Sunday, April 18, 2010

Knitting Top-Down Socks, Part 1 - Some information and knitting the cuff/leg

Most of my how-to posts are for my cousin Alex whom I am teaching various knitting techniques to long distance through blog posts since we don't live nearby. Most of these things, Katie probably already knows how to do and Gina doesn't really care how to do since she doesn't knit and is just stalking me, hahaha...and I don't think anyone else reads this, haha. But if there are any knitting techniques anyone wants me to do a how-to post about, let me know!

Alex asked if I could show her how to knit socks, so I am going to do a series of sock knitting posts, starting now! I wasn't planning on knitting socks any time soon, but apparently I got all caught up on everything that I had planned and am now at a total loss as to what to knit next. So the old standby, socks, it is.

I want to do just a generic sock pattern, plain stockinette, nothing fancy, just to show how it's done. It also shows off colorful yarn nicely to knit it in plain stockinette. (Stockinette in flat knitting is done by knitting one row and purling the next, but when you are working in the round, you just keep knitting around and around with no need to purl, although we will do a ribbed cuff which requires purling.) I'm going to do a top-down pair, since I think that is easier to start with than a toe-up pair. (That's pretty much just what it sounds like - starting at the top and working down, rather than starting at the toe and working up.)

Things we need for these socks are sock yarn (any fingering weight yarn will do) and a set of size 1 double pointed needles/DPNs. You can knit socks on circular needles, but I like my DPNs, so I've never bothered to learn the other methods. The yarn I'm using is Bare Merino Wool Fingering Weight from Knit Picks, which I dyed a while back with Kool-Aid. I named the color Paramour because a friend of a friend of mine refers to her boyfriend as her "paramour," and Gina and I think it is really lame and funny, hahaha. It's kind of a pink and purple Valentine-y color, so Paramour it is. (I don't know, it's probably not even that funny, but I know Gina will think so. We are dorks, haha.)

This is just going to be my generic sock pattern, the way I knit socks if I'm not doing a special pattern with definite instructions. I normally cast on 64 stitches. (I usually place stitch markers every 20 stitches while I'm casting on since I have a terrible short-term memory and lose count easily! That way, I only have to count back from the previous stitch marker, rather than having to start over at 60 or something.)

Then you need to join these in a round. You will do that by slipping stitches off onto several needles. I put 8 on the first needle and 16 on the next two, leaving the rest on the original needle. (You can take out the stitch markers here if you used them - ignore that one still left on the one needle, I will take it off when I knit past it.)

And then start the round by knitting the very first stitch that you cast on. You want to make sure that the stitches are not twisted around at all. The cast on edge should be facing the same direction all the way around. (For the first few rounds, I usually like to have the first stitch in the middle of one of the needles rather than at the beginning. It's easier for me to keep it from being too loose at the beginning of the round. I just use a stitch marker to mark where the beginning is. It will still be a bit loose, but you can tighten it up later.)

Then you are going to do a ribbed cuff by doing K1, P1 all around. So knit the first stitch, purl the next, knit the next, purl, knit, purl, etc., all the way around. I had only 8 stitches on my first needle, so I knit and purled 8 more onto that needle. Now all of my needles have 16 stitches. (You can really split it up any way you want, though. This just works nicely for me, personally. I like symmetry.)

To knit the next needle full of stitches, you need your empty needle (DPNs generally come in sets of five - four for the stitches and one to knit onto). So you will knit and purl everything from the second needle onto this needle. You will again have four stitches with 16 on each and one empty needle. Just continue this way, knitting all the stitches from the next needle onto the empty needle, around and around, basically creating a tube.

I usually do the K1, P1 ribbing for about an inch, which usually is between 10-15 rounds. It doesn't really matter how many rounds you do for the cuff, whatever works for you. Just make a note of how many so that you can do the second sock the same way. I did 13 here.

Once you finish the cuff, you are just going to knit every stitch (no more purling), around and around, until you get the leg to the length you want. Everyone has different tastes, so it's up to you. A lot of patterns will say 6" from the top (including the cuff), but I usually go for 8" since I like higher socks. It's your call. Just keep knitting until you get to a nice length (and keep in mind that there will be about 2" added onto the bottom when we do the heel, which is not included in this length).

I'm going to leave it at this point, and when I get to the heel, I will do the next installment!


  1. Or you could just do magic loop! :) I love you Annie! I think I'm going to have to pay you to dye me some fabulous sock yarn! I love the stuff you dye! I wish I had the time to do it!

  2. Haha, I don't want to do magic loop!

    I'll dye some yarn for you, definitely! I love dyeing. I'm going to be doing some worsted weight yarn for longies as soon as my sister has the baby, so I know if it's girl or boy colors.