Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Easy sock pattern

One of my favourite things to knit is socks. They are quick, useful, and (contrary to popular belief) very easy to do!

New! Visit Socks 101 for step-by-step photo instructions!
I have several pattern books with different varieties of socks, but during the past few years they have all evolved into a generic sock pattern that I like. (Original pattern was a Patons hiking sock.)

Mostly I knit using worsted weight yarn: pure wool, or a blend of wool/acrylic. I have patterns for chunky weight socks, but found they are too bulky to wear comfortably with boots or shoes (other than big clunky winter boots ... more as a boot liner than a sock).

*New* - since I've written these pages, I've been knitting almost exclusively with sock weight yarn, 75% wool/25% nylon blend, on 2.25 mm needles for a gauge of 9 stitches per inch. I love how the socks turn out.
Here is a link to a huge list of sock patterns available online. It's housed on the Socknitters home page. There are patterns for all sizes and all yarn weights there.

(This pattern assumes you know basic knitting techniques and abbreviations. This is for worsted weight yarn and is a good beginning project to see how socks are constructed.)

The Super Simple Knitwit Sock Pattern
YARN: worsted weight.

GAUGE: 20 st and 26 rows = 4 inches with 4 mm needles in stocking stitch.

NEEDLES: Set of four double-pointed needles. I like to use 3.75 mm needles; I find the 4 mm make too loose a fabric. For the smaller size, you can also use 3.5 mm needles just as well for a tightly knit, durable sock.


Small/Medium (finished foot 8.5 to 9.5 inches in length)

Large/Extra Large (finished foot 10.5 to 11.5 inches in length)

These sizes are guides only; I recommend measuring the person's foot, or if you know their shoe size, there is a chart here that shows approximate shoe size/sock length ratio. Simply knit the foot as long as you need it.

Sizes are shown small/medium (large/extra large) in the pattern.

Cast on 40(44) stitches. Divide on three needles: 13(14) on first two needles, 14(16) on the last. Join and knit the first round.

RIBBING: You can make a "knit one-purl one" ribbing, or also can make a "knit two-purl two" ribbing. I find the k1p1 ribbing for 1.5 inches is good. It's stretchy enough, but still holds the top of the sock up.

LEG: There are many variations I use for the leg of the sock. You can continue in your ribbing (either k1-p1 or k2-p2) or you can change to a k3-p1 ribbing -- looks very nice when done. Or you can switch to stocking stitch, knitting every stitch. Continue with the leg to desired length, 7(8) inches seems good.

Make the HEEL FLAP:

Divide the stitches in two -- you will have to move some stitches from the second needle onto the third to make it add up to half of the total stitches. Then take the rest of the stitches from the second needle and place on the first needle. This needle will not be worked until after you turn the heel. You will now have your 'active' needle with yarn attached and 20(22) stitches.

With the wrong side facing you (i.e. as if to purl) begin the heel flap:

Slip 1, then purl across; TURN;

Slip 1, knit 1 (repeat across, sl1-k1); TURN;

Continue these two rows until heel flap measures 2.5 (3) inches. End on a second row (so that the purl side is facing for the next row.) The slipped stitches at the beginning of each row form little 'loops' that make it easy when you need to pick up stitches later.

TURN THE HEEL: (really, this is easy -- just follow the directions and don't worry about having stitches left on the needle every time you turn the work.)

1st row: purl 13(14), p 2 tog. P1; TURN;

2nd row: slip 1, K7, slip 1, K1, psso, K1; TURN;

3rd row: slip 1, P8, p2Tog; p1; TURN;

4th row: slip 1, K9, slip 1, K1, psso, K1; TURN;

5th row: slip 1, P10, p2Tog; p1; TURN;

6th row: slip 1, K11, slip 1, K1, psso, K1; TURN;

You should now have 14(16) stitches on your needle. If you are making the S/M sock, you would be done turning the heel. If you are making L/XL, you will have 15 st. on one needle, and one stitch (the 16th) on the other needle. Proceed:


7th row: slip 1, P12, p2Tog; TURN; (there are no more stitches after the P2Tog)

8th row: slip 1, K12, slip 1, K1, psso; (you should now have 14 stitches on).

Have the right side of your work facing you. Now you are going to pick up stitches along the sides of the heel flap. That is what the little "slipped stitch loops" are used for.

Pick up/knit 10(12) stitches along the left side of heel flap. With second needle, knit (or continue in your rib pattern if you wish to have the top of the sock ribbed all the way to the toe ... looks very nice when done ...) work across these 20(22) stitches. Then take your other free needle and pick up 10(12) stitches along the remaining side of heel flap. Now all four needles are in use. You have to knit 7 stitches from the heel flap needle onto your third needle (the one you just used to pick up the second set of stitches from heel flap). Then you will have to carefully transfer the remaining seven stitches from the heel flap needle onto your first needle. This frees up that (heel flap) needle so you can continue to work.

Your 54(60) stitches should now be divided as follows: ( the starting point of the round is now the middle of the heel)

First needle, 17(19) st; second needle (across top of foot) 20(22) st; third needle, 17(19) st. You need to decrease now so the foot after the heel has the same number of stitches as the leg part (before we did the heel). It is done like this:


Needle one: knit to last 3 stitches; K2Tog, K1;

Needle two: knit (or continue rib pattern) evenly, you don't make any decreases on this needle at this point.

Needle three: k1, slip 1, k1, psso. Knit to end of needle.

SECOND ROUND: work evenly, no decreases.

Continue these two rows until you are back to 40(44) stitches, divided as follows: needle 1: 10(11) stitches; needle 2: 20(22) stitches; needle 3: 10(11) stitches.

Continue working evenly (no more decreases) until foot measures desired length -- or 6.5(7.5) inches. You measure from the little ridge where you picked up the stitches on the heel -- the gusset. You can make this the exact length required for the sock wearer's foot -- if you take their total foot length and subtract about 1.25 or 1.5 inches for the heel part, then subtract another 1.5 to 2 inches for the toe.


First row: needle one: knit to last 3 stitches, k2Tog, k1; needle two: k1, slip 1, K1, psso, knit to last 3 stitches; k2Tog, k1; needle three: k1, slip 1, k1, psso, knit to end of row. Second round: knit evenly. (if you had been ribbing on the top of the foot, discontinue ribbing and now knit for toe decreases).

Continue last two rows until 20 stitches remain. Knit stitches from first needle onto third needle. You will then have 10 stitches on each of two needles. Graft the two sets of ten stitches together to finish the toe.

Easy, right?!

One tip/word of wisdom: Always cast on stitches for the second sock immediately ... then you will get the second sock underway and the completed first sock won't be an orphan!

Inventing your own patterns: you can make your own sock patterns by following a simple formula -- really, socks are just math!!

Alternatively, here's a handy link to Elizabeth Bennett's online sock calculator which will do the math for you.

© 1998 - 2001 Terri Lee Royea

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