How To Knit Socks
I love knitting wool socks, especially baby socks. It's perfect for those relaxing moments at the end of the day when the world quiets down and children are in bed.
Click to see pictures of wool baby socks that I've been working on.
While I now feel like I can almost knit socks in my sleep, I remember the trying times when I was first starting to learn. No one in my neighbourhood had ever completed a pair of hand-knit socks, and we were all confused as to how to manage the heel. I hope you will find that the following instructions take the guesswork out of 'what to do next', as these are the ones that I have found to be the most clear and easily understandable. The photos are courtesy of Inspiration, a magazine put out by Regia for all sock knitting enthusiasts.
If in doubt, please click on the photo for a closer look at the image.
When casting on, arrange the stitches evenly across four double-pointed needles (or as given). This means that if your sock pattern requires 60 stitches, you will cast 15 stitches onto each needle.
The round change is at center back, between needles 1 and 4. You can locate this position easily by looking to see where the "tail" thread is from when you cast on initially.
Next work the leg in rounds. Be sure to work a few rounds in rib pattern
(eg. knit 2, purl 2) so your sock will hug the leg better. The sock as a whole can be worked entirely in rib pattern, or you can change to stocking stitch (knit all rounds) or the pattern of your choice.
Stocking stitch heel:
When you have made the leg the length required, it's time to make the heel. Work in open rows over the stitches on needles 4 and 1
(the needles on either side of the round change - where the tail is from casting on). This means that you knit the stitches from needle 4, then needle 1, turn the work and purl on the way back, just as if you were knitting a scarf. The first and last
2 stitches on either end are frequently worked in garter stitch, as this makes a much nicer edge. It's also easier to count the resulting rows by using the "bumps" at the end as an indicator.
For ease of handling, you might want to slip the stitches from needles 2 & 3 onto a stitch holder. I find that putting little erasers or cork stoppers onto the ends of the knitting needles works just as well, and doesn't require as much handling.
Turning the heel
Arrange the stitches on 3 needles, as given in your pattern, or check the equation for
"number of stitches for turning the heel". On next RS (right side) row, knit to 1 st. from end of center panel.
*Slip last stitch of center panel knitwise. Knit next stitch of outer panel. Pass slipped stitch over
the knit stitch and turn. Slip first stitch of center panel purlwise (yarn at front of work), and purl to 1 st from end of center panel.
Purl this stitch together with the 1st st. of outer panel, and turn. Slip 1st st. of center panel purlwise (yarn at back of work) and K
to 1 st from end of center panel. Repeat these decreases from * until all side stitches have been
used up and just the stitches of the center panel remain.
To put it in easier terms: imagine the width of your heel divided into 3 sections. What you are doing is keeping the center portion intact, and gradually taking one stitch from each of the side panels and knitting it together with the stitch on the outside edge of the center panel. It's kind of like french braiding. You're reducing the outside while keeping the center the same. This will become the sock under your heel.
Please take a close look at the needle at the bottom of the photo. See how the stitches join the little center panel? Remember. you can click on the photo to enlarge it.
Continue in stocking stitch:
Work the stitches of the heel flap and arrange evenly on 2 needles (they will be called 1 & 4 again). With needle 1, pick up and knit 1 stitch into each edge stitch on side of heel (1 stitch for every 2 rows, if you didn't do the garter edge). Check your pattern or see the equation for correct number of stitches to pick up for your particular sock size. Then make 1 knitwise through back of loop in the corner of the sock between needles 1 & 2. Knit stitches on needles 2 & 3 (upper foot). Make 1 stitch knitwise tbl (through back of loop) between needles 3 & 4. Pick up 1 stitch for every edge stitch, just like you did on the other side. Knit remaining stitches. There are now more stitches on needles 1 & 4 than on needles 2 & 3. Needles 1 & 4, however, should have an equal number of stitches!
To make gusset:
The extra stitches on needles 1 & 4 now have to be decreased again for the gusset as follows: on 3rd following round, work to 3 stitches from end of needle 1 and work K2 together, K1. Knit across needles 2 & 3. On needle 4, K1, slip 1 knitwise, K1, pass slipped stitch over, then knit remaining stitches. Repeat these decreases on ever 3rd round until there are the same number of stitches on all needles.
Make the foot of the sock as long as you require it, ending at the base of the toes. On patterned socks, work in respective pattern over stitches on needles 2 & 3, and in stockinet stitch over those on needles 1 & 4.
Shaping the toe:
Work toe decreases as follows:
Needle 1: work to 3 stitches from end of of needle - K 2 together, K1
Needle 2: K1, slip 1 knitwise, pass slipped stitch over. Knit remaining stitches.
Needle 3: Knit to 3 stitches from end of needle. K2 together, K1
Needle 4: K1, slip 1 knitwise, pass slipped stitch over. Knit remaining stitches.
Repeat these decreases on every 3rd round, then on every 2nd round, then on every round until just 8 stitches remain on the needles. Then either bring the double yarn through these stitches and fasten off firmly, or graft the edges together. Personally, I like the grafting, because I think it makes a stronger and nicer looking finish.
Grafting the toe:
Knit the stitches from needle 1 onto the end of needle 4. Put stitches from needles 2 & 3 together onto one knitting needle. Now you should have only 2 knitting needles with equal number of stitches on each. Cut thread, leaving about 12 inches for fastening.
Thread a darning needle with the yarn left at toe. *Inserting needle as for knitting into 1st st on front knitting needle, draw yarn through the st and slip the st off the knitting needle. Inserting needle as for purling into 2nd st on front knitting needle, draw yarn through and leave st on knitting needle. Taking yarn under front knitting needle, insert needle as for purling into 1st st on back knitting needle. Draw yarn through this st and slip the st off. Inserting needle as for knitting into 2nd st of back knitting needle, draw yarn through and let st remain on the knitting needle. Bring yarn forward under the knitting needles and repeat from * until all stitches are worked off. Darn in end. Press lightly.
Congratulations! You've knit a sock!
For Advanced Knitters
I've found that in order to knit a basic sock, you really just need a mathematical sequence:
Number of stitches to cast on - any number that fits the specific leg, as long as you can divide it by 4
Length of leg - as required
Number of stitches for heel - 1/2 of stitches originally cast on
How to divide the stitches for turning the heel - divide the heel stitches in thirds. If it doesn't work out evenly, always make sure that your center panel is the wider of the 3, having an even number of stitches in it.
For example, if you have 20 heel stitches, divided by 3, the panels would be 6, 8, and 6 wide.
Number of stitches to pick up - 1/4 of the number originally cast on
Another example, if you have 16 heel stitches, they would divide into 5, 6, and 5 wide.
Decrease the gusset - every 3rd round until you're back to the number of stitches originally cast on
Length of foot - as required to base of toes
Shaping toe - begin by decreasing every 3rd round (usually only once or twice). Decrease most of the stitches every second round. The last few rounds, decrease every time, to make a nicely shaped toe.
Graft the few remaining stitches together
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