A step-by-step tutorial showing you how to finish a toe-up sock knitting pattern with success
So, you’ve heard about the benefits of knitting socks toe-up, eh? No Kitchener stitch, no picking up stitches like when you knit socks the traditional way! Sounds great, doesn’t it? But now you are wondering how it works. Well, then you came to the right place because this comprehensive tutorial will show you everything you need to know to finish your first toe-up sock pattern!
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Materials you need for this toe-up sock knitting pattern
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This pattern will work for any yarn between fingering weight and DK weight yarn. The heavier your quality, the faster you will be able to finish. At the same time, your socks will also be warmer and thicker (which can be a pro or a con). On the negative side, you will have fewer stitches to work in a colorful motif or a detailed (lace) stitch pattern. Pick something that specifically says sock yarn (typically a blend with 20-30% nylon)
- 100 grams of sock yarn will be enough for anything below US shoe size 10 (42 EU). I used the Schachenmayr Regia 6-ply for this tutorial.
- Circular or double-pointed needles to match your weight. For fingering weight yarn most people use 2-2.5 mm, and for the lighter DK qualities, 3 to 3.5 mm.
- A tapestry needle and scissors
- Measuring tape
- (optional) Stitch markers
Note: You can use dpns or circulars. There is no structural difference. Pick what suits you better and gives YOU better results.
Step 1: Calculating your size
Before you can start knitting, you need to knit a little swatch. This will enable you to determine the gauge and ultimately help you calculate your size. There are sock charts but you would have to knit at least a swatch as well to confirm you meet the gauge. So that’s typically the more complicated way.
A lot of beginners shy away from this step or skip it. Don’t! Let me put it that way: No two knitters produce the exact same fabric. Some knit looser others tighter. So, how can you ever expect perfect results if someone tells you to cast on 40 stitches? Knitting doesn’t work that way. Never has, never will.
A) Knit a swatch
- Cast on 24-30 st
- Knit across 20-30 rows in stockinette stitch
- bind off loosely
B) Block your swatch
Next, you need to wash and block your swatch using pins and a blocking mat (or a towel on your carpet). Stretch your swatch until the fabric looks nice. Avoid overstretching.
Important: If you plan to throw your finished socks into the washing machine, do the same with your swatch. Some people will carry the finished swatch in their pocket for a day or two to simulate wear and tear. Often, socks wear out quite a bit after the first couple of wears and will end up being too big.
C) Measure your stitch gauge
Next, take a tape or a ruler and measure out 10 stitches somewhere in the center of your swatch while it is still on the blocking board and check how many centimeters (or inches) you need to cover those 10 stitches. Measure in at least two different spots to ensure you didn’t stretch your swatch in an uneven way.
Then write down that number: E.g. 10 st = 4.5 centimeters
D) Measure your foot at the widest point
Then, pick up your tape and measure your foot somewhere in the center to find the widest point. Don’t measure too close to your toes or too far toward the ankle.
Write down that number as well: E.g. My foot has a circumference of 23 centimeters
E) Calculate your toe-box size
In the last step, you need to calculate the final circumference of your toe box. And this is super simple.
- Divide the length that you measured on your swatch by those 10 st. The result will be the length of one stitch.
E.g. 4.5 cm ÷ 10 st = 0.45 cm/st
- Divide the circumference of your foot by the length of your stitch. The result will be the number of stitches you need to have at the end of your toe box.
E.g. 0.45 cm/st ÷ 23 cm = 51.1 st
- Round to the next number divisible by 4.
E.g. 52 st
Writing it all out makes it sounds complicated but it really isn’t. It’s just knitting a swatch, taking two simple measurements, and entering 3 numbers into your calculator.
Step 2: Knitting the toe-box
Once you’ve calculated your toe box, you can start casting on. While you can also use the Turkish cast-on or the Italian Cast-on, most people prefer the Magic Cast-on these days. But pick whatever you feel looks best for you.
- Cast on 16 stitches using the Magic cast-on
Note: For very small sizes or very bulky yarn you only need to only cast on 12 stitches. For very fine yarn and large sizes perhaps 20 stitches. In this case, you will knit across that many/fewer stitches in the middle.
