Knitting two socks on two circular needles simultaneously is a bit of knitterly magic that, like so many other things in knitting, seems a lot more complicated than it is. The first time you knit two socks at the same time, you will more than likely be quite confused. Trust that everything will work out, and soon you may be wondering why you ever knit socks one at a time: no second sock syndrome!
Understanding how to knit one sock on two circular needles will make this tutorial easier to understand. That technique breaks the stitches of a sock up into two halves, with half on one circular needle and half on the other. The halves are worked sequentially; each half is knit using the needle tips of the cord holding its stitches. Here, the first half of each sock is on one needle, and the second half of each sock is on the second.
The tutorial is designed to ease the learning curve: rather than make a full-fledged adult sock the instructions are for a small sample. They won't fit any particular foot, though they do have all the parts of a real sock; they're just for practice. Working at the scale of medium weight yarn makes it easier to see what's happening and understand how all the parts fit together as you make two socks at the same time.
- k = knit
- k2tog = knit two sts together as one
- p = purl
- rep = repeat
- rnd(s) = round(s)
- RS = right side; the public side of the work
- sl = slip
- ssk = slip, slip, knit two slipped sts together through the back loop
- st(s) = stitch(es)
- WS = wrong side; the inside of the work
When selecting the two circular needles, try to find two that are different in some way. They can be different materials, colors, or lengths; just something if that makes it easier for you to tell them apart.
Start with your yarn wound into two balls; each sock will be knit with its own ball of yarn. Since you're just practicing, you might even want to make the socks in two different colors to remind you to switch balls when you change which sock you're working.
Equipment / Tools
- 2 16 to 24-inch circular needles in size appropriate for the yarn
- stitch marker or safety pin
- Yarn or tapestry needle
- 40 yard worsted weight smooth yarn in light or bright color, wound in two separate balls
Sock 1: Cast On
When knitting two socks at a time on two circular needles, you don't knit all of Sock 1 and then all of Sock 2. You knit the first half of Sock 1, then the first half of Sock 2; these stitches will conveniently be on the same needle. Then you switch to the other needle to knit the second half of Sock 2, followed by the second half of Sock 2. To begin, all the stitches of the first sock are cast on at once.
With needle A (clear tips) and yarn ball A, cast on 20 stitches.
Sock 1: Join in the Round
Slip 10 stitches from needle A to needle B (silver tips). Move the stitches from the needle tips they're currently on to the other end. Now you need to join your stitches into a round so that you can knit them like a tube.
If your needles aren't the same length, be careful not to slide the stitches off the shorter needle.
Thread the yarn tail from the cast-on on a yarn needle; insert the needle the yarn through the first stitch on the opposite side from where the tail is. The first sock is cast on and ready to knit.
Sock 2: Cast On and Join
Slide the stitches of the first sock back onto the cables of the needles so they're out of the way and in no danger of falling off while you set up the second sock.
- With needle A and yarn ball B, cast on 20 stitches. Put half the stitches on needle B and join in the round as before.
There are now two socks on two needles, A (clear tips) and B (silver tips), with half of the stitches for each sock on each one of the needles.
Mark which sock is the first sock. Place other markers to indicate the ends of the round. While this isn't as crucial if you're using needles that don't match, it is always helpful to have reminders of where you are in circular knitting.
First Half of Sock 1
Turn the needles so you can knit the stitches from the first half of the first sock: the needle A tip holding the first half of the sock should be in your left hand. Take the other end of needle A in your right hand.
- Using the two ends of needle A, and the attached working yarn from yarn ball A, knit the stitches from the first half of Sock 1 from one end to the other end.
If this were an actual sock, you'd probably work ribbing here; for this sample sock tutorial, knit across all 10 stitches.
First Half of Sock 2
The first half of Sock 2 is also on needle A. Slide the stitches of the first half of Sock 1 down onto the cables to keep them out of the way.
- Continue using the two ends of needle A, but the attached working yarn from yarn ball B, knit the stitches from the first half of the Sock 2 from one end to the other end.
Remember: you're working with two ends of needle A, and the ball of yarn attached to Sock 2, not the one used for Sock 1.
Finishing the First Round
For the second half of the round, you are switching from needle A to B. This time you begin with the Sock 2. Flip the work around so you have access to Needle B and its stitches.
- Push the stitches of the second half of Sock 2 up on the end of needle B; using the other end of needle B and yarn ball B, knit 10 stitches.
