Knitting 101: Toe Up Socks

It’s time for our final sock lesson, knitting toe up socks!

Alright, Alright, I know I said I wasn’t going to cover how to knit toe up socks, but I felt like it would be wrong to skip COMPLETELY over it. Especially when such a good change to highlight double pointed needles is involved. For those of you who don’t remember, there is a WONDERFUL toe up tutorial called Silver’s Sock Class that will take care of how to use circular needles to knit two at a time.

As in the previous lesson, I won’t be using sizes for this pattern, I’ll just be looking at measurements so make sure you do a gauge swatch before we start. I will also include the short version at the bottom of this post for those of you who just need the quick instructions. As for the sock I’m actually making here, I’ll note in parentheses how many stitches and such I’m using so you can follow along for practice if you’d like.

For my sock I am using:


you will need


1 Skein Worsted weight (4) yarn any brand, fiber, and color (about 275 yards)

4 size US-5 (3.75 mm) Double Pointed Needles–DPNs (or 1 circular needle)

Split ring markers, locking stitch markers, OR safety pins (at LEAST 1)

A measuring tape

OPTIONAL: Medium stitch holder(s)

OPTIONAL: Knitting Gauge


Toe Up Socks

In the last post, I wrote that I was quite pregnant while making the top down socks. Due to the magic of the internet (and advanced scheduling) I am no longer pregnant and have an almost six week old son. This time, I am NOT dealing with swollen ankles or feet, so I’ll be able to use more accurate measurements. If, however, you are still having troubles, here’s that link to the Craft Yarn Council’s foot size chart.

Now, obviously, we’re not going to start with an ankle measurement this time, we’re going to start with the toe. More specifically, we’re going to start with the measurement across the tips of your toe. Basically, we need to see how wide to make your sock. Once we have that (and of course after you’ve completed your gauge swatch to know how many stitches per inch you need), we’ll need to cast on.

For those of you who like a very nice, fancy cast on, I suggest you take a look at Judy’s Magic Cast-On by Judy Becker (does anyone know why everything is “magic” this or that? No, really. I want to know….). It’s a little complicated, but it makes a REALLY nice toe cast on. For those of you who don’t mind a little bit of a funky toe or a more square cast on (great for quick starts or practice) I’m going to show you what I do.

First, take two DPNs and set them a little apart from each other like so:


Notice I already have the yarn attached to the needle. If you haven’t already done that, get it attached and get ready for our normal cast on technique. Use the back needle (the one that’s empty in the photo above) for your first cast on:


The slip knot we started with counts as one, so now you have two done. Wasn’t that easy? Now, use our normal cast on method with the front needle (the one that has the slip knot on it). Then the back again, then the front, and you get the idea. After a few, it will look like this:


Now, because we were all very good and made gauge swatches before starting this sock (Seriously, make the gauge swatch), we can finish casting on our stitches.  Measure across the tips of your toes to see how wide your toes are and subtract half an inch. Whatever that measurement comes out to is the amount of stitches you’ll need to cast on (40 for me). So, cast on a few and then check your measurements. When you’re ready to measure, slide your cast on stitches to match your gauge (I’m not joking you need the swatch this time).

We’re ready to start our first toe round, but it doesn’t look very round yet does it? Don’t worry. It’ll round out as we work. The first thing to do is place a marker at the beginning of the round. Then, knit across both the needles the same way you would if your were working a round.

Now take a little break, flip the work over, and I’ll show you what I was talking about with the funky toe cast on:

funky toe

See how the stitches on both sides stand at attention? Here’s a better look:

funky toe2

The toe lays VERY flat. This cast on is also really great for making anything square (think blocks for baby). The other fun thing about this cast on is that if you flip it inside out, that sharp edge basically disappears. So if you’re wanting a purl sock (or if you start with purls rather than knits and flip the work) you’ll still get that nice round toe.

Anyway, enough of that side bar, back to knitting!

Well, almost. We still need to measure the length for our toe. Pull you’re measuring tape out and measure the length of your big toe. Then we can go on to round two.

For round two, knit the front and back of the first stitch in the round (check out my More Increases and Decreases post for help with that if you need it) and knit across needle 1. Knit the front and back of the first stitch on needle 2, then knit across that needle to complete the round. You may want to place a maker before the second KFB to help you remember to increase.

