Sunday, September 03, 2006

A journey begins with a single toe

I've learned how to start socks from the toes! I'm even reasonably pleased with the results. I have photos to prove it, too. Then why, oh why, am I digging in my heels with starting a toe-up sock? What follows are my realizations in a journey that began with a single toe... well, that and a desire to do right by a pretty yarn.

1. Gathering Data
First I did a short-row toe, using a really screwed-up provisional cast-on because I my attempts at a crochet chain weren't unzipping right. I also foolishly used my nice yarn, unaware that that was only the first toe of the weekend.

Short row toe 1.1 Short row toe 1.2

I liked the fit, but my short rows were a lumpy disaster with some wraps not picked up and holes everywhere. Actually, I really liked the fit. But the short rows looked rather wretched, so I decided to try Knitty's magic cast-on. Oy. I can see why people do this one with circulars. The DPN version, for a while in there, was just as messy as it looks in the article's picture, only more so since the leftover Trekking yarn made it rather difficult to see what I was doing.

Magic cast-on 1 Magic cast-on 2

The fit was, well, fine. The look... meh. It's probably more due to my technique - and to throwing in an extra row of plain stockinette before starting the increases, which was partly oversight and partly due to the tightness of the magic cast-on at its beginning. Yet they look pretty much like my cuff-down wedge toes. Not terribly interesting for the DPN hassle.

I decided to try short rows again, this time with a more substantial yarn and a working provisional crochet chain, a la Wendy's pattern on Knitty. After a lot of fiddling, I figured it out, and made another sock toe, this time with wraps slightly nicer than the first.

Short row toe 2.1 Short row toe 2.2

The fit, like the other short row toe, was very nice. Very toe-y, if that makes sense. What I didn't like, however, was how the sock bulges a little where I'd picked up a stitch at each join in order to avoid holes, a la heels. Plus, my mind still fought the whole toe-up sock thing.

2. Analysis
What was the matter with me? Didn't I want to try a toe-up sock to learn new skills, maximize my pretty yarn, and see if I like toe-up socks, as so many knitters seem to do?

Rather than officially start a sock toe-up, I did a thought experiment. Or at least as close to a thought experiment as my humanities self is likely to come.

First, size. I have a size 5 foot, which makes my foot about 8.5" long. The toe is 2", the heel (at least with a flap) is about 1.5", and 3" with the gussset. What this means is that when I finish a gusset, I have very little sock left before I start the toes. On the other hand, I like a long cuff, usually 7-8 inches. In other words, if I start with the cuff, everything just gets smaller, and the sock feels like it goes faster.

As far as I can tell from just thinking about it, to make a sock toe-up would be to get the easy bits over with and then have the comparatively long haul of the cuff, and possibly some kind of finicky sewn bind off! No wonder I'm balking at the idea of going toe-up! Yes, I have every confidence that I can make toe-up socks. If there's a pattern out there that requires it, I probably will go toe-up one day. But if I'm just going to do a stockinette sock, then I don't think so.

Next, toe shape. As you probably noticed - if you're still reading this! - I kept saying I like the shape of the short-row toes. I think that has to do with my toes being rather short, with the second and third toes not substantially shorter than the big toe. The short-row toe has a nice flat front tip with a slope that mirrors the wedge toe, which fits me fine. This seems like the right shape for my toes.

And of course, conclusions:
If you have any links or references, it looks like I'm in the market for a good cuff-down short-row toe pattern! My next sock will be cuff-down, with a short-row heel (to see if I like the heel) and hopefully, a short-row toe.

I've done a lot of crafting this weekend. Experimenting with sock toes was really fun and a great learning experience, and it's pretty much all the knitting I managed, what with all the learning new techniques. I, for one, am glad I can stop pondering my feet and start knitting socks. But I also made a tote bag last night. As I said, a crafty weekend. I'll save that one for later.


trek said...

I like your Pretty Comfy Socks. They look great. How do they feel on the foot? I am wearing my newly completed Grown Up Wonky Lace Socks today and I love how sqooshy they are. These are knit on size 2 needles in Fixation but I see that the Pretty Comfy ones call for size 3s. I wonder if it makes a difference in how they feel.

Also, I've used Wendy's toe instructions (old Knitty somewhere) and had pretty good luck. Mostly, though, I knit cuff down. I don't mind kitchener and I like the cool heel flaps.

Zarzuela said...

Sometimes experimentation is the name of the game. If you know what you want (which you definitely seem to) that definitely helps. Good luck with your further adventures!


Teri S. said...

Toe-up socks take some major bending of the mind. I can manage to do the wrapped short row with minor gaps (I fix them during finishing) and like the fit of both the heel and the toe. It's a different story with the yarn over short row technique, which is what Priscilla Gibson-Roberts uses for her Dream Socks. It's a very nice, basic sock pattern, but it takes about 8 tries before I can get the heel right (and that's top down). I haven't seen a top down short row pattern, though.

Sarah said...


I'm a cuff down person myself, and have been promising that the next socks I'll do toe up.

But, I happen to like cuff down!



Nice Trekking sock BTW! I love that color!