I’m currently working on a group of sock patterns, and have been designing (and knitting) several pairs of socks. You very rarely see my sock knitting on this blog, so you won’t know that I make plain socks for Tom pretty much all of the time and that such socks form my relaxing, evening, I-don’t-have-to-think-about-anything kind of knitting. When I started knitting socks, I preferred to make the cuff-down, heel flap kind, but some time in 2015—when I designed and knitted the first pair of what would become the Baffies pattern—I discovered I really enjoyed a toe-up sock construction.
Over the next few years, without thinking about it all that much, toe-up constructions gradually took hold of my sock knitting. I designed and knitted Tom’s Lord of the Isles kilt hose, for example (the socks he wore at our wedding) from the toe-up.
And, as time went on, I found that, though I still knitted cuff-down plain socks, more often than not I’d cast on a pair of socks toe-up when it was time to start another pair. I’m sure that lots of us have our own plain sock formula etched in our brains: the cast on stitch count, the numbers for the heel turn and so on . . . and, over time, my go-to formula became a toe-up one.
When we were photographing the Carbeth Creature, it decided it would like to work on a cuff-down sock that was hanging around my knitting pile, unfinished.
It struck me that this unfinished object was now something of an anomaly, and that knitting a sock of that construction now felt slightly odd.
I’m not sure I can quite get to the bottom of why my sock knitting changed direction. I certainly have no views on whether one construction method is essentially better than another. It’s not a matter of comfort or fit (since Tom wears all of the plain socks I knit and says it makes no difference), nor do I (for example) have a particular dislike of any technique involved in the cuff down construction, such as grafting or picking up stitches. Perhaps there’s just something in the continuity of working a sock toe-up that I find essentially enjoyable—the the only real ‘break’ in the knitting is at the heel turn—and I certainly find that construction lends itself to colourwork combinations that are rather pleasing.
Either way, I’ve now discovered a definite preference for toe-up sock construction, and this is interesting to me because where sweaters are concerned I honestly don’t have a preference.
Several of my favourite knits / designs of recent months have been knitted from the top down. . . but an equal number have been worked bottom up.
Yet unlike my sweater knitting, with socks, a particular direction has definitely taken hold of me. And, as I gradually develop and knit up my ideas for the designs included in our new wee collection, it seems likely that all the patterns will be written in this way.
Do you have a sock-construction preference? Has this changed over time? And can you (unlike me) put your finger on precisely why that is?