Friday, January 30, 2009

sockly instruction

my friend is learning to knit socks, and i thought i'd post a tutorial so she doesn't have to take me out each time she needs to learn the next step. not that i don't love going out, but an at-home resource is helpful.

first, cast on: if you're using fingering sock yarn, 60 - 65 stitches on size 2 needles works for most women. i like working in multiples of 12 stitches when possible, so my improvised socks have all had 64 stitches in them. i suggest looking up a pattern designed for the type of person you're making the socks for (man, woman, child, baby, etc) using the weight of yarn you have. even if i ignore the rest of the pattern, i like having someone else do the work as far as figuring out how many stitches to cast on.
cast on your stitches, divide between three needles. to join in the round, make sure the stitches are all pointing down, with no twists. then use the free yarn hanging of the third needle to start knitting the first needle, pulling it tight so you have a triangle of needles. like this: knit at least 1/2 an inch in a ribbing pattern. knit 1, purl 1 or knit 2, purl 2 are the most common. knit 2 purl 1 or knit 3 purl 1 are ok, too. it really doesn't matter, so long as you switch between knitting and purling every couple of stitches. the ribbing acts like an elastic, keeping your socks up. keep in mind that your ribbing pattern should work with your number of stitches - don't try to do a 4 stitch repeating pattern for the ribbing (k2p2, for example) of you have 61 stitches. this is why i like using a number of stitches that is divisible by 12, since almost everything works. the ankle of the sock is just a tube. knit in circles until it's the length you like. the easiest and fastest thing to do is stockingette (knit every stitch, all the time) but the sock will be more interesting if you make a pattern. when you've knit as much as you need to in order to have the sock height of your preference, put half the stitches on a stitch holder or just leave them on the needles, but ignore them. the other half of the stitches you will knit back and forth, like you do with flat knitting. you knit all, turn your work, slip one stitch, purl all. turn your work, slip one, knit all. continue to knit/ purl, turn, and slip one until you feel that the heel flap is long enough. a typical heel flap is ~3 inches long, maybe slightly less.
i like to knit the heels and toes of my socks with a strand of sewing thread along with the yarn for added reinforcement. what's the point of spending all this time making socks if they're just going to wear out? i use the thickest polyester thread i can find, in a colour similar to that of the yarn. this is the part where things get tricky. take it slow and trust the directions, and ask people for help when you're confused. it works, i promise.

divide the number of stitches in your heel flap in half.
add one
knit that number.
knit two together
knit one
turn your work
slip one
purl three
purl two together
purl one
turn your work
slip one
knit four
knit two together
knit one
turn your work
slip one

and so on. you can either keep adding one to the number of stitches you're knitting/ purling and count as you go, or go by visual cues. if you're doing the latter, (as i do) you knit/ purl together the stitches with a gap between them.
then knit/ purl one, then turn your work, then slip one, then knit/ purl until you get to the next gap. keep going until you've knit together the last two stitches on each end. finish on a knit row.
this part can be tricky, but it's quick. use a spare needle and pick up all the slipped stitches along the side of your heel flap. pick up an extra one when you get to the place where the flap meets the held stitches. this prevents unsightly holes. (the pink sock here has one of the unsightly holes you're hoping to avoid.) knit across the picked up stitches, then across the stitches that were held while you knit the flap. now pick up the stitches that run along the other side of the flap, making your knitting a tube once again. (remember to pick up that extra stitch at the beginning) when all your stitches are on needles again, it's time to rearrange them. you want the stitches you held back while you knit the heel flap all on one needle, needle 2. the rest of the stitches should be evenly divided between the other two needles, needles 1 and 3.
in round one, knit until you have three stitches left on needle 1, point A. knit two together, then knit one. knit across needle 2. (or continue whatever pattern you've been doing, needle 2 is the top of the foot) on needle 3 knit one, slip one, knit one, and pass the slipped stitch over the knit stitch, right off the needle. knit to the end of the needle.for round 2, knit the whole thing.
for round 3, follow the long instructions above. continue to alternate decreasing rounds and knitting rounds until you can add the stitches on needles 1 and 3 and have them equal the stitches on needle 2. for the body of the sock, knit your chosen pattern on needle 2 and knit all on needles 1 and 3 until you've got ~1.5 inches less than the length you need for your foot. a chart for figuring out lengths for foot sizes is here. you're almost done! the toe of the sock is fairly simple.
round 1: on needle 1 knit to the last 3 stitches, knit 2 together, knit one. on needle 2 knit one, slip one and knit one, then pass the slipped stitch over the knit one and off the needle. knit to the last 3 stitches on needle 2, knit two together, and knit one. on needle 3 knit one, slip one, knit one, pass the slipped stitch over, knit the rest.
round 2: knit all
repeat these two rounds until you have eight stitches left.
to close the toe you do the kitchener stitch. i'll let someone else explain that.
yay, socks!


  1. that was a very nice tutorial! I'm impressed. Also, "the pink sock here has one of the unsightly holes you're hoping to avoid" because I forgot to pick up that extra stitch. Thanks for broadcasting it to the world. <3

  2. You are so awesome, Josy!
    I love it!!