VIDEO: How to knit socks (from a newbie’s needles)

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Knit & Crochet Friday

Now, onto today’s post: how to knit socks!


Knitted socks from Sock ClubIf you’ve been curious about how to knit socks and want to put all those luscious yarns and amazing sock-knitting patterns to good use, stay tuned. We’ll show you how to knit the three parts of a sock that often strike fear into the heart of new sock knitters—namely, working a heel flap, working a heel turn, and picking up stitches for the gusset. Join me and Sarah, our marketing graphic designer, as we show you that even beginner knitters can tackle these techniques and learn how to knit socks!

Sock Anatomy
You’ve probably noticed that socks are essentially made of a tube (knit in the round) that forms the cuff and leg of the sock. Then there’s more tube that slips over your foot. If you can knit in the round, you’ve got those covered. But it’s that 90° bend in the middle that accommodates your heel that seems most perplexing. Well no more—let’s get started!

Anatomy of a knitted sock
The heel flap is the only part of the sock not knit in the round.

Working the Heel Flap
Working the heel flap is probably the easiest part of knitting a sock, because it’s knit back and forth in rows rather than in the round. If you’re working with double-point needles (dpns), put half your stitches on a holder or squish them onto one or two of your other dpns. Then work the other half of the stitches back and forth using just two dpns. If you’re using two circular needles, let half the stitches rest on one needle while you work the other half of the stitches on the second needle. With either method, the stitches on the holder or resting needle(s) will be reserved for the front of the sock, while the ones worked back and forth will form the part of the sock that continues down along the back of your heel (that is, the heel flap).

Sock knitters have devised many ways to knit the heel flap, from basic to quite intricate. For our purposes, we’ll show you how to work a standard slip-stitch heel flap. In this video, you’ll see that it’s quick, simple, and quite durable too.

Now, wasn’t that easy? Let’s move on to the heel turn.

Turning the Heel
I admit, the first time I read a sock pattern, the part about turning the heel had me a little perplexed. Knit X amount of stitches, turn, knit 2 together, knit some more and turn again. What? That sounds suspiciously like short rows, but at that point I had never done short rows and I couldn’t see how working them would make a curved sock heel.

A friend gave me this advice, and I’ll pass it on to you: “Just do what the pattern says, as odd as it sounds, and trust that it will work out.” You know what? It did work out. Until you actually knit those short rows (knit a partial row, make a decrease, turn the sock and work your way back without finishing the row), it sounds confusing or maybe even hard. But take a look at Sarah doing her first heel turn in this video. After just a few rows, you can really see the “turn” starting to take shape. I think you’ll find it’s actually fun to knit the heel turn, because now you can really see your knitted tube transforming into a sock.

Picking up Gusset Stitches
Once the heel turn is complete, it’s time to work the gussets. The gussets of a sock are those stitches along the inner and outer ankle. This is the part of your sock with the most stitches, giving you enough room to not only slip your toes into the sock, but also to pull the sock over your heel. To gain the required number of stitches, you’ll need to pick up stitches along each side of the heel flap. Using the yarn that’s still connected to your project, pick up one stitch at a time along the first side of the heel flap. Then work the stitches that were resting on your holder or spare needle. Finally, pick up more stitches on the other side of the heel flap. Now you have the number of stitches needed to make putting on your sock possible, and you’ve reconnected all parts of the sock so that you’ll be working in the round again.

It may all seem a bit baffling now, but as this video shows, picking up the stitches is quite doable, even for someone like Sarah who has never knit socks before.

Once you’ve accomplished all the above steps, you’ll gradually decrease the number of gusset stitches (as specified in your pattern) until you’re back to the original number of stitches, so that the foot of the sock will be the same diameter as the sock leg.

Sensational Knitted Socks More Sensational Knitted Socks The Sock Knitter's Handbook

For sock-knitting patterns, as well as lots more hints and tips, I highly recommend Charlene Schurch’s books Sensational Knitted Socks and More Sensational Knitted Socks. Charlene offers several ideas for heel flap patterns. And all the sock knitting patterns in the book are written for using both dpns and circular needles, so your options aren’t limited. Or check out Charlene’s latest book, written with Beth Parrott, The Sock Knitter’s Handbook. This 6″ x 9″ hardcover book tucks nicely into a knitting bag and has a concealed spiral binding that allows it to lie open so you can look up anything about sock knitting and follow along as you knit.

