Cast On: Notice I didn’t say “cast-on edge” because 1) there’s no “edge” and 2) we may not be starting at the tip of the toe, depending on which type of toe we start with.
Standard toe: The cast on for a standard toe in a toe-up sock is two sided. That is, you cast on just a few stitches for the tip of the toe and then you knit on both sides of the cast-on edge to work in the round. Traditional techniques are based on more or less just wrapping the yarn around the two needles and then making stitches on the first round to lock the yarn in place. These cast on techniques are deceptively simple but working the first round is incredibly awkward and often the tension needs to be adjusted manually before you weave in the beginning tail.
Judy’s Magic Cast on is my new go-to favorite for beginning toe-up socks. It’s fussier than the traditional techniques but the first row is a dream to knit.
The best way to learn the technique is from Judy Becker’s video tutorial.
Because we’re beginning at the tip of the toe here, shaping is accomplished by increasing, usually at the two sides of the foot, with the stitches divided into sections for the bottom of the foot (sole) and the top of the foot (instep).
Short Row toe: Short row toes are worked in a completely different way. They don’t begin at the tip of the toe, but rather where the toe meets the foot on the sole with a provisional cast on. Then you work rows that are shorter and shorter to make a point at the tip of the toe, then rows that are longer and longer, joining to the sides of the toe bottom to create the top of the toe. When you have created a closed clamshell shape and are back to your original number of stitches, you remove the provisional cast on and begin knitting in the round for the foot.
Foot. Work even to the heel opening, which is just below the center of your ankle bone. If you want, you can put patterning on the top of the foot. The sole is always worked in plain stockinette stitch.
Gusset (probably not). If you really want to do this on toe up socks, I included instructions in my Craftsy class, Knit Original Toe Up Socks, and it’s in several toe-up sock instruction books. But really, gussets are so much easier on cuff down socks, I think it’s a waste of time and energy to work them on toe up. (Yes, that’s what I really think. I have never ever made myself socks with gussets on toe up socks.)
Heel. The two main types of heels used in toe-up socks are both worked exactly the same as on a cuff down sock :
- the short row heel (which is worked exactly the same as the toe, on the half of the sts on the bottom of the foot–except there’s no need for the provisional cast on which isn’t needed because you already have live stitches)
- the afterthought heel is added after the rest of the sock is done (to use this technique you leave an opening for the heel by working the heel stitches with scrap yarn or by putting them on hold and casting on above the opening for the leg)
Leg. Work even in pattern.
Calf shaping (for knee socks). If you’re making a knee sock or have a very shapely calf, you may need to enlarge the sock as you go up. You can do this by increasing needle sizes, switching to a stretchier pattern stitch, or working increases (or some combination of those techniques).
Cuff. Work the cuff on smaller needles and a ribbed stitch to ensure that it is elastic enough to stretch over the heel and snug enough to hold the sock up. If you’ve increased for a knee sock, you may want to decrease a tad for the ribbing which will sit on your leg just above the widest point of the calf.
Bind off. Stretchy is the key word here. My favorite technique is very simple:
K1, *k1, insert the left needle into the 2 sts on the right ndl and k2t0g-tbl; rep from * until all sts are bound off. Cut the yarn and pull the tail through the last stitch to fasten off.
Finishing. What finishing? Weave in the ends and wash the socks to relax the yarn and block on sock blockers if desired.