The humble sock

My simple-toed socks

Ah, the sock. So simple and necessary; it's part of our daily wardrobe. But sock knitting is full of so many ways to customize socks to fit your feet perfectly, which is one of the many joys of handknit socks, right?

Today's discussion is going to be about toe customization. The two constructions are the Round Toe and the Star Toe. Both make roomy toes, perfect for people with diabetes or wide feet.

Neither toe uses Kitchener stitch, which is what drew me to them, frankly. Kitchener has its place but I can never seem to memorize the steps and I almost always miss one and have a little hole.

I have knit a couple of pairs of socks where I just decrease to eight stitches and draw the yarn through the stitches to finish the toe. One of these pairs is at left. You can see, especially on the bottom sock, that this method causes the very tip of the sock to draw in a bit, but once you have them on your feet, you can't tell the difference between this finishing method and the Kitchener stitch.

Round Toe, from Folk Socks by Nancy Bush
Star Toe, from Folk Socks by Nancy Bush

Nancy Bush recently updated her fantastic book Folk Socks, and she included the Round and Star toe directions. Here they are.

Round Toe
To produce a rounded shape, this type of toe is formed by working the decreases evenly spaced around the entire circumference, rather than just at the sides. This toe is worked over a number of stitches divisible by eight.

Work until the foot measures the desired total length less the toe shaping, ending at the seam line.
   Shape the toe as follows:
Dec Round 1: *K6, k2tog; rep from *. Knit 6 rounds.
Dec Round 2: *K5, k2tog; rep from *. Knit 5 rounds.
Dec Round 3: *K4, k2tog; rep from *. Knit 4 rounds.
    Continue in this manner, working one less stitch between each decrease and knitting one less round between decrease rounds until you work only one plain round.
Next Round: *K2tog; rep from *.
    To finish, cut the yarn, leaving a 10" (25.5 cm) tail. Thread tail on a tapestry needle, draw through rem sts, pull tight to close hole, and fasten off on WS.

Star Toe
This toe shaping is worked with the stitches divided evenly onto four needles with a fifth needle as a working needle. The shaping can be lengthened by adding more plain rounds between the decrease rounds or shortened by working the decreases on every round.

Work until the foot measures the desired total length less the toe shaping, ending at the seam line.
   Shape the toe as follows:
Round 1: *Knit to last 2 sts of needle, k2tog; rep from * 3 more times-4 stitches decreased.
Round 2: Knit.
    Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 a total of 6 times, then rep Round 1 (decrease every round) until about 8 stitches remain.
    To finish, cut the yarn, leaving a 10" (25.5 cm) tail. Thread tail on a tapestry needle, draw through rem sts, pull tight to close hole, and fasten off on WS.

Get yourself a copy of the updated Folk Socks—there are many, many different ways to customize your socks, and Nancy Bush is the perfect person to teach you how.


P.S. Do you have a toe tip for us? Share it in the comments!


Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

20 thoughts on “The humble sock

  1. I love the way the toe ends up when I use the toe-up method Two-at-a-time toe-up is “the best thing since sliced bread”! It takes a bit of practice to learn fluency in the technique, but it’s well worth the time and effort!

  2. I’m so glad you published this. I never could perfect the Kirchner stitch, so I have been using a two-needle bind off. While it is really solid at the toe and it fits great when the sock is on, it looks a little strange when the socks are folded up. I’ll starting a new pair this week, so I definitely will try your method.

  3. I have found the round toe to not last as well as one done with Kitchener stitch – I have a pair of round toe socks waiting to be darned as I write. In the winter I wear nothing but my handmade socks. I just keep the Kitchener stitch instructions with me – it’s worth the extra 10 minutes to have a strong toe. I keep my toenails very short, but still find the round toe doesn’t last. Haven’t tried to star toe and probably won’t. Three-needle bind off sounds like a good alternative – may try that next.

  4. I find it especially disheartening for the editor of Knitting Daily to write a column using the “difficulty” of the kitchener stitch to promote books. I’ve only been knitting 3 years and I don’t find the Kitchener stitch to be rocket science. There’s a beautifully clear and concise tutorial on Knitty that I look at every time I finish socks. There’s a reason Lord Kitchener invented the stitch, so the toes of troops wouldn’t chafe because of a seam – which is the same reason it’s still the best way (not including toe-up) to finish socks. And, seriously, are you saying you can’t concentrate long enough to correctly graft, maybe, 20 stitches? After finishing a whole sock? Seriously?

  5. Toe tip – simply turn your sock inside out and use a 3 needle bind off. I do this by sliding the live stitches onto safety pins , turning sock then back onto the needles. I’ve never had a problem with the tiny seam chafing my toes – I decrease down to 12 sts so there is only a tiny 6 stitch gap to close.

  6. Kitchener stitch really isn’t bad. Just plan to do your toes in a quiet place where you can concentrate. After about 3-4 pairs of socks (probably because of stress!) I finally got it and I’m glad I kept trying. It looks so much better than pulling the yarn through.

  7. It would be nice to see some recognition that top-down is not the only way people knit socks. If you knit toe-up, you never have to graft a toe, or worry you’ll run out of yarn before you get to the toe. Enlarge your view.

  8. The hardest thing about sock knitting IMO is finding the right yarn – most of my patterns want sz 2 yarn and that stuff is awful to find; it basically isn’t on the shelves, and the few times you do see it they have colors you wouldn’t be caught dead in *and the price is horrendous too. (The major yarn outlets in my area are AC Moore and Michael’s) Also, all my patterns may come in different sizes but no where do I see advice on how to tailor the socks for individual feet, particularly when it’s a patterned sock (i.e., nordic or other designs). Maybe it needs to be wider here and narrower there, that type of thing. I want the socks I make to be nice, not ‘who did it and ran?’, yanno?

  9. I’m a lefty who knits right-handed continental with no problems. But the Kitchener stitch is nigh impossible do left-handed from right-handed instructions. So I prefer the toe-up method. I’ve also been known to turn the sock inside out and use three-needle bind off to finish the toe. This works for soles of booties, too.

    But now if someone has translated Kitchener for lefties, let me know!

  10. I love the kitchener stitch! so much nicer looking than the alternatives for cuff-down socks. and I second dpmarshall who wrote about the editor’s being unable to concentrate on those few stitches – after cabling, or doing color work, or doing lace in your socks, you have trouble with this simplest thing? I just don’t believe it.

  11. If I look at my feet, they are straight on the arch side, and taper toward the little toe. I knit my socks toe up. Cast on enough stitches for the length of the first two toes, then increase only on one side each round (using two cable needles, increase one stitch two stitches before the end, on next needle knit two before increasing one). You knit both feet the same until you come to the heel shaping, where you have to remember to do an extra half round to end up with a left and a right sock. It’s probably not necessary for comfort, but the shape of the socks is definitely closer to the shape of the feet.

  12. I’m more of a weaver than a knitter but I agree with Arbuck that there is another way to knit these. Why not try starting at the toe with short rows- you get a 3 dimensional toe very easily- adjust it by starting with more, or fewer stitches?