Toe-Up Sock Techniques: Part One

Christmas is coming, and crocheters everywhere are planning their handmade gifts (if they haven't started them already). Personally The Animator's Wife swore off crocheted Christmas gifts years ago after one year when she over-extended herself and made gifts for way too many people (some of whom didn't even appreciate the effort). So now she reserves crocheted gifts for birthdays so that she can spread them out over the year, and does mini crochet projects for Christmas.

This year we thought it would be fun to do a Little Lovely-sized stocking to hang on the Christmas tree. Since we are using actual crochet sock techniques, we thought this would be a good opportunity to put together a crochet sock tutorial.

This will be a two-part series on crocheting socks from the toe up. We will not be covering socks from the sock down, as The Animator's Wife just does not have patience for that technique. Socks crocheted from the top down usually require a gusseted heel and seem to have a lot of guess-work involved, whereas socks crocheted from the toe down can be tried on as you go, and as long as you have a person's measurements, don't require nearly as much guesswork if you're making them as a gift. So in our opinion, toe-up socks are the superior technique.

The two most difficult parts in any crochet sock pattern are the toe and the heel; master these two parts, and you'll be a sock making machine! That's why we're making this tutorial a two-part series. Today we'll go over the toe and the foot, and next week we'll talk about the heel and leg. (UPDATE: See Part Two of this tutorial here!)

What You'll Need:
Sock-weight yarn
Size F-5 (3.5mm) crochet hook
Measuring tape
Two different stitch markers

Note: In the tutorial we are making a baby sock, but the technique is exactly the same if you'd prefer to make a child-sized or adult sock. Also, although we are using sock-weight yarn, you can really use any yarn you want. Thicker yarn will yield more of a slipper-type sock than a sock that can be worn in your shoes, so keep that in mind. And be sure to use a larger hook if using thicker yarn.

Step 1: Gauge Square
Don't even think about crocheting something wearable without first making a gauge square, even if you are using a pattern! Everyone crochets with varying degrees of "tightness" or "looseness," which affects the finished size of the project. So before you begin your socks, crochet at least a 4x4-inch square (6x6 inches is better) all in single crochets using the same yarn and hook you will be using for your socks, and measure how many single crochets are in each inch. See this Crochet 101 lesson for more on measuring gauge.

Gauge for Little Lovely's Stocking: 6 single crochets and 6 rows = 1 inch

Step 2: Measurements
Next you'll need to measure the foot that will be wearing the sock. Use a flexible tape measure--the type found at fabric stores--to get the most accurate measurement. Those metal ones from the hardware store aren't going to cut it.

To get started with your socks, you'll need two measurements: the Foot Circumference and Foot Length.

Foot Circumference = the widest part of the foot. Little Lovely's foot is only 6 inches around (aw!).

Foot Length = a straight line from the tip of the longest toe to the middle of the ankle. For Little Lovely, that's 4 inches.

Step 3: Calculations
Wait--don't leave yet! I promise this is easy. You've stuck with me this far, so just hear me out!

Sock Measurements
Take both of your foot measurements and multiply them by 0.9. Why? Because socks have negative ease, meaning they are slightly smaller than the actual foot measurement, so that they can stretch nicely over the foot without being baggy. So multiply both of your foot measurements by 0.9, and feel free to round to the nearest 1/2-inch.

Sock Circumference = Foot Circumference x 0.9 = 5.5 (rounded) for Little Lovely
Sock Length = Foot Length x 0.9 = 3.5 (rounded) for Little Lovely

Number of Stitches Around the Foot
Multiply Sock Circumference by the number of stitches per inch in your gauge square. This is the number of stitches you will need to fit around the foot. Round to the nearest number divisible by 4.

Number of Stitches Around Foot = Sock Circumference x Stitches per Inch = 32 (rounded) for Little Lovely

Starting Chain
Divide the Number of Stitches Around Foot by 4, then add 1. This is the number of chains you need to start the sock.

Starting Chain = (Number of Stitches Around Foot / 4) + 1 = 9 for Little Lovely

That's it! No more math needed to start your socks.

Step 4: The Toe
Okay, now that you've got all your numbers written down (you did write them down, didn't you?) you're ready to begin!

Begin with the number of chains that you calculated above.

Round 1. Single crochet in the second chain from the hook and each chain across. Place a stitch marker in the last single crochet to mark the side.

Continuing along the bottom, single crochet in each unused loop of the beginning chain, placing a different stitch marker in the last single crochet. This stitch marker will mark the opposite side and the beginning of each round. (Note: If you did this round correctly, you should have the same number of single crochets on both the top and the bottom of the beginning chain. For Little Lovely's sock, we have 8 single crochets on top and 8 single crochets on bottom.)

The rest of the toe is worked continuously without joining or chaining between rounds (see this post for more on continuous rounds). 

Round 2. This is an increase round. Continuing back around to the top, single crochet in each single crochet until you get to the stitch before the stitch with the next stitch marker. Work 2 single crochets in the stitch before the stitch marker.

Remove the stitch marker and work 1 single crochet in the stitch it was in.

Then replace the stitch marker and work 2 single crochets in the stitch after it.

Repeat the last 3 steps to increase in the same manner on the other side, working 2 single crochets in the stitch before the stitch marker, then 1 single crochet in the stitch with the stitch marker, and 2 single crochets in the stitch after the stitch marker. In this way, you will be adding 4 single crochets in each increase round.

Round 3. This round is worked evenly, meaning you work 1 single crochet in each single crochet around. When you get to a stitch marker, remove it, single crochet in that single crochet, and replace the stitch marker. This way the stitch marker "moves up" as you go to mark the sides of the sock.

Repeat rounds 2 & 3 until you have the Number of Stitches Around the Foot that you calculated above, or until the toe fits snugly around the foot, as shown below. Be sure to end with a round 3 repeat. The toe may look a little pointy when you're done, but that's okay--it will stretch out and look more rounded when the sock is completed and on the foot.

Step 5: The Foot
This is the fun and easy part, because the foot is all worked evenly--no increases or decreases! Simply work evenly until the sock measures as long as the Sock Length you calculated earlier (measure from the tip of the toe to the last round worked). In Little Lovely's case, we needed a sock 3.5 inches in length.

You may choose to work evenly for the foot by continuing to work 1 single crochet in each single crochet around, but you can really use any stitch pattern you like. For the sock in this tutorial, The Animator's Wife alternated single crochets with double crochets each round in the foot to make it look interesting and work up faster. Whatever stitch pattern you decide to use, just remember to keep moving those stitch markers up each round so that you can keep track of where the sides of the sock are (they will come in handy when you go to do the heel later).

Congratulations! You now have half a sock. Stay tuned next week and we'll go over how to do the heel and leg.