So it turns out that I LOVE hand knit socks. But I absolutely hate knitting them by hand. For some unknown reason, knitting with 4-ply sock yarn and in the round makes my stitches tight and my stress levels rocket. Apparently, I just can’t cope with knitting socks. But, through experimentation and trying out other peoples methods and working out my own methods, I have created a sock recipe that perfectly fits my feet and that I love how it looks. Most importantly, it can be done in about an hour using a flat-bed knitting machine (without a ribber!)
It is made in one-piece, starting at the toe and working up to the cuff. I like to make toe-up socks as I like to be able to try it on as I go and not worry about the amount of yarn I have left as I can weigh it as I go. It uses simple short-row heels and toes and has either a ribbed cuff or a fold-top cuff. I’ve included my method to create ribbed cuffs without the use of a ribber. I’ll admit its a little fiddly, but I prefer it to all the other methods of ribbed cuffs I’ve tried so far so I hope you’ll give it a go. My favourite cuffs for their ease of making on the knitting machine is the fold-top cuff.
Before we begin the pattern, here's a little gallery of some of the socks I've knit on the knitting machine. This will update automatically as I finish another pair of socks from this recipe and upload the photos to Flickr.
- Short row toe
- Short row heel
- Figure-8 cast-off
- Kitchener stitch
- Crochet seaming
- A standard gauge knitting machine (I use a Brother KH- 836)
- Waste yarn (I use a 2-ply cotton normally)
- Rip-cord (I use the nylon one that came with the machine)
- 100g 4-ply sock yarn (my favourite brand is Regia, but use what you prefer)
- 3.00mm crochet hook or latch tool (doesn’t have to be 3.00mm, just whatever fits in your stitches easily, used for creating the ribbing and for seaming up)
- 2.00mm circular needle (to pick up stitches for Kitchener stitch)
- Tapestry needle (for Kitchener stitch and weaving in ends).
Stephanelli’s Machine Knit Sock Recipe
This is a toe-up sock that uses short row toes and heels. It requires seaming (but without a needle and thread) and Kitchener stitch. These socks fit my UK size 4.5 feet perfectly in 4-ply sock yarn.
To adjust this recipe for sizing/pattern: Knit a gauge swatch at tension 6 in the stitch pattern you intend to use and work out your gauge. I’m a fan of making a large gauge swatch where possible. Measure around the ball of your foot and use your gauge to calculate how many stitches you need. I found I had to experiment to get it just right. Try and end up with an even number of stitches.
Update: You can use my handy spreadsheet here so long as you have either the shoe size or some measurements - circumference (around the ball of the foot) and foot length (from back of heel to tip of toe).
The socks are mirror images of each other, so I’ve used the following text to indicate the right sock and the left sock where necessary. I like to start with the right sock.
Tension: Set the tension dial to 6.
Cast On: Pull out 60 needles to hold position (I use the central 60 from 30 left to 30 right). Then push back the second needle in from each end to non-working position so there are 58 needles out (1 needle, then a 1 needle gap, then 56 needles, then a 1 needle gap, then 1 needle). The needle gap gives a bigger stitch to use when doing the side seam at the end. Cast on with waste yarn using the e-loop method. Knit a few rows in waste yarn and end with the carriage on the right (left). Then knit in a rip-cord (the carriage should be on the left (right).
Thread the working yarn into the machine. Make sure the carriage won’t knit needles in the hold position. Move the right-hand (left-hand) half of the needles into hold position. (For my feet, that’s the 29 needles on side opposite the carriage).
Try to leave an end that is about 4 times as long as the knitting so you can use it to do a Kitchener stitch later.
Step 1. Move the needle nearest the carriage into hold position. Knit 1 row. Repeat step 1 until the last row has knit 13 stitches. You should notice that the yarn is automatically wrapped around each needle. You can adjust how many stitches are in the last row if you find the toe is too pointy or not pointy enough for your feet.
Step 2. Move the 2 needles nearest the carriage into hold position. Knit 1 row. Repeat step 2 once more.
Step 3. Move the 2 needles nearest the carriage back into working position. Pass the yarn under the next needle nearest the carriage that is in the hold position. (This provides a second wrap to prevent holes in the toe of your sock). Knit 1 row. Repeat step 3 once more.
Step 4. Move the next needle nearest the carriage back into working position. Pass the yarn under the next needle nearest the carriage that is in hold position to make a wrap. Knit 1 row. Repeat step 4 until the last row has knit all the stitches used for the toe. The carriage should end up on the left (right).
Set the carriage to knit all needles. Knit as many rows as needed for the length of your foot minus about an inch. End with the carriage on the right (left). You may need to experiment to work out how many rows this is for you. For me, it was 51 rows.
Feel free to experiment with patterning and colourwork as you please.
Short Row Heel
Set the tension dial to 4 to produce a harder wearing heel and set the carriage so it doesn’t knit the needles in the hold position. The heel is knit on the opposite side of the sock to the toe in nearly exactly the same method as the toe.
