Knitting Socks 101: Heel, Cuff and Toe Tips

Learn how to knit your own socks with these easy instructions.

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Toe Decreases

Round 1: Needle 1, knit to last 3 stitches, knit 2 together, knit 1; Needle 2, knit 1, SSK, knit to end; Needle 3, knit to last 3 stitches, knit 2 together, knit 1; Needle 4, knit 1, SSK, knit to end.
Round 2: Knit.

Repeat these two rounds until you are down to a little less than a quarter of your original stitch count. (If you want a blunter toe, you can decrease on every row for the last three or four rounds — see tips below.)

Adjust the remaining stitches onto two needles, so that the foot’s top and bottom rows of stitches are parallel and the yarn is hanging at the end of the needle holding the sole stitches. Knit across a few stitches if you need to. Cut yarn, leaving about a 10 inch to 12 inch tail. Graft the toe together using Kitchener stitch:

1. Hold the two needles one in front of the other, with the tail of the yarn attached to the back needle (it should be hanging from the right end of the line of stitches from your current point of view).

2. With a tapestry needle, feed the tail purlwise through the rightmost stitch on the front needle. Pull yarn through and leave the stitch on the needle.

3. Insert needle knitwise through the rightmost stitch on the back needle. Pull yarn through and leave the stitch on the needle.

4. Insert needle knitwise through the rightmost stitch on the front needle and then slip that stitch off the needle. Insert needle purlwise through the next stitch on the front needle. Pull yarn through and leave stitch on needle.

5. Insert needle purlwise through rightmost stitch on back needle and slip off the needle. Insert needle knitwise through the next stitch on back needle. Pull yarn through and leave on needle.

6. Repeat rows 3 and 4 only until all stitches on both needles have been grafted together. The yarn
should always stay below the needles as you work (i.e., not going over the tops of the needles and forming extra loops). Feed yarn through the last loop, then through to the inside of the sock and weave in the end.

Your toe should look completely seamless, but don't despair if it doesn't. Most people need some practice before "getting" Kitchener stitch. Weave in any remaining ends.

Sock Knitting Tips

- The rule of thumb for sock yarns is that you need one skein per average sock. Some are put up in double skeins, though, so pay attention to your label. (If it's 100g, it's probably a double skein.)
- Books such as the Vogue Knitting guide and the Vogue on the Go sock books have excellent illustrations of Kitchener stitch.
- Search online for standard sizing charts for shoes and socks – useful when you're knitting socks as a surprise for someone and don't want to secretly measure feet or ask.
- If you are using yarn that is not specifically for socks, you should go down one or two needle sizes from what is recommended on the yarn label. Socks hold up much better when they're knit at a tight gauge (the yarn label assumes you are making a sweater or similar garment, not socks).
- Some like to start off toe decreases on every other round but switch to decreasing in every round for the last 3 or 4 decreases. This makes for a shorter, rounder toe. If you want to try this, wait a little longer before starting your decreases (perhaps until you are 1 1/2" short of your total desired length), because the toe won't be as long.
- If you prefer to work with just four double-pointed needles, you can still follow these guidelines; just treat Needle 2 and Needle 3 as a single needle (i.e., one of your needles will have twice as many stitches as the other two).

Q&A

Q: How do I choose needle size?

A: If you find yourself with a ball of yarn and you aren't sure what needle size to knit with, grab your needle gauge, double the yarn and thread it through the closest size hole on the gauge. Whichever hole it fits through most efficiently (neither too tight nor with gaping spaces around the yarn) is the best needle size to use for your first swatch.

Q: Is there a way to tailor a pattern so it fits your shoe size?

A: Measure your foot around the widest part (usually the ball of the foot), then multiply that number by your stitch gauge to get the approximate number of stitches you'll need to start with.

Q: When you slip a stitch on a purl row, do you slip it purlwise or knitwise?

A: You can do it either way. Slipping it purlwise (with the yarn in front) will result in a somewhat different look from slipping it knitwise (with the yarn in back).

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