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To Bee or not to Bee Sox by LynnH

This sock is a quick knit and a lot of fun! Use yellow and black with a striped foot for a Bee look, or use a variegated yarn for the main color with a solid foot, for a more sophisticated look. If you use a dark color for Contrast Color/CC and a multi for the Main Color/CC, it can have a stained-glass look.

Because all the patterns are created using slipped stitches rather than fair-isle stranding, I can easily complete this pattern in two days. I started my first adult-sized sock at 8pm one day and finished it at 5:30pm the next, with plenty of other tasks besides knitting during that period of time.

I've made the pattern easy to adjust to fit any size foot. The example given is for approximately a woman's medium size.

Added note, August 2007: Many thanks to Will Cronk/The Knitted Man and Diana Troldahl/Otterwise for assistance in making this pattern much better than the original version posted many years ago.

Here in 2007, I have added a different way of using color and an optional shorter cuff, as well as a stitch count revision and a few added hints. Essential changes/corrections are shown in the current version of the pattern, in this dark red text.

To Bee or not to Bee Sox by LynnH copyright 2005

Copyright, Lynn DT Hershberger 2001-2007

Gauge: 7.5 stitches per inch (Stockinette and Slip Stitch). Often the slip stitch takes a larger needle for the same gauge. You can adjust to a different gauge/size, using knit-to-fit instructions.

Needle Size: Start a swatch in the tiny bee slip-stitch pattern on US 2/ 2.75mm needles, adjusting for your own personal gauge. Knit the rib (and perhaps the foot, adjusting if you have a gauge change) in a needle 1-2 size(s) smaller.

Yarn: For Bee colorway: at least 175m/ 191yd of CC (black) and slightly less of MC (yellow) as written. For solid-foot version, at least 300m/ 325yd of variegated and at least 75m/ 80yd of contrasting solid. My original yarn would classify as heavy fingering weight or thin sport weight.

Yarn Hint: If you use a variegated yarn, choose a coordinating solid that is not a color in the variegated colorway. The color contrast will be much more distinct if you do. I prefer variegated for the MC (yellow in bee-colored photo).

Planning Your Size

If you have the same gauge as me, and want a woman's medium (US shoe 8-9, foot circumference ~8.33", sock circ. 7.5" sock length 9.25"), you can skip this. However you may wish to adjust the pattern to another gauge or foot size, in which case, read on!

Use the ball-of-foot measurement (or ankle measurement for cuff if they are significantly different) times the number of stitches per inch in your gauge. Round to a multiple of 4 and then subtract 4 for the rib stitch count, which makes the rib fit snugly. At the beginning of the leg patterning, you will increase by 4 or 8 stitches to a multiple of 8, to accommodate the slip-stitch pattern.

Example: My rib/cast on stitch count is 56. I found that number by taking 8" which is my ankle circumference measurement, times 7.5 sts/inch, coming up with 60 sts. This was my ballpark stitch count. However, this pattern has a rib stitch repeat of four stitches, and a cuff stitch repeat of 8 stitches. I divided 60 by 4 and got 15 (since it was an even number I didn't need to round further, you may need to round). I then subtracted 1 repeat (4 stitches) which gave me 14 repeats x 4 stitches per repeat. This made 56 stitches for the rib.

We will increase by 4 or 8 stitches when we end the rib and begin the leg.

Note: for the leg of this pattern, I did not decrease by 10%-20% for a snug fit as I might with a single-color leg. (I feel that slip-stitch knitting does not stretch enough for that.) If you wish to do it anyway, figure in the decreased number of stitches before rounding to the multiples of 4 and 8. Remember that the slip-stitch patterning of the cuff likely will not stretch as well as rib or stockinette fabric might.


Cast on 56 stitches (or other multiple of 4 - see above) in Contrast Color (CC/Black), using your favorite method. Distribute onto 3 or 4 smaller needles (size US 1 or 1-1/2), so that each needle has a multiple of 4 stitches. Join in a ring, being careful not to twist stitches around needles.


Round 1: K3P1 in CC
Round 2: K all stitches in CC. This prevents the purl stitches from peeking yellow through the rib when you change color. It will stretch fine.
Rounds 3-11: K3P1 in Main Color (MC/Yellow or Variegated) circularly on the smaller needles for 9 rounds (or until rib measures 1-1/4 inches).


Round up to a number divisible by 8. In my case, I rounded up to 64 stitches.

Purl Ridge:

Round 1: K entire Round in CC.
Rounds 2 & 3: P entire Round in CC.
Round 4: K entire Round in CC, increasing by 8 stitches (or the right number for you) .

Switch to (larger) needles if you need them to get gauge. Hint: Always pick up new colored yarn from the right/underneath, dropping old color above and to the left.

