Toe-Up Sock Techniques
Christmas is coming, and crocheters everywhere are planning their handmade gifts (if they haven’t started them already). Personally I swore off crocheted Christmas gifts years ago after one year when I over-extended myself and made gifts for way too many people (some of whom didn’t even appreciate the effort). So now I reserve crocheted gifts for birthdays so that I can spread them out over the year, and I do mini crochet projects for Christmas.
This year I thought it would be fun to do a Little Lovely-sized stocking to hang on the Christmas tree, and since I am using an actual crochet sock technique, I thought this would be a good opportunity to put together a tutorial on crocheting socks from the toe up (I will not be covering socks from the cuff down, as I just do not have patience for that technique).
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 much guesswork if you’re making them as a gift. 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!
What You’ll Need:
- Sock-weight yarn
- Size F-5 (3.5mm) crochet hook
- Measuring tape
- Two different stitch markers
Note: In the tutorial I am making a baby sock, but the technique is exactly the same if you’d prefer to make a child-sized or adult sock. Also, 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 4×4-inch square (6×6 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.
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!
The rest of the toe is worked continuously without joining or chaining between 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.
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, she 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, I 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.
Step 6: Another Measurement
Before you start the heel of the sock, you’ll need just one more measurement: around the widest part of the leg that will be covered by the sock. This may be around the ankle, calf, or even the thigh, depending on how tall you’re planning on making the sock. If your socks aren’t going to be much higher than the ankle, this measurement will often be the same or close to the Foot Circumference.
Actual Leg Circumference = the widest part of the leg that will be covered by the sock = 6 inches for Little Lovely
Step 7: Just a Couple More Quick Calculations
You’re just four math equations away from finishing your sock. Don’t give up now!
Maximum Number of Heel Stitches. Remember when we calculated the Number of Stitches Around the Foot? Take that number and divide it by two. This is your Maximum Number of Heel Stitches.
Maximum Number of Heel Stitches = Number of Stitches Around the Foot / 2 = 16 for Little Lovely
Minimum Number of Heel Stitches. Now go back to your Starting Chain number and subtract 1. This is your Minimum Number of Heel Stitches.
Minimum Number of Heel Stitches = Starting Chain – 1 = 8 for Little Lovely
Sock Leg Circumference. Remember when we calculated our actual foot measurements by 0.9 to give the sock negative ease? We’re going to do the same with the Actual Leg Circumference today. Again, you can round to the nearest half inch.
Sock Leg Circumference = Actual Leg Circumference x 0.9 = 5.5 inches (rounded) for Little Lovely
Number of Stitches Around the Leg. We calculate this number the same way we calculated the Number of Stitches Around the Foot. Multiply your Sock Leg Circumference by the number of stitches per inch in your gauge square.
Number of Stitches Around the Leg = Sock Leg Circumference x Stitches per Inch = 32 for Little Lovely
That’s it! Make sure you write those numbers down before we continue.
Step 8: The Heel
This is the second tricky part in making socks, so let’s get oriented.
Hold your sock so that you’re looking at the tip of the toe, with the starting chain lying horizontal. The stitches above the starting chain are going to on be the top of the foot. The stitches below the starting chain are going to be on the bottom of the foot. Got it?
Lie your sock flat again so that the bottom of the foot is on top. Note where your stitches end. On Little Lovely’s sock, they end about halfway across the bottom of the foot. That’ll never do. Go ahead and continue whatever stitch pattern you chose until you get to the far left of the bottom of the foot, like so (at this point you can remove the stitch markers): Now chain 1 and flip the sock over so that the top of the sock is facing up. Single crochet in each stitch across until you have the Maximum Number of Heel Stitches. You will leave the remaining stitches un-worked, as the heel is going to be worked in what are called “short rows.” There are 16 single crochets across Little Lovely’s sock. Chain 1 and turn again. Single crochet in each single crochet across, leaving the last single crochet un-worked. You should have one less single crochet in this row than in the previous row. Repeat the last step until you have the Minimum Number of Heel Stitches. Each row will have one less single crochet than the previous row. When you’re done, you should have a flap that looks like a step pyramid. Little Lovely’s heel flap ends with 8 single crochets. Chain 1 and turn. This time work 1 single crochet in every single crochet across… …then work 1 single crochet in the end of the row below… …then slip stitch in the un-worked single crochet below that. You should now have one more single crochet than you did in the last row.
Repeat the last three steps until you are back up to the Maximum Number of Heel Stitches. Each row should have one more single crochet than the last row. When you’re done, your sock will look like this, with a completed heel.
Step 9: The Leg
If you’ve made it this far, you’re pretty much home free!
Open your sock so that you’re looking into it. See that round hole? All you need to do to make the leg is crochet all the way around that. And like the foot, you can use whatever stitch pattern you like. If you use the same stitch pattern as the foot, it will look like a continuous piece.
Begin by continuing your stitch pattern across the back of the heel. When you get to the foot, slip stitch in the last end of row of the heel, then make your first stitch in the first un-worked stitch of the foot. Place a stitch marker in this stitch to mark the beginning of future rounds.
Now that you have the first round of the leg done, just continue as you did the foot, working the stitch pattern evenly around each row, and moving the stitch marker up each row to mark the beginning of each round. Continue until the leg of the sock is the desired length.
But wait! Why did we have to calculate the Sock Leg Circumference again? Well the “average” person likely has a leg circumference similar to their foot circumference, in which case you don’t really need to worry about the Sock Leg Circumference. However, if your leg is larger or smaller than your foot, than you will need to add or subtract a few stitches each round on the leg until you reach the Number of Stitches Around the Leg that you calculated. I would recommend not adding or subtracting more than 6 stitches in any given round, and folling that round with a round worked evenly. This will make your shaping smooth and gradual.
Once you’re done with the leg, you can cut the yarn and call it a day, or you can add a pretty edging to give it a finished look. For Little Lovely’s sock, I added a scalloped edging and a little loop to hang it from our Christmas tree. It fits like a glove! Or a sock, as it were.