See just a few of the beautiful socks you can create in the photos at the bottom of this post.

So, what do you think—have you tried to master the heel flap, the heel turn, and the gusset? Did you succeed, or are you still trying? Tell us your sock story in the comments.

12 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I look at these, and again I try??? I was doing toe up….maybe I will try top down??? I will get this, I will get this….LOL at least I have a positive attitude, now to knit a pair of socks!!!!

    —vickie van dyken on September 7, 2012
  • I have successfully made the heel turn, both toe up and top down, with little to no problems. Like the friend said – "Just do what the pattern says." My problem is with the top down when you finish off the toes. It ends up a bulky seamed finish, not a woven one. That’s why I like the toe up method. I don’t have to seam anything. I seem to be better able to fit my foot with this method, too.

    —Martha on September 7, 2012
  • oh, yes! i can do! year before, i learned toe up on one needle [circ] working two at a time! this opened up a whole new world for me! love making gorgeous sox now; before, i made boot sox or slipper sox, 4 or 5 needle once in awhile. now, i’m working traveling stitches patterns! i’ve learned new methods of casting on, casting off, making different toes, heels and gussets. every pair of sox i make, i try something different! kitchener? don’t have to! remember how you close off mittens and hats? try that on sox! or cast off each side of those toe stitches and ladder them together. you can always find the easy way!

    ritainalaska on September 7, 2012
  • Martha: Have you tried finishing your toe with the Kitchener stitch? See this tutorial; it’s what I follow.

    —Laurel on September 7, 2012
  • I cannot get the hang of knitting socks, although I would love to. I have one sock halfway done crocheting it, but am stuck there as well. I don’t seem to have enough give. I am using a sock-weight yarn. What am I doing wrong?

    Hi Cindy,
    We found some information in the book In More Crocheted Socks! about the give of crocheted socks: "Crocheted socks are not as elastic as knit socks, and the socks will stretch a little after working with them and checking them for fit; squeeze them gently to restore their shape."

    If you want to try your hand at knitting socks again, you could visit your local yarn shop for in-person advice or a class from the experts
    Karen Johnson

    —Cindy R. on September 7, 2012
  • Nope, still haven’t defeated the heel flap, the heel turn and gusset. Have to keep trying.

    —arlene ritz on September 8, 2012
  • I went to university in the 80’s. Many of our lectures were in the same classes, so for the 10-15 break in between some of us women would knit. It was started by one girl who was knitting a baby blanket for her sister. Anyway I learned to turn a heel there and that was one of my exciting moments of university!

    —Nancy on September 8, 2012
  • Finally able to get past the heel flap! Thanks so much for the tutorial. I might get a pair of socks done before the next winter. 🙂

    —Karen R on March 2, 2014
  • I’ve attempted knitting so many times and just don’t get it. My friends(not to mention Have gone through many friends)but I keep loving it. I really liked your ideas. I even at our local JoAnn’s if aduts can attend the chilren classes! I am an avid quilter and enjoy the hand works and find them peaceful and serene therapy. Thank you for your ideas.

    —trisha raidt on June 20, 2014
  • Thank you so much for these excellent videos! I’m past the heel flap, turning the heal, picking up the stitches, and onto the rest of the sock. I have finally gotten the hang of knitting after months of trying and ripping things out and crocheting socks by various methods. Crochet just doesn’t make as great a sock as knitting, so I have pressed on and finally gotten the hang of knitting.

    I really don’t understand the purpose of the heel flap, though. It seems like it would make the heel not fit as well in my shoes. Does anyone know of a different style of sock pattern that doesn’t have the thick heel flap? This just seems like a lot of work to make a sock that makes my shoes tighter.

    Susan on January 6, 2015
  • Do you ever knitting, instead of saying keep knitting.

    —cindy on January 7, 2015
  • What pattern was used for the sock in the how to video?

    —Joanne Guzowski on September 30, 2017

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