Tiny Bee Band:

Rounds 5-7: *K3 MC, Slip 1 (as if to purl)* Repeat to end.
Round 8: K even in CC
Rounds 9-11: K1 MC, *Slip 1 (as if to purl), K3 MC, * Repeat (ends with K2MC).
Round 12: Repeat Round 8
(If you wish a shorter leg, skip to Bubbly-Bee Bands.)
Rounds 13-15: Repeat Rounds 5-7.
Round 16: Repeat Round 8

Bubbly-Bee Bands:

Rounds 17-22 (six Rounds): *Slip 2 (as if to purl), K6 MC* Repeat to end.
(If you wish a shorter leg, knit 2 rounds even in CC at Round 23, rather than one.)
Round 23: K even in CC
Round 24-29 (six Rounds): K4 MC, *Slip 2 (as if to purl), K6 MC* Repeat (ends with K2MC).
(If you wish a shorter leg, skip to Final Purl Ridge.)
Round 30: K even in CC
Rounds 31-36: Repeat Rounds 17-22
Rounds 37 & 38: K even in CC (two rounds total).
Rounds 39-44: Repeat Rounds 24-29.
Rounds 45 & 46: K even in CC (two rounds total).
Rounds 47-52: Repeat Rounds 17-22
Rounds 53-55: K even in CC (THREE rounds total).
Rounds 56-61: Repeat Rounds 24-29.

Final Purl Ridge:

Round 62: K entire Round in CC.
Rounds 63 & 64: P entire Round in CC.
Round 65: Knit all stitches in CC. If you wish to decrease the number of stitches for the foot, you can decrease evenly on this final knit Round. In order to have the sock fit snugly inside my shoe, I decreased by 8 stitches, ending with a stitch count of 56.

Note: For this stockinette foot, it is good to have the sock measure smaller than your foot measurement by 10-20%.


Re-distribute stitches so that half of your stitches (I have 28 after decreasing on Round 65) are on needle #1. This will become your heel flap, no breaking of CC yarn required. Break Main Color (yellow) yarn only.

Place remaining stitches on needles or waste yarn to hold until gusset and instep are worked.


  • All slipped stitches are slipped as if to purl. This avoids twisted stitches.
  • This is a no-purl flap, not standard heel stitch.
  • If you choose to use reinforcing thread, add it now.
Row 1: With yarn in front, Slip 1, pass yarn to back, K1. *Slip 1, K1* until end (always knit last stitch in row).
Row 2: (Turn sock around, to knit heel flap flat.) With yarn in front, Slip 1, pass yarn to back, Knit remaining stitches (don't purl).

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until you have a heel flap measuring 2-1/4" to 3", depending on the height of your own heel/instep. (It should measure just longer than the height from floor to the indentation between your heel and ankle at the back of your foot). End with a knit (no slip) even-numbered row. I had 30 rows.

Note: This heel stitch is compressed vertically (although stretchy) and will likely require more rows than standard heel stitch. Also, the Dutch heel turn I am using can need a bit more height than a standard round/half-handkerchief heel. Don't skimp on heel flap height. I typically make mine 1/8" shorter than the measurement from the floor to the indent above my heel. If you can not measure the foot for which you are knitting, knit two rows more than the number of stitches on your heel flap.


  • These instructions assume you have an even number of stitches (I have 28). If you did not perform the decreases at the top of the heel flap, you will need to either increase or decrease by one stitch early in the first row, before beginning this heel turn.
  • Instructions are for the heel stitch pattern to continue in the heel turn. This choice makes a cohesive design and is springy underfoot.
Place marker at middle of heel flap.

Row 1 (right side): With yarn in front, Slip 1, move yarn to back, *K1, Sl 1* until you are 3 sts past marker (last stitch should be a slip), K2tog, turn sock physically around so that the inside faces TOWARD you. You should not have finished all the stitches in the row.

Knit-to-fit note: If you are making a man's extra-large sock, you may choose to knit 5 sts past marker... but this will create a very wide heel. Conversely, if you have a very narrow heel or are making a baby sock, you might try 1 stitch past center (the Dutch heel makes a band which appears 2 stitches wider than twice the number of knit stitches past the marker, before turning. The band sits entirely underneath your heel when worn). If you use only 1 stitch past center, you will probably need to make your heel flap a few rows longer than usual, to adjust for the flap pulling under your foot more.

Row 2 (inside): With yarn in front, Sl 1, move yarn to back, Knit to 3 sts past marker (in other words, K6 sts), SSK, turn.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until all stitches are decreased. Finish with row 2. You should end up with 2 stitches more than the heel band width (I had a 6 stitch band and I ended up with 8 stitches on the needle). If you have been using reinforcing thread, discontinue it now.


If you are making the striped foot, continue using Contrast Color. If you are making a solid-colored foot, switch to MC. You can break yarn when changing colors if you prefer, but my instructions will include a method for carrying unused yarn so you have fewer ends to finish when you are done.

Round 1: With CC in front, Knit 1, move yarn to back, continuing to knit across half the total heel stitches (4 stitches on this needle in my case). This will become your final needle.

