Introduction to Sock Knitting (Part 4)

You’re on to the home stretch now! There’s still quite a bit of knitting to do, but it’s much, much more straightforward.

There are 4 sections to the foot part of the socks:

Decreasing, Knitting the Foot, Decreasing at the Toes, Closing up.

We’ll take each of these in turn.


This is all about getting the stitch count down from your heel. You already started doing that as the very last part of the heel, when you decreased two stitches at the end of your last round. This decreasing continues, alternating sides as you go on, until you are left with the same stitchcount that you started with. So, if you cast on 64 stitches in total, you’re aiming to decrease until you have 64 stitches again.

That’s the theory, anyway – but have a look at your feet and legs. Are they the same circumference? I know that my legs are thicker than my socks so when I make socks for myself I decrease further – perhaps down to 60 stitches. The pair of socks I am making as part of this tutorial are for a friend, so I’m sticking with my original number of stitches.

To carry out your decreases, think of your socks as split into two halves: the half where you knit, and the half where you decrease. You should already be set up like this after the heel. Every round knit across all the stitches on the ‘knit’ side, and decrease on the ‘decrease’ side – on alternating sides of your socks. 

The last heel round decreased on what I think of as the ‘left’ side of the sock – or the ‘end’ side of the decrease side, so next decrease on the ‘right’ side, or the ‘beginning’ side. Knit one (and pull it tight), and the decrease using the SSK decrease. This is to ensure the stitches travel the right way – that they align nicely. SSK on the ‘right’, K2tog on the ‘left’. 

On the next round, decrease at the end of the ‘decrease’ side, using the K2tog on the last three stitches (and knitting the final stitch). This sets you up for the pattern. Each round, decrease on the side that you did not decrease on the previous round, until you reach your desired number of stitches. The first and last stitch are always knit stitches, and the decreases take part on the two stitches next to that. 

Knitting the foot

When you have reached the desired number of stitches, switch to knitting every stitch – just like you did for the leg. That’s it. That’s how you knit the foot. 

The length depends on the foot you’re knitting for – and because you’re knitting the socks ‘top down’, starting with the cuff, you can try them on easily to see if they’re long enough. My general rule of thumb is to knit until my socks start to cover my big toe – I begin my toe decreases just before the knuckle halfway up my big toe. But to a certain extent that’s personal preference to do with how tight I like my socks – for lose socks knit the body for longer, for tight socks shorten it. This will entail a bit of experimentation, but a good guiding point is to knit until your socks reach your toe, and to start your decreases then. 

Decreasing at the toes

There are different ways to do this – because if you look at your feet, chances are that they do not narrow evenly at the toes. For example, my ‘big toe’ side narrows more slowly than my ‘little toe’ side, so really I should produce a toe section that reflects that. But – that would mean that I’d end up with a distinctly different right and left sock, and that’s impractical for me. All my socks live in a drawer, just chucked in, and I grab two of whatever (as long as they’re the same type) – I have no patience for sorting socks or making sure they match. So I make all my toes the same, which means that my socks can fit either foot. 

To begin your decreases, make sure that the number of stitches on both sides of your sock are equal – if not, shift them around a bit to make them so. Then begin your decreases. The pattern of this will be familiar from the heels.

Round 1: K1, SSK2, knit to the last three stitches, K2tog, K1. Do this on both sides of the socks, top and bottom.

Round 2: Knit every stitch.

Repeat these two rounds until you have half the stitches left. If you started with 64, continue this pattern until there are 16 stitches on each needle (for each sock – 32 stitches in total if you’re knitting two socks at once). Add in another knit round for good luck!

Closing up

There are different ways to close up – it’s a matter of preference and comfort. For socks that are meant to be worn inside shoes – ie, socks made from sock yarn, like these – I prefer to ‘kitchener stitch’ the front of my toes, which leaves an invisible seam that you can’t feel. For socks that I wear as housesocks, over other socks, I often just cast off in a three-needle-bind-off, leaving a decorative seam that doesn’t bother me there. 

To kitchener stitch you’ll need a darning needle, and a bit of patience. It seems a bit complicated at first, but there is a rhythm to it that helps keep you straight. Essentially, each stitch is picked up twice, once purlways and once knitways, and after the second pick-up it is pulled off the needle. To do this, execute the following sequence:

Pull the needle through the first stitch on the front needle, purlways. Do not drop the stitch off the needle.

Pull the needle through the first stitch on the back needle, knitways. Do not drop the stitch off the needle.

Pull the needle through the first stitch on the front needle, knitways. Drop the stitch off the needle. Now pull the needle through the new first stitch on the front needle, purlways. Do not drop this stitch off the needle.

Pull the needle through the first stitch on the back needle, purlways. Drop the stitch off the needle. Now pull the needle through the new first stitch on the front needle, knitways. Do not drop this stitch off the needle.

This sets up the pattern – repeat the bold part until all stitches have been cast off the needle, and weave in your ends. 

Here is a short video where you can watch me do this:

Return to #SkillsFromTheHills main page

Return to Introduction to Sock Knitting Overview page
Return to Sock Knitting Part 1
Return to Sock Knitting Part 2
Return to Sock Knitting Part 3

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