Friday, October 19, 2007

Those Pesky Feet

Human feet are very unique and unfortunately don’t always conform to their owner’s sock knitting preferences. This often makes knitters wonder if there is something wrong with the knitting itself. Relax! It is not your knitting, it is the feet themselves that are at fault.

To illustrate the problem, I present – my feet.

I have fairly small feet, rather average in most respects. But I have very high arches. The top of my foot doesn’t slope gradually up to the instep. There is a slight slope and then, at the arch, it suddenly rises up in a hurry. There is a huge distance from the ankle to the back of the heel. All of this makes the standard heel flap/gusset heel fit rather well. So far so good if I am knitting the sock cuff down.

However, I don’t like knitting heel flap/gusset heels toe up . I tried the standard short row heel and it stretched out over that odd high instep. I tried knitting it over 60% of the sts and that didn’t help because, while it adds to the depth of the heel, it reduces the width of the instep. Additionally, I was getting holes in the bottom of the sock at the heel because the fabric was stretched tight there. This made the fabric thin and prone to wear.

Finally, I developed a gusseted, short-row heel that I really love. I like knitting it, it is mindless, and it fits me and it comfortable and durable. It isn’t something I invented. It is something I cobbled together. I am going to explain this in general terms as well as using my own numbers as an example. In my case, I use 68 sts for the circumference of the sock.

Beginning: When the length of the nascent sock comes to the point where the instep starts to slope up above the arch, I start increasing. I add 2 sts on every other round, on each side of the sole. My beginning of round (BOR) is at the left side of the sock, where the sole meets the top of the foot. The first half of the sts after the BOR (34 sts) are the top of the foot and the second half (34 sts) are the sole. I increase as follows:

Rnd 1: K1, M1, knit across the instep sts, k1, M1, knit to end of rnd
Rnd 2: K

I continue this increasing until I have 1” worth of sts on each side of the sole. My gauge is about 8-9 sts per inch for sock yarn. So I add 8 sts on each side for a total of 16. Once I am done with this increasing, including the subsequent plain round, I am ready to begin the heel.

At this point, I have 50% of the circumference sts (34 sts) + the 16 sts I added set aside for the heel. I work the short row heel on these sts, leaving the instep sts in reserve. Now we will be working back and forth on the heel sts (34+16=50) only.

Middle: I work the short row heel with an eye of partridge st pattern on it. This makes the heel very thick and comfortable and also helps with wear. You can use any short row heel variation you like. I have used wraps, the Japanese short row method, the yarnover method, and others in the past. My current favorite is one described in the Sock Wizard V3 program as the Ultimate Short Row Heel. I am not giving details on how to work it because I don’t know if this is a commonly used technique elsewhere and is not really pertinent to this discussion. Whatever wrapping and turning method or no-wrap technique you like can be used.

Row 1: K across the heel sts (e.g. K 50)
Row 2: Sl 1, p to end (e.g. Sl 1, p49)
Row 3: *Sl 1, k1, repeat from * to next to last st to be worked, k1, turn
Row 4: Sl 1, p to last st, turn

Repeat rows 3 and 4, working 1 st less on each row i.e. turning 1 st before the end of the previous row until you have 25% of your circumference sts left being worked. The rest are on hold. In my case, I work the heel down to 18 sts with 16 sts on hold on each side of the heel.

Now start the increasingly lengthening rows, continuing the sl 1, k1 on the RS.

Row 1: *Sl 1, k1, rep from* to wrap or end of the penultimate row (2 rows earlier), pick up wrap or whatever you like to do, turn.
Row 2: Sl 1, p to wrap or end of penultimate row (2 rows earlier), pick up wrap or whatever, turn.

Repeat these two rows till all the on-hold sts are now being worked. Work across the instep sts and start working in the round again. Keep the EOP pattern on the heel sts going. This makes a nice cushion for the Achilles tendon.

Ending: Continue the back of the heel sts in eye of partridge, decreasing 2 sts every other round till we are back at the original circumference number.

Rnd 1: K across instep sts; k1, k2tog, *sl 1, k1 to 3 sts before BOR, ssk, k1
Rnd 2: K

Repeat these two rnds until you have decreased away all the sts you added on the foot. In my case, I repeat these rnds 8 times.

Now continue as always with the leg and cuff.

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