I’m in sock knitting mode and hope you will join Beth and me in January (tomorrow!) for our knit fest. If you’re shy and nervous about knitting socks, don’t be! It’s possible. You can do it! I have decided to post a how-to on knitting socks. I find patterns rather intimidating with all the abbreviations and knit speak especially if they don’t have photos. I hope I can help with my in-simple-English approach and photos I’ve taken over the last two weeks working on the pair I knitted for J for Christmas. You’re more than welcomed to use the pattern and please comment, let me know what you think especially if you have ideas on how to improve any of it or could/would do this differently.
Before I start I want to share some stuff about numbers with you, mainly sizes and stitch count (see table below).
When you knit anything the numbers very much depend on the thickness of your yarn/wool.
In Europe sock wool can be rather fine. As a result I, as I intend use this rather thin wool have a high number of stitches and many, many rows and because of that I need plenty of time possibly more than anticipated to knit these socks :-P. Generally speaking you can say the thicker your wool, the quicker you will be finished because you will need less stitches and less rows with thicker yarn.
When you knit you need to make sure to use the right kind of needle diameter for your knitting project. Most of the wool for sale will tell you what they recommend you to use in regards to the size of the needles. Old school knitting sometimes suggests to do a sample piece (it’s called the gauge) to see if your knitting motion and holding of the thread is as tight/loose and as even as the pattern suggest. For the yarn I use, the wool manufacturer says 30 stitches at 42 rows makes a four inch square (10 cm square). I have never bothered with knitting a gauge (I don’t have the patience) but you might find it useful I know Beth did a gauge, fair play to her. I just measured the socks I photographed and find I knit 32 stitches and 45 rows to cover a 4 inch square. That’s off by 2 stitches and 3 rows compared to what the label says. However, I use very fine needles, a size 1 (I think) because I like the socks to be tightly knit. The bigger the needle the looser the finished piece. The wool actually comes with a recommendation to use a 2-3 needle size. So there you go. Don’t be afraid to do it differently, just keep an eye on it and adjust your numbers up or down accordingly.
For socks I use five double pointed knitting needles. Four to hold the sock and one to knit with. The first thing you do when knitting is you cast the stitches. When I cast stitches I always use two needles in parallel.
This is how I do it (I am left handed!):
I hold the yarn about 50 cm from the end over my index finger.
I then spread the short end over my thumb and hold both ends with the rest of my fingers,
I then pull the yarn between thumb and index finger down from the top with the needle pair,
the yarn makes a loop over my thumb, holding the beginning of the stitch of yarn on the needle I slide the needles into the loop created at the thumb,
I then reach for the yarn over at the index finger, grab it with the needle and pull it through the loop at the thumb.
I tighten the two stitches created on the needles by pulling on the yarn ends.
Holding the two yarn ends coming from the two stitches like I did before, one over the index finger one over the thumb, I repeat the steps above, sliding the double needles under the yarn loop at the thumb, grab the yarn at the index finger, make a loop, tighten up the yarn and repeat.
With four needles I cast half of my stitches on a pair of needles and the second half on the other two. I then spread all the stitches out on the four needles and start knitting the first row at the other end, the beginning of my first needle effectively closing the circle.
And off I go knitting round and round working the leg of the sock. I knit a rib pattern on the leg with two normal and two purl stitches in alteration for nearly the entire leg section of the sock.
In this sock I knitted about 100 rows for the leg. I stop the rib pattern after 90 rows and knit normal stitches for 10 rows before I start working on the heel.
There are different ways to do heels. I have only every done heels with a heel flap.
In order for the heel to shape around your foot you basically extend the sock out at this point with this heel flap. For the next 50 odd rows you will stop knitting in circles on four needles. You let half of your stitches rest on two needles (c and d) and work on the other two needles (a and b) with the working needle (e). Instead of circle rows you do back and forth knitting (a row of regular knitting and then a row of purl knitting) on two of the four needles that hold the stitches. The first stitch of every row is just lifted to the working needle, you don’t knit that one.
In the above image the two lower needles are c and d because that part of the sock is on hold at that moment. The other two needles (a and b) are working the heel flap. You can see the reverse stitch pattern.
I have seen complicated stitching patterns to increase the durability of the heel section. I don’t do that, I double up the yarn/wool for that area. It makes the heel seem a little bit bulky but it does work fine in my experience. And it’s a simple way of doing the heel. I doubled up the yarn by knitting both the blue and the gray together which makes for this blue/gray mix colour.
After about 6-8 rows i switch knitting on two needles with the third to knitting on just one and one. It’s quicker.
For the heel flap you knit about as many rows as you have stitches working on your heel flap minus 2. In my case that would be 32 stitches for the heel flap minus 2, therefore I need to knit 30 rows.
Numbers so far:
Size 9 US/7 UK/ 40 Europe (for a size bigger (smaller) add (subtract) a stitch per needle and add/subtract the equivalent number. (Also see table at the bottom for other sizes, row and stitch counts)
Cast on 64 stitches
Leg: 100 rows
Heel flap: 32 stitches for 30 rows
After 30 rows I divide 12 stitches/8 stitches/12 stitches from my 32 stitches making up my heel flap. you can also make the middle section bigger, but that would make the heel less deep (smaller). * works fine when you do a double up of the yarn on the heel imho.
I then start only knitting the middle eight. With the eighth stitch I take the first of the next 12 and knit them together (see image above). Then I turn around, skip knitting the first (now combining two) stitch and knit eight again combining the last with the first of the twelve on the other side.
I continue going back and forth and the heel cap starts to form.
It starts bulging out.
If you make sure to only reduce the stitches at every end of each row of 8 you should get a neat edge of the heel.
Eventually all the stitches of the two sides of 12 are gone. It takes 24 rows. At that point the heel is complete.
Now I go back to single yarn. I have to pick up some stitches at the side of the heel flap. I pick up 15 stitches on each side (because I have 30 rows) if you slipped the first stitch of every row on the flap these slightly longer stitches make the perfect place to pick up the new stitches. When that’s done I then go back knitting in circles.
I now have 2 needles (c and d) with 16 stitches each loaded with the stitches left from the leg section and 2 needles (a and b) carrying 19 stitches each from the heel. I now can reduce the amount of stitches on needle a and b by one stitch per row at the beginning of needle a and the end of needle b until I have my desired foot size (in my case back to the 64 stitches but these socks are for my husband, I could reduce it down to 60 for myself). I’ve seen instructions doing this in every other row. It works either way!
Here a detail of the three rows it took me to reduce from 19 to 16 stitches.
I then knit the foot section of the sock. It’s best to measure this one with a measuring tape. I knitted 8 inches/20 cm before I doubled up the yarn one more time for the toe. I do two rows with the double yarn before I start knitting the second/third stitch together as one on needle a and c and the third and second stitch from the end on needle b and d.
I continue to reduce until I’m down to 8, I then seal the remaining stitches and stitch them together with a needle and thread.
And that’s it, Easy peasy!
I’m sorry I didn’t show how to knit a regular stitch or a purl stitch. I hope you can find someone to show you those. I know some of you have a different technique of holding the yarn when knitting and I learned from Beth I knit “European style”. i think it might be a little bit faster but controlling the tension of the yarn of each stitch might require a bit more practice if you knit European style.
I hope you enjoy knitting the socks and you sign up for the January knit fest, Turning Heels in the New Year.