Knitting Blog

Knitting Socks Toe-Up vs. Cuff Down

I’ve been in a major sock knitting frenzy this winter, starting with the For My Man Socks I made for my dad for Christmas. Right now I’m working on the Toe-Up Ginkgo Socks, a free pattern from Cotton and Cloud, and I’m trying to decide which I prefer: knitting socks toe-up or knitting socks cuff down.

I wasn’t in a hurry to pick a favorite until someone at my stitch group saw me working on the socks and asked, “Do you like knitting socks toe-up or cuff down better?” I said I didn’t have a preference, and she looked at me suspiciously. Panicked, I started making a mental list in my head of the pros and cons for each.

FREE Guide: Need-to-Knows for Knitting Socks

knitting socks

Knit cozy treats for any feet with a pair of custom socks! This guide covers the essential tips and techniques that will help you get started.Get my free guide »

There are advantages to both knitting socks toe-up and cuff down. Take a look at some of my thoughts on the two types of socks. Maybe next time someone asks you which you prefer, you’ll know the answer!

Toe-Up Anklet Socks knitting project

Toe-up anklets; Photo via Craftsy member Barbara62

Toe up socks

Why toe up is awesome

You won’t run out of yarn

Knitting socks makes me nervous sometimes because we’re told we can get two socks out of one ball of yarn. When I start that second sock, I’m always freaking out a little. But with toe-up socks, if you think you’re going to run out of yarn, you can always shorten the cuff to save some yardage.

You don’t have to graft

We all have knitting tasks we dread. Some of us hate seaming, and that includes grafting.

Why toe up might cause you some pain

Cast-ons

You’ll often need to use special cast ons to start a toe-up sock. For example, the Toe-Up Ginkgo Socks I’m working on called for using Judy’s Magic Cast-On Method. So if you’re working toe-up, be prepared to try out some new, unfamiliar cast ons.

Fit issues

I find it a little more difficult to judge the foot length of toe-up socks. I’m never quite sure when I’ve reached the appropriate length, unlike cuff-down socks where the heel is in place and the fit is much more obvious.

For more help with toe-up

Feel like you want to try toe-up but aren’t sure if you have the skills? Donna Druchunas’s Knit Original Toe-Up Socks is the class for you. You’ll get three toe-up sock patterns, plus guidance from Donna on how to combine different heels and toes.

Aran Counterpane Sock knitting kit

Cuff-down Aran Counterpane Sock knitting pattern

Cuff down socks

Why cuff down is awesome

There are more patterns available

If you go digging for sock patterns, most of the patterns you’ll find are cuff down. So if this is your favorite way to knit socks, you’ll be able to find a lot more patterns to feed your addiction.

It’s the best way to get a nice-fitting cuff

I tend to have more fit issues with the cuff of the sock than the actual foot. So if I cast on and work a few rows, I can usually tell pretty quickly if the cuff is too loose or too snug. In that case, I can start over without losing too much time.

Why cuff down might cause you some pain

You’ll have to pick up stitches

Picking up stitches is no big deal for some knitters, but for others it’s like a trip to the dentist. After you finish that heel, you’ll have to pick up stitches to join the sock together again, so practice if your pick-up skills are a little rusty.

For more help with cuff-down

Like I said, picking up stitches is no party, but you can learn how to do it like a pro. Enroll in Knit Original Cuff-Down Socks with Donna Druchunas and you’ll learn variations on heels and toes, plus all the techniques you need to know to make your socks look even better than store-bought ones.

Which do you prefer: toe up or cuff down?

FREE Guide: Need-to-Knows for Knitting Socks

knitting socks

Knit cozy treats for any feet with a pair of custom socks! This guide covers the essential tips and techniques that will help you get started.Get my free guide »

27 Comments

Christl Miarka

I have no trouble casting on the toe-up sock. It’s the cast off that’s giving me a headache. I draft, but it always seems too tight,you can hardly get your foot in. What can I do? Please help! Christl

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Pam

Christi, may I suggest this method for a stretchy bind off for your toe-up socks. K1. YO, K1, then pass K & YO over the last K1. Repeat. This has been my most successful BO method. Good Luck.

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Sandy Wiebe

I knit toe up all the time. When I get near the finish line I do about four rows of ribbing. I then do a roll top by knitting about six rows. On the last row I add a stitch about every 4th stitch. Then cast off. I end up with a nice stretch top that looks good because of the rolled edge. Happy knitting.

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prairiesentry

try jeny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off

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Kim

Christl Miarka, go to knitfreedom.com and check out her bind-off in ribbing with the yarn over. It’s awesome and you won’t have to worry about your sock being too tight ever again!

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Anna Linnell

I prefer to knit socks toe up. Read Cat Bordhi”s New Pathways for Sock Knitters. It makes toe up sock knitting simple. I always know exactly where to put my heel. There is no guess work. The gusset stitches are invisible. And the cast on and bind off are just a matter of learning technique. And that is what makes us better knitters. Top down, is fine and good, but I struggle to find a pattern that is going to teach me anything new. Kitchner stitch I can do in the dark. Picking up stitches for the gusset is a piece of cake. The only thing challenging about a top down sock is the pattern you put into the sock. Challenge me a little bit. At least with a toe up I have to think a little.

