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Archive for June 9th, 2010

My “Start with a Square” Technique

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010


Lindy wrote me recently to ask about my unusual toe-up sock start. I like this method and use it in many of my patterns, although I keep changing it in small ways each time I write it into a new pattern. She saw the photos of my upcoming Summer Striped Socklet pattern and asked this:

A question: I have had some problems with awkwardness using your “rectangular” or “square” toe start to begin a toe-up sock. Any suggestions?

This was my response (edited a bit):


I’ve taught a lot of people this toe. A few do struggle at the beginning. In my experience, these factors can contribute:

  • Dark yarn makes it hard to see where to pick up stitches.
  • Splitty yarn and pointy needles combine to frustrate things.
  • Some people really benefit from reading glasses for fine work.
  • It helps to have excellent lighting when picking up.

hotwavestwocolors16Consider trying this first with larger, smooth, light-colored yarn and switch to fingering after you have figured it out. Once you are clear what is supposed to happen, it should be easier on smaller yarn and needles.

For the record, my First-Time Toe-Up Sock pattern uses 8 stitches and 8 rows for the starting rectangle. This means some fudging to get one of those corner stitches in tight quarters.

In my recent patterns starting with this method, I’ve added a few extra rows in the starting rectangle. This means it is easier to find spots to pick up stitches, but also means there is a little gap where one could pick up one more stitch. The gap disappears after a round or two, but it is bothersome to some knitters. My new striped socklet will have this extra set of rows for wiggle-room in the pick up row.

My best hints:

  • Use good, smooth yarn that is spun firmly.
  • Use needles that are not super pointy.
  • Sit by a window during daytime or a work light otherwise.
  • Wear your best glasses (for me that means bifocals) or get some drug store magnifying reading glasses, to see the stitches better.
  • If you have a version where there are the same number of rows as stitches,  in the starting rectangle/square, add two more rows to give you a little more wiggle-room.

In my experience, there is one single round that is a struggle for some people. It’s that one fiddly pick up round. See if this information will help.

For the record, I have used this method for items other than socks. The Topper-Down hat, Buttons & Beads Bowl, and ZigBagZ (mini collection, bottle or sport) all use this start method in slightly different ways.


The first photo today is the Summer Striped Socklet I showed you here a handful of days back (it uses this toe). I finished one, just in time to take photos for an upcoming advertisement on Ravelry.

I wish you could feel this pink/green sock. It’s sleek but a bit springy. Bamboo and nylon: On Your Toes Bamboo by SR Kertzer Co., sock/fingering weight. I think this would make an incredible tank top or tee, as well as socks.

The second photo shows my Hot Waves sock, a pattern found in the book “The Joy of Sox.” It also uses the start-with-a-square method. What a fun pattern this is!

The final photo is a pair of socks I finished in April 2006. The pattern is my First-Time Toe-Up Socks. The yarn used was Opal fingering weight. They were the 128th pair of socks I knit. (I am up to pair 179, to date.) I still wear this pair rather regularly, they are some of my favorites.