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HOW TO KNIT SOCKS: THE BASICS

Socks are a wonderful project to have on your needles. They're small, portable, and allow you to experiment with colors, patterns, and construction techniques.


In this article, we're going to break down the six parts of a sock and take a look at some beautiful sock patterns.


Parts of a sock

Socks normally consist of six parts.


a sock, double pointed needles and a yarn skein on a light wooden table
© Theresia Lew

There are countless ways to knit socks, but the two most basic are cuff down or toe up. If you choose to knit socks in stockinette stitch, they're called “plain vanilla socks.” Only the cuff should be ribbed to fit better and prevent the socks from sliding down.


Cuff

The cuff is the uppermost part of a sock. The cuff makes sure your socks stay where they should. If knitting cuff down, make sure to use a stretchy cast-on method. Cuffs are usually knit in some sort of ribbing pattern, as they'll “shrink down” when relaxed, which makes for a good fit.


If you knit your socks toe-up, you'll end with a ribbed cuff and then add a stretchy bind-off.


Leg

The length of this part of your sock is entirely up to you. For shorty socks (like store-bought sneaker socks), you can skip this part completely; if you want to have over-knee socks, you need to knit a bit more.


The same goes for patterns. The leg of your sock is the perfect place to add a pattern. Colorwork, cables, lace, slipped stitches… whatever you want works. Just remember that some patterns stretch way more than others (lace > cables).


Heel and Gusset

Depending on the pattern for your heel, you'll have to knit a gusset. Usually, with heel flaps, you also have a gusset. With a short-row heel, you don’t.


In a cuff-down sock, the gusset is the part that comes right after the heel, and it’s where you'll decrease stitches. When knitting a heel-flap heel, you usually end up with more stitches on your needles after the heel is done than you had before. The gusset is where you get rid of those extra stitches. But they'll also make for a bit more room over your instep.


Knowing this, you can choose a heel that best fits your foot. Higher insteps are a great fit for a heel-flap heel. Smaller feet with a smaller instep are great for short-row heels. If you look up “how to knit a heel” on the internet, you'll find hundreds of ways. It's worth trying out a few of them to find what works best for you.


Foot

If you've knit a pattern on the leg of your sock, it can also be knit on the foot. To make the socks comfortable to wear and walk in, the pattern is usually only knit on the top of the foot, keeping the sole in stockinette stitch. The exception to this rule is colorwork, as it is way easier to knit colorwork all the way around.


When knitting the foot, make sure to measure your sock for a good fit. There are a lot of spreadsheets out there that'll tell you how long to knit the sock before starting the toe.


Toe

The toe is the last part to knit when knitting top down. It’s the part that'll shape and close your sock. For toe-up it's the first part that'll be started in a “closed” way and increase until you've reached the number of stitches you'll need for your foot.


Once again, there are countless ways to knit a toe. Give different ones a go and find what works best for your feet.



Knit sock patterns

Here some patterns to try out as you venture into the world of knit socks:


two colorful socks made with self-striping yarn
© Theresia Lew

The 4-0-1 is a pattern for cuff-down "vanilla socks" and includes video tutorials. It's written for fingering-weight yarn and comes in eight different sizes. It has a gusset and heel flap. The PDF is available for free on Ravelry.



on the left, feet wearing yellow socks. on the right, a child's feet wearing yellow socks, a woman's feet wearing yellow socks, and a man's feet wearing brown socks
© Tin Can Knits

These cuff-down socks have an interesting garter stitch detail on the foot and leg. The pattern is written for worsted-weight yarn and comes in six different sizes, including for babies, toddlers, and children. It's also available for free on Ravelry.



on the left, woman sitting on wooden stairs with cat putting on pink lace socks. on the right, foot wearing pink lace socks and high heels
© Meret Bützberger

After practicing knitting plain "vanilla socks," you can try knitting a lace design such as Meret Bützberger's s'Krägli. These socks are knitted from the toe up and have a short-row heel. They call for light-fingering-weight yarn and come in three different sizes. The pattern is available on Ravelry in English and German.



If you'd like to learn more about knit socks, make sure to check out this article about the differences between toe-up and cuff-down socks.


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