How to Turn a Heel

Happy Socktoberfest!

socktoberIn yesterday’s thrilling installment, we got through the knitting of the sock leg and prepared to do the heel. I dutifully photographed the knitting of the heel flap and turning of the heel, and then my batteries gave out. Still, since I promised I’d show you how to turn a heel today, I intend to do so. As it happens, I’ve done that before, and I have pictures left over from then. So these are not pictures of the Log Cabin Sock, but the process is just the same, so here they are:

a You knit back and forth on the heel stitches (half the total number you cast on) until you have a square. Your pattern might tell you a number of rows to knit, in which case of course you should do that, but your goal is to get a square. I just fold it in half diagonally to make sure of its squareness and then I know that I have finished the heel flap. That is the name of this bit: the heel flap. It is important to slip the first stitch of every row when you knit your heel flap; your sock pattern will tell you to do this, and you should not ignore that instruction and knit your merry way along without slipping that stitch. Believe me.

With that done, you are ready to turn the heel. Now, last time I wrote about this, I was a little snippy about how frenzied people get over this easy process. That was before I had spent the summer frothing at the mouth over setting in sleeves. Some things seem hard to some people, that’s all. But the various schemes for avoiding turning a heel will give you an uncomfortable sock, so it is worth getting comfortable with turning the heel. See the picture at the left, how I have not gone all the way to the end of the row? And yet I have turned around and begun knitting back the other way. This is called a short row. Your pattern will say something like “K14, turn.” You might slip a stitch or something, but you will leave some of the stitches unknitted on your needle and turn around and go back as though you had finished knitting the whole row. The result is that you will have one part of the row that is only maybe 24 rows high and the the other part of the row will be 25 rows tall.

That means that the stitches on the left hand needle will no longer line up precisely with the stitches on the right-hand needle. There will be a bit of a jog there. When I get back to that point on the next row, I’m going to work the stitches that don’t quite meet up together as though I were decreasing. Then I’ll work one more stitch and turn around again.

aa You do this several times. The result is that the middle of the heel has more rows in it than the edges, which gives you a rounded shape.

The only way I know of to mess this process up is to count wrong and end up with your roundness on one side rather than in the middle. So when you do that first couple of rows, make sure that you are leaving the same number of stitches behind on each side — probably about a third of the stitches on your heel flap.

Then you can just do the rest by eye, or you can count, doing the decrease one stitch earlier each time. However, the whole process takes only about 10 rows, and it is very few stitches, so if you are not happy with the results, just pull it out and do it again till you like it. Once you have done this successfully one time, you will find it easy in the future.

aaa With the heel turned, you will knit across the stitches and then knit down one side of the heel flap — remember? that square you knitted before.

Since you slipped the first stitch, you will have longer stitches to knit into, and can easily and evenly pick up the number of stitches your pattern instructs you to. The Log Cabin socks require you to pick up 11 stitches here. If you are not using a pattern, be sure to write down the number of stitches you picked up so you can match it on the other side. You may think that those slipped stitches make it obvious, and they certainly help, but they are not foolproof.

I like to use the same needle to knit across the turned heel and to pick up the stitches on the side.

aaaa Now you will knit back across those stitches you have been ignoring while you did the heel. You worked your heel on half the stitches of your tube, so the other half of the stitches have been waiting patiently for you to get back to them. Now you knit right across them, continuing any pattern you have going that you want to continue on the foot. That is the front of the sock you are doing there.

Since the front of the sock is often covered by the shoe, many sock patterns stop the fancy stuff here and continue in plain stockinette stitch. If you wear low-cut shoes with your socks, wear socks without shoes (I won’t tell your mama), or enjoy the knowledge that your socks are fancy all the way to the toe, you can keep going with your lace or cables or color work or whatever, just on these stitches.

In case you want to do that, you will want to give them their own needle. (If you are using five needles, in the British manner, you can divide the front onto the second and third needles.)

aaaaaaThen grab your remaining needle and knit up the other side of the heel flap. Make sure you have the same number of stitches on this side as you did on the other. Your pattern will generally tell you how many, but the main thing is that it should be the same as the other side.

Keep knitting till you get to the middle of the heel. Now, as you can see, all your stitches are back together, evenly distributed on your needles and ready to knit the foot gussets.

This whole bit that we have just done here requires enough concentration and counting that I would recommend putting down your book while you do it, but it is not hard once you get the hang of it, and should not discourage you from making socks.

And you will be glad of your nice wooly socks once the weather changes. Leonidas and Craftymommavt are already having fall where they live, and I suppose Sighkey is enjoying the first signs of spring, but it is in the 90s here, and I have baby tomatoes in the garden. This is good, since I was too busy the first time around to can any salsa. I now get a second chance.

