Knitting Socks 101: Heel, Cuff and Toe Tips
Learn how to knit your own socks with these easy instructions.
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Turning the Heel
This part involves making the heel "turn the corner" to conform to the bottom of your foot. Turned heels use a technique called short rowing, where you knit back and forth but don't go to the end of the row each time.
Note: SSK = slip one stitch knitwise, slip next stitch knitwise, insert left needle tip into the two slipped stitches and knit them together
Row 1 (wrong side): Purl across half the steps of your heel flap plus 1, purl 2 together, purl 1. Now TURN the work.
Row 2 (right side): Slip 1, knit 3, SSK, knit 1, TURN.
Row 3: Slip 1, purl 4, purl 2 together, purl 1, TURN.
Row 4: Slip 1, knit 5, SSK, knit 1, TURN.
Row 5: Slip 1, purl 6, purl 2 together, purl 1, TURN.
Row 6: Slip 1, knit 7, SSK, knit 1, TURN.
Proceed in this fashion, adding one worked stitch before the decrease in each row, until all of the stitches have been worked, finishing with a right side row. You should now have a number of stitches equal to one quarter of your original total for the round, plus one if it was an odd number or plus two if it was an even number. In our example, the new number would be 16.
1. Pick up stitches along the sides of the heel flap to make everything back into a tube. At first your tube will be bigger than it was to start with and you will gradually decrease it at the sides to get it back down to its earlier size. This technique is what gives the sock its shaping around the ankle area, which is larger than the rest of the sock.
2. Divide your heel stitches in half, leaving half on the current needle and putting the other half on an empty needle. With the right side of the work facing you, take the needle holding the leftmost heel stitches and use it to pick up stitches along the slipped stitched edge of the heel flap, moving upward toward the cuff, one stitch per slipped stitch. On a typical sock this will be somewhere between 16 and 21 stitches.
3. Take an empty needle and continue knitting across the first needle full of stitches that have been "resting" all this time.
4. With a new needle continue across the remaining resting stitches (i.e., work across all the resting stitches as you normally would with your double-pointed needles).
5. You should now be at the other side of the heel flap, with an empty needle in your hand. Proceed down the heel flap by picking up stitches just as you did for the other side, except now working from the cuff downward and starting with an empty needle.
6. Pick up the same number of stitches that you did on the other side, then continue across the live stitches that are waiting on the last needle (the ones remaining from the section where you turned the heel).
7. You should now have a tube again: two needles will have the same number of stitches as they did for the cuff, and two needles will have more stitches because you've picked up all those stitches from the sides of the heel flaps.
Now that you have a tube again, start working a stockinette stitch in rounds. The needle that starts at the center bottom of the heel as you work around is needle one, and so on, with the needle that ends at the center bottom of the heel being needle four.
Round 1: Knit all around, knitting through back loop on the picked-up stitches along both sides of the heel flap only; otherwise knit normally.
Round 2: Knit until 3 stitches remain on Needle 1, knit 2 together, knit 1; knit across Needle 2 and Needle 3; on Needle 4, knit 1, SSK, knit to end.
Round 3: Knit.
Repeat rounds 2 and 3 only until all four needles have the same number of stitches on them again (i.e., the original number of stitches that you had for the cuff, evenly divided among your four needles).
Continue working the stockinette stitch in rounds until the foot of the sock is about 2 inches shorter than your desired finished length.
Karen Baumer shares sock knitting tips for creating a pair of women's-size medium socks.