How to Knit Socks
Wow, here we are less than 3 years into my Ask Me Monday, Facebook live series and have hit the 100th episode! I feel so grateful to all of you, worldwide, who share some of your time with me every week. Thank you, community!
For this episode, I decided to lean into the 100 thing — you know how I like a theme! That meant looking at where knitting was at 100 years ago. During the show we talked about the advent of circular needles, and the WWII “Knit Your Bit” campaign that had knitters making garments for soldiers, especially socks. To that end, it seemed like the perfect time to talk socks, while giving the formula to enable knitting a sock of any size and using any weight yarn.
We rounded out the episode giving away two, very generous prize packs — each value at around, you guessed it, $100 — from our friends at Knitter’s Pride/Knit Pro.
Watch. Read. Knit. Enjoy!
How to Knit Socks: Video
How to Knit Socks: Basic Recipe
Superwash wool of any weight
Knitter’s Pride Marblz, Zing, or Symfonie Dreamz DPNs in the corresponding size
Step 1: ESTABLISH GAUGE
No matter what yarn you’re working with, or size sock — from baby to grown man — you’re knitting the basic model for making on is GENERALLY the same. The difference is really only in the numbers. To that end, you’ll first need to knit a swatch with chosen yarn, needles, and stitch pattern to establish stitch and row gauge. You’ll need this info for the next step.
For the purposes of this tutorial, let’s say we’re using size U.S. 6/4 mm needles and sport-weight yarn, when knit in Stockinette Stitch, gives us a gauge of 4 stitches and 6 1/2 rows per inch.
Step 2: CALCULATE CAST ON (CO) NUMBER
To get started, you have a couple of choices: either measure the foot circumference of the person you’re going to knit for or use the average sizing provided by Yarn Standards. I prefer the latter.
Since the genesis of this post was the WWII patriotic knitting for soldiers effort, let’s go with the numbers correlating to a men’s medium size sock for our pattern. To calculate a cast on number, you’ll just need to multiply the foot circumference and stitch gauge numbers. Using our results from Step 1, and the chart above that will look like this:
9 in. x 4 sts = 36
That’s it! Keeping in mind that we may need to adjust the number one way or another to accommodate a stitch pattern, we know that 36 stitches is a good amount to cast on for our socks! Bonus: If we want to work in 2×2 ribbing, we’ll need a multiple of 4. If we want to work in 1×1 ribbing, we’ll need a multiple of 2. Either way, 36 means we’re golden. High-five!
How to Knit Socks: Let’s get knitting!
Step 3: THE LEG
CO stitches to dpns (double-pointed needles). Divide evenly between needles; join, taking care not to twist.
Knit stitches in desired stitch pattern, maybe ribbed for a cuff, then stockinette for the leg, rib for the whole let, seed stitch; you do you! The length is really a preference; ankle, calf, or knee-high are all worked the same except for how long. Using the chart and our calculations, however, our numbers will look like this:
8 in (height) x 6 1/2 rows = 52
This means we’ll work 52 rounds of leg stitches in our desired stitch pattern.
Step 4: THE HEEL FLAP (Square heel method)
The heel flap is the only part of this sock that won’t be knit in-the-round. For this step, you’ll place half (the front/instep) stitches on waste yarn or spare needles, and the other half (the heel) on 1 needle. For our example, that means 18 heel stitches. I like a thick heel, so recommend knitting in the following manner, but you can technically use any stitch pattern that makes you happy.
Row 1: *Slip (Sl)1, knit (k) 1; repeat from * to end.
Row 2: Sl 1, purl (p) to end.
Repeat those two rows until your heel flap is a square. If math makes your whole hear sing, then, by all means, do the multiplication to determine exactly how many rows that will be. If not though, do what I do, which is to just fold the heel from corner to corner. Once it’s even, you’ll know you have a square and your heel is complete!
