Friday, September 11, 2009

The reveal

Group shot

At last! At last! I can talk about things!

For over a year now, I have been knitting socks in a new way of my own devising. However, this method was a deep, dark secret, as I was planning to submit it to Knitty...and then I was accepted by Knitty...and then I was waiting to be published in Knitty...and through this whole process, things had to be kept hush-hush.

Now, however, the Fall 2009 issue has been published and I can tell you about my socks! They're a "plain vanilla", i.e. stocking stitch, sock. Their novelty lies in their construction.

Completed, heel detail

Looks weird, huh? :)

It's called the Hat Heel sock, so named because you start by making a little "hat" for your sock, starting from the centre of your heel and working out. Then you make "earflaps" on the hat, which are the sock's gussets. Then, just as you would tie earflaps closed at your chin, you graft the gussets together at their tips, which end up located at the top of the instep. And - tadah - a little hat for your heel. Next, you pick stitches up around one opening and knit out for the foot, doing the ususal decrease and closure for the toe. After that, you pick stitches up around the other opening and knit up for the leg, ending the sock by binding off.

prototype, side view

I came up with it partly because I was vaguely unsatisfied with how the usual heel constructions fit me (or, rather, didn't really); and partly because I had designed a top-down earflap hat and went on a total hat bender, so I had that kind of hat very much on the brain. (Top-down hats are righteously awesome. You cast on for a closed tube - starting with the same number of stitches no matter whom you're making the hat for - and then increase until the hat is big enough around to fit the intended wearer. Then you keep knitting without shaping until the hat is long enough to fit the intended wearer. Then you cast off. Ridiculously simple.)

What brought these two things together was listening to an episode of the Math 4 Knitters podcast. Lara was describing the "afterthought heel" sock, where you do the "body" of the sock first, leaving a big gaping hole where the heel should be, then you pick up stitches around the hole and work the heel. From what I understood her to be saying, the afterthought heel decreases were done at either side of the foot, which would mimic the short row heel construction you typically get in toe-up socks. It occurred to me that this was a waste of a good opportunity: instead of duplicating the too-pouchy, too-pointy construction of the short row heel, why not decrease at regular intervals all around the heel as you go, so that you end up with a round heel? You know, like the way you do for a hat?

Like a hat...

Like... a... HAT.

And that's when All Became Clear. Not to end with the heel, but to start with it, like a top-down hat! After a bit of fiddling, I figured out the gussets, and then picking up for the foot and leg were relatively simple. It took a fair bit of test knitting, but eventually it worked out. And as I did all my test knitting, I realised that this construction had advantages beyond the well-fitting heel. I'm still pretty astonished that my brain came up with this idea, actually. I tend to be more of a derivative designer.

Anyhoo, here's the pattern at Knitty. Go wild. And in the meantime, here is the beginning of the parade of socks I've been making from this pattern for over a year.

2008 Christmas socks for dad, modelled here by my mom:
Completed, back view


Foot-pampering socks for moi:

Completed, back view

Baby socks for DD1: (they're really the toddler size, but at the time they were made I was calling them baby socks)

Wild socks for DD1 (made big so they'd fit for awhile):

Autumnal tones socks for moi:

Complete, heel shot

The rest of the shots will come eventually, after I've uploaded the pics. Yes, that's right, the parade is not even close to being finished. Since I've had over a year since I started using this pattern, there have been a heck of a lot of socks!!!


Beverly said...

You are so clever! I can't wait to try a pair myself...I'm going out tonight, but now I wish I were staying home so I could cast on RIGHT. NOW.!!!

Knitika said...

Congratulations! What fun to be in knitty! And what a whackity construction. I sure does interesting things to those self-patterning yarns.

How funny to have knit all those socks and be unable to share. But with good reason!

I've got new sock yarn TODAY. That DIC mystery discontinued yarn, stardust. Maybe I'll play with your pattern this weekend.

Again, congrats!

Lauren said...

What a fantastic idea. Very innovative. I love how little ideas can just flip your lid in an incredible way. Congrats!

Siri said...

very clever construction. Glad you finally got to share it with the rest of us, and in such a BIG way, on Knitty!

Lorine said...

I am totally in awe of the little blips the brain does that allows dots to connect and then of people like you that claim to be bad a delayed gratification but have not only managed to prove the design works but have detailed it for the rest of us to enjoy! My first pair will not be a wild self patterned pair but of a kettle dyed yarn sure to get lots of use. Thanks so much for your work!!!

TracyKM said...

I just saw the socks on Knitty, and WOW! I can't wait to try them! They are being put at the top of my to-knit list. I too have had many issues with heels; I like the top-down heel flap heel (as long as I make it long enough), but like toe-up socks. So it seems your socks will be perfect for me, and I even have Step yarn (even though I know I could have used any other sock yarn from the overflowing bin, LOL, it's nice once in a while to actually use the recommended yarn!)

Anonymous said...

Just got here from knitty and I have to say this is freakin cool!! I can't wait to try it out!

JoLynn said...

Interesting sock. It is on my to do list.

Suze said...


First, let me congratulations on your publish in Knitty. What a fantastic accomplishment! I have trouble keeping quiet. And what a secret to keep.

You are really trying to push me out of my comfort zone. I have knit one pair of socks. I have rather small feet. They were just too long in the feet for me. I gave them to DD who has longer feet and maybe even a tad skinnier. I have a pair partially knit and they gape right above the heel. I'm thinking this just might be the answer. But with all my attempts, I haven't tried a toe up sock.

I have a sock on the needles for my husband. He, on the other hand, or should I say the other foot, has a large, fat foot. I'm wondering if this pattern is going to accomodate his wide foot. I haven't gotten far enough to determine ifmy sockguauge and his foot are compatible yet. Oh, my knitting dilemmas. Now, you've given another option which just may be the solution to all my sock woes. That's are a revolutionary idea. I love the pattern on the heel and looking forward to seeing more samples.

Again, congratulations.

lhutch said...

This was the first thing I looked at in Knitty Fall. it is awesome. I especially like the ones modeled by your mother. those really show the innovative design.

Whee! I don't have anything on the needles having just finished Felted clogs for my mom an hour ago.

I will cast on some new sock for myself in the morning.

Lala H

Maureen said...

Amazing design! I've got a wee number of socks to knit before Christmas and your 'hat-heel' is now definitely on the list!

Nicole said...

These are so cool, I want to try the pattern immediately , despite the amount of wips lying around here....

Linda said...


Anonymous said...

crazy. and so darn smart. congrats on being in knitty....

Aim said...

What a really great concept! I can't wait to try them...Congrats on getting them accepted on Knitty!

sdealfitzgerald said...

Thank you for showing us how to do these on knitty.

All of us know, if the heel doesn't fit, you gotta quit (before you even think about starting that second sock.) No doubt these will make my sock making much more interesting.