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On Your Toes: A New Cast-On

Oct 18, 2013

Some people have beautifully pointed feet. I am not one of those people. My feet are pretty straight across at the toe.

Square Toe Cast-On     
The Square Toe Cast-On
Because of this, I make the foot of my knitted socks a little longer and decrease (top-down) or increase (toe-up) more or less at the toe area to make it less pointy.

If you're in the same boat as I am, here's a neat, toe-up cast-on that starts you off with a flatter toe.

The Square Toe Cast-On

     Square Toe Cast-On Figure 1
Figure 1
Square Toe Cast-On Figure 2
Figure 2
Square Toe Cast-On Figure 3
Figure 3
This is an easy but unusual cast-on that wraps around the toes from side to side. Adjust the number of stitches to meet your needs.

Step 1. Provisionally cast on four stitches. Beginning with a RS row, work eight rows in stockinette stitch (Figure 1).

Step 2. Knit one row; do not turn. Rotate work 90° clockwise. With a spare needle, pick up and knit six stitches along left edge (Figure 2).

Step 3. Rotate work 90° clockwise, then knit one row across provisionally cast-on stitches. Rotate work 90° clockwise again and pick up and knit six stitches along right edge (Figure 3)—twenty stitches.

Step 4. To shape toe, increase one stitch from each end of the needle at top and bottom of square; round begins at center top of square (between third and fourth stitches of Needle 1). Rearrange stitches as needed.

—From Sockupied, Spring 2012

There are so many ways to customize your socks. If you're an avid sock knitter, you'll want to subscribe to and check out all of the knitting instruction available there, especially Anna Zilboorg's Free Sole Socks: Handknit Socks to Last a Lifetime. It's really amazing.


P.S. Do you prefer knitting socks top-down or toe-up? Leave a comment and let us know. For me, it depends. If I'm worried that I might not have enough yarn, I go for toe-up. But if I fall in love with a specific pattern, I don't really care how it's knit!

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grandmag wrote
on Jan 30, 2015 3:01 PM

how can I get just the pattern for this wonderful toe. I lost it from my computer and I need just the toe pattern. You can send it to :   Thank you so much.

P.S this is the only toe I use I just love it.

grandmag wrote
on Jan 30, 2015 3:01 PM

how can I get just the pattern for this wonderful toe. I lost it from my computer and I need just the toe pattern. You can send it to :   Thank you so much.

P.S this is the only toe I use I just love it.

grandmag wrote
on Jan 30, 2015 3:01 PM

how can I get just the pattern for this wonderful toe. I lost it from my computer and I need just the toe pattern. You can send it to :   Thank you so much.

P.S this is the only toe I use I just love it.

qwer246 wrote
on Dec 2, 2014 5:28 PM

excellent technique!thank you.

qwer246 wrote
on Dec 2, 2014 5:28 PM

excellent technique!thank you.

KarenK@75 wrote
on Oct 28, 2013 6:16 PM

i've never done a toe-up but will now try one with this new cast-on.  thanks!

jomikogle wrote
on Oct 24, 2013 7:27 PM

Square Toe Cast-On. Fantastic! I gave up sock knitting because the pointy toes never fit right. Can't wait to start making socks again.

ArwensChild wrote
on Oct 22, 2013 2:42 AM

I will try it my first time..

1cindy1 wrote
on Oct 21, 2013 8:58 PM

I'm a toe up girl. I hate grafting toes!

PriscillaA wrote
on Oct 21, 2013 9:12 AM

I knit socks toe-up because my feet are not only square but they are different widths and two sizes different lengths due to a bent big toe.  Toe-up lets me try them on to make sure they fit properly.  Even after measuring toe-down just doesn't seem to ever fit.  I'm just glad most sock collections have at least one toe-up pattern.  In translating a toe-down to toe-up does one just do it backwards (knit row, perl row becomes perl row, knit row)?

k4tog wrote
on Oct 21, 2013 7:27 AM

I only knit my socks toe up, if I like a top down pattern, I either reverse it or knit it upside down.  This can get tricky with designs that run into the heels.  I have rather wide feet so I can't handle any extra bulk on  the foot of my socks, so this works for me.