- Round 1: knit across
- Round 2: [k1, KFB, k4, SKL, k1] 2 x times (20 stitches)
- Round 3: [k1, KFB, k6, SKL, k1] 2 x times (24 stitches)
Continue increasing in every round in that manner until you’ve doubled your stitch count. Round 5 should look like this for a cast-on of 16 stitches:
- Round 5: [k1, KFB, k10, SKL, k1] 2 x times (32 stitches)
- Round 6: knit across
- Round 7: [k1, KFB, k12, SKL, k1] 2 x times (36 stitches)
From here, continue increasing in every second round until you can accommodate all the stitches you calculated for your foot (e.g. 52 stitches). Round 15 should look like this:
- Round 15: [k1, KFB, k20, SKL, k1] 2 x times (52 stitches)
For a less rounded toe box, you can also increase in every second round from the start. Or you only increase in every round on one side. This will create a visibly left- or right-slanting toe-box that you may find a little bit ergonomic.
You may also pick a different set of increases (here’s a list) if you don’t like the look of KFB & SKL or you think they are a bit too difficult to knit for you. But no matter what you do and how you increase, you always need to end up with the number of stitches that you’ve calculated before (E.g. 52 stitches)
Step 3: Foot
From here, you can continue knitting the foot in plain stockinette stitch. If you plan to change colors, consider knitting across 2 more rows in the old color for a neater transition. This tutorial will show you how to knit jogless stripes in the round.
Round 16-36: Knit across (52 stitches)
After you’ve knitted another 5 centimeters (roughly), it’s time to calculate the size of your gusset and when you need to start knitting the heel. This process is just as simple as the first calculation but involves a couple of more steps as you need to calculate two things – the size of your heel and where to start.
A) Draw the outline of your foot.
Place it on a piece of paper and use a pencil. Avoid leaning the pencil inward – you need the maximum circumference.
B) Measure your heel
Then, measure the length from the bottom of your ankle knuckle to the beginning of the sole (or the height of your instep). That’s how long your heel flap needs to be
E.g. 5 cm
C) Count out your gusset
Next, try your work in progress on (if you are using dpns, slip your stitches to a spare circular needle or some scrap yarn). Check if they fit the way you want them to fit. If they don’t try to figure out how many more (or fewer) stitches you need to increase for the toe box and unravel to the end of your toe box or however many rows before.
Please note that knitting behaves differently towards the edge. So the last 5 rows you’ve knitted will always appear to be a bit too loose.
While still wearing your sock, measure out the length of your heel from before (e.g. 5 cm) and check how many stitches in a row you need to cover that length (here’s how to count stitches in knitting).
E.g. 12 stitches
That’s how many stitches you need to increase on either side of your work for the gusset to achieve a heel (flap) that is roomy enough to accommodate your heel and instep. (Read/Knit through the pattern once and this will make sense. For now, just believe me).
D) Calculate the beginning of your gusset.
You will increase the gusset in every second row. Multiply the gusset stitches times 2. That’s
how many rows you need to knit the gusset.
E.g. 12 st * 2 = 24 rows.
You also need to work out the length of your heel. For that you need to know that you will work it across half of your stitches minus 2.
E.g. 52 st ÷ 2 = 26 st – 2 st = 24 st
You will turn your heel until there are only a third of the stitches left (see below).
E.g. 24 st * 0.666 = 16 rows
That’s how many ROWS you will work to turn the heel.
E) Measure your sock
In the almost last step, you need to pick up your tape again and measure out the two numbers you’ve calculated in the first step. You know you need to knit your gusset for 24 rows, and your heel turn will take 16 rows.
So, put on your socks one more time and check how many rows you need to cover those two numbers. Then add those two. E.g.:
- 24 rows = 6.3 cm/2.5 in
- 17 rows = 4.2 m/1.6 in
- -> together 10.5 cm/4.1 in
F) Adjust your drawing
Now, bring out the drawing of your foot again. Starting from the back of your heel, measure the length that you calculated for your gusset and heel, and add a little marking. Now you only need to place your work in progress on the drawing and continue until you hit the spot.
E.g. my foot is 24.5 cm/9.6 in long. I stop knitting once I’ve knitted a total of 14.0 cm/5.5 in including the toe-box.
If you plan to knit a German Short Row heel or any other heel, the process is even easier. You don’t need to work out the gusset. Your pattern will typically tell you how many rows the heel takes, and you simply need to measure those on your socks and adjust your drawing.
E.g. Your GSR heel is worked across half of your stitches until there is only 1 third left = 52÷2 = 26; 26*0,666 = ~ 17.3 rows
Step 4: GUsset
Before you start knitting the gusset, slip two stitches from the beginning and the end of the second side to the first side. Use two stitch markers to divide your original stitches from the two slipped stitches on either side.
