Sock-knitting has had a new lease of life thanks to the knitting revolution of the last few years. Now that knitting is no longer seen as a 'granny's hobby', yarn manufacturers have been coming up with specialised 'sock yarns' and new and improved patterns that use two or four needles for the ever growing demand for hand-knitted socks. Several companies now produce 'self-patterning' wool which takes the hassle out of Fair Isle knitting and is fun to watch as the pattern unfolds.
The first thing to do is decide whether you want to use two needles or four1: while using two is easier, using four will not leave a seam (a seam could prove uncomfortable). Next, choose your pattern. There are many sites on the Internet which will provide a basic pattern but do look closely in order to determine where it originates from, as American terminology and needle sizes differ from those of Britain, Australia and Europe. Now, choose your wool: a specialised 'sock yarn' is usually recommended but can prove expensive, so any old 4ply will do. Remember, if you are knitting a pair for someone else, ask about allergies as so many different fibres are used to make yarn these days that you can't really call it 'wool' anymore. Now that you have all the basics it's time to start.
Knit That Sock
The following pattern uses four 2.5mm double-pointed needles as this Researcher has never knitted socks on two straight needles before.
Four 2.5mm double-pointed needles
Using the double-pointed needles2, loosely cast on 60 stitches spread over three needles (20 on each) Or, to make it more decorative, use a Picot Edging Stitch by casting on 7 stitches then casting off 3, replace the stitch on the right hand needle back on to the left and repeat until you have the required number of stitches on your needles. Join up the stitches so they form a round (in circular knitting rows are called rounds, for obvious reasons) and place a stitch marker. Start the first round with a Knit 2 Purl 2 rib stitch and continue with this stitch for 15 rounds.
Knit for 24 or 56 rounds depending on how long you want your socks to be. (Knitting every round in knit stitch will produce a stocking stitch.)
PANIC!! Turning the Heel
Honestly it's not as bad as it looks; you've got this far, so you need to be brave now.
Knit 15 stitches then turn.
Row 1: Slip first stitch, Purl 29 stitches, turn.
Move the rest of the stitches to the other needles
Row2: Slip first stitch, Knit 29 stitches, turn.
Work these 30 stitches on 2 needles for 30 rows.
Shaping the Heel
Row 1: Slip first stitch, Purl 16, Purl 2 together, Purl 1, turn
Row 2: Slip first stitch, Knit 5, slip 2 stitches from right hand needle onto the left hand needle and knit the 2 stitches together, knit 1, turn
Row 3: Slip first stitch, Purl 6, Purl 2 together, Purl 1, turn
Continue rows 2 and 3 in the same vain until all the stitches from the heel flap are used; you should now have 18 stitches on the needle.
Pick up 15 stitches knit wise down the side of the heel flap then place a stitch marker, knit 30 stitches and place another stitch marker then pick up another 15 stitches from the other side of the heel flap: you should now have 78 stitches.
Arrange these evenly across the three needles.
Round 1: Knit to 3 stitches before the first stitch marker, knit 2 together, knit 1, slip the stitch marker onto the opposite needle and knit to next stitch marker, slip stitch marker over onto the opposite needle, slip 2 stitches from right hand needle to the left hand needle, knit those 2 stitches together and knit to end of the round.
Round 2: Knit.
Repeat these 2 rounds until you have 60 stitches left.
Knit 45 rounds, more or less depending on how big your feet are but 45 fits a size 5 (UK Adult) foot.
Round 1: Knit to 3 stitches before the first marker, *knit 2 together, knit 1, slip marker, knit 1, slip 2 stitches from right hand needle onto the left hand needle and knit those 2 stitches together**. Knit to 3 stitches before the next marker and repeat from * to **.
Round 2: Knit
Repeat these 2 rounds until you have 24 stitches left. Cast off.
Sock 1 is now complete: all you have to do now is do it all again to make its mate and after that you will have a cosy pair of socks that you can proudly say you made yourself. Now the possibilities are endless, you can make pairs to match every outfit you have. If you're feeling daring you could have a go at designing a pair of 'fun' socks: how about a pair that looks like the Tardis? It can be done if you try.
If reading this Guide Entry has inspired you to have a go at knitting socks but you don't have a clue what to do with two sticks and a bit of string, the Ethknits How to Knit page is a good place to start. There is also An Introduction to Hand Knitting here in the Edited Guide and if the thought of knitting with four needles terrifies the pants off you, the Knitters Review Getting started with Double -pointed Needles in Four Easy Steps should be a big help to too.