Toe-up Sock KAL – preparation

Getting Everything Ready:
Supplies, Skills & Tutorials

Magic Loop Knitting

Magic Loop is simply a way to use one (longish) circular needle instead of double pointed needles or two circular needles. This method allows you to do what’s called ‘small diameter’ circular knitting. How small? I have no problem knitting thumbs for kids’ mittens using Magic Loop.
Click on the red link above to view the video I used to learn this method.

Why learn this new skill?
For me it was a matter of frugality. Instead of needing both straight and double-pointed needles in each size and some additional circular needles in specific sizes — one set of interchangeable circulars and a few fixed ‘sock knitting’ needle sizes and I have everything I need.
One set of circular needles can do it all; straight knitting, large-diameter and small diameter (with Magic Loop) circular knitting.

Judy’s Magic Cast-On
‘Magic Cast-on’ is exactly how I feel about this skill. Judy Becker developed this technique that allows one to start a sock right at the toe, without a seam. This creates what I call a ‘toe hat.’
Watch this video by Cat Bordhi several times and try it out with some scrap yarn you have. It can seem complicated to get the hang of in the beginning. And you might be completely convinced that you’re not doing it right because it doesn’t look anything like a ‘toe hat’ at first. You need to knit a bunch of rows to see it beginning to shape. How many? Depends on the weight of yarn/size of needle you’re using. Just keep knitting — you’ll know when it is coming together.

Remaining Steps
The rest of these require no tutorial or special skill, just knitting and purling.
– short row wraps
– increases and decreases
– ribbing
– stretchy bind-off @ cuff


What weight yarn and what size/length needle do you need?

You can work with any weight yarn you like. For the purposes of this KAL I recommend thicker yarn — worsted works great. Heavier yarn knits up faster and the needles are easier to control.

Above all, whatever yarn you choose — make it something you love. This is a good mantra for all knitting, but even more so, in my opinion, when learning a new skill.

Set yourself up for success by working with a yarn that doesn’t ‘fight’ you and that you love to look at. For me this usually means a decent wool or wool blend. And it always means colorful.

Here’s what I’ll be using during this KAL.
This is a washable wool blend. It is teeny-tiny sock yarn. And it is destined to be knit up for my lovely hubby’s cold (without hand knit socks) feet.

I chose this for the KAL because it will be lovely to handle and lovely to look at. Additionally, though, there are more considerations for me. First this yarn is on the light/bright end of the spectrum. Lighter yarns are simply easier to see…especially in low light situations. Second, as this is a self-striping yarn the colors will morph. While this adds lots of satisfaction in watching it knit up…it serves a functional purpose — it helps to alert the knitter to mistakes.

For those who will be knitting 2@atime socks — you need two separate yarn sources. So either ball/cake those 2 skeins of yarn you love or take that one larger skein and split it in half (this is where I love having a good scale.)

Why? Each sock will be knit from a different ball/cake. Don’t worry, this is easier than it sounds. I should know….I avoided learning 2@atime for more than a year because I thought that fiddling with multiple strands would take all the fun away from sock knitting. 😉
It didn’t.

How much yarn do I need?
100g of sock yarn can usually make a long-cuffed pair of socks for an adult size foot. So one large 100g skein or 2 50g skeins will be perfect.
For heavier weights? I’ve used 2 50g balls of worsted to make adult-size anklets — with some left over.

Needle Size — thickness

Here’s a photo of some of my collection of ‘sock needles’ — these range from size 1-4. That’s a strand of the chosen yarn snaking around them.

So what size should I use?
I look at the yarn.
Using a needle much thicker than the yarn will produce an ‘airy’ knit. Using a needle much thinner than the yarn will produce a very tight knit. Choose the needle thickness based on what you want to produce. Generally, though, using thicker needles will be easier to knit. This is especially the case for those who tend to be tight knitters. Sometimes going up a needle size is all it takes to get a better product. Relaxing the shoulders and all down the arms helps too.

Don’t try to knit a worsted yarn with size 0 needles. 😉
And if you knit lace/fingering or sock yarn with size 17 needles, expect lacework.

Here are the two finalists for my KAL sock yarn:

These are 2.25mm and 2.50mm sock needles.
Though they are so close as to almost not differ, the 2.50mm suits my needs. It is just slightly thicker than the yarn itself. This will make an easy-to-work product that is not airy.

So, what I’m saying is first find a needle who’s thickness seems to match that of your yarn. Then decide if you want ‘floppy’ airy socks or tight gauge ones.

Needle Size — length

Go back to the Magic Loop tutorial.
Did you notice the cable?
See the loops? That’s what Magic Loop is all about.
If the cable on your circular needle is too short, you’ll not be able to make sufficient loops. The 16″ cables just aren’t going to work.

What’s the minimum length for 2@atime sock knitting?
This is probably different for each knitter — I prefer 47″
I think I could use 36″ in a pinch, but it would be slower as I’d have to put more time and effort into not stretching the stitches.

Ok – that’s it for the preparation.

Your ‘homework’ over the next week or so is gather your supplies, watch those videos and do some test knitting.

If something I’ve posted is unclear or you have questions, please do post.

Next time — we start those socks!


2 thoughts on “Toe-up Sock KAL – preparation

    • Don’t feel stupid! I’ve only recently made the mental connection. I tell ya’ that ‘trial & error’ stuff 😉
      I realized I had been comparing yarn thickness to needle thickness — so I did some test knitting & just paid attention during regular knitting.

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