i want to knit my first pair of socks. should i start with the top-down or go for the toe-up? i'm thinking i should probably know how to do both at some point. is one less frustrating than the other? i really like the thought of doing it from the toe-up. it just seems like the knitting would flow more. oh, and i need to be able to knit them in a handful of days (As opposed to a couple of weeks).
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I learned cuff down first and was terrified to try toe-up for some reason, until a little while ago. Now, I love toe-up, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be. Especially in the event of not knowing if you'd have enough yarn, toe up if great because you can knit until you run out.
I wouldn't say that one is faster than the other though. The foot portion and the leg portion are the same, regardless of which direction you're knitting, it's just the toe and heel that can vary a bit. Even with that, if you're using short row heels and toes, they are worked in the exact same way regardless of toe up or top down.
So I'd say just pick the method that you find most appealing and give it a try, but definitely learn both ways.
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Beginning with the cuff may feel more familiar to you (it's the same as starting a sweater with ribbing) while the beginning of the toe-up sock may seem a bit fiddly the first time around. Aside from that, there's no real difference in speed.
Since this is your first pair and you have a deadline, make it easier by using a basic pattern -- no lace, no cables. Silver's is good; so are several others. I made my first pair from Ann Budd's "Knitter's Handy Book of Knitting Patterns" and the step-by-step directions were a cinch to follow. If you don't want plain solid color socks, use self-striping yarn.