Introduction: Toe-up Knitted Slipper Socks

My sister wants to learn how to knit socks. I told her that I had a pattern that was so easy that I do not even need the directions anymore. With that said, it has been a very long time since I have seen the directions and do not even know where to start looking.

Writing up the directions myself will be easier--and I can give an explanation whenever it seems necessary. My sister learned how to knit a few years ago but I don't think she has ventured too far into the use of patterns yet.

This is not a project for beginning knitters. You should already be able to knit, purl, increase stitches, and decrease stitches. If you are not totally comfortable yet, try a different project first and come back to this one.

I am documenting this while I work on the socks. It takes a lot longer to finish a pair when you have to stop every few rows to document what you are doing. I am also so used to this process that I do a lot of it without really thinking about it.

Step 1: Materials:

Circular needle--I am using a 48 inch long size 4 U.S. (3.5 mm)
Yarn--I am using leftover yarn from a blanket that my sister knit. I don't know what kind it is but it looks like sport weight and is some sort of wool blend. (It makes me itch a bit.)

Socks look hard but this method is pretty easy. First, you do not have to work with 4 or more needles. I hate trying to keep the stitches on those short double pointed needles. One long circular needle is easier.

Second, you work both socks at the same time. This means that they will be the same size without having to constantly measure or count rows.

Third, these are knit toe first. This means that you can check the fit while you work--well I could if she did not live multiple states away. When I make these for myself this is an advantage.

Step 2: Determining Your Stitch Size

I knit a small swatch. It really doesn't matter exactly how big the swatch is. I just make it a few inches wide and a few inches long. Once you have a bit done, measure how many stitches you need to make an inch wide--mine is 4 1/2 stitches to the inch.

Step 3: Cast on Stitches

I will have to take some better pictures later. The process is so simple once you have done it 3 or 4 times.

You will be working on both socks at the same time so you grab 2 balls of yarn (or split your one ball into 2--I have tried to work with both ends of the same ball. If you are stubborn, you can make it work. Plan to do a lot of un-twisting and untangling.)

Hold the yarn in your non-dominant hand so that you have 8 or 10 inches of tail. If your tail is not long enough, you will take these cast on stitches out hand start over. This is not a big deal since it only takes a few seconds to cast them one--a minute tops--but I have done this a lot of times. I expect that it will take a bit longer while you learn. The tail should be at the bottom of your hand.

Hold both needles in your dominant hand. Hold them sideways so that they points to your non-dominant side. Hold them so that you have a top needle and a bottom needle. I use my index finger to hold them a few millimeters apart from each other.

You will be winding the yarn around the needles in a particular figure 8 pattern that will leave stitches on both the top and bottom needle. When you go around the bottom needle, you pass the top yarn behind and under the end of the bottom needle, then up in front of it, and finally between the two needles. When you go around the top needle, you start by passing the bottom yarn behind and around the top of the upper needle, then around front, and you end by slipping it between the two needles.

Start with the tail as the lower yarn (non-dominant hand). Cast a stitch on the lower needle first using the upper end of the yarn on first. Then cast on one stitch on the upper needle (from the tail end of your yarn). The next stitch goes on the lower needle again. You alternate in this way until you have all your stitches. You should end with the upper needle (tail end of the yarn).

I needed 16 stitches (8 on each needle) to make the tip of the toe just under 2 inches wide. If you are making a child's sock, you should use less. A man's sock would probably use more. I am working off my tracing of my sister's foot. I don't want the sock too loose in the toe since mine sort of stretch there when I wear them.

Once you have this first sock started, grab the second ball of yarn and repeat the process. You should have two clusters of the same number of stitches.

Step 4: First Row

Rotate the pair of needles so that they both point toward your dominant hand. This should also put the bottom needle on top.

Pull out the new bottom needle so that you can hold it comfortably in your dominant hand to knit. The cast on stitches will fall to the flexible part of the needle.

Keep the tail end out of the way (if you keep it behind your work, it will end up on the inside of the sock--best place for it) and knit the 8 stitches of the first set. When you reach the beginning of the second set of stitches, remember to switch to the second ball of yarn and knit those 8 stitches.

Once you have all the stitches on the first side, you will have to adjust your needles. Pull on the flexible part of the needle so that all stitches of both the top and bottom of your work are on the needle ends. Turn your work and pull the new bottom needle through the stitches so that they fall to the flexible section of the needle. Knit the other half of the cast on stitches. Remember to switch balls of yarn when you get to the second sock. Once you have finished all the cast on stitches on this side, your first row is done.

I did forget to switch balls of yarn at the beginning of my first pair. It gets really easy to remember after a few rows since the socks will have some shape to them (and your hands will start to remember even if your mind is elsewhere).

This whole process becomes automatic after just a few rows. I promise.

Step 5: Toe Increases

You will need to add stitches since the tip of the toe is smaller than the wide part of the foot. You will be adding stitches at the beginning and end of both socks and on both sides.

In the first and last stitch of both socks on both sides of the socks you need to knit one stitch in the front loop and the back loop of the stitch. This will increase each side of the sock by two stitches.

After completing the second row, I have 10 stitches on each side--20 stitches on each sock for the total round.

After completing the third row, I have 12 stitches on each side--total of 24 stitches per sock.

