How to Make Socks With Any Weight Yarn
by Nancy McMullen


How to create a sock pattern with any weight yarn.  Please don't be put off by the small amount of math that this involves.  Once you understand the basics, there is so much freedom in what you can do and your socks will fit!  I will be happy to work with anyone on this if they email me. I love sharing what I have learned. Regards, Nancy

I recommend for this exercise to make a plain sock with 10 rows of ribbing for cuff, but the rest of the leg in stockinette. Boring yes, but it gives you a better idea of the kind of fit you will get with the measurements you have used. For your next sock use a ribbed cuff and see how that fits.

1.  Choose the yarn that you like to make socks with and an appropriate sized double pointed needles for that weight.

2.  You must swatch in the round.  I have tried several ways of swatching by knitting back and forth, even carrying the yarn across the back of the swatch, but my gauge was not correct.  For your swatch it is helpful to cast on approximately the number you will need for the sock. For example, if this is a woman's sock and you are using a sport weight, or close to it, cast on 48 stitches, if you are using sock yarn cast on 55 or 60.  You of course don't know yet how many stitches you will need yet, but I think it is helpful for the swatch, to be in the ball park, but don't lose sleep over it either!

3.  Cast on to your dpn's and knit every round for at least an inch.When you are done, take the swatch off the needles and measure your gauge (how many stitches to an inch)

4.  Now measure your foot with a tape measure. My ankle and middle of my foot are of equal proportion.  I measure around the middle of my foot, not the wide part at the ball of my foot.  Mine measures 8 3/4 inches.  I subtract 3/4 inches from this measurement, and use that number 8 to multiply by my gauge to get my cast on stitches. If you get an odd number, round up to the next number.

For my example my gauge will be 6 stitches to the inch, and I will multiply that by 8 to get 48 stitches to cast on.  After I have knit several inches on my sock, if I am on gauge, when I lay my sock flat, it will measure 4 inches across on one side.  Even if it measures 4 1/4 I keep going because from experience I know the sock will still fit me well.  More than that or less than that, I know I am not knitting to the gauge I set this sock up to be.  Remeasure your gauge and either switch needles to get your gauge, or recast on with the gauge you wound up knitting.

Now everyone's foot is different of course, you may find out that subtracting 3/4 of inch from your foot measurement makes a sock that does not fit your foot well. If the sock is too tight for your foot, subtract only 1/2 inches from your measurement, if too big, subtract an inch for your foot.  Once you know what number works best for you, and you keep in your gauge, you are set for good.  The 3/4 inches has worked for me and my family members who I have made socks for.

One comment I would like to make about the type of sock you will be making.  If you are making a sock that is all stranded fair isle knitting, even if you stay in gauge your sock may feel too tight.  A sock that is all fair isle doesn't have the stretch to go over your foot like a plain knit socks does.  I would try adding a 1/4 inch to your measurement, to compensate for this.  In the same vein, if you plan on doing a fair isle sock you must do your swatch in the pattern for an accurate gauge.  If you plan on doing just the leg of the sock in
pattern, and the foot plain, remember your gauge will change and you must account for this by changing needles or the number of stitches.

5.  So you have cast on and knitted the cuff on your sock. We are ready for the heel flap. Divide your stitches in half.  If you have an odd number of heel stitches then knit two together to get an even number.
One needle for heel stitches, one (or some prefer two) for the instep stitches.

For a women's heel I knit the heel flap for 2 1/2 inches, slipping the first stitch of every row.  For a man's sock I knit for 3 inches. (I have not knit any children's socks, because my kids feet grow too darn fast at their ages.  You will have to make a flap proportionate to their size). Keep track of the number of rows you have knitted.  For my example I have knitted 34 rows for my heel flap.  I will use half that number (17), as the number of stitches to pick up along the heel flap. But first we need to turn our heel.

6.  This heel works for any amount of stitches, so long as it's an even amount of heel stitches.  For my example I will be working on 24 heel stitches.  I slip the first stitch, then knit across half the number of
heel stitches.  For this example I slip one, knit 12 more stitches. Than slip one, knit one, pass the slip stitch over, knit one, turn.

Next row, slip one, purl three, purl two together, purl one, turn.

From then on you knit or purl to the gap that was previously made by the decrease.  On knit rows, when you get to the stitch before the gap, slip that stitch, knit the stitch on the other side of the gap, than psso,
knit one, turn.  On purl rows, purl to the gap, and purl the stitches together on either side of the gap, purl one turn.  Keeping knitting and purling back and forth until you have no more gaps made. You will have
an even number of stitches left on your heel needle.  In this example, it will be fourteen. I found this method very freeing, instead of following a pattern row by row, you can just see it.

You will have finished by purling a row. Knit across the next row and start picking up the stitches on the heel flap.  Remember I have 14 stitches on my heel needle.  I will pick up 17 stitches along the heel flap (explained above), knit across the instep stitches with another needle, and with a new needle, pick up 17 stitches along the other side of the heel flap.  On this last needle (needle 3), knit half the number of stitches off the first needle, in this case 7.  I will have in my example 24 stitches on all needles.

7.  The Gusset.  You will need to decrease down on needles one and three to the original number of stitches. For my gusset I do a decrease on needles one and three every other row, alternating with a plain knit row.  So I have 24 stitches on needles one and three.  I need to get down to 12 stitches each on those needles to get back to a total of 48 stitches ( 12 + 12 + 24instep = 48).  I know I need to do 12 decrease
rows (24 stitches on needle one or three minus 12 (the number of stitches I want on needle 1 or 3) equals 12 decreases.

So I will knit the gusset as follows, knit to last four stitches on needle one, knit two together, knit two, knit across instep, knit first two stitches on needle 3, slip one, knit one, pass the slip stitch over, and continue knitting up needle three. I will follow with a knit every stitch row, then another decrease row, until there are twelve stitches each on needles one and three.

8.  Knit plain after the gusset is finished until the toe.  Frankly I am lazy on toes, I generally knit up to my toes, then start the decreases, but I know this works for me because I am usually working with a sport weight or thereabouts yarn.

You will need to figure out how many rows your toe decreases will be.  I want to decrease down to about an inch work of stitches times four.  My gauge was 6 stitches in an inch, so I want to knit down to 6 times 4, or
a total of 24 stitches.  If I decrease 4 stitches every decrease row, it will take me 6 decrease rows to do that (6x4=24).

Here are directions for decreasing for toes:  to decrease for toes, knit until last three stitches on needle one and knit two together, knit one.  On needle two, knit first stitch, slip one, knit one, psso.  Knit to last three stitches on needle 2 and knit two together, knit one. On needle three, knit first stitch,  slip one, knit one, psso, knit remaining stitches

Since I am decreasing only every other round my toe will be a total of 12 rows. (6 decrease rows plus 6 plain knit rows). Now you need to go back and measure you row gauge (after you finished the gusset).  If you are getting 6 rows to the inch your toe will be two inches long (12 rows of toe pattern divided by 6 is two inches).  You will need to start the toe two inches before the end of your foot.

Divide remaining stitches on two needles and graft together.

I intend these directions for personal use only, no one can reprint these directions and publish them under their own name, or without my permission.  

Copyright: Nancy McMullen, December 1, 1999


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