Toe-up or Top-down?

Which do you do? I’ve been knitting toe-up socks for some time and I have really enjoyed the process. I can now knit any sock using the knowledge I have about constructing a toe-up sock – the toe, the foot, the gusset increase, the heel flap, the gusset creation and the leg. See, it’s all easy – each part has its construction process, and if you follow it, there you are, a sock –  or two if you’re happy with the first one.

My most recent sock, however, is a top-down sock. Why? Because I’m going to the Sock Summit and I figured I needed a refresher so that I wouldn’t seem unknowledgeable in any of the classes I’ve registered for. Experience does count for something, after all.

I chose a very simple pattern called Faceted Rib Socks from the Little Box of Socks which I received for Christmas from Holli. I like the look of the pattern with the yarn I’m using, a 100% merino hand paint from Fleece Artist.

But it has not been a pleasant knit, not because it’s difficult, (it’s a 4 row pattern, easy-peasy), but because I seem to lose attention and after knitting blithely away, I have discovered at least 3 times that I’ve forgotten to knit one of the rows, so that I’ve needed to frog the sock, and get those silly stitches back on the needle. I also lost a stitch somewhere while knitting the heel (or maybe I gained one, who knows?), so when I discovered the missing stitch while knitting the gusset, I had to include an extra stitch so things would work out tidily. I also found that I lost interest as I knit, so that I often didn’t knit more than 8 rows before I would stop, put the needle down and do something else.


My faceted Rib Sock

My faceted Rib Sock

But there are positives. Now that I’m knitting the foot, I have not forgotten to knit any rows, so it’s finally growing without frogging. Small mercies. And I’m knitting using Magic Loop, which is so sensible. One needle, no fussing, no dangling needles as in two circ knitting poking through my shirt and tickling my chest. Although I would change the name Magic Loop if I could – no magic here, it’s just circular knitting in a very logical, mathematical fashion – thank heaven for the person who invented circs to begin with. Now that I’ve begun to use it, I see no need to ever go back to four needle or two circ knitting for my socks ever again. (Although that didn’t stop me from buying a set of five sock needles because they were made of hardened birch – something about those needles said, “Buy me”!, perhaps as museum pieces for my collection.)

So now I have to get back to knitting them. I have to get to the end of the foot, decrease for the toe, do the kitchener stitch on that, and then cast on all over again for the second sock. At least this time, it should be less knitting, because I won’t have to knit the two extra inches I did the first time before I realized, after frogging, that the sock was perfect at the shorter size.

Stitch detail

Stitch detail

 To get back to the question I asked at the beginning – top-down or toe-up? Well, to juggle language a little, toe-up wins hands-down. It’s easier for me because I have control over the length of the foot, I love using Turkish cast-on for the toe, and I really like not having to pick up stitches. Okay, I admit it, it wasn’t that hard to pick up those stitches, but it was still something I can do without.

Gusset detail

Gusset detail

What did I learn from my top-down sock experience? Well, yes, you can still knit it using Magic Loop; I learned a new cast-on for me, Twisted German Cast-on, which does give a good stretch to the cuff of the sock; I didn’t suffer too much from having to pick up some stitches, even if I did lose a stitch somewhere or other. I also learned that I have a rather limited attention span, and need to focus just a little better when I’m knitting so that I don’t forget to knit a row every now and again.

Cast on edge

Cast on edge

Another view of the cast on edge

Another view of the cast on edge

But the most important thing I learned? I really love knitting toe-up socks and I’m going right back to it as soon as I finish this pair. Yes, I can knit top-down, but darned if I have to. Thanks to Wendyknits, Cat Bordhi and all those others who went ahead and figured out how to knit our socks from the toe I know that knitting toe-up is the more pleasurable experience for me. And if it isn’t a pleasure, why do it? That is the question and the answer is obvious – don’t do it.


One response to “Toe-up or Top-down?

  1. Nigel, I love the pattern in the socks. And they are knit my favorite way, top down. Maybe one of these days I learn to love the toe-up way of doing them. I’m also glad to hear that your depression has once again abided. I’ve just now come out of my own episode which was deeper and longer than any before.

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