Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In Which I Discover the Band Heel

I've been knitting a mosaic sock pattern (Diamond Mosaic from Charlene Schurch's "More Sensational . . . " book) and wanted to continue the pattern all the way down the foot. This is, of course, next to impossible if one prefers the traditional flap-and-gusset heel. The additional gusset stitches and subsequent decreases are an insurmountable problem. The patterns in the book are no help; they avoid the entire issue by showing the patterning only on the leg.

Another option, which I used on my first pair of mosaic socks, is to transition into a pin stripe on the foot. Negotiating the two colors through the gusset decreases requires a bit of attention, but it's not too difficult.

The obvious solution is a short-row heel. No gusset, no worries. But I had used that heel on these socks a few years ago and didn't like it at all. Something about the shape and/or sizing of the short-row heel just doesn't fit my feet well. Luckily the same book that had the pattern for the "Ukrainian Socks" (Nancy Bush's "Folk Socks") has a HUGE section on heel and toe variations. And that's where I discovered the band heel.

I'm still trying to figure out how the magic happens, but I followed the directions and it worked. You start out with an ordinary heel flap on half the stitches (in this case 30). Then life gets interesting. You do just a few decreases on either side of the six-stitch "band". Okay so far. But then . . .

While doing short rows to turn the heel you maintain the six-stitch band in the middle. For some reason I don't yet understand this causes the heel turn to be much longer than usual and you have far fewer stitches than usual left at the end – only the band, actually.

Thus, when you go to pick up all the necessary stitches along the side of the flap, there are no extra stitches that need to be decreased away – just the original 30. When next I use this heel I would do one thing differently – four stitches, instead of six, for the band. It seems the fewer stitches you have at the end of the heel turn, the more you can pick up, and thus the longer can the heel flap be. And I like looong heel flaps.

But it all came out well enough. The first sock is done, with a star toe at the end -- using both strands of yarn, since I have been reminded recently of the fragility of sock toes (see prior blog post). All that remains is to knit one more.