Step 6: Do the Math

I have a tracing of my sister's foot. If you measure at the widest point and multiply by 2 you will know how far it is around the foot. You can just measure around this part of the foot with a tape measure if you choose.

Take the foot measurement (or in my case, the picture width times 2) and multiply by the number if stitches to the inch you found on the swatch. You will be increasing stitches until you get to this number per row--half will be on the top needle, the other half will be on the bottom needle.

In my case: 8 (inches around the foot) times 4.5 (stitches to the inch) = 36 stitches

I need to increase stitches until I have a total of 18 stitches on each side of the sock--36 stitches total for each.

Step 7: Weave in the Tails

I don't like to work too far before I weave in the tail end of yarn. It is a bit difficult to reach once the sock is finished so now is a good time.

Thread the tail onto a yarn needle and weave it through several stitches. Trim the tail about an inch from to sock.

Before you continue knitting, it is a good idea to mark where the row begins. I tried this once without a marker. I kept loosening track of where I was. I use a safety pin but your marker can be anything including a scrap of a different color yarn.

Step 8: Continue Increases

In order to angle the increases better, there will be a few plain rows (no increases) mixed in with the increase rows.

Row 1: increase to 20 stitches
Row 2: increase to 24 stitches
Row 3: no increase
Row 4: increase to 28 stitches
Row 5: no increase
Row 6: no increase
Row 7: increase to 32 stitches
Row 8: no increase
Row 9: no increase
Row 10: increase to 36 stitches
Row 11: no increase
Row 12: no increase
Row 13: no increase

Since rows 1 and 2 are already done, you pick up at row 3. Every time you get to the safety pin side of your work, you are starting a new row.

This is a good time to do a size check. Slide the stitches to the flexible section of the needle so that you can get a more accurate measurement. Check with a ruler--if you are working from a picture or just a list of number measurements. Or better yet, try the sock on--if the intended foot is available. Increase again if you need to.

As long as you have stopped knitting for a moment, now is a good time to check how many rows it takes to knit each row. In my case it is 6 rows to the inch. This number will come in handy in the next step.

Step 9: Gussets

As you get closer to the ankle part of the sock, you need to add a gusset. A gusset is a triangular piece that give a but more 'wiggle room's to a garment.

For this project, you will be doubling the number of stitches on one side of the sock. These extra stitches will eventually be used on the heel. In order to position the gusset, you need to know how long the foot is from the ankle forward (in my case 6 1/2 inches) and how many rows to the inch (in my case 6 rows).

I need to increase by 18 stitches (doubling the number of stitches on only one side of the round) and I will add 2 stitches every other row. This means it will take 18 rows to complete the gusset. 18 divided by 6 rows to the inch means that I will knit a total of 3 inches while making the gusset. I want 6 1/2 inches before the ankle, 3 of these inches will be my gusset, so I knit until the toe measures the remaining 3 1/2 inches before I start the gusset.

On the first gusset row, knit the first half of the row--from the marker until you turn the work around. On the back side, increase a stitch at the beginning and end of each sock. The next row is knit plain--no increases.

Repeat the increase and plain row pair until you have all the gusset stitches. One side of the sock will have twice the number of stitches as the back of the sock.

This is a good time to measure again. Sometimes I need a few extra rows to make the sock long enough. Socks stretch to fit but hand knit ones don't usually stretch the way store bought ones do. I like to make sure it will be comfortable to wear.

Step 10: Heel--part 1

The heel is the only part of this project that you will work one sock at a time. The other sock will just sit on the unused part of the needle until you are ready to work on it again. You will be working back and forth over only some of the stitches.

Knit until you reach the beginning of the gusset needle. Knit the gusset stitches (9 in my case) and place a marker after this last stitch. Continue knitting the original stitches (18 in my case) and then place a marker after this last stitch.
Turn your work.
Slip the first stitch and purl until you get to the gusset marker.
Turn your work.
Slip the first stitch and knit until just before the previous slipped stitch.
Turn your work.
Slip the first stitch...

Continue back and forth like this until you reach the middle back of the heel--you should have 1 or 2 stitches left. Finish with a slip stitch and purl.

This will make the bottom of the heel.

Step 11: Heel--part 2

Now you need to make the back part of the heel. After this, you will go back to step 10 and repeat the process of the heel for the second sock. After both parts of the heel is completed for both socks, you will resume working on both socks together.

Turn your work.
Slip one stitch and knit until you are one stitch before the marker that come before the second gusset. Knit two stitches together--the last stitch from the middle section and the first one from the gusset.
Turn your work.
Slip one stitch and purl until you are one stitch from the marker.
Purl two stitches together.
Turn your work.
Slip one stitch, knit one stitch, slip one stitch, etc. Until you are one stitch before the marker.
Knit 2 stitches together.
Turn your work.
Slip one and purl to one stitch before the marker...

Repeat these two rows until you are left with the number of stitches you had before the gusset--in my case 18 stitches.

The knit, slip, knit...part of the heel makes the heel tighten just a little so that the sock grabs your heel and doesn't slip around as much. I don't know if you can see it in the picture, but it almost looks slightly 'ribbed'. It is a tiny detail but worth the effort.

Step 12: Cuff of Sock

Knit 2 or 3 rows on both socks--like before the gusset and heel steps. Then switch to ribbing--knit one stitch, purl one stitch, repeat to the end. Make ribbing until the length of your desired cuff. Bind off and weave in the tail.