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Badwolf72

I MUCH prefer toe-up. I actually will take those beautiful cuff-down patterns and adapt them to toe-up rather than suffer through all those picked up stitches, grafting and the just plain wrongness I feel knitting cuff-down. 😉

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Susan

And I’m just the opposite. I’ll convert toe-up to cuff down whenever possible. :o) Different folks, different options, all are good.

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Jaden

There are heels for cuff down socks that don’t require picking up stitches… so if that’s a problem, simply choose a heel without a gusset. 😉

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Newsitian

I knit noting but toe up socks. AND I knit the foot the same way, regardless of the pattern. That way I know it fits. Socks are normally 64 stitches, I cast on 14 stitches because I like a large toe box. When I’m through enlarging, I knit 50 rows for my size 7 foot. Then I do my heel increases. I do Wendy Johnson’s gusset heel, so there is no wrapping and turning. Any design pattern can be worked into this formula as I’ve found in the more than 30 pairs of socks I’ve knitted in the last three years.

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Sharon

I really like 2-at-a-time Toe-Up on 2 circulars. By the time I finish the toe decreases, I know exactly what my gauge is and my sock will actually fit. However, I have not found a bind-off I REALLY like.
I have never been able to knit a top-down that was the correct size, and my Kirchner is awful. Using my favorite heel stitch means knitting exactly 2 inches shorter than my foot, so my sock is always the right length. It’s easier to reverse the top-down patterns to fit the toe-up method. Judy’s magic cast on is just practice.

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Sharon

*toe increases* . Sorry

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Claire Wilkins

I’m a top down sock knitter – I love the satisfaction of turning a heel neatly & I know exactly how to get the perfect fit for me, depending on the weight of the wool I use. I love that I don’t need a pattern for them, making them the ultimate portable project as I can just design them myself (just yesterday started a new lacy pair on my flight from the UK to New York).

Toe up for me isn’t difficult but I do have problems with some patterns lacking a wide enough gusset for my high arch/wide feet, resulting in lovely socks that I simply can’t get on at the end of the knit! I know I can adjust this, but it’s not always ‘pretty’ in the lace & cable patterns I tend to choose.

So if you need a gusset, the advantage of top down is that they naturally occur compared to toe up, in my experience. A pro vs a.con.

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Valerie

I’m a toe up all the way knitter. While it can be troublesome to determine length, I usually make socks for myself and a few others in a similar size so I have that part down pretty well.

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Marty

I do both. I am still not proficient enough at socks, so I go with the pattern. I do like magic loop and 2 at a time whatever kind of socks I’m knitting! I have done more top down, because as the article states there are more patterns. i did like the toe up technique for the ease of trying on and the gusset, but my first tries were also too tight then in the cuff. The bind off I learned to solve that is quick and easy and stretchy : Knit 2 tog, put the stitch back on the right hand needle, and repeat across the row. There’s a good video of it on U Tube. I do love knitting socks, So much quicker than sweaters! LOL

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Claire

I love 2 at a time toe up socks on circulars. I wind the wool into a centre pull ball and work from the centre and the outside simultaneously. Absolutely no wastage! I read that you shouldn’t work from one ball because you get in a tangle but I get in more of a pickle working from 2!

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Sue

I have used both methods, but I prefer toe up. I find it easier to cast off loosely, and I have developed my own cast on method that works very well for me. If I am making socks for someone else, I have them outline their bare foot on a piece of paper so I will know when to start turning the heel to fit them. I would love to knit more wool socks for myself, but my sock drawer is full. The socks are such fun to knit, and I usually get two hugs when I give them as gifts. Knitting is my passion.

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Betty

I have knitted for a few years but never socks. There are so many classes from crafty to choose from. Which would be best to start with? I am going on a big trip in a few weeks and would love to have a small knitting project to work on. Thanks.

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Ashley

If you’re going to give socks a try, I’d suggest Lucy Neatby’s My First Socks class. You’ll learn the basics that will help you make any sock knitting pattern.

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Barbara Shearer

A class on toe up circular needles. Magic loop, is so much easier than dpn’s I dont have much luck with them
just started making socks, I love it. Good luck

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Liz

I like both. Toe up cast on gives me a tiny headache but I like not picking up stitches for the heel!

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Patty B

I found toe up socks a year ago and now do nothing else. Jude’s magic cast on came easily to me and the German short row heel is quick and very neat. If I want a little extra padding in the heel, I either work a strand of lace yarn with the heel stitches or work them in garter stitch. For the cast off, I use a sewn cast off.

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Kathie

First off I would like to say awesome blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to
ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing.
I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out.
I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10
to 15 minutes tend to be lost simply just trying to figure
out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Kudos!

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Erika

I prefer knitting cuff down.
Love the look of heel flap (slip, knit).
At first, i was crazy about toe up
just because i wanna use my leftovers yarns.

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Julie

I only tried toe up a couple of times, but the fit of the sock seemed inferior to me. Especially the fit of the toes (too round, too much room), the fit of the gusset around the ankle and the fit of the heel just didn’t feel right at all. I’ve always enjoyed knitting on the go with cuff down, and have formulas for turning the heel in my mind, so it’s so portable and easy. But after reading all the comments, I’m thinking I should give toe up a second chance.

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E. B. Brewer

Cuff down for me. Mainly for the control over sizing and the complete lack of cast off. Whether I want to do a 16″ + cuff and leg to wear with my Whites or a short ankle It’s pretty much knit your cuff and leg, turn, knit your size, toe and Kitchner. done and done.

Reply

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