How To...

Published on March 20th, 2014 | by Elizabeth Bagwell


4 ways to cast on a sock

There’s a sock pattern out there for every knitter. It’s easy to start socks if you love knitting with DPNs and working in the round, but that’s not the only option – not by a long chalk! If you’re looking for a challenge, or hope to avoid using so many knitting needles in one project, read on.

1. Top-down socks
Last week, Amy posted Top down socks 101, which is a great introduction to knitting socks from the top down. As your cast on is a line which is then joined in the round, you can use any cast on method you like. I described my favourites, including the very stretchy cast on I always use for socks, in a recent post 4 ways to cast on.

If you want to avoid using DPNs for your top down socks, you can knit the socks flat on two needles, and then seam at the side, or use the Magic Loop technique.


2. Toe-up socks
You can cast on as usual and then seam the toe together, but this creates a seam which can be uncomfortable. Instead, most knitters prefer to use a bi-directional cast on that lets you knit in two directions at once. I really like Judy’s Magic Cast-On as it’s very simple and quick.


Once you’ve cast on, you knit in the round as usual, using DPNs or the Magic Loop method. Anjuli discussed this in detail in her post here. If you’ve knit a short-row heel on top-down socks, it’s exactly the same for toe-up. It’s also a good idea to use a stretchy cast off.

3. Sideways socks
One way to avoid knitting in the round. Instead of casting on the number of stitches needed for the cuff or the toe, you cast on stitches for the entire length of the sock, from cuff to toe, and then work back and forth over the whole length of the sock. The Longitudinal Sock from Knitty is a good example of this type.

You can use any cast on you like and add a seam or a statement closing, like corset ribbon. If you want to avoid a seam, a provisional cast on works well. I like the crochet cast on. You can unzip it easily when you complete the sock, and then use Kitchener stitch to create an invisible join.


As a note, this video shows you how to do a crochet provisional cast on straight onto the needle. I’ve always just crocheted the chain first, and then picked up the bumps but I think this is much cleverer!

4. Starting at the heel
A short-row heel actually has the same shape as a sock toe, so you can use the provisional cast on described above to cast on at the heel and work outwards. It’s an unusual technique, but used to great effect by some designers. Check out the Double Heelix sock pattern from Knitty for a great example. You can also use the provisional cast on described above to cast on just above the heel, shape as normal and then pick up stitches to knit the cuff.

About the Author

Elizabeth is a keen knitter, occasional designer, enthusiastic traveler and a professional freelance writer. She spent three years working for British knitting magazine, Simply Knitting, and has also written for The Knitter and other craft titles. She blogs at:

Last updated: August 8th, 2017.

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