Sock anxiety?

How many times have you see this written online: "I've been thinking about trying socks for the last few years but it looks hard, that heel turn is so confusing!"

Here's the secret: Socks are easy. Trust the pattern and it will work. The worst that can happen is we rip and try again. is a valuable resource. Check it out, even if you're already an expert sock knitter.

If you're having trouble working with sock weight yarn on size 1 or 2 needles then practice -- cast on 20 stitches and knit a miniature garter stitch swatch until you feel comfortable with the consistency of the stitches. When you're done rip out the yarn and start your sock. There are also basic patterns available online (such as "Joan's Socks") that use worsted weight yarn and larger needles to make thicker socks, something like that would be a good sock to start on.

If double-pointed needles are a headache then practice with thicker yarn. Make a hat or circular bag on dpns to train your fingers. Switch to wood dpns if the yarn is too slippery for the slicker needles. Alternatively, you can knit your socks on two circular needles or one long circular, there is no law saying that socks must be knit on dpns (the end result is the same).

I learned how to knit socks after borrowing the XRX Socks Socks Socks book from the library. In the front of the book there is a small "try this first" basic sock — with illustrations showing each step — that is very quick to make in worsted weight yarn from your stash. Since it's a test run you don't need to worry about gauge. After knocking out the small basic sock in no time you'll have the confidence to knit a larger adult sock at a smaller gauge. I did the sampler sock using two circulars, even though the pattern is written for dpns.

Cat Bordi's Socks Soar on Two Circulars is the only book I know of that is dedicated entirely to knitting socks on two circular needles. All the patterns in the book are written with this technique in mind. However, you do not need this book in order to use the technique. If you prefer to work with two circulars then it's simple enough to use any sock pattern written in the traditional manner for dpns because the only thing that changes is the # of needles you're working with. Having said that, it is a good book and if you'd feel better about working from a pattern that doesn't assume you're using dpns then buy it and use the patterns until you feel comfortable with the technique.

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see easy written instructions for kitchener grafting the toe closed.

Maybe you have questions about picking up the gusset stitches. I prefer the look of picking up the sts through both edge loops rather than one edge loop. This page will show you how to do both so you can experiment and see which you like best:
I did not take the wonderful photos at the above link, they don't belong to me.

Look here for an amazing number of free sock patterns:

Does this make anyone else think of those cuts of beef charts at the grocery store?

assuming you are knitting from the cuff to toe and using a traditional heel with gussets:

Follow your pattern carefully for instructions specific to the sock you are knitting!

The cuff and leg are straight-forward once you understand the concept of using two circulars. Work 50% of the stitches on one circular and 50% on the second circular.

Sock heel flaps are usually knit on 50% of the total number of stitches. Since you already have half of the stitches on one circular and half on the second circular then you're all set to start the heel flap when the leg is done. The second circular and its stitches rest while you work the sock heel back-and-forth on the stitches on the first circular.

I prefer to put the resting stitches on a piece of scrap yarn, as shown in the photo below. The photo shows the completed heel flap (we're looking at the wrong side, or the inside, of the heel flap). The heel hasn't been turned yet.

If the pattern you are using requires you to knit the heel on a different percentage of the total stitches that is OK too, simply move stitches around with the help of a double-pointed needle. Nothing is set in stone here, do whatever works for you.

Follow the directions in your pattern to turn the heel. This might look complicated at first but just do what the pattern says and you'll see the heel magically turn like it's supposed to. When it tells you to "turn" (or T) that just means you turn the work around like you would at the end of a row, even though you have unknit stitches on your needle.

After you're done turning the heel you can slip 50% of the heel turn stitches to scrap yarn, as illustrated in the photo below. This makes picking up stitches and knitting the instep stitches easier for the first circular, and they'll eventually be on the second circular anyway.

The photo below shows a close-up of picking up the gusset stitches.

OK, the photo above needs some explanation!

RED: These are the heel stitches after the heel has been turned. In the photo there are 10 on the first circular and 10 waiting on scrap yarn. Your number of heel stitches will vary, depending on your pattern and gauge, just split them in half.

YELLOW: This indicates where the gusset stitches will be picked up, on both sides of the heel flap. In the photo 7 stitches have already been picked up on the first circular. In total I pick up 18 on each side but the number you pick up will be determined by the length of your heel flap, so follow the pattern you're using.

GREEN: The instep stitches that are waiting on scrap yarn.

Once the gusset stitches have been picked up on the first circular I will pick up an extra stitch in the gap (see HINT below), then slip the waiting instep stitches to a dpn, place a marker on the circ (so I know where to decrease), and then knit half the instep stitches onto the first circular.

Then I knit the other half of the instep stitches onto a second circular, place a marker (so I know where to decrease), pick up a stitch in the gap (see HINT below), pick up the gusset stitches along the second side of the heel flap, and finally knit the 10 heel stitches that are waiting on the scrap yarn.

Once that is done I will have all my stitches on the correct circulars. The round starts in the middle of the heel. Do something to remind yourself which is the first circular (the start of the round). I use a Green marker on the first circular and a White marker on the 2nd circular, because G comes before W in alphabetical order.