Marker or not, repeat those two rounds (knitting then increasing) until you have reached your toe length measurement.  When you get there, you should have something that looks like this:


Now comes the easy part: the foot.

Measure your foot from the tip of your toe to the beginning of your heel. It may help to imagine your heel as a circle right about the top of that circle is where you’ll want to stop. For most adults, this will leave about 2.5 inches of heel left over.

Slide the stitches evenly onto three of the four double pointed needles (looks a little more round at least right?) and use the fourth to work. For those of you who have knit before and/or are wondering why I’m using four DPNs instead of five here, I couldn’t find the fifth one.

Yeah, really. I see no issue with using three rather than four in every case I’ve come across so far. The needles commonly come in sets of four, and I don’t want to pay more for needles that I don’t need. And this time, I HAVE five, but I honestly have no idea where the fifth one went, so….there’s that.

When it comes right down to it, as long as the amount of needles is working for you, you can use as many or as few as you like. I’ll show you the way that is easiest for me, but if you would rather use five or two or whatever, do that.

Moving right along then (I’m a bit side tracked today aren’t I?), you should have something that looks like this:

on DPNs

We still need that marker at the beginning of the round (and if you’d like, at the halfway mark), but from here, just knit around until you have reached your mark.


Now we get to start the heel. Today I’m going to teach you what is probably the EASIEST heel I’ve ever done. We’ll start by knitting across half the stitches on the foot — to your marker if you placed a half way marker (20 sts). Now, measurements being what they are, you may have an odd number of stitches, and be wondering what to do? Generally speaking, having an even number of stitches for your heel will be better, so round either up or down to have an even number of worked stitches.

Place the rest of the stitches onto a stitch holder or just leave them unworked on your other DPNs. If you have point protectors, now might be a good time to pull them out. What’s a point protector? This:


They keep your work from slipping off your DPNs and are very helpful in these cases.

Now that the extra foot stitches are safe, purl across your heel stitches to the last stitch and wrap the stitch. To wrap the stitch, lay the working yarn between the needles, across your work:


Slip the stitch (knit wise for knit stitches and purlwise for purl stitches) to the working needle:


Lay the yarn around the side of the slipped stitch and slip the now wrapped stitch back to the other needle:


Pick up the working yarn and work to the end of the row. Wrap the last stitch and make your way back and wrap the last stitch, leaving the stitch your wrapped last time unworked.

Before we get too excited about this step, we need to know HOW MANY stitches to wrap right? We’ve knit half the stitches on the foot. Two thirds of those stitches will be wrapped. One third of THOSE stitches need to be on either side of the needle (leaving half in the middle).

harry's opinion

Alright, Harry…you’ve got a point…. let’s try that again. On your needles, you have a number of stitches (I have 20). Divide that number by 3 (6.33 for me). If you have an even number, awesome. If you do NOT have an even number round up to the nearest whole number (7 for me).

That number (the “nearest whole number” in my case–7) is the number of stitches that you will have wrapped on EITHER side of your work (in my case, 7 wrapped stitches on the left, 6 worked stitches in the center, and 7 wrapped stitches on the right). Whatever happens, you MUST have the same amount of wrapped stitches on BOTH sides of your worked stitches. These will be picked up in the next step to create the “corner” that is the heel of your sock and you don’t want THAT to be uneven.

By the time you’re ready to pick up stitches, you should have something that looks like this:

wrapped stitches

Ok, half the heel done. Now we move onto the picking up part.

Work across your short row and work the first slipped stitch (this is the only one that won’t need the k2tog part that’s coming up) then turn. Work across the row again and when you get to the slipped stitch this time, you’ll be looking at something like this:

k2tog wrap

We’re going to pick up the wrap yarn (from the stitch we wrapped earlier) and knit two together with that and the wrapped stitch on the needle (you may also need to pick up the first stitch in the previous row and k3tog to prevent holes here depending on your tension).

k2tog wrap2

Continue working back and forth, picking up wrapped stitches like this until you have no more wrapped stitches left and your work looks something like this:

heel done

It may look like the heel is folded over itself and your foot will never fit in there. Honestly, I thought I had put the heel on backward when I was making mine. Don’t worry though, there has NOT been a mistake this time. The cuff will take this funky looking heel and straighten it out to more sock like proportions. That does mean though, we’re ready to start the cuff! Almost done now.

