OK, so...since I have at least 1 knitter whom I've almost got turned to the dark side ("Turn to the Dark Side, Luke - we have silk and alpaca and wool!" *eg*) of sock knitting ("Nah - they're *easy*! If you can knit in the round for a hat, you can knit a sock! Trust me! :insert Darth Vader's theme here:", I've decided to share my generic, almost guaranteed to fit socks. It's easy, and, best of all - there's virtually NO math, and you don't really need a gauge sample before beginning. No, really!
So, you know the old "1 inch of knitting takes 3 inches of yarn" rule, yes? (Well, if not, you do now. *g*) So, for these socks you will do a long-tail cast on. Taking the end of the yarn, wrap it around your leg (or the leg of the recipient - I don't care, and it doesn't matter) right where you want the sock to hit. (Ummm.....this is for short socks, OK? Knee-length socks take some shaping, and I'm not into that.) Hold the point where the end met the rest of the yarn. Now, measure that distance 2 more times, so that you end up with the tail being 3x the width of the leg. Now, just for grins (and grandma), add 2" or 3".
Put your slipknot *there* to start your cast on. (Or, if you do it knotless, put that point over your needle.) Go to town casting on stitches - I prefer socks with 5 DPNs, so I usually start with 14 - 16 stitches per needle. (You can adjust them once you join in the round. With 4, put 1/2 of the stitches on needle #2 - this will be the top of the foot.) If you like 1x1 rib, make sure the # on each needle is divisible by 2; if you prefer 2x2 rib, the # should be divisible by 4. Keep casting on until you are left with an inch or inch and a half of the tail (remember the 2" or 3" you added? Use a little of that, but leave the rest.)
So, join the round, place your marker, and work your ribbing for at least 1". (My normal mode is 2" - suit yourself. They're YOUR socks, after all, not mine!). Switch to all knit (stockinette, for those not totally familiar with knitting terms) and keep going until it's long enough. (My socks - I usually start the heel flap when the total leg = 5" or 6". Again - your preference!)
*A note: I usually try my socks on when I finish the cuff, then again when I finish the stockinette portion. So far, I've only had *1* sock not fit perfectly using this method - it was a lace pattern, and I *really* should have added 1 more lace repeat on it. It Fit, don't get me wrong, but it didn't look as nice as I wanted. I finally frogged it when I was halfway down the foot, because I wasn't happy with it. Honestly - this way has proven to be just about fool-proof in the fitting department.*
Here's where you need a little math. When the sock is long enough, you need to divide your stitches in half. (With 5 DPNs, the heel is worked on needle #4 and #1; with 3 you should already have them sorted out - needle #1 and #3 will be the flap.) OH, and on the flap, be sure to slip the first stitch of each row - it'll make things easier when it comes to picking up the gusset stitches. You don't *have* to do this, but it really makes for a nicer join if you do.
So - on my 4 needles - I will knit across needle #1, then turn around and purl back across it and across needle #4. Turn around, and work the heel flap - I like the "heel stitch"; it's sl(ip) 1, k(nit)1, all the way across, then purl back; you can do plain knit, you can add color patterns - whatever you want. Continue in pattern until the flap is 2" or 2.5" long. (Depends on YOUR foot - 2" is good for me; some people need a deeper heel.) End with a purl row.
Now, comes the magic part - turning the heel. It's EASY. Trust me - just follow the directions, and you'll find yourself with a neat looking heel.
Sl1, Knit 1/2 of the stitches. Knit 2 more. SSK (that's Slip, Slip, then knit the 2 slipped stitches), Knit 1, turn the work around. Sl, Purl *5*, then P2tog (that's purl 2 stitches together), purl 1, turn the work.
Now, stop and look at what you've just done. You've got some stitches hanging out at the end of the needles there that you didn't work over the last 2 rows, then you've got the stitches you just worked. If you look close, there's a Gap inbetween the 2 sets - see it? OK, what you will do now is knit (or purl - depends on which side of the work you're on) to 1 stitch before the gap, then either SSK or P2tog. You will take the last stitch before the gap and work it WITH the stitch after the gap. Then, K1 (or P1 !), and turn around and work back. Remember to Slip that first stitch - it makes things neater!
