did for the India Christmas stockings — it was such an easy, efficient project — so I figured it was time to write it all up!

The thing about this pattern: it's not just a knitting pattern. Yes, you knit the stocking — just a simple bottom-up sock — but the real details come from the lining and the embroidery. When I have taught the custom Christmas Stocking class at the Needle Lady, most knitters are not put-off by the actual knitting for this project — I get many more questions about the customizable finishing. So really, I think of this pattern as a blank slate, ideal for customization once it is bound off and blocked.


Note about yarn, needles, and gauge: Christmas stockings need to be dense so the fabric doesn't stretch and show the lining (or if you don't have lining, the objects within!). Thus, you probably want to knit down with whatever yarn you choose. I made each stocking out of 1 skein of Rowan Cocoon (a bulky yarn that calls for a US10.5 needle) using DPNs US7 and US8. 

See pattern on Ravelry here.


With smaller needles, cast on 20 stitches (or more or less, depending on the size stocking you want — as long as the number is divisible by 4) using Judy’s Magic Cast-on. Divide stitches evenly over 4 needles (5 sts on each needle).
Round 1: Knit all stitches.
Round 2: K1, M1L, knit to last stitch on next needle, M1R, K1, K1, M1L, knit to last stitch on next needle, M1R, K1 (4 stitches increased).
Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until you have 48 stitches (or approximately 2.4 times as many stitches as you cast on).


Switch to larger needles. Work in stockinette for 7” or approximately 24 rows (or however many rows look about right to you — more rows for a bigger stocking, obviously).


Switch to smaller needles. Beginning at beginning of round, shape heel with short rows as follows:

Decrease short rows:
Row 1 (RS): K23, W&T next stitch (if you are working a different size, the short rows are worked over exactly half of your stitches — i.e., if you have 60 stitches, you would K29 on this row, and P28 on the next).
Row 2 (WS): P22, W&T next stitch.
Repeat rows 1 and 2, knitting or purling one stitch less each row, until you have 10 un-wrapped stitches remaining (or exactly half of the number of stitches you cast on originally).

Increase short rows:
Row 1 (RS): K10 (or exactly half of the number of stitches you cast on originally), knit next stitch together with wrap through the back loop, wrap and turn next stitch.
Row 2 (WS): P11, purl next stitch together with wrap through the back loop, wrap and turn next stitch.
Repeat rows 1 and 2, knitting or purling one stitch more each row and working stitches together with wraps until you have one wrapped stitch remaining on each end.
Next row (RS): K22 (or however many stitches you purled in row 2 of the decrease short rows), knit next stitch together with wrap through the back loop, turn WITHOUT wrapping.
Next row (WS): P23 (or however many stitches you knit in row 1 of the decrease short rows), purl next stitch together with wrap through the back loop, turn WITHOUT wrapping.


Switch to larger needles. Work in stockinette until you have at least 4 yards of yarn remaining.

Work a 4-stitch i-cord bind off (see tutorial here, but add one more stitch!), ending with approximately 3.5 inches of i-cord for the loop for hanging the stocking. Attach the loop to the end of the i-cord edge using horizontal mattress stitch.

Block your stocking before continuing.



  • Fabric, approximately twice the size of your stocking
  • Thread to match your fabric, needle
  • DMC embroidery floss in colors of your choosing, darning needle
  • Optional: soft flex wire, crimping bead, crimping tool


There are several benefits to lining your stocking. First, woven fabric is much less stretchy than knitted fabric, so your stocking is much more likely to hold its shape when stuffed with heavy things. Second, it will prevent small objects, like knitting needles or candy canes, from poking out between the stitches.

  1. Fold your fabric in half and lay your blocked stocking on it. Draw generously around the edges of your stocking, giving approximately an extra .5" of material at the top. Cut fabric.
  2. Sew around edges of fabric, leaving an opening at the top.
  3. Iron top edge down about an inch and sew the edge down approximately .5" from ironed edge.

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Optional: Re-inforced hanging loop


This step is for the super-perfectionist, but I figured I would include it because I was so thrilled with the results when I did it. If you put heavy things in your stocking, there is a pretty good chance that the loop will stretch significantly over the years. To prevent this, I used soft flex wire and crimping beads (which you can find at any beading supply store) to reinforce the hanging loop. Simply draw the wire through your i-cord loop and secure it inside the stocking with a crimping bead (see picture). Then when you attach the lining, sew the edge through the wire loop you have created, so the stocking will hang from the things that won't stretch (wire and fabric lining) rather than the thing that will stretch (your knitted stocking).


Attach the lining by sewing the very top edge of the lining to the knit stitches right below the bottom of the i-cord bind-off inside the stocking.



Embellish your stocking however you want! I find that initials are most beautiful in duplicate stitch, while full names work best using chain stitch. I also frequently use French knots for details like holly berries.