E.g. I will have one side with 22 stitches and one with 30 stitches (2 st, stitch marker, 26 st, stitch marker, 2 st)
Gusset round 1: k2, slip marker, k1, KLL, knit across (24 st), KRL, k1, sm, k2, knit across the
rest of your stitches (54 stitches)
Note: You can pick any other set of left- and right-leaning increases as well. I just feel these look the neatest.
Round 2: knit across
Round 3: k2, sm, k1, KLL, knit across (26 st) KRL, k1, sm, knit (56 stitches)
Round 4: knit across
Round 5: k2, sm, k1, KLL, knit across (28 st), KRL, k1, sm, knit (58 stitches)
Continue increasing in that manner in every second round until you’ve reached your gusset
calculations. E.g. 76 st. For me, round 23 would look like this:
Round 23: k2, sm, k1, KLL, k46, KRL, k1, sm, k24 (76 stitches)
Note: If you are knitting stripes, do consider knitting the gusset of the second sock across the
second side. That way, you can hide the jogs on the inside of your calves when you wear them.
Step 5: Turning the heel
From here, you will continue with short rows. The heel and the heel flap are knit flat.
Start by placing two additional stitch markers on your first needle for your gusset stitches. I increased by 12 stitches on either side. So my needle will look like this 54 st (2 st, sm, 12 st, sm, 26 st, sm, 12 st, sm, 2st)
- Heel turn row 1: Knit across until you are one stitch before your third stitch marker. <turn around>
Note: I typically knit my heel across half of my stitches minus 2 for neater results. For the very small sizes and/or bulky yarn, you might want to stop right before the stitch marker.
- Row 2: Make double stitch, purl across until you are one stitch before the next marker on the other end. <turn around>
- Row 3: mds, knit across until you reach the double stitch you created before. <turn around>
Note: You never knit across the double stitches. Thus, each row you knit will be one stitch shorter.
- Row 4: mds, purl across until you reach the double stitch. <turn around>
Repeat rows 3+4 until only a bit less than a third of your original stitches are left.
E.g. 26 st – 2 st = 24 st; 24 st ÷ 3 = 8 st
I stop, after a purl row. My final RS row will look like this:
- Row 16: mds, knit across until you reach the double stitch and DON’T turn around anymore
Step 6: Heel Flap & Calf
From here, you will knit the heel flap by joining the gusset stitches with the heel. For now, you will continue working flat.
- Heel flap row 1: Continue your row by knitting all double stitches together until you are one stitch before the gusset stitch marker, SSK (remove the marker as you knit it). <turn around> (75 stitches)
- Row 2: Sl1p wyif, place a marker, purl across, then purl all double stitches together until you are one stitch before the gusset stitch marker on the other side, p2tog (remove marker as you knit it). <turn around> (74 stitches)
- Row 3: Sl1p wyib, place marker, knit across, sm, SSK. <turn around> (73 stitches)
- Row 4: Sl1p wyif, sm, purl across, sm, p2tog. <turn around>(72 stitches)
Continue decreasing in the manner of rows 3+4 until there are two stitches left between markers 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. E.g. when there are 54 stitches left.
From here, you will continue knitting in the round and decrease the last two stitches as you go. I personally feel this creates a neater transition and avoids holes.
- Round 23: Sl1p wyib, sm, knit across, sm, SSK, sm, k2, knit across the second side until the next marker, sm, k2tog, sm. (52 stitches)
Note: The last k2tog will be worked across the stitch you’ve slipped at the beginning of the round. You may remove your stitch markers.
- Round 24: Knit across
From here, you can continue in pattern until you’ve reached the desired length. However, I want you to stop after you’ve knitted around 5 cm/2 in and try your sock on again.
So far, the size of your sock has been determined by the circumference of your foot. The
leg part will have that very same circumference. You need to be able to squeeze the latter past
your ankle. If you have a very pronounced ankle/instep you might not be able to squeeze your foot through.
If that is the case, increase in every round for the last 2/4/6 gusset rounds, and stop the heel
flap decrease rows 2/4/6 rows earlier.