#1 daughter has changed jobs, and is beginning today at Pier 1. Personally, I couldn’t stand to stay in the Abercrombie & Fitch stores for even one hour, so this seems to me to be a reasonable decision. Since she is going to work primarily for social reasons, she will be better off in a place that is quiet enough to allow conversation, and where there will be grownups to talk to. In her interview, they told her that they knew Southern girls were good at chatting to customers. She agreed, and I guess that was not by any means the worst thing they could have said.

#2 daughter also has a new job, but she has not changed jobs, and is merely adding one. She got the choir directorship she was waiting to hear about, and also has a full-time day job and a temp job organizing a music library, the lead in a play, and singing in the KC symphony chorus and some other choir I don’t know the name of.

I don’t have a schedule like that, but I do have lots of assignments right now. I have another fact-checking assignment from the state history encyclopedia, this one involving the first Miss America to become a Playboy cover girl. We have a very colorful history, and at least she didn’t shoot anybody.

(I feel as though I ought to explain here that many of my previous assignments were about politicians from the 18th and 19th centuries, all of whom shot someone at some point, often right there at the capitol. We were the Wild West at the time. By the 20th century, we had given this up, and our politicians were no more likely to shoot anyone than those from any other state. For a while, though, I was arriving at work and saying, “This guy shot someone, too!” practically every time I had a new person to look up. It remains a significant part of my fact-checking experience.)

My homework for tonight’s class includes the question, “How is knowing the difference between right and wrong different from passing judgement on another person?” This strikes me as quite a profound question, and is one that I have been contemplating quite a bit in spare moments this week. I think there is a continuum from not caring at all what anyone does to setting oneself up as the arbiter of right and wrong for everyone. I have wondered whether our admiration for being nonjudgemental has contributed to the present horrible situation in which our president has declared that he can decide what tortures are acceptable. The idea that Americans are engaged in torture should be horrifying all of us, but it appears that some of us are not horrified at all. At the other end of the spectrum we have people who have picked out some one particular wrongdoing and devoted their lives to irritating folks who commit that one, breaking commandments right and left as they do so. Hmm. This should lead to some interesting discussions.

I am reading detective novels rather than Gulliver’s Travels for KTC (which I have read before, but it has been a long time, so I am looking forward to re-reading it) or The Little Friend for my real-world book club or anything creepy for the RIP Challenge, so when it comes to reading I have assignments but am not doing them. I will get to them, though.

The HGP wants us to bake cookies, make a guest basket for the bathroom, and clean our kids’ rooms, and a frolicsome week that will give me. I am hostessing a bridal shower on Sunday, an undertaking requiring delicate comestibles.

And we have received the early mp3s from our Chamber Singers recording session. Since I cannot even put buttons into my custom module, I obviously don’t know how to let you hear these, but I’ll tell you that I was pleasantly surprised. However, it was also clear that we all need to practice more on “O Magnum Mysterium.” A bit shaky, that, on the entrances.

And #2 son has requested that I make him a sweater for Christmas. He actually asked me to put down the sock and begin knitting his sweater right away. I do not have the kind of yarn stash that will allow this, and of course I have Pipes and Erin on the needles waiting for it to be cool enough for a lapful of wool, but I may go ahead and get the yarn for his sweater ordered. He wants a plain gray sweater, which could be a good zombie project to balance the epic nature of Erin and the math required for Pipes.

The socks will have to be finished first, of course. I think they count as an assignment.





6 responses to “How to Turn a Heel”

  1. Leonidas Avatar

    You need some help fact finding about playboy bunnies reach out. I really like the purple in that sock leg…

  2. ozarque Avatar

    If I had not read this post with my very own personal eyes I would not have believed it was possible. That’s twice this morning I’ve been blog-post-awed; I hope it’s a good omen.

  3. sighkey Avatar

    It’s 3 minutes to 7 in the morning here and I’m already vicariously exhausted from reading your entry. No zen today for you. Do you know the term ‘hyperactivity’? 🙂

  4. stephane0305 Avatar

    RYC: Thanks for the good advice. I am feeling better, for the moment.

  5. lostarts Avatar

    All torture is horrifying. Equally horrifying is that the president is proposing torture as acceptable in any circumstances.

    Has he never heard of Sodium Pentathol?

    Or does he just want to be able to torture anyone for the fun of it by the simple expedient of calling them a terrorist?

    I’m even more disgusted by him than I was previously.

  6. chanthaboune Avatar

    I want to read detective stories.

    I was stood up tonight which is highly dismaying. I don’t get stood up.

    But I hide the dismay well. I carried on working on my schedule, was hit on twice, turned men down twice, was asked to work for AxeLab once, and had to tell the busboy to stop touching my latte too many times to count.

    And that was only an hour and a half.