A beginner’s guide to hand knitting a simple sock

Knitting the gussets of a top-down sock

Knitting simple socks

Although I have knitted for many years, I only made my first sock about 10 years ago. I bought some sock yarn and read through the pattern. I always do this before starting a knitting project, just so I understand how the item is made and what will be the easy and hard parts. Most of the sock pattern seemed straightforward enough, but the instructions for the heel made no sense at all. I started knitting wondering how it would work; the heel did work, but was nothing like anything I’d seen before. All my previous socks had been bought from shops and all had the same type of heel, but the heel I had just knitted was very different. And that is one of the wonderful things about hand knitting socks – the variety of approaches that can be taken.

So many choices!

Anatomy of a sock

The main difference is where you start and end. Top-down socks are cast on at the top and finish at the toes whereas toe-up socks start with the toes and finish at the cuff. You could choose to knit a simple heelless sock, or you could choose from forethought heels, afterthought heels or heels worked at the same time as you knit the sock. The two main types of heels worked with the sock are short-row heels and heels with heel flaps. Then you can choose from short-row, star, round and wedge toes.

All this variety might be confusing to a beginner sock knitter, but, if you start with a simple sock pattern (choose stocking stitch) and take things one step at a time, sock knitting is easy and, I warn you, addictive!

My latest sock was knitted from the top down, in stocking stitch; here’s how I did it.

Knitting a simple sock

Start with an easy bit

I started with a k2, p2 rib for the cuff.

Jupiter Galaxy sock cuff

Then I knitted the leg in stocking stitch. This is so easy you may find you knit too many rounds, especially if you use a variegated yarn when you will be distracted by which colour or pattern is about to appear!

Jupiter Galaxy sock cuff and leg

You might be able to spot that I use five needles when knitting socks, so I have a quarter of the stitches on each needle and a working needle. I prefer five needles to four for two reasons:

  • You are less likely to form ladders with five needles than four.
  • It’s easy to identify which stitches should be used for the heel since they will be on the needles on either side of the yarn end.

It’s not that difficult!

Beginners to sock knitting often fear the heel, but they are not very difficult and don’t take long to knit. I choose to knit a heel flap in a slip stitch pattern which will make it wear better. A heel flap is knitted in rows; after this turning, the heel takes just a few rows.

Jupiter Galaxy sock heel flap and heel turn

Once the heel is finished, you knit in the round again. To do this, you have to pick up stitches along either side of the heel flap. Consequently, there are more stitches than you start with. So you work a gusset in which you decrease the number of stitches until you have the same number of stitches as you started with. In the photo below you can see where the decreases were worked on one side of the sock.

Jupiter Galaxy sock gusset

Easy again

I worked the foot in stocking stitch, so that is just knit stitches when working in the round.

Jupiter Galaxy sock foot

I chose to work a star toe for these socks; this is easy since using the same decreases on each needle.

Jupiter Galaxy sock star toe

Here is the finished sock! It’s not yet blocked, but I’ll do that when the second sock is finished.

Jupiter Galaxy sock

The yarn I used is from the Galaxy range by Regia Yarns in Jupiter shade.

Jupiter Galaxy sock

Would you like a go?

Update: I’ve written the pattern and called them Star Socks. The pattern for Star socks is available to download from the Being Knitterly Ravelry Pattern store or here in print, together with a Ravelry digital download code.

If you want to learn

Top-down sock with short-row heel and wedge toe

This week I’ll be teaching a sock workshop. We shall knit two baby-sized socks, both top-down, one with a short-row heel and one with a heel flap and gusset. For some reason, small things always look cute, and socks are no exception.

Top-down sock with heel flap and star toe

We’ll be using a variegated yarn, this time Jawoll magic from Lang Yarns. This is a slightly thicker yarn, so it will be quicker for the new sock knitters to make their socks.

The Simple Socks workshop takes place at the Framework Knitters Museum in Ruddington, Nottinghamshire. Many of my ancestors were framework knitters, so it seems fitting somehow that I should teach sock knitting at a museum that shows how they lived and worked.

Upcoming knitting and crochet workshops

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Suzan Olgeirsson

    I have yet to knit my first sock but have always selved the idea, but after this tutorial, I think I am ready to try. Have all the supplies, so will start in the morning. I live in a fairly remote part of South Africa, up on a hill side and enjoy beautiful veiws while I sit and knit, my projects. Thank you for sharing your talents. I know that you will forever be blessed for this.

    1. Being Knitterly

      Good luck with your first sock, Suzan! Most people find their first sock a bit nerve-racking, but once you understand how it works, you may find sock knitting addictive.

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