How to Knit Your First Sock – Part 1

The How to Knit Your First Sock series covers knitting a sock in 4 step by step articles.

  • How to Knit Your First Sock – Part 1: will cover the anatomy of a sock, knitting the cuff and the leg section.
  • Part 2: will explain knitting the heel flap and turning the heel
  • Part 3: shows how to set up for the gusset and gusset shaping.
  • Part 4: looks at knitting the foot, toe shaping and finishing.
How to Knit Your First Sock is aimed at someone who would love to knit socks but has never tried before. However, I assumed that you are not knitting a sock as your very first knitting project and know how to increase, decrease, slip a stitch, knit and purl. There really isn’t much else to knitting a sock, other than keeping track of the number of stitches on your needles.
Sock Fairies and Elves 5523
There are so many beautiful sock yarns available and the finished socks are so comfortable, once you have knit your first pair, you will be bitten by the sock knitting bug, just as I have been. I hope you have fun knitting your first pair of socks…


Knit Your First Sock

Anatomy of a Sock

At its most basic a sock is a tube of knitted fabric which is open at the top and closed at the toe. But for the sock to be really comfortable it is better if it has some shaping to accommodate the heel and the remove excess bulk at the toe.

A sock can be knit from the cuff to the toe or from the toe to the cuff.

This step by step series features knitting the sock from cuff to toe. A useful reason for knitting your sock from cuff to toe is when you get a hole in the toe it is easy to unravel a few rows of the toe and knit a new one.

The main parts of a sock:

  • Cuff – elastic section helps hold the sock up.
  • Leg – the length can vary to choice.
  • Heel Flap – slip stitch strengthens this.
  • Turned Heel – shaping for the heel.
  • Gusset Shaping – shaping for the insole.
  • Foot – the length can vary to suit your own foot.
  • Toe – shaping for toe.

 

Materials

You don’t need a lot of materials to knit an adult sized pair of socks and I have often found that 100g of sock yarn is enough for a pair of socks and a pair of fingerless mittens. I am going to discuss the reasons why I choose particular options for successful sock knitting.
  • 100g of 4 ply self patterning sock yarn. I have used 100% wool for knitting socks but if you don’t have time to hand wash your socks and have a tendency to pop them into a mesh bag and wash them on the cool wool wash in the washing machine, you will find that sock yarn which has 75% wool and 25% nylon works best. This fibre combination wears well and is slow to pill, the colours last don’t fade as quickly and the yarn doesn’t felt during washing.
  • 2.75mm set of 5 double pointed needles (dpns). For sock knitting you will find that bamboo dpns are ideal.  They are flexible and can ease joint pain. Bamboo and wood are slightly ‘sticky’ which helps prevent the stitches slipping off the needle.
  • 3.25mm needle. If you use a larger sized needle to cast on the stitches loosely it helps prevent the cuff edge from being too tight.
  • 2.25mm set of 5 double pointed needles (dpns). For knitting the toe.  These are optional but you may have a set in your needle collection.
  • Tapestry needle. For sewing in loose ends.

 

Abbreviations

  • k  – knit
  • p  – purl
  • ssk  – slip 2 stitches knitwise, one at a time, to right needle, then insert left needle from left to right into front loops and knit 2 stitches together – 1 stitch decreased
  • p2tog  – purl 2 stitches together – 1 stitch decreased
  • sl 1  – slip 1 stitch purlwise
  • st  – stitch
  • st st  – stocking stitch/stockinette stitch

 

Cuff

  • Using the 4 ply sock yarn and the 3.25mm needle cast on (loosely) 60 stitches.
  • Change to the 2.75mm dpns.
  • Next, work the first row of k1, p1 rib. Divide over 4 needles as you work this row. 15 sts on each needle.
  • Join into a round being careful not to twist the stitches. The loose tail is a useful way of knowing that you are at the back of the sock.
  • Work 14 rounds of k1, p1 rib.
  • This will give a ribbed cuff which measures 3.5cm/1 3/8 inches. As this is your sock you can add additional depth to the cuff at this point. Just keep a note of how many rows you rib so that you can do the same for the second sock.
  • There are other rib options that work beautifully for the cuff. K2, p2 rib is wonderfully elastic. An elegant solution is k3, p2.
Count the number of rounds for the cuff – measuring is also useful

