I've been called an amateur. I've been called a dilettante. I've been called a hack. I will admit to being only lazy, nothing more.
When I explain my way of thinking, some knitters look shocked, or guilty.
As I tell the new sock knitters in my classes, it's practically a religious debate, how to finish up the toe of a sock. To Graft, or Not To Graft.
There are places where grafting is absolutely required, and where nothing else is appropriate. Rogue, for example. The Girl From Auntie's Rogue is a genius design, a beautifully cabled hoodie sweater. The hood is worked flat, in one piece, and to finish it, it needs to be folded in half and the top needs to be joined somehow. Sure, you could sew it, or work a three-needle bind-off, but it just doesn't look as good. This hood needs to be grafted.
The grafting lets the cables flow into each other, elegant and seamless. Socks, on the other hand, do not need grafting.
Yes, that's right. I'll say that again. Grafting is unnecessary – indeed, it's actually counterproductive – in sock knitting.
It's slow and fiddly work, and requires attention and care – right at the point in the project where you're dying to get the damn thing off your needles and onto your foot.
If a grafted toe was a perfect finish, it would be worth it. But it's not perfect. When you graft, you get little “ears” which you have to sew down a bit, which creates a bit of a lump at the sides of the toe – a lump that rubs inside your shoes. Or, if you don't sew the lump down, the toe looks sort of odd.
Most people graft the toes of their socks for one of two reasons – either because they've been told to, or because they think it's the only way to create a nice, flat toe finish. Very people graft the toes of socks because they enjoy it. In my years as a knitter and a teacher, I've only met a handful of people who say that they are comfortable grafting, and I know precisely two people who say they actually like doing it.
If you are one of those two people (hello J., and M.!), you can stop reading now.
The rest of you? I have some advice to make your life more pleasant. STOP GRAFTING THE TOES OF YOUR SOCKS.
What to do instead? Easy; cinch 'em closed. Decrease down the toe to 8, 10 or 12 stitches, cut your yarn, thread it through the remaining sts and pull it closed.
Nice, eh? And so much easier and quicker. The eagle-eyed might notice what looks like a little tiny hole at the closure. Yes. There is. This method does leave a very small hole at the top, and if you don't like it, you can close it up when weaving the end in.
Okay, but what if you're knitting for a foot that's broad and flat across the toes? A hobbit foot, if you will? The way you close the toe isn't the only thing that controls the shape of the finished toe. The frequency and the decreases and the number of stitches you stop at also controls the shape.
Want a broad, flat, graft-free toe? Change your rate of decrease – very slowly at first, and very fast at the end.
My standard toe decrease goes as follows:
decrease round, work 3 rounds even; [decrease round, work 2 rounds even] twice; [decrease round, work round 1 even] 3 times, then all decrease rounds until you hit the desired number of stitches. I usually go to 8, but of course it depends on the number you start with and how it divides by 4.
Lovely. Elegant. Fits most feet very nicely.
For a broader toe, do the following:
[decrease round, work 3 rounds even] 3 times, and then all decrease rounds down to the desired number of stitches.
The broader toe compared against the regular toe.
So, let's see. It's quicker, it's easier, and it produces a lovely looking toe. What's wrong with that?
Still not sure? Come on... just once won't hurt you... the first one's free, and it feels so good.