These toe-up school socks have taken me a while to knit, but I've enjoyed the knitting thereof, so I don't mind at all. While only the heel was actually a new-to-me technique, I used a number of unfamiliar ones, so it was also definitely a learning experience.
I started with a toe-up toe adapted from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks, which turns out looking very much like a top-down grafted toe and goes together fairly easily. It is also adaptable to a wide variety of sizes. I worked the first one according to the instructions, then thought that the 2 sts between the increases looked a little narrow, so I worked the second sock with 4 sts between the increases. I've done this toe a number of times, but rarely actually finished the socks, so now I can give full marks to the "school" part!
Here you can see the difference between the toe with 2 sts between the increases, and the one with 4 --
To be honest, I couldn't really feel a difference in the wearing, but I like the look of the wider toe, so that is what is in the pattern below.
I also used the justly-famous Widdershins heel, which worked perfectly and looks very nice. My heel is actually an adaptation of an adaptation, since for some reason I was a little anxious about the whole toe-up thing, and I'd heard around the knitting blogosphere that the original Widdershins was only for a certain number of stitches, so I ended up using a formula that allowed the knitter to calculate for more or fewer stitches. Despite this being a rather convoluted path, it all went very smoothly.
The heel turn of the Widdershins makes a very generous curve, wider than the standard top-down turning, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, and I expect it could be adapted for those who want a narrower turning at the bottom of the heel.
The third new-ish technique was the Russian lace bind-off, said to be excellent for toe-up socks that need to have a stretchy bind-off.
The Tosh Sock is really lovely to knit with, soft and silky, and the color is fabulous. The skein is very generous, and I made the legs quite long with still a golf-ball-sized length left over. On the down side, the yarn bled quite a lot when I blocked them (the red), and the socks are already starting to fuzz at the toes, after only one wearing.
On the whole, I like the socks very much, and I've finished and worn a pair of very nice toe-ups, but generally I think I prefer the top-down construction. Even though the bind-off is fairly stretchy, it just doesn't appeal to me as much as a good Old Norwegian cast-on. I also like the ability to make the length of the gusset longer without having to recalculate the distance between toe and the beginning of a toe-up gusset. The biggest plus that I can see in working a toe-up sock is still having the stitches in a pattern "right-side up"!
Here is my pattern in full:
"Black Velvet" School Socks
This sock uses a toe-up wedge-type toe adapted from the Easy Toe in Charlene Schurch’s Sensational Knitted Socks (Martingale, c2005), and a version of the "generic Widdershins heel" by Mel of Cabezalana, in turn adapted from Brooke Chenoweth Creel’s innovation of the classic round-heel, Sl1-K1 heel-flap heel worked toe-up. My version realigns Mel’s generic Widdershins to accommodate the round starting at the bottom center of the heel.
This sock is knitted in Madelinetosh Tosh Sock yarn (100% superwash merino wool, 395 yards/361 meters per 100+g skein) in the "Black Velvet" colorway, worked on 2mm needles at a gauge of about 32 sts per 4 in./10cm, and measures about 3 1/2 in. (18 cm) across the foot laid flat.
With waste yarn and provisional CO, cast on 12 sts. Change to sock yarn and P 1 row.
Work back and forth in st st for 6 rows. Remove provisional CO and place sts on a second needle. (12 sts on each of 2 needles.)
Beg working in the round.
Set-up rnd (RS): K 4; this needle will in a moment be needle 4. With another needle (needle 1), K 6 then pick up and K 2 sts from side edge. With needle 2, pick up and K 2 sts from side edge, then K 6 from CO edge. With needle 3, K remaining 6 from CO edge, then pick up and K 2 from side edge. With needle 4, pick up and K 2 sts from side edge, then K to end. Rnd now begins at center sole. (8 sts on each of 4 needles.)
K 1 rnd.
Rnd 1: K to last 2 sts of needle 1, M1R, K2; K2, M1L, K to end of needle 2; K to last 2 sts of needle 3, M1R, K2; on needle 4, K2, M1L, K to end.
Rnd 2: K.
Rep Rnds 1 and 2 until there are 56 sts total.
Continue until foot measures 3" (7.6 cm) less than desired length.
Rnd 1: K to last st of needle 1, M1R, K1; K across needles 2 and 3; on needle 4, K1, M1L, K to end.
Rnd 2: K.
Rep these 2 rnds 9 times more. (10 sts inc on both needles 1 and 4).
On needle 1, K8, M1L, K1, w&t.
P10 on needle 1, P8 on needle 4, M1P, P1, w&t.
K10 on needle 4, K6 on needle 1, M1L, K1, w&t.
P8 on needle 1, P6 on needle 4, M1P, P1, w&t.
K8 on needle 4, K4 on needle 1, M1L, K1, w&t.
P6 on needle 1, P4 on needle 4, M1P, P1, w&t.
K6 on needle 4, K2 on needle 1, M1L, K1, w&t.
P4 on needle 1, P2 on needle 4, M1P, P1, w&t.
K4 (to end of needle 4).
K one round across all needles, picking up wraps and knitting them with the wrapped sts as you come to them.
K 13 sts on needle 1, SSK, turn work without wrapping.
Sl1, P to end of needle 1, P 13 sts on needle 4, P2tog, turn work without wrapping.
(Sl1, K1) to end of needle 4 and on across needle 1 until there are 13 sts on needle 1, SSK, turn without wrapping.
Sl first st, P across needle 1 and needle 4 to 1 st before the previous SSK, P this st tog with the next st, bridging the "gap" formed by the decrease.
Rep these last 2 rows until all of the gusset and heel sts have been worked except for 1 remaining gusset st on each of needles 1 and 4. (Sl1, K1) to the gap, then SSK across the gap as before, but do not turn. K across needles 2 and 3; on needle 4, P2tog across the gap, P to end. (14 sts on each needle, 56 total).
Work in st st until leg is desired length. Work 15 rnds in K3, P1 rib. BO using Russian lace bind-off as follows:
*Purl 2 sts tog. Loosen up st on right needle, and return it to left needle. Rep from * until all sts have been bound off. Cut yarn and draw through last st. Weave in ends.