As a quick remedy, you could unravel until the start of your heel flap and undo the last 2/4/6
heel flap rows, and start your leg with e.g. 54/56/58 st
Step 7: The Cuff
A good-fitting cuff follows a rather precise calculation. While you could certainly stop knitting
earlier and insert a rubber band, I recommend starting your cuff like this:
- You already know the ideal fit of the tube you are knitting. You’ve knitted it in a way that
it hugs the middle of your foot quite perfectly. And you already know that circumference since you’ve measured it before (e.g. 23 cm).
- Take up your measuring tape and check where your calf has the exact same circumference.
- Stop knitting the leg once your work in progress reaches that very same point but continue for around 1 to 2 cm/0.4 – 0.8 for a better grip.
A typical cuff is knit in ribbing. Pick a repeat that looks good for your yarn/yarn weight.
I.e. if you use chunky yarn, and you only have 30 stitches per round, a 2×2 rib will probably
not look as charming. If you are knitting with fingering weight yarn, and you have 80 stitches
per round, a 1×1 rib might get lost.
Note: if you want to knit your cuff in a different color, consider knitting across one row with the
new ball to achieve a neater transition.
- Cuff round 1: *k2, p2*
- Round 2: *k2, p2*
- Continue your ribbing for altogether 5 cm/2in.
Consider grafting one stitch using the tail to avoid a visible stair between the last and first bind-off stitch.
- Circular or double-pointed knitting needles. I am using 3mm needles
Cast on 16 stitches using the Magic cast-on.
Round 1: knit across
Round 2: [k1, KFB, k4, SKL, k1] 2 x times (20 stitches)
Round 3: [k1, KFB, k6, SKL, k1] 2 x times (24 stitches)
Round 4: [k1, KFB, k8, SKL, k1] 2 x times (26 stitches)
Round 5: [k1, KFB, k10, SKL, k1] 2 x times (32 stitches)
Round 6: knit across
Round 7: [k1, KFB, k12, SKL, k1] 2 x times (36 stitches)
From here, continue increasing in every second row until you can accommodate all the stitches you calculated for your foot (e.g. 52 stitches). Round 15 should look like this:
Round 15: [k1, KFB, k20, SKL, k1] 2 x times (52 stitches)
Round 16-55: knit across
Shuffle two stitches each from the beginning and end of the second size (needle 2 or needles 3+4) to the other side and place stitch markers.
Round 56: k2, slip marker, k1, KLL, knit across (24 st), KRL, k1, sm, k2, knit across the rest of your stitches (54 stitches)
Round 57: knit across
Round 58: k2, sm, k1, KLL, knit across, (26 st) KRL, k1, sm, knit (56 stitches)
Round 59: knit across
Round 60: k2, sm, k1, KLL, knit across (28 st), KRL, k1, sm, knit (58 stitches)
Continue increasing in that manner in every second round until you've reached your gusset
calculations. E.g. 76 st.
Round 78: k2, sm, k1, KLL, knit across (46 st), KRL, k1, sm, k24 (76 stitches)
Place two additional stitch markers after and before the (12) increased gusset stitches.
Row 79: Knit across until you are one stitch before your third stitch marker. [turn around]
Row 80: Make double stitch, purl across until you are one stitch before the next marker on the other end.
Row 81: mds, knit across until you reach the double stitch you created before. [turn around]
Note: You never knit across the double stitches. Thus, each row you knit will be one stitch shorter.
Row 82: mds, purl across until you reach the double stitch. [turn around]
Repeat rows 3+4 until only a bit less than a third of your original stitches are left. My final RS row will look like this:
Row 94: mds, knit across 8 st until you reach the double stitch and DON'T turn around anymore
Row 95: Continue your row by knitting all double stitches together until you are one stitch before the gusset stitch marker, SSK (remove the marker as you knit it). [turn around] (75 stitches)
Row 96: Sl1pwyif, place a marker, purl across, then purl all double stitches together until you are one stitch before the gusset stitch marker on the other side, p2tog (remove marker as you knit it). [turn around] (74 stitches)
Row 97: Sl1pwib, place marker, knit across, sm, SSK. [turn around] (73 stitches)
Row 98: Sl1pwif, sm, purl across, sm, p2tog. [turn around] (72 stitches)
Continue decreasing in the manner of rows 3+4 until there are two stitches left between markers 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. E.g. when there are 54 stitches left, then continue in the round:
Round 116: Sl1pwib, sm, knit across, sm, SSK, sm, k2, knit across the second side until the next marker, sm, k2tog, sm. (52 stitches)
Round 117-180: knit across
Round 181-198: *k2, p2*
Bind off loosely.