TOE-UP SOCKS, FROM HEEL TO TOE

Something must be in the air, because several people have written to me this week asking if toe-up socks are more difficult than standard cuff-down socks, or if I could venture an opinion on how they fit and wore compared to cuff-down socks. Perhaps this is a product of all the people hoping to knit up one last holiday present before the end of the year. In any case, I’ll try to answer.

Why Toe-Ups?

1. I detest doing that last boring slog from heel to toe, especially because I find all on-foot patterning to be uncomfortable inside my shoes, so my feet are always done in plain old stockinette. If I leave the feet for last I’ll NEVER finish the socks. So I do them first, get them over with, and then have the fun of the patterned ankle part.

2. I’m not particularly fond of grafting. I can do it, but it’s a pain. Toe-ups let me avoid that step.

3. I like being able to pause and slip the growing socks on to make sure the fit is perfect. That’s easy with toe-ups.

4. I like not having to worry about yarn consumption. If I’m using 50g skeins, I knit the ankle part until I run out of yarn. If I’m using a 100g skein, I knit to the same length as another pair of socks, or if I want to eke out every inch, I put Sock #1 aside without binding it off, then knit Sock #2 on another set of needles. Once both are the same length, I’ll finish off the ribbings side by side, one from either end of the ball, making sure that I use every scrap.

5. If I feel like using the two-circ method, my toe-ups with their short-rowed heels adapt with no fuss at all to that method.

Toe-Up Fit

Toe-ups with short rowed heels are narrower at the point where the ankle joins the foot than are standard heel flap/box heel socks. Some people, especially those with high insteps find them confining. I don’t, even though I have BIG feet for a fem (recently remeasured to Euro 42/US 10.5EEE). If you feel this might be a problem, look for a toe-up pattern with an inverted standard heel rather than a short-rowed heel.

Ease of Working

I don’t find toe-ups to be any more difficult than heel flap socks. In fact, I find them easier. Using the short-row heel and five needles, once I’m past the initial toe I ALWAYS have the same number of stitches on each needle – even during heel production. That makes it easy to put down and restart my socks. That’s a good thing because socks are usually my briefcase project and get done in tiny spurts.

Many people complain about my favorite cast-on for toe-ups – the no-sew figure-8 toe. (It’s Judy Gibson’s, I’m just one of her sock disciples). They say it’s too fiddly, or they can’t get it to work, or it’s too loose. To be fair, it IS fiddly, but it’s worth it. The secret is letting that first row be miserably ugly and loose, but taking care not to split the yarn as it is worked. Once a couple of rounds have been established, it’s very easy to go back and use a needle tip to snick up the looseness. A little care will work the looseness past the knot that forms at the base of the tail, and out from the sock to become part of the dangling end.

If you give up or just don’t want to bother with the no-sew figure-8 toe, there are tons of other toe-up sock patterns out there that use different starting methods. Wendy has one. Or you can start with a provisional cast on, then go back and Kitchener darn the toe up later.

Look of Short Rowed Heels

Knitzanknitzanknitz asked about how short-rowed heels in self stripers look. Here are a couple of mine:

With a little care and willingness to make the sock a row or two longer/shorter you can plan your heels to miter on the breaks between the striper’s color changes.

Sources for Toe Up Patterns

To be immodest – there are mine. wiseNeedle has toe up patterns for several gauges.

The toe-up pattern that started me off and running is by no-sew toe guru Judy Gibson. Wendy Johnson has a popular toe-up pattern, and there’s another at Needletrax. There’s a toe up tutorial at the Socknitters website, and Flor’s got one as well. One of the oldest toe up patterns on the web was done by Manny Olds. Google on "toe up socks" for zillions more.

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