Slide the stitches of Sock 2 onto the cable so they are out of the way. The second half of Sock 1 is also on needle B.
- Continuing with the two ends of needle B but the yarn from yarn ball A, knit 10 stitches from the second half of Sock 1 from one end to the other.
You've now finished one round of knitting on two socks at once.
Continue in working around as above, working in order and using needle A for the first halves and needle B for the second halves: first half of Sock 1, first half of Sock 2, second half of Sock 2, second half of Sock 1.
Work in stockinette stitch (knit all rounds) for the leg portion of your practice sock, until you're nice and comfortable with the process—approximately 2 inches.
With the sock legs the specified (or desired) length, it's time to work the heel. Heel flaps are worked flat back and forth on half the stitches of a sock. This means you'll be working back and forth on just one needle (B) too, while the other half of the stitches rest on the other needle (A). The heels of the sample sock are worked in garter stitch.
- Next row: for Sock 1, sl1 pwise, k10 sts; for Sock 2, sl1 pwise, k10 sts.
Repeat this row until 10 rows have been worked; end on a right side row.
Turning the Heels and First Gusset
To turn a heel, you have to work short rows. This means you aren't working across all the stitches of a single sock's heel on every row. When you're working socks two at a time, it's easiest to complete one heel turn before starting the other.
Once the heel has been worked, pick up and knit gusset stitches along the left side of the first sock's heel flap, 1 st in each slipped stitch.
Adjust the needles as necessary to do the same thing on the second sock. Leave the second half of the heel flap for now.
To get the yarn in position for picking up the remaining stitches along the other sides of the heel flaps, it's time to reactivate needle A.
- Next first half: using needle A and yarn ball A, knit from the last picked-up stitch of the left gusset on Sock 1 across the 10 instep stitches; continuing with needle A and yarn ball B, knit from the last picked-up stitch of the left gusset on Sock 2 across the 10 instep stitches.
- Next second half: using needle B and continuing with yarn ball B, pick up 1 stitch in each slipped stitch along the right side of the Sock 2's heel flap, then knit across remaining heel and gusset stitches of Sock 2; continuing with needle B and yarn ball A, pick up 1 stitch in each slipped stitch along the right side of the Sock 1's heel flap, then knit across remaining heel and gusset stitches of Sock 1.
Traditionally the center back of the heel is considered the beginning of the round once the heel turn has been worked, but here it's the end of this needle. Once you understand the movement of the stitches around the needles, adjust to fit your preferences.
Gusset Decreases and Foot
The gusset stitches are now decreased away until the original number of stitches has been restored. Remember that the stitches that are decreased are all on that first needle; the stitches that weren't part of the heel are worked even.
If you had been working a pattern stitch on the leg of your sock that continued on the foot, you would continue to work it only on the stitches on the second needle.
- Decrease rnd, first half: using needle A, yarn ball A, and working on Sock 1, k1, k2tog, knit to last 3 sts from the end of the first half of the sock, ssk, k1; using needle A, yarn ball B, and working on Sock 2, k1, k2tog, knit to last 3 sts from the end of the first part of the sock, ssk, k1.
- Decrease rnd, second half: using needle B, knit.
- Next rnd: using appropriate needle, knit.
Repeat last two rounds until there are 20 stitches remaining in each sock.
Work even, without decreasing for about seven rnds, or about 1 inch for the sample sock.
On the first half of the sample sock,
- Decrease rnd, first half: using needle A, yarn ball A, and working on Sock 1, k1, k2tog, knit to 3 stitches from end, ssk, k1; using needle A, yarn ball B, and working on Sock 2, k1, k2tog, knit to 3 stitches from end, ssk, k1.
- Decrease rnd, second half: using needle B, yarn ball B, and working on Sock 2, k1, k2tog, knit to 3 stitches from end, ssk, k1; using needle B, yarn ball A, and working on Sock 1, k1, k2tog, knit to 3 stitches from end, ssk, k1;
- Next rnd: using appropriate needle, knit.
Repeat these two rounds until 12 stitches remain.
If you were knitting socks that were meant to be worn by a person, you would probably want to graft the toes closed one at a time in the same way that you would if you were knitting a single sock at a time.
For the demonstration socks, simply cut the working yarn, threaded it onto a yarn needle and fasten off the remaining stitches as you would to close a hat.
Pull tight and you've just finished two socks at once.