I love that people knit socks, and I hope they knit them whichever way they enjoy; toe up or top down.  Everyone is unique! :-)

CarolW@2 wrote
on Oct 20, 2013 5:54 PM

I much prefer top down patterns and do not usually do toe-up.  I may try this new cast on toe-up patterns I really would like to try.  I always have a struggle with starting toe-up.  My preference is partly due to a long association with top down and only recently trying toe-up.

J.M. wrote
on Oct 20, 2013 12:38 PM

Not quite comfortable with toe-up construction yet, so it's top-down socks for me.

sandramonk wrote
on Oct 20, 2013 12:22 AM

Toe up - not sure what the method is called but you cast on half the number of stitches you want around the sock and knit short rows, decreasing till the toe is 1.5 inches wide then increasing out again and picking up the cast on row .  If you want pointier knit more short rows, if you want squarer knit less.

Heels are done the same way. I like to use 5 DPNs so each main needle holds 1/4 of the stitches.

Socks are so easy to knit I can knit whilst  walking down the road.  It boggles the uninitiated especially when I use fancy dyed yarn that looks like I have done tricky colour changes.

on Oct 20, 2013 12:01 AM

Thanks for this.  I look forward to trying it on my next pair.  I really like knitting from the toe up, two at a time so that when I am finished I am really finished and ready to wear my new socks.  ;)

Linda Ebony wrote
on Oct 19, 2013 11:28 PM

First I always buy one extra skein--that way I don't panic if I run short. Any left--and there sometimes is, I gather up and knit scarves--or I make skein patch socks, meaning I just knit socks from the left overs--they look so funny and give me joy.

I am one who knits from the top down--I change colors a lot. Often I knit my socks to be used in my dance classes. I will take an old pair of ballet slippers and cut them to fit the sole bottoms. I take a hole punch, small, punch holes in them and then use a combination of sewing thread and leftover yarn and stitch them on. Yes, I know you can purchase ones all ready made, but I am into reduce/reuse/recycle--as much as possible. Oh, and I use DPN's and knit on the bus -- I love the looks from people--mostly guys--they have such cute funny looks.

TammyT wrote
on Oct 19, 2013 4:50 PM

Girlmariner1: Try a sewn bind off. That's what I always use. It works wonderfully.

debroby wrote
on Oct 19, 2013 4:22 PM

I am a 2 at a time, toe up, magic looper. Just works best for my mind.  If I make a mistake, I make it on both socks, so it matches anyway.

I also apparently have fairly pointy toes.. but wonder why you couldn't simply cast on more stitches and have fewer decreases?

Will keep this one in my tool box for those friend with boxier toes...

enquery2 wrote
on Oct 19, 2013 2:23 PM

I'm of the same mind, Kathleen. Depending on if I think I have plenty of yarn I like to start at the top, bottom up if I'm using handspun and want to run it out at the top cuff.

Thanks for the wide toe tip.

doggs mommy wrote
on Oct 19, 2013 1:10 PM

I've only knit toe up but like you, if I really liked a pattern or yarn I wasn't sure I had enough of, I'd try top long as I can do it two at a time. If I knitted one sock at a time, nobody in this house would have a pair of matching socks. <G>

GeeGee@3 wrote
on Oct 19, 2013 11:02 AM

Once I discovered 2-at-a-time toe-up socks, I have never looked back. I've knitted 100's of socks for myself, my husband, Bill, family members and friends using this method and I don't even remember how I knitted any other way! It was literally love at first try and I'm so glad I found this method of knitting socks. Works for me!

