OPTIONAL STEP: Prepare Your Project Bag
In a previous blog post, I showed how to prep your sock project to make it neat, highly portable, and helpful for figuring out when you're at the beginning of a round. Rather than repeat myself, allow me to direct your attention to my previous post, Prepping a Tidy, Portable Project Kit.
Besides making your sock project easily portable and helping keep the two skeins tidy, a key benefit of this technique is that you can always tell when you're at the beginning of a round. When the top of your bag faces up and the working yarn extending from the bag to the needles is straight,...
... you are about to start the beginning of a new round. (With this pattern, that means you're about to knit the sole/bottom of foot stitches off of Needle 1.)
If it crosses just once between the knitting and the bag...
... you are about to start the second half of your round. (With this pattern, that means you're about to knit the instep/top of foot stitches off of Needle 2.)
But, if the twist looks like this...
...or even like this...
...and you want to know whether you're at the beginning of the round or not, then you need to flip...
...the bag (or twist the needles around in the air) until you have either a single cross or no crosses at all.
And do make sure your bag has a clear top and bottom. If the bottom of the bag is up...
... the crossed yarn doesn't tell you the same thing.
Of course, you can set-up your project however you see fit. This technique works for me. And if you want to try it out, you need to set it up before casting on.
STEP 4: Casting On
The first time you make these socks, read through this entire section before casting on.
Several different cast-ons can be used for toe-up socks, including the figure eight cast-on, Turkish cast-on, and provisional cast-on (which requires going back to complete the toe after the rest of the sock is done). If you're already happy with one of these other methods and don't want to try the method I recommend, by all means use the technique you know. For my money, the superior method of casting on—which creates a seamlessly grafted toe with an actual stitch—was developed by Judy Becker, and is commonly known as Judy’s Magic Cast-On.
For your reference:
When you cast on for two-at-once knitting using Judy's Magic Cast-On, the first sock you cast on will actually end up being Sock 2 and the second sock you cast on will actually be Sock 1.
If you have any question about what that means, envision the needles: when casting on, you hold the needles so tips face left. This means the first sock you cast on will end up being closest to the fold in your cable; the second sock you cast on will be closest to the needle tips.
In the above picture, I have just finished casting on for one sock and have picked up the yarn to cast on the next sock. (Notice that when I cast on, I used the yarn from the left side of my project bag first and will use the yarn from the right side of the project bag second. For those of you following my instructions for packing your sock project, this is an important detail. I explain why 2 paragraphs down.)
When you turn the needles around to Neutral Position to begin knitting (i.e. so the tips point right and the fold points left), everything is arranged as indicated in the first picture in this post. The sock closest to the needle tips (Sock 1) is the one you will knit first every time you begin a new round.
The cast-on order is important if you prep your sock project in a single bag like I described because this is way the working yarn doesn't cross between the knitting and the bag (when the bag is facing up) and, therefore, you can tell whether you are at the beginning of the round or completing the second half of the round.
The above picture shows two socks cast on, with needles turned to NEUTRAL POSITION to begin the first round of knitting. You are looking at the right side of the cast-on stitches. The working yarn does not cross between the bag and the needles.
When the top of your bag faces up and the working yarn is crossed between the bag and the needles, you're on the 2nd half of the round.) To make sure the working yarn is straight when you're at the beginning of a round and crossed when you're on the back side of the round, you must cast on using the left skein first (corresponding to Sock 2) and the right skein second (corresponding to Sock 1).
(Of course, if you have your yarn crossed when the top of the bag faces up, you don't need to start over. Just put a marker of some kind on the other side of the bag so you know it's the new top!)
Make sure that you don't have the wrong side up when you turn your needles to start knitting. If you see purl bumps between the two rows of loops...
... that means you're looking at the wrong side of the knitting, and you need to flip it over so the purl side faces down.
TIP: Since prepping your project like I described helps you tell when you are at the beginning of a round by whether your yarns cross between the knitting and the bag or not, you don't need a stitch marker. If you don't use my sock-prep method, place an open stitch marker on the right side of Sock 1, to remind yourself when you're at the beginning of a new round.
Number of Stitches to Cast On:
Holding reinforcing thread and yarn together, like this, . . .
. . . cast on _____ stitches per sock (Chart 1, Row A) — each needle will have _____ stitches per sock (Chart 1, Row B).
(You will note that in the remainder of my tutorial, I do not show reinforcing thread. This is because I am making bed socks that will not need to withstand normal in-shoe wear. I do write all queues for attaching and clipping the thread, though.)
Refer to the Knitty pictorial if you need step-by-step guidance through Judy's Magic Cast-On.