Sunday, February 21, 2010

Socks - Top Down vs. Toe Up

The results of last week's poll are:
44% use DPNs, 44% prefer 2 circs, and a lonely 11% responded with Magic Loop! i must confess myself surprised by the results.

A note on the following article: the toe up method that i use is not... normal. Most toe up socks have short-row toes and heels, which i'll talk about later, but the pictured example has a "star" or "Turkish" toe and heel.

Let's talk about the more common method of construction first: top down. A top down sock is cast on at the upper edge, the cuff and leg are then constructed, followed by a heel flap, a heel turn and a gusset, and finished with a foot and a toe.

The following sock is top down, with a flap-and-gusset heel, and a wedge toe finished in Kitchener.

The pros: Top down patterns are more readily available, the sock is constructed more logically, and it's easy to try on as You go (You'll know within inches if Your cuff will fit, and You can put it on to check foot length)

The cons: Heel turns can be mystifying and heel flaps maddening to some. Alternative heels are available, such as short-row and afterthought, but You may have to adapt Your pattern. Yardage needed is difficult to determine as You won't know You don't have enough yarn until You run out half-way down the foot of Your second sock, and unless You want a lumpy toe (i learned to accept this a long time ago) You must do Kitchener Stitch to close the toe.

An excellent book on top down socks is Cookie A's Sock Innovation. The example sock was knitted with Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock using the Twists and Turns sock pattern in Shannon Okey's How to Knit in the Woods.

Toe up socks begin with either a short-row toe or only a few stitches worked circularly outward, followed by the foot and short-row or Turkish heel, then leg and cuff.

The following sock is toe up using Cat Bordhi's Personal Footprint method, with a Turkish toe and heel.

The pros: No Kitchener stitch is needed, if You want to economize yarn You can divide Your skein in half then knit each cuff until You run out of yarn and, along those lines, if You get tired of knitting or are doing a rush job, You can stop sooner than the pattern suggests.

The cons: Toe up socks are harder to fit as You go and many people find the short-rows required for toe and heel confusing (some patterns do have a gusset and heel flap but those patterns are few and far between), and it is imperative to work a stretchy bind off if You want to be able to wear the socks.

A good book for learning toe up socks is Socks from the Toe Up by Wendy D Johnson. The pattern for the photographed sock is Bumpy Socks from Cat Bordhi's Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters with Colinette Jitterbug.


necia said...

this is a fun post, SJ-- I'm so far a top-down, dpn sock knitter, I really like this Fiesta Boomerang for the socks I'm working on.

Can I ask why you are capitalizing You? I used to do that when I was studying German.

Sarah Jo Mosbeck said...

:) i've tried both but prefer top-down, so my coverage may be a tad biased.
i capitalize You and lowercase i because i wanted to remind myself to think of others more than myself. And now it's become a habit that SpellCheck hates. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the wonderful article. I have not knit socks before so don't have an opinion yet, so will try both ways.

Just a note on the capitalization of the words you and your;
I do find it to be somewhat distracting as all of those capital Y's make the brain perceive it as the beginning of a sentence and tend to disrupt the flow of reading. Slightly uncomfortable reading experience. I don't know if I could read too many more posts that way. But that is just me.

Thank you again for the article.