It's my favorite knitting day of the week - Sports Knitting Sunday! Although my betting is for bragging rights only, I find it keeps the sideline knitting more interesting if I have something specific to cheer for. I'm in an NFL game picking contest with a bunch of other knitters and am not doing well this year in that contest at all! I've resorted to flipping a coin to improve my odds of scoring points. And for the first time, I'm also in a NASCAR Fantasy League for the Sprint Cup Series which I'm really enjoying. I'm in second place in that contest so far, and I think there are actually dishcloths on the line this week... so this is serious! Both are on TV right now - so it may take me a while to type this post!
Now for a warning... this remainder of this post is rated very high on the technical knitting geek meter!
Our online Ravelry group has just started two Knit-along projects - both suitable for holiday gift giving! One of them, the Pretty Toes Pedicure Sock, uses a heel that I've mentioned previously knows as the Fleegle Heel. This heel, pictured on the right, is designed for toe up usage. It is done as follows:
1. The gusset is created first. On every other row of the gusset, a lifted increase is worked two stitches in from each end of the sts on the heel needle. This continues until the gusset contains two fewer stitches than were in the original circumference of the entire sock.
2. To turn the heel, short rows are worked on the heel needle stitches only. The creator of the Fleegle heel has cleverly identified a way to do the short row turns without wraps that are very clean looking.
3. Once the heel stitch count has been decreased to where there are only a couple more stitches than you started with, the heel is rejoined to the top side of the sock and knitting in the round is resumed. The Fleegle creator has also found the way to prevent gusset holes from appearing - she is very smart! You can find the specific directions for working the Fleegle Heel on her blog - here's a link.
After learning this heel, my first thought was, "Now how would you do this for a top-down sock?" The Fleegle creator mentions in her blog that the heel can be worked identically for a top-down application, so I gave that suggestion a test knit. Below is a photo comparing the standard Fleegle (left) to the upside-down Fleegle (right).
While this option is simple to work, and has a very tidy look to it, there are a couple of things about it that bother me a little. First, look at the angle of the heel turn. It no longer bisects the heel, but instead the angle is very low. I believe this occurs because the Fleegle Heel is not symmetrical in terms of the number of rows before the turn versus after the turn. Second, it just looks visually unbalanced to me to have the gusset on the top side of the turn row instead of below it. This is, of course, a personal preference thing. Third, notice how the top of the heel is higher on the upside down version than on the standard version. Again this is due to the unsymmetrical nature of the heel style. If you were working on a top-down sock, you would need to disrupt the stitch pattern on the back of the leg at a higher point than you would if you were working the same sock toe-up.
None of these points are terribly bothersome or important. But, it did fuel me to come up with a top-down version of this no-flap gusset heel that would look more like its toe-up counterpoint. The challenge in doing this is that you need to start by doing short row increases, and then finish by doing gusset decreases. The gusset decreases are no problem - you simply do decreases on each side of the gusset instead of the lifted increases that are done in the stardard version.
The short row increases are tricky however. All the types of short row increases that I know (wrapped, Japanese, yarn over) leave gaps between the stitches on the needle before and after the turning point. Normally with a short row heel this isn't a problem, because when you do the heel turn, you work decreases across those gaps to hide them. But in this case, there aren't short row decreases to hide the gaps, so I needed to come up with a way to do gap-less short row turns.
I accomplished this by using Make 1 increases at the turning points instead of doing wraps or yarn overs. So, the jist of the short row heel shaping goes like this...
Row 1: (RS) K to last st, M1, turn.
Row 2: (WS) Slip 2 with yarn in front. P to last st, M1, turn.
Row 3: Slip 2 with yarn in back. K to last 3 sts, M1, turn.
Row 4: Slip 2 with yarn in front. P to last 3 sts, M1, turn.
Row 5: Slip 2 with yarn in back. K to last 5 sts, M1, turn.
Row 6: Slip 2 with yarn in front. P to last 5 sts, M1, turn.
See the pattern? Repeat rows 5 and 6, leaving 2 more sts at the end of the row before you work your M1, until you have the desired number of sts on your heel needle, ending with a WS row. Then you work the gusset decreases to form the heel turn. The photo below shows this top-down no-flap gusset heel compared to the others we've previously discussed.
Notice that it matches the standard toe-up Fleegle quite well, that the heel turn row angle better bisects the heel, and that the top of the heel in the back is lower than the upside-down Fleegle version. The turn row itself is not quite a smooth as the original Fleegle turn row, but it still looks pretty good.
So I'm happy that I was able to figure this out - for what it's worth. Either of these top-down methods would make a great sock - it's just about having more options.
Now back to sports and knitting!