I know what you knitted last summer...

…no I don’t really, but I wonder whether like me, you knitted a few pairs of socks?

I finished off my Heartgyle Socks (by Julia Farwell-Clay, and from Boost), and it’s a long time since I felt this level of achievement with my knitting. I’m on record as not having been much of a fan of intarsia, and I think it’s OK to let you know that it’s still not at the top of my bestest-ever knitting techniques, but I can do it. I can do intarsia. And now I can not only do intarsia, but I can also do intarsia in the round. And that brings me a lot of pleasure!

I also knitted my way through this joyful pair of striped socks in a little over a fortnight. The yarn is Fab Funky Fibres self-striping sock, and I picked up mine from Yarningham. They sell via Etsy and their shop updates sell out pretty quickly. At time of writing there is yarn available, but I’m guessing it won’t last terribly long. I might have just indulged in some more… These are the longest socks I’ve knitted to date. I worked them from the toe up, and kept going until I had a sufficient number of stripes remaining to work the heel but not much more. I wanted to use as close to the whole of the skein as possible. When I completed the first sock it didn’t fit around my calf. I sort of knew that was a possibility as they were so much longer than I usually knit… I ripped back a couple of inches and then added a series of increases across the back of the calf (all in one round) and worked them back up to the top. I cast off using the tubular cast-off method that’s also used in this month’s brioche pattern, and it worked brilliantly as a smart but stretchy edge, and every time I put these socks on, they make me smile.

Clearly my interest in self-striping sock yarn isn’t calming down much… I cast on these plain socks using an EasyKnits Gobstopper in the Killer Queen colourway not long after I had finished the pair above. These are now my handbag emergency knitting and I’m making good progress on them, but I’m also trying to save them for those moments when I just need something easy. (I was quite single minded about working on the Fab Funky Fibres pair and didn’t work much on other projects alongside them.)

I generally knit my plain socks cuff down, and use a slipped stitch heel flap and heel turn, followed by a stocking stitch wedge toe and grafting. The Dave Socks pattern in Coop Knits Socks Yeah! Volume 1 is a good written pattern for what I do from my head. But the Heartgyle and Fab Funky Fibres socks above were both knitted from the toe-up with an afterthought heel (The EasyKnits Gobstoppers are cuff-down). There are lots of reasons for working in one direction of another. I generally work cuff down because I know that they fit me well, and when I’m knitting for myself, I don’t need to look up stitch counts or anything. I just have the basic recipe in my head. However, there are situations where a toe-up sock can be advantageous…

If you are knitting for someone else, or you are unfamiliar with the sock yarn you are using, if you cast on at the toe, you can keep working increases until the sock-tube is the correct circumference. With a new sock yarn, you can try on as you go, and stop increasing when it fits. If you had cast on at the cuff, it might take a few tries to work out the correct stitch count.

If your yarn is particularly special and you want to be sure of using every last scrap of it, then working from the toe-up allows you to keep going on the leg more or less until you run out of yarn. I will add the caveat that you may need calf increases if your sock leg is more than 18cm [7in] or so from the top of the heel. I learned that one the hard way, but in truth, ripping back the ribbing and a couple of stripes was a very small price to pay for perfectly fitting socks that used all of my beautiful yarn!

Those are the two situations where I would definitely choose a toe-up construction. Do let me know in the comments if you like toe-up socks for other reasons!

Both of my pairs of toe-ups used the afterthought heel construction which we covered in A Year of Techniques, but in January next year, we will be looking in detail at the toe-up gusset heel, which is one of the techniques in Boost Your Knitting. There are SO many different sock constructions out there, and each has its own pros and cons. I always say it, but it’s this variety that keeps knitting interesting for me… there’s always something new to learn!