Step 5: TURNING THE HEEL
Since we’re not two-dimensional beings (no offense to Flat Stanley), we need some shaping to cup our heel. This is created with a series of simple, short rows. Here’s how:
To turn a heel, you’re going work 2/3 of the RIGHT SIDE heel stitches, decrease, and turn. Then you’ll work 1/3 of the WRONG SIDE heel flap, decrease and turn, work to gap, decrease and turn, etc. For our example using 18 heel stitches, that looks like this:
Row 1: Sl 1, k11, ssk (slip, slip, knit together through the back loop). Turn.
Row 2: Sl 1, p5, p2tog. Turn.
Row 3: Sl 1, k to 1 st before gap, ssk. Turn.
Row 4: Sl 1, p to 1 st before gap, p2tog. Turn.
Repeat Rows 3-4 until all heel stitches are worked.
Step 6: THE GUSSET
For this part of the sock, you’ll revert to working in rounds.
Rnd 1: Place half of the heel stitches on free dpn (Needle 1), with the same dpn pick up stitches evenly along the first side of heel; place instep stitches on Needle 2; use Needle 3 to pick up stitches along the second side of heel and work remaining heel stitches.
Rnd 2: Work in straight pattern stitch. (i.e. Knit all stitches, if working in Stockinette Stitch)
Rnd 3: Needle 1, work to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1; Needle 2, work straight (i.e. knit); Needle 3, k1, ssk, work to end.
Rnd 4: Work in straight pattern stitch.
Repeat Rnds 3-4 until you get back to your original, CO number of stitches. For our purposes, that would be 36 sts.
Step 7: THE FOOT
Work every round in straight pattern stitch until foot is 2 1/2″ shorter than the desired length. Using the chart above, we want our foot to be 11″, so that means we’ll work rounds until the foot measures 8 1/2″.
Step 8: THE TOE
Arrange stitches so 1/2 (top) are on Needle 2, and 1/4 are on Needles 1 & 3. For us that means, Needles 1 & 3 have 9 stitches each, and Needle 1 has 18. Shape as follows:
Rnd 1: Needle 1, k to last 3 sts, k2 tog, k1; Needle 2, k1, ssk, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1; Needle 3, k1, ssk, k to end.
Rnd 2: Knit. (I’m making the assumption here that regardless of foot stitch pattern that the stitcher will work the toe in Stockinette as is necessary for the next step to look right.)
Repeat Rnds 1-2 until about 1/3 of the stitches, rounded to an even number, remain. For us, let’s say 12 sts.
Cut yarn, leaving a long tail for grafting.
Step 9: GRAFTING TOE
We’ll seamlessly graft stitches together using Kitchener Stitch. To do so, you’ll need to divide the stitches evenly over 2 needles and hold parallel. Thread tail into tapestry needle and work as follows:
- Insert tapestry needle purlwise into the first stitch on FRONT needle. Pull tail through, but don’t let the stitch fall off.
- Insert tapestry needle knitwise into the first stitch on the BACK needle. Pull tail through, but don’t let the stitch fall off.
- Insert tapestry needle knitwise into the first stitch on the FRONT needle and pull tail through, letting it fall off the knitting needle;
- Insert tapestry needle purlwise into the next stitch on the FRONT needle and pull the tail through, WITHOUT letting the stitch fall off knitting needle.
- Insert tapestry needle purlwise into the first stitch on the BACK needle and pull tail through, letting it fall off the knitting needle;
- Insert tapestry needle knitwise into the next stitch on the FRONT needle and pull the tail through, WITHOUT letting the stitch fall off knitting needle.
Repeat those 4 steps until all stitches are grafted. Weave in ends.
Now you have it! The basic formula to make any size sock with any type of yarn. Go on now, and spread your sock-y wings! Oh, and don’t forget to tag @vickiehowell with your sock photos. Know a friend who might dig this tutorial? Share it but pinning, tweeting, or posting. Thank you!
How to Knit Socks: More Tutorials
- Interested in a more intensive, step-by step tutorial? Take my Knit Maker 202: Socks Class on Creative Live!
- Prefer to knit socks from the toe-up? Check out our tutorial on The Trends Episode of The Knit Show
- More of a Loom Knitter? Check out my loom knit ankle tutorial here.
- Math reference: SockKnitters.com