Depending on how many stitches you had on your heel, you will either knit across the first needle or just keep working in the round. See my little pink marker in the picture? That’s the beginning of my round, so I’m just gonna jump right into the “corner” of the sock where we’ll knit three together.

k3tog wrap

Using the unworked foot stitch, a worked foot stitch from the same round, and the wrap portion of our first wrap stitch (just like before) knit three together to turn across the round. Knit across needle 2 and do the same thing in the other corner. Move your marker into the k2tog stitch to mark the beginning of the cuff and evenly distribute your stitches onto three DPNs.

corner done

Now, one last sidebar before we finish up the cuff (and the post really). When it comes to keeping holes out of your socks, we enter another “do what works for you” area. If you need to knit three together instead of 2, do it. If you need to knit 5 together then do it. Maybe you don’t need to do anything at all. Whatever works for you and is comfortable for your foot is the right way.

Oh, and don’t get too frustrated if you have a hole no matter WHAT you do. Socks and mittens are very straight forward, but not easy. They both take practice and time to get right and get rid of all the holes.

Right then, back to work.

To finish up the cuff, knit around for one inch (measure from the marker we just moved) and then start your favorite kind of ribbing. I’m using a 2×2 rib for mine, but you can use a 1×1 or whatever suits you. If you DO choose a 2×2 rib be aware that you may need to fudge the first row a little to make it work (I have 40 stitches on my needles and that left me with knits back to back, so I had to decrease by 2 to get the pattern to work right).

When you’re happy with the cuff length, bind off loosely. If you need to, get a larger needle (1-2 sizes bigger than you’re using) for binding off. The larger needle will keep the stitches looser. Tuck all your tails in and you’re done!

Repeat that business (or see the short version below) for sock number 2 and you’re all done! Congrats on you new pair of socks!

The Short Version



  • 1 Skein Worsted weight (4) yarn any brand, fiber, and color (about 275 yards)
  • 4 size US-5 (3.75 mm) Double Pointed Needles–DPNs (or 1 circular needle)
  • Split ring markers, locking stitch markers, OR safety pins (at LEAST 2)
  • A measuring tape
  • OPTIONAL: Medium stitch holder(s)
  • OPTIONAL: Knitting Gauge



5 sts x 5 rows =1 in x 1 in

**GAUGE NOTE: Because this pattern is using measurements rather that stitches, it doesn’t matter what weight yarn you use or what size needles you use as long as you are matching the measurements. I have listed here what I am using for this project.

Take Measurements:

  1. Across top of toes
  2. Big Toe Length from tip to joint
  3. From your big toe joint to the start of your heel
  4. Heel height from bottom of foot to base of Achilles tendon or just below the Medial Malleolus (the bone that sticks out on the outside of some ankles)
  5. Desired cuff length


Using two DPNs and either the cast-on above, Judy’s Magic Cast-On or similar, cast on the length of measurement 1 MINUS .5 inch. Place a marker to indicate beginning of round.

Round 1:  Knit around

Round 2: Place marker, KFB, k across needle 1, place marker, KFB, k across needle 2

For older child and adult socks:

Repeat round 1 and 2 until measurement 2 is reached.

For younger child and infant socks:

Repeat round 2 until measurement 2 is reached.


Slide stitches evenly across three needles

Round 1: K around

Repeat round 1 until measurement 3 is reached.


Short Row 1: K across half the FOOT stitches and slide remaining stitches onto a stitch holder or leave on DPNs unworked.

Short Row 2: P across to last stitch, wrap last stitch and turn.

Short Row 3: K across to last stitch, wrap last stitch and turn.

Repeat Short Row 2 and 3 until 1/3 the number of short row 1 stitches are wrapped, ensuring that left and right sides of short rows have same number of wrapped stitches. Ending row will depend on number of stitches.

Short Row 4: Knitting knits and Purling purls, work across row. With 1 wrapped stitch and wrap yarn, work 2 together.

Repeat Short Row 4 until all stitches are picked up.


Round 1: k around, working k3tog with working stitch, worked stitch, and wrap at corners of work. Place markers in K3tog st at beg of round.

Return stitches to 3 DPNs

Round 2: k around.

Repeat round 2 for 1 inch.

Round 3: k2, p2 around.

Repeat round 3 until measurement 5 is reached.


2 thoughts on “Knitting 101: Toe Up Socks

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