A4A always gets fewer of the things that come in pairs -- i.e., socks and mittens. It's true, once a hat is done, it's done. But think of your own kid or a kid you know out on a snowy day with no socks or mittens, and you may feel inspired to give it a shot!!
I'm posting a basic, possibly too long-winded, pattern for a sock to help you out. If you are working with a hefty, "rustic" type of worsted such as Bartlett or Peace Fleece, the following sock recipe will fit kids in the 7-12 age group. If you're using a lighter worsted, such as Galway or Cascade 220, the 40-stitch sock in the series of lessons I posted a couple of years ago (link in the sidebar) will work better.
(Also, if you have bulky yarn -- such as Lopi or Lamb's Pride Bulky -- you can follow the directions for the smallest mitten size in this pattern -- the one that starts with casting on 28 stitches -- and get a well-proportioned mitten that will fit the bigger kids.)
Pattern: 36-stitch sock for heavy worsted
1 skein Bartlett yarn or Peace Fleece, or similar heavy worsted
If you are an "average" knitter, and usually match gauge with the needle recommended in patterns, use size 7 double-pointed needles. If you knit loosely, use 6s or even 5s. If you knit tightly, go up to 8s. You want a gauge that is firmer than sweater gauge.
Cast on 36 stitches, using a stretchy cast-on. (If you do not know a stretchy cast-on, use a needle 2 sizes larger than you will be using for the sock -- just for casting on. Switch to the smaller needles to knit the sock.)
Knit at least 2 inches in the ribbing of your choice -- k2 p2 or k1 p1. You then have the option of continuing in ribbing or switching to stockinette.
Work until the leg, from cast on to the stitches on the needles, measures 6 inches, finishing at the end of the round.
Counting the last stitch you worked as #36, place stitches 19-36 on a strand of yarn and save them for later. Move the remaining stitches so stitches 1-18 are all on one needle.
You will now work the heel flap back and forth, using just two of your needles.
Row 1: *slip 1 as if to purl with yarn in back, knit 1* -- repeat between asterisks all the way across. You will end with a knit stitch.
Row 2: slip first stitch as if to purl, with yarn in front. Purl across until there is one stitch left. Move yarn to back and knit that stitch.
Repeat heel flap rows 1 and 2 until you have worked 18-20 rows -- whichever looks good to you.
Work row 1 one more time.
Turning the heel:
You start on a purl-side row.
Row 1: Slip first stitch as if to purl, p8, p2 tog, p1.
Row 2: Turn work (yes, you are in the middle of the row). Slip first stitch as if to knit, k5, k2 tog, k1. Turn work.
3 (and all subsequent purl-side rows): slip first stitch as if to purl,
purl across until there is 1 stitch left before the gap that was formed
when you turned the work before. Purl that stitch together with the
stitch on the other side of the gap, purl 1. Turn your work.
(and all subsequent knit-side rows): slip first stitch as if to knit,
knit over until you are 1 stitch before the gap formed when you turned
the work before. Knit that stitch together with the stitch on the other
side of the gap, knit 1. Turn work.
Continue working according to
this pattern until you have used up all the stitches. You should finish
at the end of a knit row, with 10 stitches on your needle. If you
have extra stitches, or don't end at the end of a knit row, something
has gone wrong and -- I regret to inform you -- you have to rip out and
one of your empty needles and, starting on the side of the heel flap
where your working yarn is waiting, pick up stitches along one side of
the heel flap. You will see a convenient line of V-shaped stitches along
the side of the flap.
prefer to pick up the stitches by sliding my new needle under both legs
of that V, then "knitting" through it with the working yarn. Pick up a
new stitch for each V along that side edge, all the way to the end of
Now it's time to put your 18 instep stitches back
on a needle. Slide the needle back in along the path marked by your
holder yarn. I leave that yarn in place -- it makes an easy marker to
count from to match the second sock to the first, or if it's necessary
to rip back. You may prefer to remove it. Either way is OK. Knit across
those 18 instep stitches.
Now pick up stitches
along the second side of the heel flap. Follow the same technique you
used on the first side, making sure you have the same number of stitches
here as on the first side. (Sometimes you have to "invent" one to make
all 4 of your needles are full of stitches. What to do? With the needle
that just finished picking up your heel flap stitches, knit 5
stitches from the next needle. Slide the other 5 stitches onto the
next needle. You are now at the exact center of the back of the heel, with your stitches on three needles and the fourth needle free.
You have 18 stitches on your instep needle, and 15 stitches on
each of the side needles. (Sometimes I get an extra stitch, for 16 -- as
long as both sides are the same, that's fine.)
Work one round plain.
you will gradually decrease the number of stitches on those side
needles, until you're back to 9 on each. The 18 stitches on the
instep needle remain constant. Work as follows:
on needle 1 (that's the one that goes from the center heel up to the
instep needle) knit until you have 3 stitches left, k2 together, k1.
Knit across the 18 instep stitches. On needle 3 (that's the one that
goes from the instep needle back to the center of the heel) k1, ssk
[slip 1 as if to knit, slip 1 as if to knit, insert lefthand needle from
left to right through front of those 2 stitches and knit them
together), knit to end of needle.
Work 1 round plain.
Repeat these two rounds until each of the side needles has 9 stitches.
Continue in stockinette until the foot of the sock, measured from the back of the heel to the stitches on the needles, measures 6.5 to 7.5 inches.
Start decreasing for toe as follows. (Each round begins at the center of the heel -- the point between the 2 side needles.
Round 1: knit until you have 3 stitches left on the first side needle, k2 tog, k1. On the instep needle, k1, ssk), knit until 3 stitches remain on the needle, k2 tog, k1. On third needle, k1, ssk, knit to end of round. You will have 8 stitches on each side needle and 16 stitches on the instep needle.
Round 2: Knit around.
Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until you have a total of 16 stitches remaining. Now repeat round 1 only until you have 8 stitches on your instep needle and 4 on each side needle. Knit across the last 4 stitches so you have 8 stitches on the instep needle and 8 stitches on the back needle.
You will graft the instep stitches to the back stitches, a procedure known as grafting, or Kitchener stitch.
Cut the yarn, leaving about 18 inches (more than you need, but why gamble at this point?). Use that tail to thread a sewing-up needle. The yarn is coming out of the last stitch on the back needle; the needle with the instep stitches is in front.
step 1: Draw the
sewing-up needle through the first stitch on the front needle as if to
knit and take it off the needle. Thread the sewing-up needle through the
next stitch on the front needle as if to purl; pull yarn through and
leave that stitch on the needle.
Move yarn from front to back. Now, put the sewing-up needle through the
first stitch on the back needle as if to purl, pull yarn through, and
remove that stitch from the needle. Put sewing-up needle through next
stitch on back needle as if to knit; pull yarn through and leave that
stitch on the needle. Move yarn back to front, and repeat steps 1 and 2
until you've used up all the stitches.
It's an easy rhythm: one
off, one on, switch needles. One off, one on, switch needles. Just pay
attention to which way you're putting the sewing-up needle through the
stitches. "As if to knit" means left to right; "as if to purl" means
right to left. You should get a magical row of little V's, like
stockinette stitch. If you get little U's, like garter stitch, you're
putting your sewing-up needle in backward.
Last stitch -- thread
yarn through and snug it up. This always gives me a nasty little point,
sometimes called an "ear." I don't know if this is technically proper,
but here's how I make it go away. With sewing-up needle, move one stitch
away from the toe, into the sock, pull the yarn all the way through,
and give it a little tug. It should disappear. You might have a tiny
little bump left, but it smooths right out.
Make sock #2.