How to knit men’s socks in the round on circular needles or with a needle set. A free knitting pattern for beginners
There are probably a million sock patterns out there. But most men don’t want to wear lace socks. They want something simple and comfortable in a nice color. That’s why I felt to share my personal go-to sock pattern with you (make sure to subscribe to my newsletter if you want to receive more free knitting patterns from me).
Just a couple of days ago, someone reminded me of a lovely knitting adage on Reddit: “All the things I want to knit, I don’t want to wear. And all the things I want to wear, I don’t want to knit.” And that really struck a beat with me. I’m a bit like that. These days, especially on social media, if you are posting a simple design, it won’t get much love.
Edit: In the meantime, I also published a follow-up sock knitting pattern called “Socke 2” and there is also a very detailed tutorial on how to knit socks for beginners available.
I feel this is wrong. First of all, it’s often the seemingly simple things that are the hardest. A good hand-knitted sock is all about the fit for me. It takes time and quite a lot of experience to find out what suits you. Not all feet are alike. Some are flatter, some have a really pronounced back, very long or short toes, etc.
Once you knitted a couple of years, it’s easy to produce lace socks. But knitting socks that really fit, that’s the high art for me. I don’t care if the heel looks good with a self-coloring yarn or on a sock blocking board – at least not if it’s a trade-off between too tight heel sections and a nice design. (But just in case you are looking for something difficult, check out my traditional Bavarian calf warmers).
I personally like a 2×2 rib for socks. Sure, the stockinette stitch may look better, but a rib has just the better fit. Your calves are getting narrower towards the ankle and you do want to accommodate that fact in a pattern. Old Bavarian sock patterns usually have a calf gusset. This can look gorgeous, but it’s also a bit more complicated to knit, and ribs are a nice shortcut.
And sometimes you just want it simple. That’s why I call this knitting pattern “Socke 1” (the german word for socks). It’s nice, it’s simple, it has an awesome fit, and the little cable adds a nice twist. Since the cable crosses are only once every 7 rows, it’s not very time-consuming either.
I am knitting these men’s socks with size 2.5 needles (3mm) and DK yarn. Ribs won’t look all that great if you are knitting with too large a needle compared to the recommended needle size for your yarn. And I don’t like too bulky a yarn. Sure, it’s faster to knit, but it’s also too warm for me. Size 2.5 is just the perfect mix between relatively fast knitting and a nice warmth.
Oh and here’s a tutorial in case you don’t know how to knit in the round on double-pointed needles. Experienced knitters might also check out my blog posts with 10 tricks for knitting in the round like a pro.
Tip: Like this pattern? Why not download my free knitting pattern with Bavarian twisted cables for intermediate knitters. Or my cable knit socks if you want to challenge yourself.
Without further ado, here’s my simple men’s sock pattern:
Note: I earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this article.
- DK wool blend of your choice. Roughly 160 – 180 meters. Don’t ever knit socks with pure wool, as it’s a nightmare to wash. But more importantly, blends with nylon (or other chemical fibers) are much more durable. You don’t want to end up with holes after the first 3 days, eh?
- A double-pointed needle set size 3mm / size 2.5, 6 inches long. I am knitting with the Knitter’s Pride Nova Platina. If this is your first time knitting in the round, you may want to get the carbon version instead or anything with higher friction.
You can also knit with small circular needles/magic loop, but, for me personally, it creates inferior results.
- Cable needle (or learn how to knit the cable stitch without a cable needle, as I do)
- A crochet needle for picking up the gusset (optional)
- A tapestry needle and scissors.
- 3 stitch markers (if you don’t have any, simple loops in a contrasting yarn are more than sufficient)
- a tape for measuring/sizing
You’ll find a list of 20 essential knitting tools every knitter needs here.
Gauge & sizing:
This men’s sock knitting pattern is for size 8.5 (EU 42) as this is my shoe size. But it’s quite easy to adjust it to any other size, and I am providing some detailed sizing instructions at every section in the pattern. A sock size reference chart will still be a simple start.
I absolutely want to stress, that these charts cannot replace knitting a swatch and some test socks.
The thing is: We all knit with slightly different tension and ever so slightly different techniques. On top of that, all our feet are different as well. For the perfect fit, there’s no way around testing a bit. Here’s how to find out how many stitches you need to cast on for socks in greater detail.
My gauge for a swatch in stockinette stitch 5×5 cm is: 14 stitches x 20 rounds
So, what I definitely recommend you to do is measure your calf, knit a little swatch in a 2×2 rib, and adjust the cast-on according to your measurements. You might even knit 10 rows on circular needles, bind off and then check if it really fits. A good fit is neither too tight nor too loose so the cuff slides down by itself. Please be aware that this pattern requires you to cast on multiples of 4. So, you may want to play around with the needle size as well to adjust the fit.
Step 1: Cast on 57 stitches alternating 2 knit and 2 purl stitches with a long tail cast on. (note: if you are knitting in a different size, then cast on multiples of 4 + 1) Read this guide, if you don’t know how to cast on purl stitches.