That's IT. That's how a heel is turned. When you've worked all the stitches, you should finish on a purl side row (oh, and don't fret if on the last row you can only SSK or P2 without the extra stitch - it's OK. It'll still work, OK? Now, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back, and have a sit down for a moment to savor your accomplishment. *g* Feel free to show it off to people, too. *vbg*
Now, look at what you have: a pocket, out of 1/2 the stitches, at the end of a long flap. If you look at the flap closely, you'll see the edge looks..braided or somesuch. (If you slipped the stitches, the edge kinda resembles a crocheted edge.) Can you see the small gap under each "crochet" stitch? That's where you'll pick up a stitch so you can knit the gusset and join it back up with the top of the foot stitches (remember them? They're still hanging out on the other needle(s) up there, 2" lower than the heel you just created). This part isn't hard - just a little tricky.
What you do..it's easy to do, but hard for me to explain. I'll do my best: Knit across the newly formed heel. If you want to make things a little easier later, knit 1/2 on one needle, then knit the other half on a new needle (you have to do this pretty quick anyway, so you might as well do it now. *g* This will become the New and Improved Needle #1), then poke the end of the needle into the space under the "crochet" stitch, hook the yarn, and pull it thru (just like a regular knit stitch.) You've just picked up *1* stitch! Now, do it again, all along the edge of the flap: pick up 1 stitch for each of the slipped edge stitches. If you have room to do it, try to pick 1 up right where the flap and the original stitches meet - it'll make for no holes when you get going again. It's not a major thing if you can't!
Knit across the top of the foot stitches (why yes, the needles do look funny. Don't fret - you'll sort it out soon), then pick up the stitches along the other edge of the flap. Try to get the same amount as you did on the first side - but don't sweat it if you're off a stitch. On this same needle, knit the other half of the heel stitches. This is MUCH easier to do on 4 DPN's than it is on 3 DPNs, but I've done both and it works either way. Set your marker on the new beginning of the round, and knit once all the way around. (If you have 1 more stitch in the gusset on one side, here's where you lose it - go ahead and decrease it away now. I usually decrease it with the first instep stitch, just to keep things neat.)
Round 2: you will knit to 3 stitches from the end of needle #1, K2tog (Knit 2 together), K1, knit across the "instep" (Top of foot), K1, SSK (remember that from the heel?) and knit the rest of the round.
You will repeat these 2 rounds (decrease, then knit the next round straight) until you have decreased down to the same # of stitches you started out with. Try it on - you might need to lose another couple of stitches to make the instep fit the way you want. (If you have broad feet, you might want to try it on a couple of decrease round before this - it all depends on the feet you are trying to fit.)
So, knit on down the foot until you reach about 2" from the end of your foot. (Yeah, I try them on a LOT at this point, trying to get the length just *right*. :shrug: Works for me!) It's pretty mindless knitting at this point - you are heading toward the finish line, and it seems to just zip along.
Now, for the toe decreases: there are a *lot* of different ways to do a toe. I don't remember what my favorite way is called - it's double decreases every other round - but it's easy for me to remember. (Maybe it's a wedge toe??) Anyway - at this point, you can insert the toe of your choice. I'll go ahead and write out the one I use, but don't think this is the ONLY way to go (just like the heel - I prefer the way a flap-and-gusset heel looks and fits. Other knitters prefer the short-row (or hourglass) heel - have fun with it! They are YOUR socks, after all, not mine!)
Anyway....Round 1: knit to 3 stitches from the end of needle #1. K2tog, K1. Needle #2 - K1, SSK, knit to end (if using 5) or knit to within 3 stitches of end, (or end of needle #3) K2tog, K1. On needle #3 (or #4 *g*), K1, SSK, knit to end.
Round 2: Knit around
Repeat these 2 rounds until you have 24 or 20 stitches left (your preference. 24 fits my toes perfectly.) Kitchener them together (or zig-zag stitch, or run the yarn thru and pull it tight, whatever you are most comfortable with). Darn in the end.....put it on and ADMIRE it.
After you've pranced around the house in it, and taken it out into the world to show it off to people (WHAT? I can't be the only person who's ever done this!!! Honestly......), sit down, take a deep breath....and go knit another one. *g*
If any of the above didn't make sense, please feel free to ask. I'll try to explain it better. Socks are really easy, once you get over the whole "OMG, how do you turn a heel" thing (and the "OMG, how do you use 4(or 5) needles at once??" thing. Really - you're only working with 2 needles at a time - the other needles just hang out holding the stitches until you get to them.)