Move the left-hand (right-hand) half of the needles into hold position. For me, that’s the 29 needles on the opposite to the carriage.
Step 1. Move the needle nearest the carriage into hold position. Knit 1 row. Repeat step 1 until the last row has knit 13 stitches. You should notice that the yarn is automatically wrapped around each needle. You can adjust how many stitches are in the last row if you find the heel is too pointy or not pointy enough for your feet.
Step 2. Move the next needle nearest the carriage back into working position. Pass the yarn under the next needle nearest the carriage that is in hold position to make a wrap. Knit 1 row. Repeat step 2 until the last row has knit all the stitches used for the heel. The carriage should end up on the right (left).
Set the tension dial back to 6 and the carriage to knit all needles.
Knit as many rows as you want for your cuff. If you have a ribber bed, feel free to make use of it. I don’t, so once we’ve done as many rows as you’d like for your cuff (including the ribbing rows), I’ll explain how I reknit some of the stitches to make ribbing. Personally, I knit about 80 rows.
Set the tension dial to 10 and knit 1 final row. If you used a ribber, skip ahead to the cast-off. If not continue on…
To get the classic ribbed top to keep your socks up, we’re going to carefully drop some stitches and work them back up to create knit stitches using a crochet hook. (remember you’ve got the purl side facing you). Decide how much ribbing you want and whether you want a 1×1 rib, a 2×2 rib etc. For ease, I’d recommend leaving the end stitches as they are. I like to do 2×2 rib personally. It is quite fiddly, and you might prefer to do it by hand, but I prefer this method.
First, grab a crochet hook/latch tool (I use a 3.00mm crochet hook, but use what works well for your knitting). Insert it from front to back through the stitch on the row you want to be the bottom of your ribbing. Double check you know which needle this is, and drop the stitch off the needle by pushing it back to non-working position. Let the stitch drop all the way to your crochet hook. Then work the stitch back up to the top by hooking the long bar and pulling it through the loop on the hook. Do this till you reach the top and put the stitch back on the needle. Repeat this step for all the stitches you want to be knit stitches.
To make a fold-top cuff, you need to pick up the row of stitches that is about 20 rows below the current stitches on the needles and rehang them so that you have two stitches on each needle. Then proceed to the cast-off!
Figure-8 Cast Off
I’d recommend using the figure-8 cast off as it is super stretchy but if you have a preferred stretchy cast-off then go ahead and use it.
For the figure-8 cast-off, first, unthread the working yarn from the carriage. Start with the needles in working position (not hold position). Then manually knit the first stitch, pulling the needle all the way back into non-working position to create a large stitch. Then push the needle forward into hold position, being careful of this large stitch. Use a single-eye transfer tool to go through the large stitch from back to front and transfer it onto the next needle. This should give it a twist so it looks like an 8 (on its side).
Manually knit the needle you’ve just transferred the stitch onto in the same way as before, creating a large stitch. Push the needle forward into hold position and use your transfer tool to go through the stitch from back to front and transfer it onto the next needle, making sure you get that figure-8. Keep repeating this step until you have done this to all the stitches. At the end, cut the yarn and pull it through the last stitch to fasten off.
Unlike other cast-offs, this leaves the knitting still on the needles. But you can just push all the needles back to non-working position and it should come off easily.
To finish the sock, pick up the stitches that are on the rip cord at the toe using small hand-knitting needles (I like to use a 2.00mm circular needle). Pick up half the stitches on one needle and the other half on the other needle. I find this bit quite hard to get the right stitches, particularly at the edges of the toe, but persevere and you’ll get there. You should have the same number of stitches as you started with, half on each needle. (So for me that’s 29 stitches on each needle).
Remove the rip-cord and waste yarn cast on.
Then, using the end that you left, graft the stitches together using Kitchener stitch. The internet is a wonderful place to learn about Kitchener stitch if you don’t know it already. (I recommend these instructions – there is a video and some written instructions!). As a reminder:
Front needle: Knit off, purl on
Back needle: Purl off, knit on
Finally, we need to do the side seam! I find its easiest to use a crochet hook (3.00mm again). To avoid holes, we don’t use any working yarn but the large stitches we created at the sides of the knitting. Start at the toe. Insert the crochet hook into the first large stitch. Hook the large stitch on the opposite side of the seam and pull it through the first stitch to create a new loop.
Insert the hook into the next large stitch on the same side (two loops on the hook now), and hook the stitch on the opposite side of the seam and pull it through both loops to create a new loop. Repeat this step all the way to the top. You should hopefully still have some ends which you can use to fasten off the final stitch.
Finally, weave in all the ends and you’ve finished the first sock! Go ahead and use the same instructions to make the second sock, remembering to follow the left sock instructions!
I hope you enjoyed this pattern, feel free to ask here or on the Ravelry pattern page if you’ve got any questions. I’ll also try to update this post if I find a new adaption you can use for your socks!