GayleP on Ravelry

just-ducky wrote
on Oct 19, 2013 10:40 AM

Girlmariner1: try "Jeny's surprisingly stretchy bind off." There are tutorials online.

nursegwenn wrote
on Oct 19, 2013 9:44 AM

This is brilliant!!  I've shied away from toe up because the cast on instructions always look so confusing.  I can totally see this  method as customizable too... big feet?  more rows, big toes?  longer rows.  The toe area is where a lot of the wear occurs so it's a good place to use tougher yarn maybe.  Thanks for this info.

on Oct 19, 2013 8:34 AM

plz show us the tutorial I really want to learn this pictures wont help plz I thank u in advance

Sandielynne wrote
on Oct 19, 2013 8:22 AM

Contrary to most, I have never yet managed to knit a sock, toe up, and have it fit right.  And yet every pair I've made from the cuff down is a perfect fit.  I sure wish I could find a way to use this particular toe in a cuff down sock.  LOL

knitinnow wrote
on Oct 19, 2013 7:28 AM

My preference is definitely toe-up, as I love being able to try on until I find the proper lengths.

jnfrsmith wrote
on Oct 19, 2013 3:01 AM

I have never knitted socks before but would really like to learn.  Any good tutorial around?

Thanks Jennifer

jnfrsmith wrote
on Oct 19, 2013 3:01 AM

I have never knitted socks before but would really like to learn.  Any good tutorial around?

Thanks Jennifer

Gayle Lee wrote
on Oct 19, 2013 1:17 AM

I've never knitted socks before and am a little intimidated by them.

mountyjoy wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 11:18 PM

toe up - I've never tried "the other way" (too scared of the grafting, and toe-up just seems to make more sense WRT to fitting, and the reason you mention above - yarn quantity)!

on Oct 18, 2013 11:04 PM

I'll do either, but I prefer toe-up with Judy's Magic Cast On and the Magic Loop method vs. dpns.  Next time, I will try toe-up two at a time. I really like a stretchy bind off at the ribbed cuff; in particular, Miraculous Elastic Bind Off as shown here:

girlmariner1 wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 10:24 PM

I love toe up socks but have a big problem binding off at the cuff..any suggestions?

TammyT wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 10:09 PM

I'm a big fan of toe up socks. Once I tried it I've never made another pair cuff-down. That cast on is a "sideways" version of a very popular toe up cast on that I use often. I also like short row toes.

amarasharon wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 8:23 PM

I think I'm in the minority.  I knit top down socks--on DPN's.  I've always been able to try them on after I finish the heel.  I also have double sets of my DPN's.  So I'll cast on and start the cuff one one set.  Then cast on and knit the cuff on the other needles and alternate between them as I progress thru the pattern.  That way I've always been able to avoid second-sock-syndrome.  Really, it works for me.

arlenecarole wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 8:14 PM

Would like to try this new method of toe cast on but with circular needles.  I prefer doing toe up but have been using the pointed toe method.  Could you give directions for using circular needles?

mtnfiberarts wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 6:14 PM

I've always done top down socks and have my first pair of toe up on the needles now.  I'm a little frustrated with the cast on so I'm going to start over with this cast on because it looks so much easier!  Thanks!!!

cindye64 wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 6:12 PM

I, too, need a more square toe in my socks.  I love knitting toe up and use a short row  method that joins smoothly under the toes- a little strange the first time I used it- it forms a little cup before beginning the foot portion.

Knit on, Cindy

Nanswa wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 6:10 PM

I knit socks toe up because I don't get along well with the Kitchener stitch.

on Oct 18, 2013 5:55 PM

I'm right there with you Kathleen.  I prefer toe-up.  I just find that easier, especially if I'm worried about my yarn amounts.  But, like you, if I find a beautiful sock design ... it doesn't matter to me how it's constructed.  I just love to knit socks!!!

Vicki@3 wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 3:59 PM

Nothing new about this cast on. I've been using a similar toe up cast on for at least 3 years. I only knit toe up socks.

wendygoerl wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 3:07 PM

I've never tried to knit from toe to heel, mainly because, for decades, the "sock" lot at my country fair specified "French or Dutch" heel, and you don't end up with a "French or Dutch heel" when knitting toe to heel.

