A Tale of Toe Woe: The Zombie Socks


One UFO Down: 17 Left To Go


I've had a pair of socks sitting in my knitting basket for, oh, I think it's been over a year now. Way back when, I wanted to make a pair of socks to be for Nicholas, so I opened up the bin containing my sock yarn stash and told him to Pick Something. He chose a lovely yarn (Socks that Rock) in a bright colorway that reminds me of that rainbow sherbet I ate as a kid. (He says if he has to wear boring professorial styles to teach, he might as well have nifty creative socks to wear so he doesn't feel too much like a Stepford Husband.)

The fact that these socks have been sitting unfinished in my knitting pile for OVER A YEAR boggles my mind–what's the problem? They really are Just Socks. They're not a complicated sweater, or an intricate lace shawl…in fact, the pattern is as close to zombie TV-watching knitting as you can get short of plain stockinette. It's not even a "real" pattern–I cobbled together a basic heel flap, and a basic heel, and a basic toe, all from the person who taught me how to knit a great sock instead of just a good sock: my former boss and co-worker, Ann Budd. (If you're interested in basic sock patterns and basic sock construction help, her Getting Started Knitting Socks is killer. And I'd say that even if I didn't work for Interweave, I promise.)

My Zombie Knitting Socks, I called them. They are so easy that I can't even say I designed them, because I'm sure if I looked on Ravelry I'd find that several people have thought of the idea before me. But they're my personal "go-to" basic pattern when I Just Want To Knit Some Socks.

So why did these really simple, really pretty socks remain Zombie Socks for so long? This was unusual, even for me. Thus, I sat down to examine the silly things–was there a mistake I had to undo? A gauge problem? What?

Turns out that the socks were ABT: All But Toe. That's my personal term for a pair of socks stalled by the K-word: the dreaded Kitchener Stitch.

Oh, please. What is UP with me and the darn K stitch? It's not like it's all that hard–so why do I get stuck on it so often, with socks languishing for months due to that one silly technique?

Upon reflection, I think it's because I know two things about myself and The K Stitch: I can't do the K without looking at the book, and I can't do the K well. It always comes out looking sloppy, completely out of step with all my other careful knits and purls.

I can knit a killer lace shawl. I can do twisty celtic knot cables. I can size a sweater up and down, I can tech edit, I can do lace charts and work out knitting problems in my head.

I just can't quite manage the K yet…and right now, there's other things going on in my life, and I don't have to be The Perfect Knitter Right This Minute.

But I did want to finish those socks rather badly. I could have grafted them on the needles, but I wanted to be daring and try out a new-to-me technique I learned from Lucy Neatby at Sock Summit: the Toe Chimney.

Want a little Toe Chimney Tutorial? Good, because I've made one for you. 🙂

It's fun, and it makes you feel like you've done something really clever, so what's not to like?

Sure, we all need to learn the Kitchener Stitch, because it's really useful for grafting everything from hoods to shoulder seams to the two halves of lace stoles. (In fact, here's a video tutorial on the Kitchener stitch from Knitting Daily TV episode #208. You can order the entire season on DVD here!)

But if the dreaded K stitch is all that stands between you and a finished pair of socks, at least now you know at least two other ways–grafting on the needles, and toe chimneys–to finish off those UFO toes!

Knit with joy…

– Sandi

P.S. Let me know what you think! You can email me at sandi@knittingdaily.com or you can leave a comment.

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12 thoughts on “A Tale of Toe Woe: The Zombie Socks

  1. Here’s methods three and four:

    Turn them inside out and do a three needle bind off. The yarn is so fine that it won’t rub, I promise.

    or…decrease down to 8 sts, cut the yarn, run it through the stitches, and cinch it tight. This is my go to method. It works just fine. My socks make me happy!

    Sure, I can do kitchener stitch if I really want to. I’ve done it before. But I guess I don’t really want to, most of the time.

    Knit on!

  2. Hi Sandy,

    My answer is knit Toe Up. It is the only way I have ever knitted socks and the method suits me just fine. The short row toe makes me happy!

    Isn’t it great that there are almost as many ways of knitting socks as there are knitter.

  3. Sandi,

    You are so funny with the ‘K stitch’. You must have learned at least 4 or 5 new techniques to avoid one little one!

    Of course, we are all benefitting from your fear (which seems wrong somehow). However, since we are learning for enrichment what you have learned from avoidance, then I’m all for it – so thank you.

  4. Sandi,
    When I learned the K stitch, I was 14 years old and thought I knew everything. I was also learning from a book; no knitters in sight to ask for help. I looked at those confusing printed directions and then looked at the illustration. The illustration looked just like a duplicate stitch on two unconnected pieces – so, I never did try to figure out the directions, just did the duplicate stitch and it worked fine. I don’t even take the needles out of the stitches until the seam is finished. It’s worked for me for 55 years now, so I guess that 14 year old really did know a little.

    I hope you find something that works just as well for you!

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us.

  5. Zombie socks is a great phrase. Thanks for the grafting on the needles trick — I’ve never come across that before and it looks like a good trick for when one’s brain is feeling sludgy.

  6. Hi Sandy,
    I also have issues with K….I HAVE to use printed directions all the time but always lost my place on either the knitting or the directions! 🙁
    So I came up with the “buddy system”–my 16 year old daughter (who’s
    a ribbon-winning knitter!) reads the directions to me so I never need to take my eyes off of the knitting. I hope to be able to remember how to K by rote one of these days, but for now, I get her to help me.

  7. Sandi – As always, I love your blog. I too have to look at the K stitch instructions every single time. And every time, as I’m doing it, I’m thinking, OK, I get the hang of this! It’s not so hard, and it looks pretty good! Then, next time around, I’m hunting up the instructions again (or printing them off on the computer since I’m pretty unorganized as well as impatient) because I just can’t quite remember what I did last time! Thanks for the toe chimney tutorial – I just happen to have an unfinished sock at home (or maybe 2) that I can try it on!

  8. This is an innovative idea, but seems almost as involved as the Kitchener stitch (which, by the way, I dread also & I’m on my 11th pair of sox so far)! I have ended some sock toes by decreasing gradually down to about 4-6 sts on each needle, then just closing the toe the same way I would a knitted hat – drawing the yarn thru all loops on the needle & cinching tightly. A couple of well-placed sts across the tiny gap & wah-la!! The toes are done!! Yes – I know it’s not a TRUE sock unless the toes are woven, but if that’s all that’s keeping your sox from being done and worn, why not?? Thanks for all your great articles tho – I look forward to them every day!

  9. Sandi, you rock! Go creative and burn that bridge behind you! I am also loving the comments to this post…How did y’all know about those socks in my closet, waiting for toes??
    Betty in Texas

  10. I haven’t figured out the K-stitch either and have to have the book to do it and it never looks pretty. But the grafting on the needles you showed how to do ages ago, that I have no problems with and the toe looks wonderful ever time. I’ve used it to finish off mittens.