Step 2: Distribute these stitches evenly across 4 needles. The last needle should have 15 stitches, the others all 14.
Step 3: Now, join in the round by slipping the first stitch of the first needle on the last needle. Then, lift the second stitch over the first stitch (much like a standard bind off), pull the tail tight and then slip it back on the first needle and begin knitting according to the pattern below. That way, you create an almost invisible join. You should have 56 stitches on your needle now.
The knitting pattern:
- K = knit
- P = Purl
- C4F = Slip 2 stitches to cable needle (CD), hold CN in front
- C4B = Slip 2 stitches to CN, hold CN in the back
- C6F = Slip 3 stitches to CN, hold CN in front
- k2tog = Knit two stitches together
- SSK = Slip Slip knit
- SL1 = Slip one stitch
- Instructions between two asterisk (*) indicate you have to repeat that section over and over again until the end of a round or the indicated spot.
#1 The shaft:
- Round 1- 10: *Knit 2, Purl 2*
- Round 11: K2, P2, C4F, K2, C4B, P2 *K2, P2*
- Round 12: K2, P4, K6, P4, *K2, P2*
- Round 13: K2, P4, C6F, P4, *K2, P2* (Tip: If you want, you can knit a C6B for the second sock)
- Round 14: K2, P4, K6, P4, *K2, P2*
- Round 15: K2, P2, C4B, K2, C4F, P2, *K2, P2*
- Round 16- 21: *K2, P2*
Repeat round 11-21 four more times. If you want a shorter shaft, you can adjust the repeats according to your own preferences.
Round 11-15 is the cable cross-section. You will be continuing this cable, with 6 2×2 rib rows in between, until the toe.
Note: Your shaft might look unnaturally narrow. That’s because the 2×2 rib contracts quite a lot. That’s nothing to worry about. But you can always slip your projects onto circular needles and try it on to make sure!
#2 the heel Flap:
Now it’s time to turn the heel. I am using a flap and gusset heel as it’s just a much better fit than almost all short-row heels. It’s a bit more complicated to knit, but I feel it is so rewarding. For now, I continued knitting across 5 more rows in plain ribbing.
In round 70, we have to separate the stitches for the heel flap. This probably involves moving stitches around a bit. You will be knitting the flap first, and joining it later to the instep via a gusset. The flap will be worked with slip stitches to reinforce it and make it more durable.
Round 70: *K2, P2* (6 times), K2
Now, move the stitches around and start with a new needle and *SL1, K1* 12 times.
Slip the remaining stitches (if any) to the third needle. You should have 24 stitches on one needle now. This needle should be directly opposite of the cable in the front with the same amount of ribs on each side before the cable section. For the heel flap, you will be working only those 24 stitches.
- Row 71: *Sl1, P1*
- Row 72: *Sl1, K1*
- Row 73: *Sl1, P1*
Repeat row 72 and 73 fifteen times, ending with a purl row.
(!) Heel flap in different sizes:
If you are knitting bigger or smaller socks with more or fewer stitches, then the formula is the following: Divide stitches by 2 and round down to the next number divisible by 4. So, if you had 60 stitches, then you’d end up with a heel flap of 28 stitches. Adjust the start of the heel flap, so it’s directly opposite of the cable in front. I have a rather narrow foot, that’s why I am knitting it with 24 stitches. If you have a wider foot and broader heel, I recommend you to adjust it accordingly.
Also, the height of the heel (so the number of times you need to repeat row 72&73) obviously depends on your size as well. The flap should be as high as the back of your feet. So, definitely pick up your tape and measure it, and then knit as many rows to get to the size. And definitely err a tiny bit on the upper side or your socks will end up too tight to fit the foot in.
#3 Turning the heel
To turn the heel, you’ll be working in short rows. This might feel a bit weird at first, but once you are finished, you will have knitted all 24 stitches on your heel-flap-needle
- Row 104: *Sl1, K1* (6 times), K1, SSK, K1 <turn the work>
- Row 105: Sl1, P3, P2tog, P1 <turn>
- Row 106: Sl1, knit to 1 stitch before the gap, SSK, K1 <turn>
- Row 107: Sl1, purl to stitch before the gap, P2tog, P1, <turn>
Repeat the last two rows until you have used up all stitches on your needle ending with a purl row and you have 14 stitches remaining on your needle.
Different sizes: If your heel is bigger or smaller, then you have to knit the heel turn as follows. For row 104, repeat *Sl1, K1* until you reach the middle. Then follow the instructions above. So, if you had 28 stitches, then you’d have to repeat it 7 times, then k1, SSK, K1 and turn the work.
#4 Picking up the Gusset
Now, it’s time to join the heel flap to the rest of the sock. You will have to pick up stitches with your crochet needle to do that.
Round 108: Knit 7 stitches, place a stitch marker. This will be the beginning of your new round. Knit 7 stitches. (Note: You are basically knitting across all stitches and placing a marker in the middle of your heel.)
