Sock Basics Part 3: Toes

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Oh the toes. Those cute little nubs at the end of our feet. Some of them are long and skinny, some are short and stubby, and some are just whatever length they chose to be. All those differences mean that one sock toes does not fit all. Take me for example. My left foot is “normal”. The big toe is the longest, and my toes have that nice slope to the baby toe. No problem! But, then there is my right foot. With the issues in my right foot, most regard me as disabled, but I’m not completely. I do however have a misshapen foot. That means that my toes are not that nice slope like my left foot. Nope, not even close. I have hammer toes (the curl down), and my 2nd and 3rd toes are the longest of my toes, making my foot look a bit like a pointed shoe.

So how do you get the toe shape that works best for you? Part of it is trying out the different toes, just like when doing the heels, to find out which one fits best for your foot. And if you are like me, you might even want a different toe for each sock. Now, I’m lazy and just do a basic wedge toe, that I will get into shortly, and don’t bother make different socks. But, the beauty of knitting is you can absolutely customize your sock toe! Since we have been talking about our sock as being knit from the toe down, I will cover those here. I’ll do the other options for toe up when I start the next post on the Sock Basics Part 4. 🙂

Option 1: Square toe, also referred to as the Wedge. This is what I put into all my designs, as it is a nice simple toe that can be quite forgiving. It actually does work well for both my feet, but I do admit that I could do something better for my right foot. The Square Toe has decreases on each side of the foot to create a tapering on both sides. This will end up with a sock that comes to a center point of stitches needing to bind off. It’s referred to as a wedge, because it’s very symmetrical on the sides, and does look like it’s a simple wedge. You have the option of altering this by decreasing more frequently, the decreases are typically every other row, to make a sharper decrease, or decreasing less to lengthen the toe area and have a longer slope. If you have more than a toe or two in the middle of your foot that is longer that you need room for, then you can stop your decreases earlier than what is usually stated and make a wider area for your toes, and make it look more square.

Option 2: Rounded or Pointed toe. This option has some of the alterations mentioned for option 1. The decreases are not done every other row, but more like every fourth row. This makes a longer toe. This is one that ends up looking like a pointy dress shoe.

Option 3: Star toe. I know of many people that really like this particular toe. Instead of having just the decreases on the left and right side of the foot, you end up with a line on the top and bottom as well. This is where the star shape comes from. The options above require some sort of grafting, like the Kitchener Stitch, which I will detail later, to close. The Star Toe, however, does not. It’s simply has you pull your yarn through and cinch it closed. This is great for anyone that struggles with the grafting, which many people do.

Option 4: The Anatomically Correct toe. These are toes that arrange the decreases so that each sock fits either the left or the right foot. It creates the initial pocket for your big toe, and the slopes down to the little toe, so it isn’t sitting there in a bunch of sock fabric. These are perfect for people that want to know which sock is which, or has the type of foot that is sloped and needs to make sure all their toes have their own space.

Option 5: Rounded Toe. This is the last one I’ll cover here. The Rounded toe is similar to the Star, but it has many lines of decreases. You will have multiple lines of decreases that run to the tip of the toes. It makes it look more like a hat for the tip of your foot. I find that it does look a bit bulky at the end of the sock, but if it fits your toes comfortably, then it doesn’t matter. 😀 The idea is to find whatever helps your toes stay warm and comfy.

So, these are some of the main types of toes. There are many variations on all of these types. The beauty of the toes is that you can change them out in any pattern. If you use my patterns, you can use the toes as written (wedge), or you can ignore my instructions completely and use the toe you prefer. Just keep in mind that all patterns are written so that you get a decent fit, so you will need to know exactly how much length of the sock your toe construction takes. The wedge in my patterns is typically 2″. So, you will want to make sure you know how long your toe construction is to make sure your foot is long enough before switching to the toes.

I mentioned above, the grafting technique called Kitchener Stitch. While this in theory is an easy way to sew the toes closed, many people find it very cumbersome. You need to be able to keep your tension just right to have it match all your other stitches, so it doesn’t cause a puckered look. One easy way to help with this is to do the entire graft while not pulling the yarn tight. Then you can take your tapestry needle and working from where you started, begin tightening the yarn bit by bit to make the tension match. It can be tedious, but it does provide a seamless look.

Kitchener Stitch: Divide your stitches, so that they are spread evenly on two needles. Make sure that your toe decreases (specifically the left and right side of your sock) are on the ends of the needles, and not the middle. You want you graft to be going from left to right, and not top to bottom. First, with your darning needle, thread your yarn through the first stitch in the front (needle closest to you), as if you were purling. Pull your length of yarn through. Then put your tapestry needle through the first stitch of the back needle (farthest from you), as if you were going to knit it. This is your initial set up. From this point on, you will be dropping stitches off your needles as you thread your yarn through. You are going to repeat this section until all your loops have been worked and are off the needle. Thread your yarn through the first stitch of the front needle as if you were going to knit. Pull the yarn through and then drop this stitch off the needle. Thread your yarn through the new first stitch on the needle closest to you as if to purl, leaving this stitch on the needle. Thread your yarn through the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl. Pull your yarn through, and then drop this stitch off the needle. Thread your yarn through the new first stitch on the back needle, as if to knit, leaving this stitch on the needle, and beginning this repeat section all over again.

There are alternatives to the Kitchener Stitch, such as the Three Needle Bind Off, which can be effective to graft, but also much easier on the brain. The Kitchener Stitch can feel very cumbersome, and most people do need to look up the instructions for nearly every pair of socks. I almost have it memorized now, but I still double check sometimes to make sure I’m knitting and purling the right stitches. It’s absolutely okay to have to keep looking it up.

I hope that everything I’ve talked about to this point have helped you with tackling your first pair of cuff down socks. Stay tuned for the next run of Sock Basics when we turn our socks upside down and go from the toe up!

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