(FYI: The 4-H knitting standards (which form the basis of most open class categories), I discovered, are taken almost verbatim from WWI-era Red Cross knitting guides for military-acceptable projects. So as far as the fair is concerned, only French, Dutch, and auto heels exist.)

mholschen wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 2:51 PM

I have preferred to knit socks toe-up ever since first struggling through that first pair, which I somehow got the notion that I could learn toe-up, two-at-a-time and knitting on tow circus, all at the same time. It took six weeks (due to arm constraints) but I got it! I get lots of comments from folks in public. It's so much easier than the other methods. I have managed to convert a few patterns too. I also can't count the times I've heard knitters say: "I just never got around to knitting the second sock." Well, I know toe-up or cuff-down work equally well two-at-a-time for those folks in mind. It may require starting them one at a time then moving the second over to the same needles as the first. It took me a little longer to smooth that part out. The learning is half the fun along the journey!

PeggyH@23 wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 1:56 PM

I prefer to knit my socks toe up.  However, I will also knit cuff down if that is the only way I can work out a pattern.

BarbaraG wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 1:38 PM

2 at a time toe up magic loop is the only way I'll ever knit socks. After 50 yrs of knitting and never kniiting a sock on double points, I look a class in magic loop doing 1 sock top down. Hated the kitchener stitch and having to do another sock!! The follow up class was doing 2 at a time toe up ~I fell in love! You couldn't pay me enough to knit with dbl pts doing 1 sock top down! I have my basic sock stitch counts & apply different stitch patterns or make one up.

knitajo wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 1:18 PM

I have knitted in both directions but I find toe ip leabes me a chance to make a stretchy cast off. I will be trying this, thanks.

knitajo wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 1:18 PM

I have knitted in both directions but I find toe ip leabes me a chance to make a stretchy cast off. I will be trying this, thanks.

ehiguera wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 1:07 PM

Brilliant! With this, I'll be doing a lot more toe-up.

anniehunt wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 1:04 PM

I prefer toe-up with 2 at a time, magic loop cast on.  But the square feet in my children and husband -- now grandchildren as well - will love this new cast on!  Next pair!

If I really like a top down leg/cuff pattern, I'll try to adapt it, usually knitting it upside down.  Once a year I'll end up doing top down just because there is no easy way to re-do the pattern.

bgvt wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 12:57 PM

Toe up - every time - if there's a pattern I love that's designed for top down, I turn it around. I HATE running out of yarn too soon, although I have done top down with a different color toe, when that's happened.

RetaD wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 12:55 PM

ok so I understand the steps # 1,2,3&4 and then you would knit up to where the heel gusset is narrowed off so how would you do the heel? How many stitches would I add on for the foot? I do like this and would like to try it. Have you worked with the Wisdom yarns? It is very fine yarn and the one ball is suppose to make a pr of socks but I don't know how many stitches to put on the needles.

MiaJ wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 12:18 PM

I learned to knit top-down and I still like this way best.  I design a lot of my own sock patterns.  I like to have complex patterns in the cuff that flow into the leg pattern and then into the foot.  I can find that I can control adding stitches from the cuff to the leg (to add more stitches for multiple cables) and decrease stitches at the heel and It just seems "natural" to knit socks like this.  I will sometimes see a pattern that might look better knit toe-up but for more complex cable and twisted stitch patterns, cuff-down is the way to go.  In addition, I think that decorative cast-ons are more fun on the cuff and have more elasticity than most cast-offs.

jardinrouge wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 12:17 PM

I'm with you regarding knitting socks toe-up.  It does depend upon the pattern, although since I learned how to do toe-up, I find that toe-up creates a better fitting sock.  If I really like a particular cuff down pattern, I usually look to see if it can easily be converted to toe-up, and if not, then I'll follow the pattern.  My second toes are longer than the big toes, and my toes are shaped somewhat like a capital D, that is sloping down toward the outside of the foot.  Because of this, my preferred sock shape is anatomical, and this is fairly easy to accomplish, regardless of the direction of the knitting...toe-up or top down.

