Look Mom, no holes!
Over the past few months I’ve been busy perfecting my technique with the toe up version of sock construction. I prefer this construction to top down for a number of reasons. Take a read through and cast one on for yourself. You too might just prefer this method to that of the traditional cuff down sock construction. Trust me, you won’t turn back once you’ve given this method a try.
My latest sock using the toe up method comes from the Socks from the Toe Up: Essential techniques and patterns from Wendy Knits book by Wendy D. Johnson (Lace and Cables on page 77). This compilation of tips, techniques, and patterns features (as you can guess) the toe up method. Johnson expertly provides all the necessary tips and tools you need to perfect this technique including vanilla socks featuring various heels and patterns highlighting techniques that range from beginner to advanced sock knitting. There is something for everyone in this book whether you are a novice or expert sock knitter.
As I’ve worked my way through the patterns in this book my technique has improved, my confidence has increased, and I’ve begun to design my own patterns that feature the toe up method. I have found this method to be easier and somewhat faster than the traditional cuff down method of construction.
- Judy Becker’s Magic Cast On is used with many toe up patterns. It is fast and easy and creates a smooth toe tip that is free of the occasional oopsie that can happen when one loses track while grafting. Once you have viewed Cat Bordhi demonstrating this technique you won’t forget it! Casting on from the toe up avoids the much feared grafting method of casting off that comes with working a sock from the cuff down.
- All heel styles can easily be accomplished while knitting toe up, including the traditional slip stitch heel. The difference here is that there are no holes in the gusset. Since there are no stitches to pick up and count the hole problem magically evaporates. A gusset is created by increasing on every other round after a certain point is reached on the foot. Once the increases are complete it is time to work some short rows that form the curve of the back of the heel. Working across these short rows with the traditional slip 1 knit 1 method of a slip stitch ending with a decrease slip slip knit (ssk), or a purl two together (p2tog) on the wrong side, until the original stitch count is reached creates the back of the heel and looks exactly like the cuff down method. The difference is magical. Because there are no stitches to pick up holes are avoided where the gusset meets the foot. Give it a try as it really will amaze you!
- Making a neat gusset increase (and this goes for the toe as well) is simple as pie. Instead of the make 1 (picking up a stitch from the row below) just simply knit once in the front of the stitch and then knit through the back of the stitch, slip it off the left hand needle and continue on. Simple, right? Sometimes the best things in life are just that…simple.
- Having trouble with holes at the top of your heels? There is a simple cure for this too. After you are done with the heel and ready to start knitting in the round again just pick up an extra stitch between the heel stitches and the foot stitches. Knit this stitch together with the following stitch. Continue on with the rest of the sock and Voila! Look Mom, no holes!
- Knitting from the toe always gives a perfect fit! It is easier than ever to try the sock on as you go with this technique. Typically the leg of sock has no measurement, other than the circumference, rules. It can be as long or as short as you like. This is not as true for your foot. Your foot is one length and dictates that the sock must also have one length too. No fudging or fiddling on this one. With the toe up technique the foot stitching usually ends approximately 2.5 or 3 inches before the completed length of the foot. On your foot this usually lands right where your arch meets the beginning of the heel. Easy? Yes, it is. Just keep slipping the sock on every few rows until you get that magic spot and begin your heel of choice.
- A tip that serves me well is a cast off tip. Always cast off in pattern (ie: knit / purl ribbing ought to be cast off with while maintaining the continuity of the pattern) and always cast off loosely. It wouldn’t do to have a cuff that doesn’t fit over your heel while slipping the creation on.
So there you have it. My top reasons for loving the toe up method. No grafting, no stitches to pick up and fuss with, easy cast on that leaves no oopsies on the tip of the toe due to a mix up with the grafting technique, and a perfectly fit to your foot enables you to have your peds pampered in no time at all.
As 2010 approaches I plan to design and knit more socks using this method. I dare encourage you to give it a go in the new year. Try a little adventure on for size and design your own pattern or simply cast on a vanilla sock to get your feet wet (pun intended). I promise you’ll love it!
Happy stitching and wishing you the best of the season and a stitcherly New Year!