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Math4Knitters, Crafty Living: Show 116

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Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
That pretty sock-project bag is from Simply Socks Yarn Company.

Math4Knitters, Crafty Living: Show 116

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
This is the finished heel, from the bottom.

This week, I share more details about the Tootsie Heel and chat with Melanie Falick.

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
This is the sock, before the waste yarn is removed. Note the "ears" on the side.

This is a companion piece to my Tootsie Socks pattern from the Spring + Summer 2012 edition of Knitty magazine. (By the way, that's my twin sister, Lisa, in the photos.)

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
After the heel flap is done, the sock looks like this.

As much as I love afterthought heels (and I REALLY do), and toe-up construction, I do notice, now and then, that a lot of knitters avoid them.

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
I use dental floss to stabilize the live stitches before I remove the waste yarn.

I always like to know why they are avoiding them. Sometimes it's simple habit, or fear of something new. But, a friend of mine who is also a very experienced sock knitter, once told me that she really needs a heel flap in order to have a sock that fits her foot well.

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
All picked up, ready to make the heel flap.

Well, a true heel flap also needs a gusset, I think. I tucked away her critique for years. Then, I happened to spend a lot of time last year thinking about and looking at photographs of socks.

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
The heel stitches are ready to graft, here.

One day, something clicked. I thought, "why not make a heel that is created using the afterthought technique, but imitating the structure and look of a flap-and-gusset heel?"

Why not, indeed? Well, the gusset seemed like a problem. How to get around that? Why not leave the two sides of the gusset on waste yarn, as when working some mittens that have a gusset for the thumb?

Why not?

I cast on with some random sock yarn, and gave it a go. It took me a few tries. It turned out that the gusset and the heel flap part were fairly straightforward, even though it left my socks looking as if they had ears for a large portion of the knitting process.

The hard part was simulating the heel "turn" region. I tried to get away without using it, but the results were less than satisfactory! I had to come up with a way to use up the stitches in a certain way, at a certain rate, that didn't leave unsightly gaps at the edges.

I became somewhat obsessed with trying different combinations of decreases, slipped stitches, and other methods. Finally, I hit upon something that seemed to work. My partner found me, sitting up in bed, wrangling yarn, needles, pen and paper. She still thinks it was rather funny. This might be normal for a lot of knitters, but as a lifelong insomniac, I try to keep my work out of the bedroom. It's a rule that has helped me become an almost normal sleeper - keep movie screens, televisions, and knitting out of bed.

Once I got the result I wanted, I knit up some samples and sent it in to Knitty. It was a really fun process and I can't thank my technical editor, Kate Atherley, enough for making sure that the written instructions made sense, and keeping me from writing the heel turn section as if it were one long series of short-rows. Well, I still did, but she gently reminded me that anything I write after "turn," has to be a new row.

And, of course, thank you to Amy Singer. She has created a wonderful resource for all of us.

The initial sample sock was in grey and silver lining. I still love the way those colors look together, although Tootsie is so much fun. I took photos as I worked it out. The eagle-eyed knitter will notice that my stitch count was slightly different for the grey sock - and the decreases aren't quite as tidy. But, I want to share these process photos with you, in case they help the more visually-minded knitters navigate this admittedly unusual pattern.

I can actually see a series of different socks with heels that begin like this one. A Dutch heel, for example, might be fun made in this way. Also, the "best" depth of gusset is debatable, and could be altered. As a descriptive term, I'm going to coin the phrase, "Afterthought With Ears," or AWE heels. May Tootsie be the first of at least a few more.

It all starts with the ears. There are a ton of photos, and a few notes, in the PDF with this week's show. I hope it makes things extra-clear.


Melanie Falick was so nice to chat with me about her work, yarn in general, and stitching together a career. I hope you like it.


- STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books

- Knitting in America

- Kids Knitting

- Artisan (Book Publisher)

- Chris Hartlove

- Meg Swansen is the CEO of Schoolhouse Press

- The Handmaid's Tale

- Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing

- Interweave Knits

- Knitting for Baby

- Weekend Knitting

- Loop-d-Loop

- Modern Top-Down Knitting

- Alabama Studio Sewing and Design

- Denyse Schmidt Quilts

- Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan

- Kaffe Fasset's Autobiography will be published soon. Keep a lookout.

- Gerty's Better Sewing

- Heather Ross Prints

- Crafty Chloe

- Comfort Knitting and Crochet: Baby is also still in the works.

- Knitting from the Center Out is an upcoming book by Daniel Yuhas. While you are waiting for the book, check out his patterns.

- The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design

- My Storify about The Principles of Knitting (I'm going to update it at least 5 times a week until I run out of pages to flip!)