Sock Basics 4: Toe Up Socks

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It’s finally time to move on to our next phase of Sock Basics! We have covered all the basics of the Cuff Down Socks, but now it’s time to go the other way. How do you make socks starting at the toes?! That means another Toe lesson, along with the details of the Toe Up Socks.

So, why Toe Up socks? Why not just do them all cuff down? There are a couple big pro’s for Toe Up. First of all, is that when you start at the toes, you will not need to do the Kitchener Stitch to close it up. The Kitchener Stitch is a problem for a lot of knitters. I know a few left handed knitters that struggle a lot with the Kitchener Stitch. That’s not to say that the Toe Up cast on isn’t a pain in the butt, but some people do find it easier. Another perk to toe up, is the ability to use up all the yarn you have. If you have the ability to split your skein of yarn into two equal balls/cakes, then you can knit the socks until you get to the end of the yarn, and make use of as much of the yarn as possible. When you are working cuff down, it is possible to run out of yarn before you get to the toes of your second sock. Unless of course you have all your measurements down and have done it enough times to know exactly what you need. Starting out, I liked the toe up to be able to make use of the yarn going up the leg. I could make a longer leg or cuff, to use up what I could. On average, I use about 380 yards of sock yarn to make a pair of socks, so I normally do have yarn left over. That is because I have a particular height that I like my socks now, and I just knit to that. Toe up socks does have different construction compared to cuff down as well. You will not have to pick up any stitches with the toe up construction. Instead, you have a gusset, which is a series of rows where a stitch is increased on each side of the foot. If you look at your store bought socks, you will see this triangle of fabric on the side of the foot, near the ankle bone that connects to the heel. This is your gusset. This post will only cover the toes. We’ll move on to the gusset and heel in the next post of this series. πŸ™‚

There are a few options for casting on Toe Up socks. One of the ways that I usually use for my socks is Judy’s Magic Cast On. This cast on involves the yarn being wrapped around alternating needles (usually circulars), switching from the tail to the main yarn. You then have loops that you can knit into. This will give you a smooth toe, with no seam at the end. Very Pink Knits has a great youtube tutorial on how to do this cast on. When you finish your cast on, you will have loops sitting on each needle, waiting to be knit. If you are looking to have 24 stitches total, you will have 12 stitches on each of the needles. Because you are going back and forth on the needles to cast on, make sure you count the stitches on both needles, so you are not short a stitch on either needle. I find this to be one of the easiest cast on with this type of wrapping method. One of the biggest learning curves with this type of cast on, is keeping the yarn taught as you work through. The first few times you work this, you might have to redo it a few times to get the stitches to be tight enough. You don’t want to have your first row of stitches to be loose and droopy. Another way to help tighten them, is when you knit your first row of that cast on, needle 1 is knit as normal, but when you turn to knit needle 2, knit those stitches through the back loop. This will give your stitches a proper orientation, and will tighten them a bit. I find if I don’t knit the needle 2 stitches through the back loop, then look twisted.

Another option that is very similar to Judy’s Magic Cast on is the Turkish cast on. Instead of wrapping the yarn around alternating needles, then yarn is wrapped around both needles at once in a big loop. I find this cast on has a tendency to be more loose than Judy’s, so I don’t typically use it. However, if it is the cast on that you find works best for you, then definitely use it. Jane Richmond has a great Youtube tutorial on how to work this cast on. This can also have a similar learning curve to get it tight enough, but it’s a fast and easy way to cast on. The only thing to remember when doing this cast on is that each loop represents 2 stitches. So, if you are casting on 24 stitches, or 12 per needle, you will only need 12 wraps. You knit into that loop on both needle 1 and needle 2, so you will end up with 12 stitches on both needles at the end, or 24 in total.

Yet another modification of this same cast on is the Figure 8 cast on. In this cast on, instead of wrapping the yarn around both needles with one loop, you will go over one, and under the other, to make a figure 8 shape. This is a bit of a blend of the first two cast ons. This works very similar to Judy’s cast on, but uses just a single strand of yarn. As I look through these cast ons, this one actually catches my attention as a very simple cast on. It is worked just like the others, by knitting into the loops that you have created. The Figure 8 is similar to Judy’s in that you will have 12 loops on each needle waiting to be worked when you finish this cast on. And just like in Judy’s, you will want to count the loops on each needle to make sure you have the correct number on each. It is easy to be short one loop with this cast on. Roxanne Richardson has a great Youtube video showing this cast on.

The last cast on that I’ll mention is the traditional Long Tail Cast On. You can use this to cast on for your toes! This will still leave you with a sealed toe, with no seaming needed. It’s a great cast on to get you started. Like the other cast ons, you have two needles held together (again, I prefer circulars for this, and you can switch to double pointed needles later, but if you only have double pointed needles, then you can use them. It will feel odd at first, but any toe up will start out as cumbersome regardless of the needles you use.), and you will cast on a normal Long Tail stitch on one needle, then the next, then needle 1 again, then needle 2 again. Dee Yee has a great Youtube video for this. Her video also shows how to do the cast on if you want to do Two Socks at a Time (TAAT) on one set of circular needles. I will go into more detail on that as we get to the end of the tutorial. You can skip that part of her video if you want, and just tuck it away for later. πŸ™‚

Now that we have our cast on, we can now start working on the main part of the toes. Normally in my sock patterns, I have you cast on 24 stitches total, which is 24 per needle. I will label the needles in my pattern as either Sole or Instep, so that you will know which needle is the bottom of the foot, and which is the top. This is important if there is a pattern on the top of the foot, and when we get to the gusset. After the cast on, I will say to knit the first round, with Needle 1 being knit and then Needle 2 being knit through the back loop. Needle 1 is always the top of the foot (instep) in my patterns, with Needle 2 being the bottom of the foot (sole). Other designers will label these differently, so be sure to pay attention to how they label things. After knitting one round, it’s time for the increases. I tend to do a gentle increase of the toes, that mimics a store bought sock. The increase row has an increase on both ends of Needle 1 and Needle 2 (you increase 4 stitches per round…2 per needle), and then you will knit a round. These two stitches are alternated until you have increased to the number of stitches needed. After these toe increases are done, you simply knit the foot (working any design that the pattern calls for), until it is time to start on your gusset. Typically I will work until my knit sock is 2.5″ shorter than the length I want for my foot. Also, for a better fit, I typically take my actual foot length and subtract a half inch to end up with a better fitting sock for my foot. My foot is 9.25″ long, so I will subtract a half inch, to get 8.75″ for a total length, and work my knit sock to that measurement. This gives me a nice fit, without some of the droop that a hand knit sock can have.

Here is a picture of a sock that I am about to send to my Tech Editor. It shows the toe shape that my designs typically have. I used Judy’s Magic Cast On for these socks.


As with the cuff down socks, you can also modified your toes to be similar. Simply work those cuff down toes that I mentioned in the last post, backwards. When you would have worked a decrease in the cuff down version, work the increase for the toe up. You can modify your toe up socks to be foot specific, or a more rounded toe. That way, no matter what your personal foot structure is like, your knitted sock can be worked to fit you perfectly. πŸ˜€ And don’t forget! There is nothing wrong with trying a new toe structure and having to rip it out and start again. When doing it for a toe up sock, you don’t have long to go before you are right back where you were before! There is no worry of needing any lifelines or anything. Just jump right in and have fun with it! Learn from it! And most importantly, make notes of what you have done. That way, when you get it just right, you will be able to do it over and over on not just future socks, but you’ll be able to do it again for sock number 2. πŸ˜€

Thanks for reading! Next time we’ll talk gussets and heels.

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