Mastermind

Several years ago, I devised the Evil Sock Genius Lessons, instructions for making socks with any yarn, any gauge. Over time, I have tweaked and refined these guidelines, and now present a basic men's sock pattern that is, like the best work of an Evil Genius, sheer elegance in its simplicity.

Target

Sock circumference 8½ inches, to fit someone with a mid-foot circumference of 9½ inches.
For larger or smaller feet, see Mastermind - Sizing Variations.
Target gauge is 8½ st/in. This is slightly tighter than usually called for.

Weapons

  • Desirable fingering-weight sock yarn.
  • U.S. size 1 ½ (2.5 mm) circular needle (or size to get gauge), at least 32 inches long. Knit Picks and Addi Turbos have superior cables: soft and flexible.
  • Stitch markers; coil-less safety pin type is recommended.

Special Skills

  • Magic Loop.  Let me Google that for you.
  • Turkish Cast-On or Judy's Magic Cast-On.
  • Various Increase Methods. The different techniques for adding stitches produce different effects, and alter the knit fabric in subtle ways. Feel free to use whatever increases you prefer.
    • KLL: Insert the left needle into the left side of the stitch two rows below the stitch on the right needle; knit the back of the lifted stitch.
    • KRL: Insert the right needle into the right side of the stitch one row below the stitch on the left needle; place that stitch on the left needle, knit it, then knit the next stitch.
    • M1L: Yarnover. In the next round, twist the yarnover by knitting through the back loop.
    • M1R: Yarnover. In the next round, twist the yarnover by working as k-twist (see below).
    • k-twist:  Slip yarnover stitch knitwise onto the right needle, changing its mount. Slip the stitch back to the left needle purlwise; the front leg of the stitch now lies in back of the needle while the back leg of the stitch comes down the front of the needle. Knit the back leg like it's a normal stitch, which further twists it to the right.

Knitting the Toe

Begin with your favorite toe-creation method.  If you don't have one, try this. 
  • Cast on 14 stitches using Turkish cast on and knit 1.5 rounds.  (Or, use Judy's Magic Cast-On, putting 14 stitches on each needle, and knit 1 round).
Begin to think of the first 14 stitches as the sole (bottom) of the foot, and the other 14 stitches as the instep (top).
  • Knit 1, KRL, knit until 1 st remains on the sole, KLL, knit 1. Repeat for instep.
  • Knit 2, M1L, knit until 2 sts remain on the sole, M1R, knit 2. Repeat for instep.
  • Knit round plain. (If you used yarnovers to increase in the previous round, be sure to twist them in this round).
Repeat the last two rounds until there are 26 stitches per side, 52 stitches total.
  • Knit 2, M1L, knit until 2 sts remain on the sole, M1R, knit 2. Repeat for instep.
  • Knit two rounds plain.
Repeat the last three rounds until there are 36 stitches per side, 72 stitches total.


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.

When your sock is about 5 inches long, measure the length of 51 rows (rounds). It's probably between 3.5 - 4 inches.  This is your gusset and heel length -- let's call it "Gus." I recommend rounding "Gus" up a bit, which will help keep your sock from being too long.

Continue working until your sock is "Gus" inches shorter than the total length of your foot.

Gusset Increases

  • To set up for gussets
  • Knit 6, place marker, knit 12.
This is the new beginning of your round, so adjust your Magic Loop by pulling a loop out through the middle of your instep. In this section, you will knit the left side of your sock, then knit the right side.
  • First gusset increases
  • Knit 12, place marker, M1L, knit to next marker, M1R, slip marker, knit to end of round.
  • Knit 2 rounds plain.
  • Additional gusset increases
  • Knit to marker, slip marker, M1L, knit to second marker, M1R, slip marker, knit to end of round.
  • Knit 2 rounds plain.
Continue working gusset increases on every third round until you have increased 13 times (98 stitches total). Next you'll work short rows between the stitch markers to turn the heel; feel free to adjust your Magic Loop to make this chore easier.

Turning the Heel

  • Knit 10 stitches (2 stitches before marker). Turn work.
  • Slip 1, purl 19 (2 stitches before marker on other side). Turn work
  • Slip 1, knit 18. Turn.
  • Slip 1, purl 17. Turn.
Continue working short rows, ending with "Slip 1, purl 11. Turn."

Transition round
Slip 1, knit 11. You should now be at a gap left by the turning on the previous short row. Make 1 stitch in the gap by picking up the thread running between the stitch on your left and the stitch one row below the stitch on your right needle. Repeat  [K1, M1 in gap] another 4 times.  Continue knitting around the sock until you return to the marker on the right side of the heel.  Knit 2, then repeat [M1 in gap, K1] 5 times.
You should now have 34 stitches between your markers; these stitches will be worked as the heel flap.

Knitting the Heel Flap

I describe a plain stockinette heel flap here. If you prefer, there is nothing stopping you from working traditional heel stitch or "Eye of the Partridge" for your heel flap.

Knit 23, up to but not including the last heel stitch. Get the marker out of your way and join the last heel stitch with the first gusset stitch with SSK. Turn.
  • Slip first stitch, purl up to last heel stitch, and purl that stitch together with gusset stitch. Turn.
  • Slip 1, knit 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. At some point, you will need to readjust your Magic Loop so that your 36 instep stitches are on one side, while you work the remaining stitches -- all heel and gusset -- on the other.

Finish when your SSK leaves only 1 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.

Cuff

Work the leg of your sock in whatever pattern strikes your fancy. A simple ribbing is always a good choice. I typically work 6-12 rounds in plain stockinette, then start my cuff ribbing. 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; Elizabeth Zimmerman's sewn bind-off and Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off are common solutions.

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.

Now clone it, so you have a pair.

Evil Geniuses credit their muses.

Yarmando licenses "Mastermind" 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.