Sock Leg

In this sock the pattern is being created by the choice of the self patterning sock yarn.  This is Opal Fairies and Elves colour 5523. Lovely colours of charcoal and denim blue. As the yarn creates the pattern the leg is knitted in stocking stitch. When working in circular knitting, stocking stitch is achieved by knitting all stitches on all rounds.
To continue the lesson:
  • Knit 42 rounds
  • Length of sock from the cast on edge after completing these rows is 13.5cm/5 1/4 inches.
Length of sock after 42 rounds for leg section
This number of rounds can be changed depending upon the length that you would prefer your sock to be. If you added a textural pattern to the leg you would end on a complete repeat of the pattern as this would make it easier to remember where you would be starting the pattern repeat again after the heel section.
  • Using the 4th needle continue to knit across the next 15 sts from the next needle so that you have 30 sts on the needle.
30 stitches on one of the needles
  •  You are now ready to begin the heel flap.
If you have any questions about part one of this series please leave a comment.

How to Knit Your First Sock Links

About Nicolette

Comments

  1. Faye Gray says:

    I am only a size 4…. What size foot is your pattern for?

    • Hi Faye, I’m just out of hospital and not up to date with replying to comments. This pattern is for UK size 5-6. This pattern shows in detail how to knit your first sock. I do have a pattern that gives a variety of sizes. Basic Sock Pattern in 6 sizes this link is to the 3 smaller sizes. Hope this helps. Nicolette

  2. Im only a size 4…. How do i work out how many stitches to cast on etc… What size is your pattern for?

  3. When i finish the cuff how do i get the 30 stitches on the one needle so that the working yarn is to the right??? I knit 30 on but that left 10 on the one needle and I really don’t understand. Thanks for your help

    • Hi Amy, By cuff, does this mean you’ve finished knitting the k1, p1 ribbed cuff for 14 rounds. This would mean that you have 15 stitches on each of 4 double pointed needles. And you are now ready to knit the leg section of the sock. For the leg, you will be knitting all the stitches on each needle and no longer purling any of them. It is when you finish the leg section that you will be ready to work on the heel flap.

      You only need to knit on 30 stitches when you are knitting the sock heel flap. Can you let me know which stage you are at with your sock and then I’ll be able to help you. Happy Sock Knitting, Nicolette

  4. hi my name is daniel im a beginner in making socks… i was wondering if it was ok to use a wool & alpaca blend? also if i could just use the 3.25 DPNS for the whole project? I’m also having a hard time finding sock yarns here in australia.. thanks <3

    • Hi Daniel, Sorry not to have replied sooner, I’ve been away in Brittany. Normally, you’d use a wool blend that contains a stronger yarn than the wool such as nylon or silk. Alpaca isn’t a particularly strong fibre. I’ve used 100% alpaca in some of my socks, they feel wonderfully soft to wear but haven’t been a long lasting pair of socks on heels and toes. You may find that 3.25 mm DPNs may knit up as fabric that is a bit too loose. A tighter tension will help with how long your socks last and how well they wear. Some people buy a nylon yarn that can be knit at the same time as the heel or toe to add strength. I haven’t used this myself so I don’t know how well it wears or how comfortable it is. I normally use a wool/nylon blend yarn for knitting my socks with 2.75mm DPN’s. I post sock yarns to Australia on a regular basis! Hope that helps. Happy Sock Knitting, Nicolette

  5. I like this well explained pattern, though the addition of a row marker would be helpful, especially at the shaping time and toe time. Thank you.

  6. I love your tutorial and now I’m ready. I promised my daughters fiancé a pair of socks two years ago. I rally should get them done. How can I adjust this pattern for a men’s size 11?
    Dawn

    • Hi Dawn, Is he a UK, US or Europe men’s size 11? My pattern has a tension of 7.5 stitches/(2.5 cm/1″) on stocking stitch knit in the round using Opal Sock Yarn. I use 2.75 mm double pointed needles but lots of people like a slightly tighter tension and use 2.5 mm needles.

