Fiber Corner

Daily life of a knitting designer/publisher of handknitting patterns

Monday, November 06, 2006

Travelers with Afterthought Heels

Haven't been doing too much knitting lately, but one night about a month ago found myself anxious about a dental visit the next day so grabbed some yarn, Nancy Bush's Knitting on the Road, and cast on for the Traveler's Socks. The yarn is Lisa Souza's skinny Sock! in sage. I wasn't sure I'd continue with the socks after the border pattern as I was just trying to calm my nerves, but it looked really pretty in this color so figured I'd press on with a few modifications.

The pattern instructions call for a regular turned heel and gusset, but I know I prefer the fit of an afterthought heel. One of the really important things in handknitting socks is learning what works best for your own particular feet and finding a heel that fits and wears well is high on the priority list. If you haven't tried an afterthought heel before, here are the steps on how to convert a sock pattern.

First knit your sock as a tube, completely eliminating the heel shaping. I like to put a few short rows in the sole of the sock as it seems to decrease the wrinkling that sometimes happens across the instep.

Then, figure out the row on which you'd like your heel to begin. As a safety factor, you can run needles through each stitch one row above and one row below it.
That way, once you cut your knitting, the stitches are already secure and there's no worry they'll start unraveling. I'm using two circular needles for the heel and pushed the sts down onto the cable portion--it's easier to maneuver the scissors that way so you don't clip the wrong strand.
If you know exactly where you want to place the heel while you're knitting, you can knit in a piece of scrap yarn to mark the placement. I believe this is called a Peasant Heel except for this one difference, it's knit the same as the afterthought heel. This photo shows my current socks in progress (modified Spey Valley from KoTR) made from Lisa's Elektra skinny Sock!
In the middle of the selected row, cut one stitch.
Then pick out that row, working to one side of the sock and then the other side of it.
Now, you have an opening for your heel.
Round and round you knit, decreasing as you go. The rate of decrease will be different according to how many sts you start out with and the size of your heel--you may need a little experimenting at first. I usually use 76 sts for my socks and decrease 4 sts every 4th rnd 5 times and then every rnd after that until 24 sts remain (12 sts on each side). I also change directions in my decreasing--for the first 5 sets (the ones every 4th rnd) starting at the side with a right slanting decrease, work across my heel sts and work a left slanting decrease at the other side (repeat for the other half of heel sts). Then, when beginning to decrease every rnd, use a left slanting decrease on the right side of the heel sts and a right slanting decrease on the left side of them--as one generally does for decreasing a toe. I just find switching the decreases midway makes them look a little more invisible. All the heel needs now is a little grafting.
Because I think the increases formed for toe-up socks are more comfortable than the decreased toes on top down socks, I decided to knit a separate toe and graft it on.
Finished Traveler's Socks with altered heels and toes. I also didn't decrease the st count as the pattern instructed as this was smaller yarn and I used smaller needles--size 0.

As you can see in the photo, the cast on edge is rolling on me a bit. I've been wearing these socks on cold days this fall and like this yarn alot. I still have a few skeins of the skinnier Sock! left from last year and am happy I stocked up on it when I did.


At 2:14 PM, Blogger e's knitting and spinning blog said...

Wow! It's that easy!!! I have got to try it!

At 10:44 PM, Blogger Melanie said...

How neat is that? Thanks for the tutorial!

At 7:47 AM, Blogger CarolineF said...

I like the fit of flap and gusset heels but it is cool to see how this one goes together. The picture of the cut sock on your foot waiting for its heel really makes it clear! I like that pattern and it's on my list.
I THOUGHT the Sock I was knitting with now is fatter than the Sock I knitted with last year! Glad it isn't just me!

At 2:49 PM, Anonymous marti said...

thanks for the tutorial, and i love your new website.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger vanessa said...

very interesting post!

At 7:54 PM, Blogger June said...

Wow! I love this! I will have to try it out on my next pair of socks!

At 11:52 PM, Blogger Swanknitter said...

I like the idea (and may try it the next time my husband wears thru the heel on a sock) but don't you find the ridge running around the heel to run in shoes/boots? Or am I being too Pricess and the pea here?


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