HINT: When I pick up the gusset stitches I also pick up a stitch in the gap between the heel flap and the instep stitches. On the next round I knit it together with the stitch that was picked up next to it (K2tog thru back loop on first circ, SSK on second circ). This prevents a hole from forming in that gap. Then I knit one round without decreasing and continue decreasing the gusset on the round after that. (It might look like there will still be a gap at first but as you decrease down the gusset you'll see it does close up nicely.) If this makes zero sense you can click the following link and then click on the photo captioned "Gusset corner 1" to start viewing the pictures:
I did not take the wonderful photos at the above link, they don't belong to me.

The two joins will now be at the top of the foot and the bottom of the foot, as illustrated in the photo below where the gusset is being worked. You can see the sock is worked in profile and the heel is split in half.

The marker tells me where I should be decreasing. I have a marker on the other side as well. On the decrease rounds I will K2tog the two stitches BEFORE the marker on the first circular and SSK the two stitches AFTER the marker on the second circular. Remember to decrease only every-other-round. I knit all the stitches on the even rounds. Your pattern may have different instructions.


When the gusset decreases are done (your pattern tells you when) you'll knit the foot. You're an expert at this by now.


When the sock foot is long enough (approx. 2" shy of the tip of the big toe -- slide the stitches to the circular cables and try it on) then you will begin decreasing the toe following your pattern instructions.

When you finish the toe decreases you're almost ready to graft the remaining stitches together to complete your sock. The photo below shows a sock at this stage. The gusset, foot, and toe decreases were all knit in profile on the two circulars but the stitches must be adjusted for the toe graft (final step).

Before you start moving stitches you'll knit 50% of the stitches on the FIRST needle (that's 25% of the total number of stitches) and then STOP right there in the middle of the first needle. You're done knitting.

Example: If you have 12 stitches on needle #1 then you'll knit 6 stitches before you reposition the stitches. That is exactly what I've done in the photo below: 6 stitches have been knit on the first needle.

Here's a close-up of the toe so you can see it better. The 6th stitch (the last stitch I knit) has the yarn leading to the ball, though this isn't obvious in the photo.

Now you can move 'em around. Reposition the stitches so you are now looking down on the top of the foot, with 50% of the total stitches on each needle. I use a double-pointed needle (or two) to help me move the stitches.

Example: If you have a total of 24 stitches then you need 12 stitches on each needle. The yarn leading off to the ball should be waiting on the end stitch of the back needle on the far right. (If the yarn isn't there then you forgot to knit 25% of the total number of stitches or you have repositioned the stitches incorrectly. Make sure you're looking down on the top of the sock foot and the heel isn't facing up at you.)

The photo below shows how the stitches should now be positioned on two needles (dpns or circulars or straight needles, doesn't matter). We're no longer looking at the sock in profile, we're looking down on the top of the foot. The heel is hiding on the bottom of the sock where it belongs.

Here's a close-up of the ready-to-graft stitches so you can see them better. Notice the second needle (the back needle) has the yarn leading to the ball. If your yarn isn't waiting on that last stitch then you need to back up and figure out what went wrong. (This stitch was the 6th and final stitch I knit on the sock, it used to be in the middle of the first needle before the stitches were repositioned.)


Now you're ready to graft the toe together. First break the yarn (leave about 12" to work with) and thread the yarn on a blunt yarn needle. I think the best looking graft is good ol' kitchener (instructions below). Photos follow to show exactly what is meant by "as if to knit" and "as if to purl." Hold the sock so the heel is always facing away from you. Keep the first needle in front, don't turn the sock around when you work the stitches on the second (back) needle.

Set-Up (only do this once, at the beginning):
(a) Draw the yarn through the first stitch on the front needle as if to purl and leave it on the needle.
(b) Draw the yarn through the first stitch on the back needle as if the knit and leave it on the needle.

(a) Draw the yarn through the first stitch on the front needle as if to knit, and slip it off the needle.
(b) Draw the yarn through the next stitch on the front needle as if to purl and leave it on the needle.

(a) Draw the yarn through the first stitch on the back needle as if the purl, and slip it off the needle.
(b) Draw the yarn through the next stitch on the back needle as if to knit, and leave it on the needle.

Repeat steps one and two until all stitches are off both needles.

But I hate those peaks at the corners, my sock toes look too square!

After you position the toe stitches on two dpns in preparation for grafting (kitchener), use a crochet hook to pass all four outside stitches over their neighbor stitch.

To illustrate: These are your two needles with the toe stitches on them (we're looking down on them).



Use a crochet hook to pass the outside stitches (the X stitches) over their neighbors (the O stitches), dropping the X stitches off the needles. The O stitches are now the four outside stitches.

How do I do that exactly? I slide a crochet hook into the X stitch and grab the O stitch, pull the O stitch through the X stitch, drop the X stitch off the needle, and then put the O stitch back on the needle. Repeat for all 4 corners. Then graft the stitches following regular kitchener instructions. This helps minimize the little peaks on the corners when the grafting is done.

These two photos show the blunt yarn needle going through the stitch on the first (front) needle as if to knit and then as if to purl. The yarn needle will enter the stitches on the second (back) needle the same way.

E-mail me any suggestions to make this page better: andrade [at] az [dot] com
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