Evil Sock Genius Lessons

These lessons walk you through knitting a toe-up sock with any yarn, any gauge, to fit any size.
For more concise instructions to knit a typical sock from typical sock yarn, see Evil Genius Socks - Redux.


  • Desirable yarn.
  • Long, circular needle in appropriate size for the yarn. Cable should be at least 32 or 40 inches long. Knit Picks and Addi Turbos have superior cables: soft and flexible.
  • Stitch markers; coil-less safety pin type is recommended.

Evil Geniuses explore new tools & techniques.

Magic Loop is a method of knitting a sock (or other small circumference) using a long circular needle. When knitting, the back half of your sock hangs in the middle of your needle cable. There will be two big loops of cable on either side, and you work across the front of your sock with the ends of the circular needle. Type "magic loop" into your favorite search engine to find videos and illustrations.

Evil Geniuses hate wasting time.  Just start knitting.

The toe of your sock is your gauge swatch. Grab a circular needle in the size indicated on the yarn band (or one size smaller), then use Turkish Cast-On.

Turkish Cast-On

  • Hold your circular needle so that both ends are together, pointed to the right.
  • Pull the bottom needle to the right, so your top needle is held together with the bottom cord.
  • Start your yarn in back of the needles, leaving a 12" tail hanging.
  • Wrap the yarn over toward you, down across the front and up the back of the needles.
  • Wrap until you have the same number of loops as the yarn label says there are in an inch.

Rounded Toe

  • Knit across the stitches on the "top" needle. Be sure to keep your stitches snug on the "bottom" needle.
  • Hold working yarn and tail together, and work 1 round. (This doubles the number of loops on each side.)
  • Drop the tail, and knit one round, working one stitch in each loop.

Toe Increases

  • Knit 2, YO, knit until 2 stitches remain on that side, YO, knit 2. Repeat for other side.
  • Knit round, making sure to twist the yarnovers by knitting into their backs. (Note: You can "mirror" the increases by twisting them in different directions).
  • Repeat these two rounds until your toe is the right circumference. I find that 8.5 inches around is a good target, or about 10% less than the circumference of the intended wearer's foot.
Be careful not to increase too many times. If the sock toe fits over all five toes, then it's too big. If it fits over all except the "pinkie" toe, then it's probably the right size.

By the time you reach the desired circumference, you are far enough that you can check your gauge and whether you like the resulting fabric. Not much time is invested, so it's easy to start over, but if it's good, then you didn't waste that time doing a gauge swatch. 

Evil Geniuses can knit both socks at once, but they don't always want to.

Before going on to knit the foot, decide whether you want to knit one sock at a time, or both at once. It's not that tricky to do both at once. The tubes sit side by side on your loop. You knit across the front stitches of one tube, drop the yarn, then knit across the front stitches of the other.

Yarmando finds that he works faster knitting one sock at a time, but when he wants to avoid tedious row counting to make the second sock match the first, he'll do both at once. He makes one toe, sets it aside, makes the second toe, and then puts both socks on the loop. When he reaches the heel, he sets one sock aside; it's too much trouble doing both heels at once.

Knitting the Foot

Now you just keep knitting around until you've reached the desired length before your gusset increases. If you wish, you can work ribbing or some other pattern across the instep. Meanwhile, it's time to begin plotting your domination of the heel. 

Evil Geniuses do not guess.  Measure and count so your sock is the size you want it to be.

Many patterns have instructions like "Knit until sock is 3 inches shorter than desired length."  This is imprecise.  Your sock will fit better if you think about what you're doing.

Using Rounds-Per-Inch

Count how many rows (or rounds) work out to an inch. Multiply that by the length of the foot this sock is meant to fit. Got it?

Now find your sock's stitch circumference on the chart. Subtract the number of designated gusset/heel rounds from your total number of rounds. You now know how many rounds to knit before starting the gussets.