      US 11/Europe 45/UK 10.5 I’d cast on 68 stitches so 17 stitches per needle and the heel would be worked over 34 stitches.
      US 11.5/Europe 45.5/UK 11 Most patterns cast on 72 stitches so 18 stitches per needle and the heel would be worked over 36 stitches.

      You really want to measure his foot, ankle and calf (how long he’d like his socks). Ideally, you should have negative ease of between 5% and 10%. I personally like negative ease of 5%.

      So if you measure around his foot and his ankle (usually a similar measurement) and it is, say, 10″ and the tension of your sock is 7.5 stitches/inch, 10 x 7.5 = 75 stitches, then take off the negative ease 5% = 71.25 stitches (so I’d cast on 72 stitches), or negative ease of 10% = 67.8 stitches (so I’d cast on 68 stitches).

      Also, if the sock is slightly longer in length, you can cast on and knit the cuff using needles a size larger and then about half way down the leg, switch to the smaller sized needles. Gives some additional stretch for the calf.

      For the foot length, I normally knit the foot until I’m about 2 inches from the tip of the toes, then I start the toe shaping. It would really help if he could try on the sock before you start toe shaping as it is so much easier to see if you need to knit another row or not.

      I hope that this is helpful.

      Happy Knitting,
      Nicolette

  7. Correct me, but this *brilliant* pattern makes a size medium sock, right? Is there an easy way to make this fit a small foot (a size 5/6 American)? I’m a complete beginner to socks, so I don’t know how just casting on 50 instead of 60 stitches would work. I don’t know how well it would translate to the gusset and the heel flap and the rest of the sock past the leg part that’s knitted. Can someone help please?

  8. Great recap of basic sock knitting.
    I have a question.. I’m fairly proficient at knitting socks from a pattern but I’ve decided to try winging it. I want to knit a basic sock on 3 DPNs with a simple (P2, C2F, P1, C2B, P2) cable on each side of the leg. My question is this: at what points on 3 DPNs do I begin working the cables so they’ll be positioned evenly on each side of the leg? I’ve started my sock with 50 sts (16 – 18 – 16)
    Thanks,
    Barb

    • Hi Barb, I’m glad that you found the post helpful. If I was knitting the sock, with the two 9 stitch cables, I would have the stitches spread over 4 needles rather than 3, so for your 50 stitch sock, I’d have 16 stitches at the back, 9 stitches for the cabling, 16 stitches at the front, then 9 stitches for the cabling. I’d start and end my rounds in the centre of the back. Over 3 needles, I’d have 16 stitches at the back leg, then needle 2 would have 9 stitches for cable, place a stitch marker then 8 stitches to centre front, needle 3 would have 8 stitches to start of cable, place a stitch marker then 9 stitches for the cable. Hope that helps. Nicolette

  9. tamie crist says:

    I am fairly new to knitting, but understand all the basic stitches. I guess what does confuse me, is what does it mean by rounds?

    • Nicolette Kernohan says:

      Basically, knitting in rounds means you are knitting in a circular fashion either using a set of double pointed needles or a circular needle rather than knitting flat from side to side and turning your work. Circular knitting means there are no seams, which is why it is normally used for knitting socks.

  10. Mippy/Sabrina says:

    OH OH OHHHHHH! Can I hug you! *HUGS* I want to make socks and this will help SO very very much! Have a wonderful weekend! 😀

    • Nicolette says:

      You will love knitting your own socks. Sock knitting should come with a warning though. It can become a bit addictive. Have fun. If you have any questions let me know.

  11. elzaguerra says:

    Nicollete,

    Obrigada por publicar este maravilhoso trabalho!!
    Agora, só não faz uma meia quem não quer!!
    Você foi simplesmente genial em seu tutorial.
    Obrigada, mesmo, daqui do Brasil!!
    Elza Guerra

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