Being the continuing story of my creations and curiosities.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Grafting Sock Toes Tutorial

We have socks! These are for my dear daughter-in-law, who loved her socks last year and wanted another pair almost from the moment she got the first one. She can knit herself, but the dpns and fine yarn intimidate her. Plus she has a 2-year-old and one more on the way (end of Dec). Not to mention my son to look after! Not much time for knitting. The yarn is Lana Grossa Meilenweit Multieffekt, 80% wool/20% polyamide, 420 m = 100 g ball, colour 3070.


I’ve been told that the hardest things for newbie sock knitters are picking up the stitches on the heel flap (which is why the short row heel is so popular) and grafting the toe (which is one of the reasons why toe-up sock knitting is also so popular). Someone mentioned live stitches that needed picking up with a needle. Uh-uh. Not at all necessary. This isn’t rocket science nor Cirque du Soleil quality juggling! There are plenty of tutorials out there, but here’s one more. I want to apologise in advance if you’re left-handed, because as always you’ll have to reverse everything mirror-image.

First, don’t try to do this if you’re tired or there’s a lot going on around you. Find a quiet place when you’re well-rested and fresh. You need to put your toe stitches on two needles, one with the stitches from the top of the foot and the other with the stitches from the sole. Make sure there are the same number of stitches on each! With sock yarn and 8 or 9 stitches per inch, I usually have 12 stitches on each of the two needles (24 total). Now if you look at the first picture, you’ll only see 10 on each needle. That’s because I often do “Dog Ear Reductions”. You sometimes get these little corners that poke out at the sides (aka Dog Ears), so what I do to eliminate them is to lift the second stitch on each end of both needles over the first stitch. This also has the effect of leaving 4 less stitches to graft so it’s all good. Here we are ready to go:


OK, you have your two needles top and bottom, with the yarn tail coming from the right side of the bottom needle. If that’s not how yours looks, turn it around or knit some more until it does. The tail should be at least 4 times the length of the area to be grafted. I leave about 1 foot (30 cm). I also use a blunt darning needle so that it doesn’t split the stitches. I don’t use one of those bent-tipped Chibi needles either, but it’s your choice if you like it. Thread the needle. Before you get into a rhythm of stitching, you have to get set up. First poke your sewing needle, just as if you were using a knitting needle, into the first stitch on the top/front needle as if to purl:


And pull the needle and yarn through the stitch, snugging up moderately tight. Don’t drop off your stitch yet, just leave it on the needle. Then poke your sewing needle into the first stitch on the bottom/back needle as if to knit:


And pull the needle and yarn through the stitch, snugging up moderately tight and leaving the stitch on the needle. Try not to get the yarn all tangled around your needle tips but let it go under your knitting needles. (I’m not going to mention the snugging and the not-tangling any more, but just remember to do it anyway.) Now that was just the prep work. Next we’re going to get serious and actually drop stitches off. Go through the first stitch on the front again, this time as if to knit. Take it off with the sewing needle, but don’t let go or pull the yarn through it yet. With the next motion, go through the next stitch beside the one you just slipped off, only go into it as if to purl. It looks like this as you do it:


Don’t slip that second stitch off, but draw your yarn through it all the way. (Remember the snugging and not-tangling!) Now do the back needle similarly by going through the first stitch there as if to purl, slipping it off with the sewing needle and then going through the second stitch as if to knit:


That’s the dance you continue on the front and the back needles until you have only 2 stitches left, one on each needle. To help you remember which way to put the sewing needle in, think “Front needle, knit side facing me, so it’s knit-off, purl-on. Back needle, purl side facing me, so it’s purl-off, knit-on.” It will soon become a little song-and-dance routine. Graft enough sock toes and you’ll barely have to think about it. Really. Now what to do with those last 2 stitches? It’s like the other half of the prep we did in the beginning. Go through the front stitch as if to knit and take it off:


Go through the back stitch as if to purl and take it off:


Check over your graft and make sure there are no mistakes. It’s better to fix anything now if you have to. If there’s a loose section, use your needle tip to snug it up, working across from the right to the tail end. If you snugged correctly as you went along, things should be fine without having to mess with it. It just takes a bit of practice. If you did something knit-wise when you should have purl-wise, or vice versa, it will show up as a bump where a smooth stitch should be. You can either unpick the graft, taking the stitches back on the needles, and try again or leave it with a promise to make a more perfect graft next time. Now poke your needle through the corner of the toe to the back:


And darn it in invisibly inside. Superwash wool is slippery so make sure you’ve overlapped a bit to be secure. Basically if you’ve grafted correctly, the knitting should look unbroken right over the toe, like this:


And we have Sock Toe Grafted!

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great tutorial Louisa! I trust that you are well. Take care. Maryse

Diane said...

This is the best that I have seen.........I was having trouble with the last stitch...
Thanks Diane

Jennifer said...

By far the easiest instructions to understand. I thank you so much. Now I can't wait to knit more socks.
Thanks Jennifer

Hannah said...