Start a new needle (#1). With CC, knit across the rest of heel flap (4 more stitches). Continuing with same needle, pick up stitches from the side of the heel flap (1 stitch in every chain stitch on the edge), plus pick up one stitch in the gusset corner. For me, I had 30 rows so I picked up 15 plus 1 and got 16 total picked-up stitches, ending up with 20 sts on needle #1.

Knit even in CC across instep, using 1 or 2 needles to hold instep stitches, as you prefer. (I had 28 stitches on my instep needle.)

With final needle, pick up and knit one stitch in the gusset corner and then continue to pick up the same number of stitches from the side of the heel flap as on the first needle. Continuing with the same needle, knit the few stitches you started with (I have 4) onto this final needle.

If you are using my stitch count, it should now be 68 stitches (i.e., 20,28,20).


Round 1: (I consider Round 1 to be the Round where you picked up the gusset stitches, as it makes counting Rounds easier while you decrease.)
Round 2: (All sts in CC)
Needle #1: Knit until the last 3 stitches on needle, K2 tog, K1.
Instep Needle(s): K all stitches.
Final Needle: K1, SSK, Knit even to end of round.
Round 3: Change to MC. Knit even entire round.
Round 4: With MC, repeat decrease Round 2.

Hint: After knitting Round 4, dangle sock by both yarns and rotate sock one full turn to snug unused CC while not in use. (If you prefer, you can instead drop the working yarn to the left and pick up the "spare" yarn color from the bottom to the right, then repeat dropping spare yarn and grab the working yarn from the bottom to the right, or use your favorite method to catch the unused color.) When you pick up MC to knit again, the CC should be wrapped around it once at the base where it connects to the sock. Pull unused color gently out of the way and continue knitting with your working yarn.

Rounds 5, 7, & 9: With CC, repeat knit-even Round 3.
Round 6, 8 & 10: With CC, repeat decrease pattern from Round 2.
Rounds 11 & 12: With MC, repeat Rounds 3 & 4.

From here on, *Knit 6 Rounds CC, Knit 2 Rounds MC* decreasing every other Round as above until total stitches equal your desired number of stitches for the foot. Continue to rotate sock/twist yarns together after each Round 3 or Round 4.

Knit-to-fit note: My final foot stitch count goal is 52. I found that number by taking 8" which is my ball of foot measurement, times 7.5 sts/inch, coming up with 60 sts. Then I subtracted 10% for snugger fit on the foot, coming up with 54. It will be easier to decrease for the toe if you have a multiple of 4 stitches, and it is necessary to have an even number of stitches in any case, so round up/down as you deem necessary. I rounded down to 52. Remember that I had 28 stitches on the instep, so 52 - 28 = 24 stitches on sole, 12 on needle #1 and 12 on your final needle.

When you reach your stitch count goal, transfer stitches between needles as necessary. If you are working with fewer stitches than for the cuff, it will be a new configuration (perhaps 13, 26, 13). Right now it is only important that the number of stitches on the top instep and the sole needles are equal. It does not matter if the number on each needle is divisible by 4.


Continue in 8-Round pattern below, until you reach 1-3/4" to 2" from your desired foot length:

Knit 6 Rounds CC
(Remember to rotate sock/twist yarn every 4th MC Round).

Knit 2 Rounds MC


Switch to Contrast Color. If you choose to use reinforcing thread, add it now.

Make sure you have divided stitches in half, with the same number on instep needle(s) and on "sole of foot needles." In my case, I have 26 on top of foot/instep (I use one needle, but you could choose 2) and 26 on sole, split between 2 needles.

Round 1: a) Starting at middle of heel, Knit until 3 stitches from end of needle. K2tog, K1. b) On instep needle(s) K1, SSK, Knit until 3 stitches from end of instep, K2tog, K1. c) On final needle, K1, SSK, Knit to end of round.
Round 2: Knit even.

Repeat these two Rounds 5 more times, or until you have decreased to about 26-30 stitches.

Repeat Round 1 only until 4-12 stitches remain and length is appropriate for your foot. Consider using a smaller needle for the last 1-3 Rounds to increase durability.

Break yarn leaving a long tail (about 1 foot). Thread tail in blunt needle and work in a loop through remaining stitches, twice (this fills in the loops more firmly, for better wear). Remove knitting needles and pull end snug. Work end through to inside of sock with blunt needle, and finish all ends.

Lynn D. Troldahl Hershberger (AKA LynnH) Since LynnH was a toddler, she has been focused on bright color (preferring magenta and purple crayons). For many years, she has lived surrounded by color in any way she can: painting the porch purple, painting stars on her car and spirals on her thermos, creating with polymer clay, printmaking, feltmaking, knitting and dyeing wool yarns. Visit LynnH's SockTour and other delights at http://www.LynnH.com, or write to her at Socks@LynnH.com

Correspondence to: ColorJoy by LynnH, PO Box 26261, Lansing, MI 48909-6261 USA