28 19
32 22
36 25
40 30
44 30
48 33
52 38
56 38
60 41
64 46
68 46
72 49
76 54
80 57

Rounds per inch =

Length of foot =


Multiply together for
total sock length


Gusset/heel rounds =


Subtract to find length
of sock before gussets


Gusset Increases

If you haven't yet decided, decide now which side of your sock is the top (instep) and which is the bottom (sole).
  • On the sole side, knit 1, YO, knit until 1 stitch remains on that side, YO, knit 1. Knit instep side plain (or in pattern that you've established).
  • Knit round, making sure to twist the yarnovers by knitting into their backs. (Note: You can "mirror" the increases by twisting them in different directions).
  • Knit round.
  • Work these three rounds the designated number of times until you reach the total number of stitches after gusset increases on the charts below.

Original circumference 28 32 36 40 44 48 52
Gusset increase repeats 5 6 7 8 8 9 10
Stitches after gussets 38 44 50 56 60 66 72

Original circumference 56 60 64 68 72 76 80
Gusset increase repeats 10 11 12 12 13 14 15
Stitches after gussets 76 82 88 92 98 104 110

Evil Geniuses are not constrained by rules.

The great Cat Bordhi discovered that gusset increases in this section can be placed anywhere on the sock and it will still fit. All you have to do is increase at the rate of 2 stitches every three rounds. The instructions here produce a conventional, normal-looking sock, but as your genius develops, follow Bordhi's lead and explore the possibilities before you.

Turning the Heel

(See also Detailed Instructions for this section)

Identify the center of your sole. This will also be the center of your heel stitches. Place markers to identify the heel (see chart below -- if your heel base is 14 stitches, then you will place markers 7 stitches to either side of the center of your sole).
  • Knit to 2 stitches before the end of heel stitches. M1, K1, wrap & turn.
  • P3, place turning marker, purl to 2 stitches before end of heel. M1, P1, wrap & turn.
  • K3, place turning marker, knit to the marker you place on the last row. M1, K1, wrap & turn.
  • P3, replace turning marker, purl to the turning marker. M1, P1, wrap & turn.
Repeat the last two rows the designated number of times, until the stitches between your heel markers equals the designated number of heel flap stitches on the chart.

Original circumference 28 32 36 40 44 48 52
Heel base stitches
8 10
12 12
14 16 16
Short row turns
4 4 4 6 6 6 8
Heel flap stitches
12 14 16 18 20 22 24

Original circumference 56 60 64 68 72 76 80
Heel base stitches
18 20 20 22 24 24 26
Short row turns
8 8 10 10 10 12 12
Heel flap stitches
26 28 30 32 34 36 38

Finishing the Heel Base and Knitting the Heel Flap

Your last turn should bring the knit side facing. Knit a complete round, working the wraps together with the stitches that they wrapped. You can discard the turning markers, but keep the heel markers.

Continue knitting around, up to but not including the last stitch heel stitch. Get the marker out of your way and join the last heel stitch with the first gusset stitch with SSK (or Slip 1, K1, PSSO). Turn.
  • Slip first stitch, purl up to last heel stitch, and purl that stitch together with gusset stitch. Turn.
  • Slip 1, knit 1, repeat across heel flap. SSK the last heel stitch with the next gusset stitch. Turn.
Repeat these rows, knitting the heel flap upwards while consuming your gusset stitches. Finish when your SSK leaves only one stitch remaining before the instep stitches (two stitches remain on the other side of the heel flap).
  • Knit the last stitch, then knit across instep.
  • Knit the first stitch after the instep, K2tog, knit across heel flap stitches.


Work the leg of your sock in whatever pattern strikes your fancy. A simple ribbing is always a good choice. The length is completely up to you.

Stretchy Bind-Off

Nothing ruins your work on a pair of socks like binding off too tightly. There are a few techniques you can use to make sure socks aren't too tight at the top: bind off with a larger needle, add yarn-over stitches to your binding, Elizabeth Zimmerman's sewn bind-off, etc.

This one is easy, fast, and elastic. Work two stitches in pattern, then slide them both back over to the left needle and knit them together through the back loops. Work the next stitch, slide the two active stitches back to the left hand needle and knit them together through the back loop. Continue until finished.

Evil Geniuses gloat.

Break yarn, weave in the ends, and laugh your Evil Genius laugh as you ponder the masterpiece of your perfect sock creation.

Evil Geniuses credit their muses.

Yarmando licenses "Evil Sock Genius Lessons" under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.  Feel free to use for non-commercial purposes, and if you adapt it, please give credit.  Yarmando would like to give credit to the others who inspired this pattern.