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The cast-on that changed my life

Completed on 25 April 2007


Ever since my first (humble) toe-up sock, I've been trying to find the best method for casting on.

I have tried the provisional cast-on, which worked well enough, but I can't say I'm a big fan of the inevitable Kitchener stitch. I was intrigued by Helen's wrapping method, which was a really neat start to a toe-up sock. And I had heard urban legends regarding other fabled toe-up methods.

I was recently looking at the Fall 2005 issue of Vogue Knitting magazine, as you do, and I read (more closely now) the instructions for the Turkish cast-on, explained by Meg Swansen. It just involves wrapping the yarn around two parallel DPNs, then knitting across the top sts, turning, then knitting across the bottom sts.

When starting the toe like this, it's a little fidget-y but worth the struggle as essentially what happens is that you create a little seamless pocket as you knit round and round.

After knitting two rounds on the two parallel needles, switch to three needles.

Here the toe's a little more on its way. I am increasing four sts every other round, with the increases happening two sts in from the end, so as to create a little "fully fashioned" look. My increases are just k in front, k in back of same st. I am going to start experimenting with other (better?) increase techniques.

As with most self-patterning yarns, it's really hard to tell how it's going to look until you've already committed to the project! This blue-purple-gray striping is fine. I'm not in love with it, but I wouldn't kick it out of the sock drawer, either.

When I knit a good seven inches up from the toe, I inserted the heel. Here you can see the heel contrast with tangerine yarn.

Just knit across half of your total sts (say, k 30 if your total sock cast on was 60, get it), with a contrasting color, then go back and knit with your regular yarn. Later on, you'll go back and finish the heel.

To create the heel, unravel the contrast yarn and pick up the sts as you go.

Unravel until you have two parallel DPNs for the heel. (You will eventually want to pick up an additional two sts between these two parallel sts, just to mind the gap.)

Switch to three (or four) DPNs and then knit your favorite toe.

Here the heel's a little more on its way. It really does look like a toe.

When you have x number of sts remaining, you're going to have to do the Kitchener stitch. I don't know any other way around it. No, I won't do the three-needle bind off here. But I wonder if there's another way to close the heel?

And here are the finished socks! ...which are almost knee-highs. That's another reason to love the toe-up method: you can just knit and knit till you use up the entire skein.

Here's a closeup of the pattern. I really tried to match the two socks perfectly, but it's so hard when you use DPNs. Which is why I am soon to try the two-socks-at-a-time-on-circulars method. We'll see if that solves my problems.

Now don't laugh at my heel! It's a perfectly respectable heel. It just naturally lays like this. Which actually makes for easy folding and storage. I mean, who doesn't like a tidy sock drawer?

On the feet. They feel great and fit well, even if there is too much poly in the yarn for my liking.

Knitting specs:

Regia sock yarn, purchased at the Web of Wool stand at Woolfest. Sox knit on five-inch Brittany birch DPNs, size 2.50mm, purchased from Patternworks.

December 2009 update:

After I finished knitting these socks in 2007, I washed and blocked them as usual and placed them in my box of finished knitting, with my lavender sachets.

These socks sat in that box till this month, when I found a "worthy" recipient, ha ha.

I gave these socks to my sister, Cass, for Christmas.

She loves them! I am so happy about it. And they fit her perfectly. I'm so glad.

And it makes me think about all these nice, finished and blocked items that I have just sitting in this box. Unused and unloved.

I need to think about these items and find good homes for them. Why do I spend so much time knitting if these items aren't going to be used?

Here are the socks, at Christmas, on my sister's feet. Now isn't this where the socks ought to be, instead of safely folded in a box full of lavender sachets?!

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