Now, pick up one knit stitch through each slipped stitch of your heel flap all the way down to the instep and slip it onto your needle. Some people prefer to knit into the stitches, but I actually like using a crochet needle more. No matter what you do, avoid twisting the stitches.
You should pick up half as many stitches as you knitted rows for your heel flap. In this case, this would be 17 stitches. Then, pick up one more stitch in the gap between the heel flap and the instep. (if you don’t do this, you’ll end up with a visible hole here).
Try to keep a tight tension. I usually tighten up the stitches with a spare needle before I continue knitting. If your stitches are too loose, then this might create an unstable seam here.
You should now have 18 additional stitches (or however high your heel flap is) on your needle. Place a stitch marker, and continue knitting in the pattern.
In this case, this would be: *K2, P2* (8 times/until the end of the rib section; depending on your sizing, you may have to start the ribbing with a purl, etc) ;
Place a stitch marker, and pick up one more stitch in the gap between the heel flap and the instep, and pick up 16 additional stitches (or however many stitches you require) through each slipped stitch of your heel flap.
You should now have 80 stitches on your needles.
- Round 109: Knit across all stitches until 2 stitches before your first marker, SSK, (slip the marker), continue the ribbing until you reach the second marker, (slip the marker), K2tog, K to the end of the round
- Round 110: Knit all stitches the way they appear
Repeat round 109 and 110 until you decreased your stitch count back to 56 stitches (or however many stitches you cast on) and remember to keep on the cable section with 7 rib rows in between.
Important: Depending on your foot, you may want to decrease even further or keep more stitches on your needle. I have a rather narrow foot, but some have a really wide foot and then you might want a wider footbed as well.Also avoid knitting the decreases as the last stitches on your needle as this may create eyelets.
Also, remember to keep cabling while you decrease stitches. In round 116, you have to start another cable cross according to the pattern detailed in the shaft. So, always 7 rounds in between each cable-cross-section.
#5 Knitting the foot
For the main section of the foot, you continue working the insole in the stockinette stitch and the top in the ribbed cable pattern.
I repeat the cables 7 times (or 22 centimeters) before I start shaping the toes. But obviously this depends on the size of your feet. You basically have to knit across all stitches the way they appear until you reach your pinky toe. Keep 7 rounds between the cable-cross-sections
You should be able to slip into your socks by now. So, slide the stitches to the middle of all needles and carefully try them on. Here’s my full tutorial on how to figure out when to start decreasing the toes.
#6 Shaping the toes
I start the toe before the 7th cable cross after I started with the heel flap. From top to bottom, you should have 12 cables visible and 7 additional rounds after the last crossing on your needles. But again, depending on the size of your feet/gauge, etc, this may be different numbers.
- Toe round 1: Knit to 2 stitches before the marker, k2tog, (slip marker), SSK, continue the ribbing until 2 stitches before the next marker, k2tog, (slip marker), SSK, knit until the end of the round
- Toe round 2: Knit all stitches the way they appear
Repeat these two rounds until you have 24 stitches left on your needles. I start one additional cable cross-section with round 1 which will be finished with round 5. This is entirely optional and may or may not work depending on the length of your foot.
Note: If you have bigger feet, then you may want to space out the decreases so that there are two knit stitches in between. This means, knit to 3 stitches before the marker, k2tog, k1, slip marker, k1, SSK, etc. Also, you may want to decrease all purl stitch with a K2tog tbl instead of an SSK for a neater finish.
- Toe round 17: Knit to 2 stitches before the marker, k2tog, (slip marker), SSK, P1, C4F, C4B, P1, K2tog, (slip marker), SSK, knit until the end of the round.
So, essentially, you are performing one little cable cross towards the end.
- Toe round 18: Knit to 2 stitches before the marker, k2tog, (slip marker), SSK, knit all stitches the way they appear until 2 stitches before the next marker, k2tog, (slip marker), SSK, knit until the end of the round
Repeat round 18 until you have 12 stitches left on your needle.
Cut the working yarn leaving a tail of around 15 inches/30 centimeters, and seam the remaining stitches with a Kitchener Stitch and your tapestry needle.
You can also knit one more round until only 8 stitches remain, thread the tail through all stitches with a tapestry needle, pull tight, and sew over once. This will create a pointed toe. I personally like a flat toe more, but that’s up to your personal preferences.
Now, weave in all tails (cast on and in case you joined in another skein). Avoid tying knots! Your insoles are quite sensitive and you will notice that. If you are one of the knitters with “security anxiety” just weave in a longer tail. I usually split the yarn around a rib. This is almost invisible. Here’s how I weave in the ends.
And that’s it. You finished my men’s sock pattern.
There is no need to block socks nor do I recommend it. The 2×2 rib will make the socks appear quite condenses before the first couple of wears, but it’s much more advisable to let the socks block natural around the feet of the wearer than around sock blockers. I am just using them for the pictures here because you can see the pattern much better.
Feet are warm and you always sweat a little. Those are perfect blocking conditions. If you block them with a sock blocker, you may end up stretching the stitches too much, etc.