Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Toe Up Sock Toe

Even though I haven't yet finished the first of this year's summer socks,

This is how far I've gotten with the 1st sock.I've started on the second. This is because I want to make sure I have enough yarn to knit the cuffs the same length. Once I turn the heel I'll try to knit evenly on both pairs until I either run out of yarn or am happy with the height of the cuffs.

I don't use a specific sock pattern when I knit socks. I just use a variety of sock parts and formulae that have worked well in the past. Occasionally I try something new, but I always come back to my basic way of doing things.

I like toe up socks. I like them for the reason I mentioned above; to make sure I don't run out of yarn. I also like being able to try them on easily at any stage of knitting. But especially, I like this particular toe.

I use a percentage formula based on a swatch. Originally I used this formula:

Measurement x Gauge - 10% = number of stitches needed

This formula has evolved over the years however as I realized that I had to factor in my personal knitting tension (tight for socks), the way I like my handknit socks to fit (snug), and the fact that my square knitted swatches don't work out to the same gauge as knitting in the round (IOW, my purl and knit stitches aren't the same tension.)

I do use this formula as my starting point however. For these socks, I knitted my swatch to a gauge of 10 stitches per inch on size US1 needles. The first measurement I used was the ball of my foot, nine inches. So,

9 inches x 10 stitches per inch = 90 stitches - 10% = 80 stitches

To start my toe, I cast on about 30% of this number (90 x .3), in this case 24 stitches.

Stitches cast on.Then I transfer the stitches to two new needles, alternating stitches so that every other stitch is on a different needle.........

Stitches alternately transferred to 2 needles.Next I start knitting around, increasing the first and last stitches on each needle. I increase by knitting in front and back of the stitch. The next round is knitted even (straight around without any increases.) I transfer some of the stitches to two more needles as soon as possible. These two rows are repeated until the stitches are increased to the number I want.

Completed toe.For the ball of my foot, I find that the gauge minus ten percent fits too loosely. I actually like 20 to 25 percent better. For these socks, I found that 68 stitches gave me the snug fit I like.

I like the way this toe looks when it is complete. It is a nice solid, but attractive toe, and no grafting required (though I confess that I find the Kitchner stitch fun to do.) And most importantly, it's not terribly awkward to get started.

Of course, now that the scorching summer heat has waned into cool nights and pleasant days, my mind is turning to other knitting projects. Bigger ones. Ones that will help keep my lap warm when it's chilly out. Still, socks are a wonderful tote-along project. And I am anxious to wear these soon.

Related Posts:
Summer Sock Knitting
Summer Socks Finished!


Sharon said...

Thanks Leigh. I have hated every Kitchner experience but will make notes and follow this so I can use some of my infernal socks leftovers. They fill a filing box.

Kristi aka Fiber Fool said...

I too enjoy Kitchnering, but I've become enamored with toe-up socks. I shall have to give your toe a try one of these times.

JQ said...

Thank you for leaving a note upon stumbling into my blog! I do love my new Alpacas and the fibre is definitely beautiful! I can't wait to figure out the basics of sock knitting. I have done mittens but confess I am a little shy of trying a pattern for socks. :)

bspinner said...

You've inspired me to knit a toe up sock. Great explaination!! Should keep your little toes nice a warm this winter.

Dorothy said...

I do like that sock toe, nice and quick to get started! Might give it a go on my next pair.

Is this the pair of socks with the instep increases? I'd like to know how that works out. I'm wearing an experimental pair myself at the moment, I added a few stitches in at the sides, starting an inch before the short row heel, decreased again about an inch after. On one sock of the pair the increase is 8 stitches (sock normally 56 stitches round) and the other, which I think fits better, I added 4 each side.

Leigh said...

Dorothy, I should have done some increasing, but ordinarily I don't as the ball of my foot measures the same as my ankle. I have done increases on socks for others and have been told they made a good fit.

Woolly Bits said...

I only started toe-ups after doing the olg workshop! I tend to do the normal pattern for my own socks, because I know by now how many rows and stitches I can do with 100 g of wool - but I started to use toe-ups for my handspun and also for other people, when I am not sure how much I need and how much yarn I have to spare! I am very keen on the new book by Bordhi though - to find out about more unusual "sock ways"!:) and there's still the unusual one to try ouyt from that issue of vogue, where they had plenty of choice!

geekweaver said...

If you like toe up socks, you should check out the magic toe up cast on at

I've switched to it for most of my toe up socks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Leigh,
Nice sock toe. I am forwarding your url to a friend who was trying to figure out how to start toe up socks in a simple way on dpns. Your formula made me remember that I learned something similar in Priscilla Gibson-Roberts book Simple Socks. I ran the formula for my foot and gauge, and came up with the number I usually use. I forgot how I originally came up with that number!

Leigh said...

Bettina and Rob, I'm gonna have to get those books! Thank for mentioning them. Rob, I hope this post is helpful for your friend.

Geekweaver, thank you so much for the link. I recall trying this toe once before but really botched it. Knitty's instructions are so clear though, that I've bookmarked it and will have to try it again.

Sheepish Annie said...

I am always saying that I will do the next pair of socks toe-up...but I never do. There is something comforting about knitting socks in my usual, boring, cuff down way. There is not, however, any comfort to be found in running out of yarn before the sock is done. Maybe I'll give this toe up thing more consideration...

Cathy said...

I've been wanting to try making socks for ages and toe-up sounds like the way to go. I really like the way you started the toe - I've only attempted the kitchner stitch once for that felted bunny and fortunately it was well hidden after the felting!

Cathy said...

P.S. forgot to say - I love the way the socks are turning out. I think the colors and the striping are great!