Free Basic Sock Knitting Tutorial

How to knit: Basic sock formula

Want to learn how to knit a pair of socks in any yarn and size without a pattern? Then you’ve come to the right blog post! 🙂

Note: This post doesn’t contain a knitting pattern, instead it’s a tutorial on how to use a formula to knit a basic sock from the cuff down in any yarn and any size.

Yes, there will be a little math, but nothing complicated.

And yes, of course, there will also be videos so you can watch each of the steps as well!

I have divided this tutorial into five parts to make it more manageable. Each part has a video at the end where I show the different steps of the sock knitting process.

Step 1: Calculate stitch count and knit the cuff

Decide on which yarn and needles you’re going to use. It’s best if you also have a smaller needle for the cuff ribbing. 0,5 to 1 size smaller is good. I use circular knitting needles for this tutorial.

Calculate stitch count

The first thing we need to do is calculate how many stitches to cast on. To do this we need to know:

  • The gauge. If you’re familiar with your chosen yarn you may already know the gauge. Otherwise, you need to knit a swatch and measure your gauge.
  • The circumferrence of the foot you’re knitting for. Measure around the foot at the widest part

Multiply the gauge with your measurement like this:

Gauge (stitches per inches or cm) x the foot circumference (in inches or cm) = your stitch count

If you end up with an uneven number, round it up to the nearest digit.


For example, my gauge is 1,8 stitches/cm and my foot circumference is 23 cm =1,8 x 23 = 41,2 stitches. I round that up to 42 stitches.

This is the number we’re going to build the basic sock formula on, so be sure to write it down once you calculated it!

You can cast on the number of stitches you got from this calculation. But there are a few things to consider.

Adjusting stitch count for the cast on

You may want to adjust your stitch count by adding a few stitches to work with the ribbing. The type of ribbing you choose will affect the stitch count.

For example, 1+1 ribbing (knit 1, purl 1) calls for a number that’s dividable by 2.

But, for 2+2 ribbing (knit2, purl 2) you need a number that can be divided by 4.

I use my sock as an example again: My stitch count (the number I got when I multiplied my gauge with the circumference of my foot) is 42.

I want to knit 2+2 ribbing and 42 can’t be divided with 4, so I add two stitches to make the rib stitch pattern work.

I will adjust this for the cast on, but I will also remove these stitches after the ribbing. 42 will still be my number for later calculations 🙂

The cast on

Use your smaller-sized needles for the cast on as we’re knitting ribbing directly after this.

I use the long tail cast on and cast on over two needles. I do it like this to get enough yarn in the cast on edge for it to be able to stretch with the ribbing. You can use another cast on as long as it’s stretchy enough.

If you need help with the cast on, and join you can see how I do it in the video further down!

I like to use a neat little trick that makes the join in the round super neat and almost invisible. I show it in the video below.

If you don’t want to watch the whole step 1 video you can head over to this blogpost for a shorter video showing just the technique for joining.

The cuff/leg

This basic sock has a leg that’s entirely knitted in ribbing. The ribbing ensures that the leg fits and won’t slide down without the need to do shaping with decreases.

Knitting 2+2 ribbing

Knitting ribbing is super easy. it’s just alternating knit and purl stitches. I knit 2+2 ribbing for my sock in the video.

If you like to do that to you just have to knit 2 stitches, and then purl 2 stitches. Repeat this until you worked the entire round.

Keep going for as long as you like the leg of your sock to be, as I do in the video. Or, you can knit a couple of inches / a few cm ribbing and then continue with stockinette.

Personally, I like to make my sock legs in rib because I think they fit better, but that’s just me 🙂

Knitting 1+1 ribbing

If you like to knit 1+1 ribbing that’s just as easy. Knit 1 stitch, and purl1 stitch. Repeat for the whole round. Continue for the whole leg or change to stockinette after a couple of inches / a few centimeters.

Basic sock video tutorial: Calculating and knitting the leg

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Step 2: Knitting the heel flap

When you’re satisfied with the length of the ribbed leg it’s time to knit the dreaded heel. But don’t worry, you can do this! it’s not as hard as one might think 🙂

First, we want to make sure that we have the proper stitch count. That’s the first number we calculated, that I asked you to write down. Remember?

Decrease the stitches you added

If you added extra stitches to make the stitch count work with the ribbing you can knit one round stockinette stitch (only knit stitches) and decrease those stitches again before we start knitting the heel flap.

