Toe-Up Socks: The Middle Eastern Cast-On

I haven't had much experience writing patterns, but I had a ball of Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball Crazy Sock Yarn that I was itching to knit into a pair of socks, and I couldn't settle on a pattern. So I decided to write one myself!

The yarn lent itself better to a plain or cable pattern than to a lace pattern, so I decided on cables. I looked through the amazing Harmony Guide, 101 Stitches to Knit, a card deck edited by Erika Knight, and I found an easy and attractive cable: the Simple Cable.

With the stitch pattern decided upon, I plotted out my stitch count and started swatching. My gauge worked, so I cast on.

I also wanted a toe-up experience, so I tried the Middle Eastern Cast-On for the first time, and I really like it. I've seen this method referred to as the Turkish Cast-On, too, but whatever the name, I found it quick and easy.

At left you can see my progress—I like it a lot. (When it's finished, maybe I'll debut the design on!)

How to Work the Middle Eastern Cast-On

You can use this method with two circular needles or with the Magic Loop method. I don't recommend using it on double pointed needles (DPNs), but you can cast on with two circulars or the Magic Loop, work a couple of rounds, and then transfer your stitches to DPNs.

Step 1. Snugly wrap the working yarn around two needles, starting with the tail and ending with the working yarn hanging off the tips of the needles (Figure 1). Wrap the yarn half as many times as the total amount of stitches the pattern requires you to cast on. (Need sixteen stitches? Wrap the yarn eight times around the needles). Bring the yarn forward between needles, back to front .

Step 2. Knit across stitches on upper needle (Figure 2). (Or, if you're holding your needles parallel to each other, knit across the stitches on the front needle.)

Step 3. Rotate the work and knit across the same number of stitches on the other needle (Figure 3).

After you've knit one round all of your stitches will be secure. Knit one or two more rounds, and then begin your increases as directed in the pattern.

It's as simple as that.

If you'd like to get started with this cast-on technique right away, check out Ann Budd's toe-up pattern, On-Your-Toes-Socks. I'm sure you'll enjoy this easy, classic look.




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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!

19 thoughts on “Toe-Up Socks: The Middle Eastern Cast-On

  1. I really love the new pointers that you have been giving in the last few Knitting Daily. I really appreciated the Magic Loop, also.
    It feels that I am finally learning something instead of looking at new magazine subcriptions all the time.
    Thanks, Kathleen

  2. I am so glad I found your sight! I am a sock fanatic – “advanced” beginner. i.e. I can knit a basic sock al day long – – but am just now starting to venture out with patterns and have friends tell me I’m crazy for not going with the 2 circular needle method (so here goes – – toe-up, too) I have most of your mail in a special folder as the “gems” are priceless. Thank-you for your availability and e-mails!! Linda Gager

  3. This is a traditional cast-on for Turkish socks, as explained by Anna Zilboorg in her sock book. (titled differently in different editions) It’s a great way to start off a sock with a complicated color pattern…it gets a lot of stitches on the needles quickly in order to facilitate stranded knitting. The traditional way to do it is with dpns–and that’s how I learned! I use dpns exclusively while making socks, and I find this to be a very useful cast on for toe up socks. While Magic Loop or two circulars are entirely legitimate ways to make socks, there’s no reason why the old-fashioned standard–dpns-won’t work here.

    It worked just fine for generations of Ottoman knitters!

  4. I already bought a couple of your sock pattern books; however, I love the toe-up socks and I haven’t been able to figure out how to convert the patterns in the books to toe up. They all seem to be top-down and with adjusting for size and length, I can’t seem to figure out how to start at the other end and also adjust the very pretty patterns to toe-up. Thanks for your help.

  5. Actually, there is a great advantage. If you use the magic loop, you can measure it on the foot as you go and make it fit perfectly. I knit for grand children and the sizes vary a lot from the patterns I find. With the toe-up I can decide on a stitch and make it up as I go. I’m a new knitter, so my stitch patterns tend to be somewhat simple. I would love to make those pretty socks in your books though.

  6. I am just very pleased to see toe-up be in the newsletter….Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts has been writing books and doing research for a long time on this practical method….in the event you have a limited amount of unusual yarn, due to price or handspun…well, this is the way to make a pair of socks that will use equal amounts…start at the toe of each and go as far as it lasts….no wasted snippets…love the pictures of your lovely project…

  7. I learned this cast-on using double pointed needles and this is the way i continue to do it. I don’t understand why you say you don’t “recommend” DPNs for this.


  8. Hi….I agree with all who say they use dpns for this cast on. I have made countless prs of socks. While I don’t really care for toe-up socks….I have done them + used this cast on…w/ dpns always. Over time I frequently replace heels + sometimes entire feet on homemade socks. For this reason I prefer top down. And also I do prefer my cast on @ the top compared to any cast off I’ve tried.

    I’de like to add that I was so pleased to see the free shipping offer on sock books in tonite’s newsletter. Goodie…a great excuse to add 1-2 more books to my collection!!! Then I read the fine print. Nova Scotia doesn’t count. We aren’t exactly overseas here!?!? I have ordered fr you folks several times as well as having a subscription to both “Knits” + “Piecework”. Disappointing + not really fair to make the offer with that limit. Andrea

  9. Kathleen,

    I’ve been trying to figure out how make my socks less pointy at the toe, and noticed that the toe on your sock looks like it might work for me. Would you be willing to share your toe-shaping numbers with me?


  10. This is a terrific cast on taught to me by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts years and years ago. I have used nothing since for my toe up socks and always use double pointed needles. Never had a problem. I do, however knit a strip for a toe box and after picking up the stitches all around, shape my toes right and left so that they fit my foot.

    Once you get the hang of it, the cast on is not difficult.

  11. I actually do use the Middle Eastern cast on with DPN’s. It’s a little fiddly, and there has been the odd time, when I’ve been tired, or the light very poor, that I haven’t been able to manage it, but on the whole, I can do it without much trouble. I’ve even done it at a hockey game. Okay, during intermission, because I’m the gal who stands up and cheers, loudly, at every brilliant play her team makes, but I was at the game. I had the whole toe nearly done by the time third period was done and our team victorious.

  12. I have made one pair of socks from the top down. The rest have all been toe-up with the Middle Eastern cast-on using dpns. For me the advantage has been the ability to make a fully customized pair of socks. I have legs that seem to be more curvaceous than the ones socks are generally made for, so most socks are tight around my calves. I can try out the socks at various stages to make sure they fit me or the child for whom I am making the sock. I have been able to customize the circumferences of the leg by adding increases and decreases. For me, the toe up method also makes it easier add design elements, such as cables and eyelets. For the bind off I use larger needles and k2tog across (k2tog, return stitch made to left hand needle until only one stitch remains on right hand needle, cut working yarn, draw up through loop, weave in tail. This tends to give a more elastic bind off) The toe- up method also lets me use the leftover yarn from other projects to make anklets and/or “house socks” (for house socks, the bulkier the yarn the better. Just add some silicon caulk to the bottoms to make them non-slip.)

  13. Hi Kathleen!

    I love Ann Budd’s On-Your-Toes socks and have nearly finished the first one (I’m an absolute sock beginner). The toe-up method with the Eastern cast on worked a treat and both make perfect sense to me. I started off with DPNs as per Ann’s pattern, but found them too fiddly and switched to circular – so much easier! I have also adapted with Knitting Bloom’s short row heel as I couldn’t get to grips with Ann’s and kept getting holes.

    I have now come across this blog entry of yours and wonder whether you ever wrote up the pattern as I would like to try it next!

    Thank you!