Before I started knitting socks, I had absolutely no idea how on earth people managed to do it. I couldn’t get my head around the construction at all. Heels, in particular, baffled me. And it turns out that there are very many ways to knit a sock, and that indeed many of those ways have to do with heels. But there is a big battleground in the handknit sock world that I wasn’t expecting; whether you knit them top down, or toe up.
I’ve surprised myself by having incredibly strong opinions on this one. Indeed, in this Blur vs Oasis, or NSync vs Backstreet Boys, or other 90s musical analogy of a showdown, I fall firmly in the toe up camp.
Toe up socks are, as my three year old would state, “brilliant amazing”. Let me tell you why.
Starting knitting with the toe feels like magic
My favourite way to start knitting toe up socks – and the one you’ll find in my patterns – is with Judy’s magic cast-on. And trust me, this cast-on lives up to its name.
You start with a slipknot, you wiggle the needle around the yarn a bit, and then you’ve got a load of stitches on your needle. Start working in some increases at the edges, and you’ve suddenly got a sock toe.
And believe me, a little toe all on its own is very cute.
You can try toe up socks on as you go. Easily.
I don’t know if you’ve ever attempted to try on a pair of top down socks while you’re in the middle of knitting them, but it’s an absolute arse. You’ve got to adjust all your stitches across the needles, try and get your foot through without knocking any over to somewhere they shouldn’t be. If you’ve already turned the heel this is an absolute nightmare. Even if you haven’t, the fact that the needles are the last thing your foot comes to makes it something of a challenge.
With toe up socks, you just put your foot in them. You can hold them by the needles, and pull them up. Simple.
Perfect foot length every time.
They’ve got a roomier gusset
Minds out of gutters, people. We’re talking the bit of the sock before you get to the heel turn, where your foot starts chunking up a bit.
If, like me, you have insanely wide plank feet then the extra stitches added to a toe-up gusset are you friends. Because seriously, my feet are the same shape as a your standard plank of wood. That period in the early 00s where all shoes were super pointy was a nightmare.
It’s really easy to add a decorative bind-off and jazz your socks up
I like to make my socks a little bit fancy. My Party As a Verb socks use a picot cast-off so they’ll look extra great peeking over the tops of ankle boots. This kind of thing is simple to do with a toe-up sock. And, because the cuff is the last bit you get to, you can decide to add a picot on a whim.
Sure, if you’re knitting top down you could do a provisional cast-on and then go back and do something jazzy at the end, but I got tired just typing that out.
It’s super obvious how long to make the leg of your sock
Farewell, yarn chicken. There’s nothing worse than getting towards the end of your second sock and realising you don’t actually have enough yarn left to get to the toe. It’s an occupational hazard of the top-down knitter. So easy to get carried away with a lovely long leg and not leave yourself enough to work with.
That’s not going to happen if you toe-up it though. Especially if you’re one of those clever people who divides their yarn into two balls, so they’ve got one for each sock. You can just keep going until you run out of yarn.
Time to try out a toe up sock pattern?
Just in case I’ve not made myself totally clear: I’m all about team toe up. That’s why toe up is the method you’ll find in my patterns
Although, as with all rules, I make one exception: chunky bed socks. Which is a good thing, because they’re coming your way soon.