It’s important to spread out the decreases, otherwise, the shape of your sock can be a bit wonky.

How to decrease evenly in knitting

The easiest way is to divide the number of stitches you have on your needles by the number of stitches you need to decrease. this divides your stitches into sections, decrease the two first stitches (or two last stitches if you prefer) in each section. That way the distance between your all decreases will be the same.

For example, I added 2 extra stitches. I now have 44 stitches and want to decrease to 42. I divide 44 by 2 which gives me 22.

I decrease over the two first stitches, knit 20 stitches, decrease over 2 stitches and knit the remaining 20 stitches of the round.

Example 2, If your number of stitches can’t be divided by the number of stitches you need to decrease.

Say you have 44 stitches and want to decrease by 5 stitches. 44/5=8,8. You could decrease 2 and knit 6 stitches, and continue working like that until you have decreased 5 times, and then just knit the remaining stitches. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as you don’t make all the decreases on one side or in a cluster.

Now when we have the right stitch count it’s time to knit the heel flap!

Use half of the stitches

The heel flap is worked flat over one-half of the stitches. The heel flap should be as many rows as has stitches, round it off to an even number.

We start by dividing the stitches in half. Distribute the stitches so that you have two sections of stitches divided by a loop of cable.

Reinforced heel flap

Right side rows
With an even number of stitches:
*Slip 1 purlwise, knit 1*, repeat *–* until 2 stitches are left, slip 1 purlwise, purl 1, turn

With an uneven number of stitches:
*Slip 1 purlwise, knit 1*, repeat *–* until 1 stitch is left, purl 1, turn

Wrong side rows
Slip 1 purlwise, purl all remaining stitches, turn

Repeat the right and wrong side rows until you have enough rows (as many as your stitches) and end with a wrong side row.

Knitting back left handed

An alternative to turning the work over after every row when knitting flat is to knit back left-handed. This is also known as mirror knitting or knitting backward.

It’s a time saver when knitting small projects flat or part of a project with short rows like a heel flap.

It’s also great if your flat stockinette often turns out striped and uneven due to purl rows having looser tension (bigger stitches) than the knit rows.

I use this technique whenever I can, as my purls are really loose and I get pains in my hands from trying to tighten them up!

Learn more in this post if you’re curious!

Basic sock video tutorial: Heel Flap

This video shows how to make the heel flap.
If you like knitting videos like this, please make me happy by subscribing to my Youtube channel!

Step 3: The heel turn

When the heel flap is done it’s time to turn the heel. This means to shape the heel so it fits on your foot.

We will continue to work back and forth over the same stitches as we used for the heel flap.

Divide stitches for the heel turn

The first thing we have to do is divide the heel flap stitches into thirds. I suggest that you use some kind of stitch markers for this as it makes it easier to keep track of where you are.

Some scrap yarn in a contrasting yarn knot into loops will do just fine, but if you want fancier stuff take a look at these little gems 🙂

If dividing by three doesn’t work with your stitch count you can have a stitch more on the side parts than the middle section, as long as both sides have the same amount of stitches.

For example, I have 21 stitches. 21/3=7 I divide the stitches 7+7+7
With 20 stitches it would have looked like this:
20/3=6,67. I would have divided the stitches like this instead: 7+6+7

Knitting the heel turn

The heel turn is done by decreasing stitches from the side sections.

We will continue working in the same pattern as we did on the heel flap. Slip the first stitch of all rows purlwise, then look at your work and slip where you have slipped before and knit where you have knitted.

Set up row (right side row):
Work the first section, place a marker, knit the middle section, place a marker, knit 2 stitches together in the back leg, turn.

Wrong side row:
Slip 1 purlwise, slip the marker, purl to next marker, slip the marker, purl 2 together, turn.

Right side row:
Slip 1 purlwise, slip marker, work in pattern to next marker, slip marker, knit 2 stitches together in the back leg, turn.

Continue like this until 1 stitch remains of each side section.

If your last row was a right-side row, turn and purl all stitches. You can remove the stitch markers as you go.

Basic sock video tutorial: Heel turn

This video shows how to turn the heel.
If you like knitting videos like this, please make me happy by subscribing to my Youtube channel!

Step 4: Knitting the gusset

It’s time to start knitting in the round again, the round will start in the middle of the heel. 

We’re going to pick up and knit the same number of stitches as you have rows in the heel flap, half of the stitches on each side of the heel flap.

