How I knit my socks… Toe Up

On a recent post I asked my Instagram followers if they’d like to see my “recipe” for sock knitting. I expected maybe one person to say they’d like that, but I received many words of affirmation for this post!

These socks use Lolodidit’s “Helping Hippos” colorway.

So here is the secret sauce… how I knit my socks: Toe Up Edition*.

This is my toe up recipe for my current go-to socks. I can just pick up a ball of yarn and my US 1 (2.25mm) needles and go to town. No physical pattern required. Don’t worry fledgling sock knitters; I knit my first sock pre-Ravelry {circa 2006} so I’ve had lots of time to try things out and memorize my favorite sock.

For comparison, I wear a women’s size US 8 shoe (in tennis shoes) and have a average to narrow foot. These are the counts I use for what I consider to be a typical Indie-dyed sock yarn base: 75% superwash merino, 25% nylon. This base is quite a bit thinner than commercial sock yarns or 80%/20% bases, so if you’re a fan of those go to my Quickie Socks recipe.

*I plan to have a Cuff Down version and have already released a Quickie Socks version.

Materials

  • 1 100g ball of 75/25 superwash merino nylon fingering weight {I hand wind mine into two equal balls with the help of a scale.}
  • US 1 2.25mm 32″ circular needles {Chiagoo Red Lace is my preferred needles of the moment.}
  • A handful of light bulb stitch markers
  • Progress keeper
  • Scissors and tapestry needle for weaving in ends.

Abbreviations

  • k2tog- knit two together
  • kf&b- knit front and back in same stitch.
  • n1- needle one (for magic loop method)
  • n2- needle two (for magic loop method)
  • sts- stitches
  • tbl- through back loop

Before you begin…

I like to knit my socks in tandem, that is I start one sock, then start the other. I make the toe of one sock, then the toe of the other. They chase each other, alternating all the way to the end. This way I finish the socks at roughly the same time and I usually have a sock that is at easy place I can just pick up and knit.

In order to knit socks this way, I have two sets of those 32″ US 1 needles {no two-at-a-time juggling over here!} and I split my yarn into 50-gram balls. I purchased a kitchen scale from Target long ago that I have never used for food. As I hand wind the yarn from my Amish swift, I occasionally weigh the ball on the scale. Voila! Two equal(ish) balls of yarn!

I knit my socks using the Magic Loop Method and write my patterns this way as well. Basically, magic loop is just dividing your stitches- half your stitches on Needle One (n1) and half your stitches on Needle Two (n2). If you don’t like to knit using magic loop, don’t worry! You can place a marker halfway through your round to indicate where “n1” ends and “n2” begins.

Toe

First, cast on 32 stitches using Judy’s Magic Cast On. You’ll have 16 stitches on each needle.

Knit one round, taking care to knit the stitches on the second needle through the back loop. {I have learned that there is a new method of Judy’s Magic Cast On that doesn’t require this, but I’m still doing it the old way.}

Begin increase rounds.

  1. K1, kf&b, knit to last two stitches on n1, kf&b, k1. Repeat for n2. – 4 sts increased.
  2. Knit.

Repeat the two increase rounds above until you have 64 total stitches or 32 stitches on each needle.

Toe complete!

Foot

The foot is a breeze! You just knit and knit until you reach the point you need to start your heel. While I can’t give you the perfect formula to find out how many inches you need to fit your foot {this takes many pairs of socks to figure out} I can give you some tips on how to make sure your socks match!

This is where those light bulb stitch markers come into play. As you knit your first round on the foot, place a marker in the round below– the last round of the toe. Now you know that the round above the stitch marker is Round One of the foot. Huzzah!

I like to mark the rounds of my foot every 20 rounds, so I place markers in Rnds 20, 40, and 60 of my foot. Including the one that marks the last round of the toe, I need a total of four markers. I just hook those markers into the first marker so they’re there when I need them.

Some people like to mark every 10 rounds- it’s up to you! Do what makes sock knitting most convenient for your lifestyle. Socks are one of the most convenient projects.

My foot is complete with a total of 65 rounds. I know I need 65 rounds with this base (75/25) because I’ve recently made lots of socks in similar yarn. When I make socks for family members, I keep track of how many rounds they need for their foot on my Ravelry project page. When I need to knit them another pair of socks, I refer to Ravelry!

I keep a progress keeper (the cookie from Sucre Sucre Miniatures) on my sock to mark progress for the week. I find this extremely motivating! Since I record podcasts on Wednesdays, I move my progress keeper every Wednesday. It’s fun to see how much of a sock you can knit in one week!

Heel

I am a Fish Lips Kiss Heel girl. I am a big supporter of the contrast color heel, even when I’m not knitting self-striping socks. These are my quirks. I invite you try them at least once!

You can find the Fish Lips Kiss Heel on Ravelry from the Sox Therapist for just $1. In the pattern, she has a wealth of information on how to find the correct placement for you heel. {You have permission to skip that for now if it overwhelms you. I did.} What I love about this heel is that it’s quick! It’s also symmetrical which means it works for toe-up and cuff-down down socks alike.

Since we already have our stitches divided in half, we can start the heel on n1. When joining the contrast color, I like to cross old (main color) over new (heel color) so I don’t have a gap in the corner of the heel.

Here is the first row of the FLK heel completed. Find the pattern here.

Here I have completed the first half of the heel. Since I have 32 stitches for the heel, I’ve got 10 twin stitches on either side, plus two unwrapped stitches on the outside, and 10 unwrapped stitches in the middle.

Completed heel with two twin stitches on either side.

Slip these twin stitches back to the left-hand needle. This is not part of the Fish Lips Kiss Heel instructions. I believe she has you do another round before you take care of these twin stitches, but we need to bring our main color back!

Now you’re ready to knit with the main color again. It’s right there! Cut your contrast color, pick up the main color, and knit each of the twin stitches as if they are one stitch.

Carry on knitting across the row and knit the other two twin stitches as if they are one stitch. We’re back to straight knitting again for the leg!

Heel complete!

Leg

Sometimes I knit short legs, sometimes I knit long legs. It all depends on my mood, the amount of yarn I have, and how many days I have left until the end of the month. {I try to start and finish a pair of socks each month.}

This pair I knit shorter legs {40 rounds}, but a standard length would look something like 60 rounds. This is before the ribbing.

Again, I place a marker in the last round of the heel. Then another one on Round 20.

Forty rounds for the leg complete!

Cuff

My cuffs seem to follow the path of the leg. Sometimes I go for classic ribbing like 1×1 or 2×2. Frequently I’ll throw in a twisted 1×1 rib for fun {and regret it whilst knitting}. This pair I got a little crazy and went for the neat but impractical 3×1 rib. Who knows what I was feeling the day I started this ribbing? {I’m wearing a different pair of short leg socks with 3×1 ribbing and they seem to be staying up alright!}

Knit 20 rounds in your choice of ribbing.

Cuff complete!

Binding Off

I used to be a cuff down girl. I still knit socks this way on occasion (usually when designing), so I have the stretchy cast-on and kitchener bind off down pat. It took me my first few pairs of toe-up socks to figure out a bind off that works for me.

Set Up (work only once):

  1. Knit two stitches in pattern.
  2. Insert left needle into the back of both stitches.
  3. K2tog tbl.

Repeat the following:

  1. Knit next stitch in pattern.
  2. Place yarn in back if it is not already.
  3. Insert left needle into the back of both stitches.
  4. K2tog tbl.

Steps 1-4 if the next stitch is KNIT:

The key to this bind off is that you’re knitting the stitch in pattern, whether knit or purl, but you’re always putting your yarn in back to knit the stitches together. Repeat steps 1-4 until you have one stitch remaining.

Steps 1-4 if the next stitch is PURL:

Everyone has a different method to repair the stair step-like gap that occurs when we knit in the round. I like to put my left needle into the first bound off stitch from the round. Then I knit the stitch as one. Finally lift the second stitch over the first stitch on the needle like a classic bind off. Cut yarn and pull through all the way.

See how nice and stretchy this bind off is!

Finishing

Weave in ends. Make sure NOT to weave any ends on bottom of the foot- ouch! Take care to weave in the contrast color heel to its same color.

I wash my socks with cool water and Soak formula. Then I rinse them and squeeze them dry in a towel.

I have found that blocking my socks on wooden blockers always makes them look nice. {I get mine at DFW Fiber Fest, but the same vendor sells on eBay!} I just do this the first time, not every time I was them after that.

All done!

Did you know that wool socks don’t need to be washed every time you wear them? Before you say, “EW!”… wool is naturally anti-microbial, so your socks won’t get stinky from a normal day’s wear. I just take off my hand-knit socks and let them air out overnight. I probably wear mine 4-5 times before they get another Soak bath. I know that Molly, from A Homespun House will wear hers 17 times!

Last year I knit 18 pairs of socks. I expect my 2019 recipe might look different than my 2018 recipe. I’m eager to try the afterthought heel to see how the fit compares to the Fish Lips Kiss Heel. I’ve also considered dropping down to a 60-stitch foot and leg to see if I like that better. Finding the right sock fit is a life long journey.

Love in stitches,

Knitty Natty

One Comment Add yours

  1. Fascinating. I love your detailed description of sock making

    Like

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