Saturday, September 29, 2007

On Sock Heels - A Contemplation

This year's pair of summer socks is almost done. I should have a photo to show in a day or two. The heels turned just fine and I've knitted my way up both legs and have just enough blue to complete the K2P2 cuffs.

A couple of posts ago, I showed you the toe-up sock toe that I really like. I've experimented with others but keep going back to that one. Not that I am exceptionally experienced when it comes to sock knitting. Off the top of my head I can recall about 17 or 18 pairs of socks that I've knit, but that's about it. I suppose that's enough pairs to settle on sock parts that one likes.

A short row sock heel.However, my pleasure and confidence in the toe does not extend to the heel. And I've experimented with those as well. This one is a short row heel, one that I often use. But I've knitted heels with flaps too. For the longest time I've assumed that I preferred the short row heel. But with this pair of socks, I've finally decided that I'm not so sure.

The reasons I've liked the short row heels is because they are the quickest and they use less yarn. I think they make a neat looking heel, as long as I keep the yarn snugged up as I do the wraps. Otherwise gaps develop. I have insisted to myself that these are decorative, but even so, I like a snug heel.

The biggest problem I've had with this heel is that gaps are left when knitting in the round resumes. This is usually eliminated by picking up an extra stitch or two on the first round after finishing the heel. I've been semi-successful with this, but it often looks a little sloppy to me. Of course, it might help if I could figure out whether to start the turn on a knit or purl row. No matter which I choose, it still doesn't seem to come out right, so perhaps it really doesn't matter (?) Another minus for this heel is that unless one uses a nylon reinforcing yarn in addition to the main yarn, it tends to wear out faster. But then there's the matter of getting a reinforcing yarn to match!

Heel flaps, on the other hand, take longer to knit and require more yarn. Usually these are knitted on cuff down socks, but can be used on toe-ups in a reverse fashion. One plus is that if one knits it with slip one, knit one (or easier yet, Lucy Neatby's slip one, purl one), the yarn carried across the slipped stitches creates a sturdier heel.

My problem with these heels stems from the fact that no matter what I do, my knit and purl tensions are never the same. This results in a rather trapezoidal shaped flap, instead of a nice neat square one. I can't say that this effects the fit of the sock noticeably, but it still bugs me. Oh, and I've managed to get a gap with this heel as well.

Before I conclude, I think that I should admit that I've never tried an "afterthought heel." For some reason I'm a little leery of this heel, though I don't know why. I suppose that I should be brave sometime and give it a try just to see what it's like. Of course, knowing me, I'll have to give it three or four tries before I get the hang of it, and I'm not sure that I want three or four more pairs of socks with goofy looking heels.

Perhaps I should have named this post "In Search of the Perfect Sock Heel." I know that I certainly haven't found it. Has anyone? Does such a thing even exist? I'm open to suggestions.

Related Posts:
Summer Sock Knitting
Summer Socks Finished!


loribird said...

Ah, the perpetual quest for the perfect heel... You're not alone!
I've also tried both styles and debated the pros and cons or each, though in the opposite order - I was a staunch defender of Flap Heels because I felt they fit better and looked neater. I discovered that I like Priscilla Gibson-Robert's "Dream Socks", which uses short rows for the heel (and toe) that leave no gapping and seem to be "deeper," and so fit me better. I'm still searching though...

As for the difference in gauge between knit and purl, I have the same problem, and it's very frustrating. I finally bit the bullet and taught myself to knit backwards (rather than purling across the back, one knits backwards across the front) and that evens out the tension somehow. It took some practice, but now it's a handy trick.
Best of luck working it all out!

Cally said...

When you find it, please let us all know!

I am very susceptible to the problem of gaps, although the heel flap pattern I'm using at the moment seems to be working slightly better for me.

Laritza said...

The best ones I have found are the flap heels. You can find some in Wendy Knits. Go to her free patterns and the generic sock pattern has it. It is done with slip stitches which adds thickness to it. I am in the process of redesigning toes. I do not like the toes out there. Plus I like toe up socks.

Lauren said...

I have to admit I've tried all the styles you mentioned and the afterthought and flap are competing for favortie with me. I really like the aesthetic of the afterthought, clean distinct lines and a grafted botton, the ability to put in a section of k1,sl1 where the shoe hits the back of the heel, it is lovely but I have some damn thick ankles and so my boyfriend gets the afterthought and I get the heel flap (much more comfortable for me)... Not much help but I'd suggest giving the afterthought a try (there are several ways to do the ah even!) I love your blog and really appreciate all the beautiful work that you share.

Sheepish Annie said...

I promised myself that I was going to do short row heels during the summer vacation this I do pretty much every summer. But it took me so darned long to get the hang of a good looking, nicely fit, gapless heel flap that I can't seem to go back to the middle of the learning curve again.

I guess I'm a flapper!

Teyani said...

I never liked heels until I took Charlene Schurch's sock knitting class - now I love them. She's got some great tips in her book Sensational Knitted Socks... at least for all us top-down-sock kind of gals.

Sharon said...

Oh funny. I've never given a second thought to the heel flap and have knitted and given away dozens of pairs of socks using it. I know it's not square and I guess I didn't realize it should be. Maybe my heel isn't square, but I've liked all my socks so far and can't wait to knit a pair with TOFUtsies, a yarn that a friend just introduced me to.

Bettina said...

I usually knit heel flaps - in most books they write that to get a perfect heel I am supposed to work as many rows as I have stitches on two of the 4 dpn (european ones consist of 5 needles, 4 for stitches, the 5th for knitting... makes sense because socks are round and not triangular?:) but I am quite obstinate and only knit this number - minus 2 rows, and my heel fits well. maybe it's not so much what is perfect in theory - but what fits your heel perfectly? I always knit the 2nd and 3rd and the two stitches before the last on both sides - makes for easier row counting and looks quite neat too... somehow the short row heels don't seem to fit me so well, that's why I don't usually knit them. I do use smaller needles though for heel and toes.... which makes them last longer or so it seems.


I don't really knit socks, I hope to one day learn enough about knitting to do so, here is a blog of a guy knitter that I love and keep up with, now this guy can knit some serious socks heres the link

Maybe it will help you out with your heels.


Dave said...

Have you tried the Sherman heel? It's a form of short row heel but has no wraps. It wraps the outermost instep stitches to avoid the "resuming around again gap problem."

For heel flaps, your problem might be lessened if you do the slip stitches on the purl side rather than the knit side. When I do a flap heel, I also wrap the outermost instep stitches before I do the flap, then pick up the wraps when I start going round again. For me, that eliminates the gap.

Dave said...

Also :-) you may want to try knitting backwards to eliminate purling: