Just as there are many ways to cast on stitches for flat knitting, there are numerous ways to cast on stitches for toe-up sock knitting. You'll find out which method is best for you after trying several, but we like one known as the Turkish cast-on. It is relatively easy and doesn't require the use of waste yarn as some provisional cast-on methods for toe-up socks do. "Cast on" may even feel like the wrong term for what's happening, because you start by just wrapping the yarn around the needles. The trick is in what you do with the wraps after making them, and that's actually pretty simple too.
You'll probably want to practice a couple of times before using it on a real sock so your hands can get used to the moves and learn how tightly to wrap around the needle. But it's quick and easy to cast on this way, so you won't mind too much if you have to rip it out and try again.
This method can be done with two circular needles as shown below, or it can be started with two double-pointed needles, with stitches distributed onto one or two more double-pointed needles as the first half rounds are worked. But try it with two circular needles; working socks on two circulars instead of on sticks has many benefits. For one, you can try your sock on while you're making it!
Equipment / Tools
- 2 16-24 inch circular needles in size appropriate for yarn
- Smooth yarn in light or bright color
Preparing to Cast On
Begin with the two needles parallel to each other. Make a slip knot, leaving a 4 to 6-inch tail, and place it on the end of one needle (purple cord). Hold it and its mate (yellow cord) together and let the two other ends hang free for now.
Wrapping the Needles
The needle end with the slip knot on it should be toward the front, on the bottom.
- *Take the working yarn (the one that goes to the ball) under both needles, around the back, over the top of the needles, and back to its starting place; repeat from *, looping around both needles, to half the desired number of stitches.
In this example, we were going for 20 stitches, which means we needed ten wraps. Each wrap will become two stitches, one on the front needle and one on the back. Note that the front needle will have 10 wraps plus the slip knot.
Working the First Half Round
While holding the working yarn under both needles, ready to knit, pull gently on the forward, bottom needle end, sliding the loops (future stitches) so they are on the cable.
- Using the other end of the top needle, knit the wraps on the top needle.
Yes, this will be awkward. As we mentioned, keeping even tension will be difficult. It will get easier with practice.
Be careful not to work "across" the pair of needles, with an end of the yellow cord and an end of the purple cord. If you do so, all the stitches will end up on one needle, and that's not what we want here. If you are about to work the stitches on one end of the yellow cord, be sure you pick up the other end of the yellow cord; if about to work across stitches on the end of the purple cord, make sure you have the other end of the purple cord in your right hand.
Working the Second Half Round
Once you've made stitches from the first needle's wraps, slide them onto the cable, between needle ends. Slide the bottom wraps onto the end of the needle closest to where the working yarn waits.
- The first stitch on this side is the slip knot. Bring the working yarn to the back under the needle so you are ready to knit; slide the slip knot off the needle.
The slip knot will fall apart, but that's ok; taking it out means you won't have a bump at the toe of your sock!
- Knit across the wraps on the needle to complete the round.
Continue for a Few Rounds
Knit a few more rounds to create some fabric above your cast on stitches, so you can better see how it looks. Remember that it takes two half rounds to make one whole round; a safety pin or loop of yarn marking the beginning of the round is helpful. There are three rounds in the photo below, and you can already start to see the toe shape happening.
Most toe-up sock knitting patterns have you start increasing for the foot right away. If you're following a pattern and not just making a little sample toe, you'll need to pay attention to where the increases go!