Thank you for this! My first attempt is rather messy but I understand it, and that's the main thing!! :-)

Louisa said...

I'm so glad my little tutorial is still helping with a better understanding of grafting toes 2 years after I posted it! The photos could be better, but it's hard to photograph your own hands. ;)

Nicole said...

Thanks so much. I never really understood how to do that before! The toe still looks a bit wonky, but that was my fault not yours. Wonderful tutorial and the pictures are great!

Lotte said...

Thank you very much. I have never understood this part of sock knitting before, now I do.

shibaguyz.com said...

Since I've used this tutorial several times, I thought I would send you a note thanking you. There are instructions for this in my book with the socks I make the most often but it just never turned out correctly. When I did a search for grafting sock toes, your post came up and I've been using it ever since with great results.

Thank you for many beautiful sock toes!!

talk to you soon...
The Shibaguyz

Louisa said...

You are so welcome! If my tutorial can help make sock toes enjoyable and easy, then I'm very happy.

BTW, nice website, Shibaguys!

June said...

Thanks for the grafting sock toes tutorial. I am about to do my very 1st. After accomplishing the heel, this should be a breeze.

June from snowy Winnipeg

Jean said...

That looks like a great explanation but - my sock is knitted so that I've ended up with right sides together and turning it through doesn't seem easy! it's my first pair so have I done them wrong?

Louisa said...

Jean, you have knitted your sock with the right side (flat knit stitches) on the inside, am I right? You were working on the needle farthest away from you instead of on the one closest to your chest. This is a common occurrence for first-time knitters-in-the-round. You can turn the sock right-side-in by first slipping the toe stitches onto several needles so you have a wider opening and then poking the cuff into the tube of knitting and out through the space between the needles. Ease the whole sock through a little at a time. It might be a bit tight of a squeeze but should be possible to accomplish without losing your stitches off the needles. Then just slip the stitches back onto two needles and carry on with the instructions from there. If you are working with the sole stitches on top instead, it doesn't matter. Just turn the work so the yarn end is on the right. HTH!

Julia said...

Thanks for the tutorial! You provided a clear and easy-to-follow demonstration. I came looking for help after I couldn't understand the instructions for grafting in my Vogue Knitting book. Your explanation is MUCH better!

Kelligoogle said...

Thanks! Finished a sock for the finicky teen son who likes the sock now.

Louisa said...

Congrats! Are there two socks yet? Or just one so far? ;)

rlbates said...

Thank you for this tutorial. It really helped me a lot.

Teresa said...

This sock tutorial is great! this is the only one that shows what to do with those pesky last two stitches!

I do enjoy knitting socks, but my sock grafting has always been hit-r-miss. Now I can do them right.

Sandra said...

I lucked into your tutorial on my first Google search for finishing the toe on my first ever attempt at knitting a sock. It was easy to follow and I'm thrilled with the results. Thanks much Louisa!

Louisa said...

You're welcome, Sandra!

paws said...

This was so helpful. I've used kitchener stitch many times before and this was so clear and easy. I especially appreciated the little "knit off, purl on...purl off, knit on" memory device. I was literally singing it to myself as I went. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

So cool! Thanks for the help!

Dr. Quilter said...

Hi Louise,

it really helped. But I think that since I knit with the 'other' method (not sure which is the western vs eastern european?) my stitches end up in a different orientation in the needle and the 'as if to purl' and 'as if to knit' do not end up in grafted stockinette. Any suggestions? Any websites that show how to do this if your stitches are in the 'wrong' - I should say different- orientation? Thanks in advance

Louisa said...

You could always spend a few minutes re-orienting your stitches before beginning! Right leg needs to be in front and there's not that many to deal with. Then you could use my instructions as is following the photo to insert your needle rather than thinking knitwise or purlwise. Because I'm not sure which orientation your stitches are in to begin with, I can't really help you adapt the instructions to suit your style.

Mary said...

Thanks for the best grafting instructions I have ever seen!!! Mary

Gilly said...

Fantastic tutorial! I just grafted my first sock toe and I am amazed that I did it. Thank you!

Jaimie said...

Thank you for the awesome grafting instructions! Thanks to you, I have just completed by very first sock! Hooray! :)

Gaga said...

I have knitted many socks but always get confused with the grafting routine. Thank you for the rhyme - it made a great difference. 2 pairs if kilt stockings now complete and ready for a family wedding!

JuliaA said...

Just grafted my first toe! Thanks for walking me through it!

planetcoops said...

I've just finished my first ever sock. I did brilliantly until the last instruction 'graft the toes'! Thank you for this great tutorial, which helped me finish it off. Now, on with the second...

Lisa said...

Thank you for the great tutorial. I have been knitting socks for years and followed many peoples instructions for grafting but it has never turned out great. Tonight I followed your instructions and it looks beautiful!

Anonymous said...

THANK you! Your instructions are so clear! After trying many other sites, with mixed to no success I am so happy to have found yours!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for these great instructions! They really helped me understand how to do it. I couldn't figure it out from other tutorials.