ddipsy wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 12:08 PM

I learned to knit by watching my grandmother.  She never used a pattern, and made many beautiful and intricate items.  Her "signature" was knitting in a small leaf somewhere in her project.  That's how people in her county knew that my grandmother made the item.  I, therefore, learned how to knit without patterns, and believe this is why I still enjoy "creaqting" projects of my own.  My gram knew I would not behappy making a typical "first project" such as a scarf, hat, etc.  I was 7 years old.  My first project was to make a pair of socks for my father.  I wanted to echo the same importance of knitting my father a pair of sox,  just like my gram did for the soldiers.  I undid a sweater from the thrift store for my yarn. (My gram, just a child herself,  held a "knitting circle" in her church basement.  The ladies made wool socks for armed forced during World War 2.)  No pattern was given me.  Gram would tell me what to do, and left me alone to "think through her words" of wisdom.  Kathleen, your square toe was a 'standard' requirement for the WWIII socks, and it has carried over throughout my lifetime.  So, something old (square toe) is new again!  Thanks for the memory!

MaryE wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 12:02 PM

I prefer top down for socks, never have luck with that toe cast on thing,  This one looks likely though, thanks for the idea.

MaryD@2 wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 11:57 AM

I am a cuff down sock knitter but might try the other way with your square toe!


Paet46 wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 11:40 AM

I have always knit socks from the top down.  It makes sense to me and gives me more control and a better fit!

JenniferH@46 wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 11:37 AM

Ever since I learned how to do toe up socks I have never gone back to top down, and I knit a lot of socks.  If the amount of yarn is a problem I knit both feet and then divide the remaining yarn in half by weight and knit until each ball is gone.  I love Toe up!  I can adapt any pattern from top down to toe up with little difficulty.  

desireeross wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 11:34 AM

Toe up using Turkish cast on

Jacklou wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 11:33 AM

I prefer 2 at-a-time toe up socks.  A bit slower going, but both are done at the same time.

karenspils wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 11:10 AM

What about using Judy's Magic Cast-on and just increasing your number of stitches.  You'd need fewer increases and your toe would be more square.  That's what I do.

Also, for simplicity, you can use the 'figure 8' cast on the same way, by adding more stitches.

I love the 2 at-a-time, toe-up socks.  I can try them on every step of the way for a perfect fit!

Espresso345 wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 11:05 AM

I prefer to knit cuff-down - but my husband, who LOVES handknit socks, wants me to knit all of his toe-up! He says, "It just makes more sense!"

Well, they're his socks, so I knit his toe-up, and that way I am up to speed on both styles.

KarenC@46 wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 10:57 AM

I love 2 at a time, toe up, but love knitting so it doesn't really matter. Love learning all the various techniques, and the different colors and textures of the yarns, it is never boring to me.

KimW@22 wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 10:51 AM

My problem is that what I wear out is a hole on the top of the sock, right above my big toe.  Socks do not last long enough for me to wear out the sole because the top fails.  Apparently I walk with my big toe up, and as I think about it sitting here, I realize that i sit with my big toe up against the top of my shoe.  And now my toes are curling in response to all this consideration!

mbell wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 10:26 AM

Thank you for sharing this cast-on method. Other toe-up cast-ons have not gone smoothly for me so I haven't  completed a toe-up sock yet. Socks are one of my favorite things to knit; can't wait to try this method. And my feet will appreciate the increased toe room!

islandbeader wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 10:26 AM

I agree with you, Kathleen. When I find a pattern I like it matters not to me whether it is toe up or top down. And like you, I do not have pointed feet, so need straight across toe patterns. This new one looks very useful. You will never see me in those pointed toe shoes, only comfy ones.

on Oct 18, 2013 10:25 AM

TTAAT=Toe-up Two At A Time is by far my preference

lsealey wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 10:08 AM

I prefer toe-up, two at a time.  I am going to use this method on the next pair of socks.  I like the fact that these are not pointy.  I generally cast on more stitches than called for to avoid elf toes; this technique might be the trick.

Jturnrich wrote
on Oct 18, 2013 9:34 AM

Ah, yes!  I know those feet well.  They're called "Barney Rubble feet" in our family. They not only make for adjustments in sock patterns, but usually eliminate any degree of comfort in stylish pointy-toed shoes.  We've decided to graciously accept our fate and use them as an excuse to be barefoot at every opportunity.