At Knit Camp last weekend, I gave a little demonstration of the Sherman short row technique for doing a toe up sock, and there were requests for me to write up a little tutorial. There actually is already a tutorial online here, which I found helpful (a link which is not working as I write this, though I remain hopeful), but the pattern was adapted to a top down sock - a generally unnecessary adaptation unless you're doing a very directional stitch pattern, particularly since going top down actually requires 4, instead of 2, wraps and a kitchenered toe at the end.
You should read over both of these resources and maybe print them out for reference, but both are lacking in visuals of some procedures that are not especially intuitive at first. That's where I'm hoping this pictorial/tutorial will come in handy, and I would really appreciate input. I am assuming that this is going to be used by someone who has at least a basic understanding of sock construction and knitting technique, 'cause otherwise we'd be here all damn day.
As I have mentioned on a previous occasion, I have a strong preference for toe up socks. This is because, unlike the original Sherman pattern, I do not have feet that will fit into a medium women's sock and cannot assume that a standard skein of sock yarn will be sufficient. At least with the toe up Sherman design, I only have to alter one of those two aspects. So, as with any sock, determine gauge & the desired circumference to calculate the number, c, of stitches that you will need. If the number is odd, then round up or down to make it an even number (Since I use a set of 5 dpn's, my preference is for a number evenly divisible by 4. This matters less if you're working on two circs or magic loop, unless you're OCD about it like me).
Once you have your number, c, you need to do a provisional cast on of ½c stitches. My preference for this is to do a crochet chain cast on, which is nice, neat and easy to do.
The problem that I encountered initially when attempting this toe, though, is that I came to the end of the encroachments and realized that I was 3 or so stitches shy of my desired number, instead of the one shy I was supposed to be. It finally struck me that I was counting the crochet bumps as my cast on stitches and that I needed first to do a row of knit stitches before launching into the purl row setup.
Note that the needle was turned so that the long end of the crochet chain is on the other side of the needle from the previous photo. This will make it much easier to unzip it and pick up stitches when you have finished the toe cap.
Now, unless your foot size permits you to follow the original pattern verbatim, you will need to come up with your own count, but after the purl setup row, the short rows basically proceed as follows:
Sl1, knit across until one stitch remains on left needle, turn;
Sl1, purl across until one stitch remains on left needle, turn;
Sl1, knit across until two stitches remain on left needle, turn;
Sl1 purl across until two stitches remain on left needle, turn;
And so on until the toe is as narrow as you want it to be (for me this is about half the number of stitches I initially cast on, or ¼c). Now you will start reversing direction and working what the original pattern refers to as "encroachments". Now, I have never seen this word related to knitting terminology, and I'm not sure why it was chosen, but what it means is this: On a purl row, Sl1, then purl across two fewer stitches than were knit on the previous row. You will then purl the encroachment by slipping the next stitch, then pick up the stitch below the next stitch, slip both these stitches back to the left needle and purl them together, like so:
See, really not that bad. Now turn the work, and here is where I follow the recommendation of that second resource (which still isn't working). Instead of knitting the first stitch on the left needle, Sl1 and knit across the same number of stitches that you purled in the previous row then knit the encroachment: slip the next stitch knitwise, lift the stitch below the next stitch, slip both stitches back to left needle, and knit them together through the back loops - a minor variation of SSK, basically. Continue in this fashion, slipping the first stitch of each row.
From this point it should be easy to work your way back around the toe cap. With each row, you will purl or knit one more encroachment stitch until there are no more. The stitches that you are to slip are easy to spot, because the stitch below them was picked up and worked two rows previously, which makes them look they're coming out of an odd tangle instead of a normal stitch. The encroachment stitches are slanted because of the distortion caused by the stitch above being slipped. To illustrate this, I've put the knit and purl sides next to each other for comparison (It's easier to see if you click on the photo to look at a larger version. Or you could just try it for yourself).
You will finish the toe cap on a knit row. Sl1 & knit across to the final encroachment, work it, knit one, place a marker if you need the reference for the beginning of the round, then start unzipping your crochet chain and picking up your cast on stitches. There will be one stitch fewer than your desired final number, so don't forget to make one more when you come back around. And there's your toe cap.
Now knit in stockinette or desired pattern until the foot is around 2.5-3 inches (about 6-8cm) shorter than toe to heel length and begin the heel.
The only difference between the toe and the heel is that the heel has two wrapped stitches to prevent holes from forming at the top. Knit across all the heel stitches, wrap the first stitch on the first instep needle, and turn. Purl back across all the heel stitches, wrap the first instep stitch you come to, and turn. Now proceed exactly as for the toe. Because I have wide toes and a narrow heel, I will work additional short rows at the heel to make a smaller heel cup. This also creates greater width at the instep, which addresses the primary complaint I hear people make about short row heels. Remember, there is no rule that says you have to do the same number of short rows at toe and heel. Make it to fit the intended foot.
Once you have finished all the heel short rows, continue again in the round, picking up the wraps as you come to them and working them with the stitches they wrapped. Again, this should pretty well close any holes that would otherwise tend to form. Then you can continue up the leg and work the cuff as you wish, using a loose, elastic cast off at the top (I really like the one Grumperina describes in this post).
The thing I really like about this short row technique is that once you know how it's supposed to look, it's super easy to do. I'd tried Priscilla Gibson-Roberts's yarnover method and Wendy's generic toe-up, but those p3togtbl just killed me. This method works just as well, is way easier, and it doesn't leave a big ridge on the inside of the short rows. See?
This sock is done in worsted weight yarn, and there's only the tiniest of blips there. Absolutely ingenious.