For example, my heel flap is 20 rows so I pick up 10 stitches on each side.

But, I also pick up two extra stitches.

Prevent holes

To prevent holes I also like to pick up two extra stitches. One directly after the heel stitches, and one right before the heel stitches.

On the next round, these stitches are knit together with the last and first of the heel stitches.

You can skip this step if you want, if the holes appear it’s easy to sew them closed with a wool needle and a piece of yarn later.

The pick up round:

Knit all to the middle of the heel stitches and place a marker here if you want to keep track of where the round starts. (If you haven’t already, remove the stitch markers we used for the heel turn.)

Knit the remaining heel stitches, pick up and knit stitches along the side of the heel flap, knit the instep stitches, pick up and knit stitches along the other side of the heel flap, knit to the end of the round.

Tips for picking up stitches

  • The slipped stitches make it super easy to pick up stitches, just pick one leg of each of the V:s created by the slipped stitches.
  • Use the left-hand needle and pick up all the stitches on one side at the same time.
  • Knit the stitches twisted, otherwise, the edge will be sloppy and full of little holes.

Gusset decreases

Divide your stitches in the cable so that you have the instep stitches (on top of the foot) in one section. The other section is the heel stitches + all the picked-up stitches. I will call this section the heel section.

If you don’t like to divide the stitches on the cable like this because of a short cable or some other fuzz, you could use stitch markers to separate the instep stitches from the rest.

Decrease round

  • Knit until 2 stitches are left on the cable (before the marker) knit these 2 stitches together.
  • Knit all the instep stitches.
  • Knit the 2 first stitches of the heel section together in the back leg. Knit until the end of the round.

Keep knitting in the round making the decrease on every other row until you have the same number of stitches on both needles. In total, you should have the same number of stitches as the number you calculated in the beginning.

The foot

Keep knitting stockinette until your sock is about 2 inches/5 cm shorter than the finished size.

Lay the sock flat and measure from the heel, or if you’re lazy like me just put the sock on and eyeball it 🙂

Basic sock video tutorial: The gusset

This video shows how to knit the gusset.
If you like knitting videos like this, please make me happy by subscribing to my Youtube channel!

Step 5: Knitting a rounded toe

When you have about 1,5-2 inches or 4-5 cm left to knit before the sock is the finished length it’s time to knit start decreasing for the toe.

This sock has a rounded toe with decorative decreases on the sides.

The toe is shaped by decreasing two stitches at a time on each side every other row until about 25 % of the stitches are left on the needles. Then you cut the yarn and use a wool needle to pull it through the remaining stitches and fasten off.

Centered Double Decrease CDD

The decreases we use are called Centered Double Decrease, CDD. CDD is a pretty looking decrease done by decreasing two stitches at the same time.

It’s worked over three stitches, time leaving the middle stitch on top of the decreased stitches. When CDD is done on top of each other, or like in this tutorial, on every other row, it forms a pretty chain of stitches.

How to knit CDD

Slip two stitches together as if to knit, knit 1 stitch, and then pass both the slipped stitches over the stitch you just knit at the same time.

Dividing the stitches

First, we’re dividing the stitches into two sections with half of the stitches in each. The partings should be centered on top of and under the foot.

If this sounds strange, watch the video below to see how I did it. I show how I divided the stitches at 1 minute and 39 seconds.

The decreases are done over the three stitches in the middle of each section.

Round 1:Decrease round

  • Knit to the three stitches in the middle of the first section.
  • Make a CCD (sl2 as if to knit, k1, pass slipped stitches over)
  • Knit to the end of the section.
  • Repeat for the second section of stitches.

Round 2: Knit

On round two knit all stitches.

Repeat

Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until about 25% (1 fourth) remains of the stitches.

Break the yarn leaving an 8 inch/20 cm tail. Use a wool needle to pull the yarn through all the remaining stitches as you remove them from the knitting needle.

I like to pull the yarn through once more, just to be sure. Pull the yarn to close the hole tightly and weave in the end. Weave in the other end(s) and knit a second sock the same way!

Basic sock video tutorial: Rounded toe

This video shows how to knit a rounded toe and finish off your sock.
If you like knitting videos like this, please make me happy by subscribing to my Youtube channel!

I hope this tutorial made sense and that you put it to good use!

Your next read:
––> How to knit a wedge toe/square toe on magic loop
––> Why I love my HiyaHiya knitting needles – after over 7 years of use
––> Pretty hearts ribbing knitting stitch