Monday, November 09, 2009

Frontiers of Sock Construction 1: The Hat Heel

In September, two new frontiers opened up in the sock knitting world: Hat Heel and Personal Footprints. I'm certain that, for two months, you've been dying to know what I think of them.

Naturally, I was intrigued by both. Creative construction has always fascinated me. Mom taught me to knit so I could make a ski band, but a simple, wide loop would not do -- I wanted something with character and shape, something that got wider and narrower as needed. And duh: no sewing allowed.

These two sock-making methods are right up my alley. "Hat Heel" starts with the heel and builds the sock outwards from unusual gusset constructions. "Personal Footprints" is a brilliant departure from common sense, instructing you to knit the foot of the sock as a closed tube which is then cut and opened to knit the cuff.

I've tried both, and my world is unchanged. Probably. There may be something to "Personal Footprints," but more on that later. First up: the Hat Heel.

The pattern is wicked clever, and it starts off fun: you knit a round cup-shape for the heel, then make long, wing-like triangles that will wrap around your foot and join at the top. That's where things began to go badly for me. I had trouble making a smooth join with so few stitches at the points of the triangles. But then the next step was a nightmare. Picking up stitches isn't usually a deal-breaker for me, but it’s not my favorite knitting activity, and this requires you to be pretty good at it, picking up all around both sides of the loop you've made. I made a dog’s breakfast out of it.

In the end, I won the battle but surrendered the campaign (the war goes on). No matter how skilled you might be at neatly picking up stitches, you're creating inflexible seams in your sock, right at the point that your foot needs the most flexibility. A lot of hard, messy work for a sock you're destined to hate wearing.

Tomorrow: Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters.

PS: Click the picture to embiggen, and check out that gorgeous yarn. It's "Tesla" from Gaslight Dyeworks.


Anonymous said...

Not only is it inflexible, it's a RIDGE that will rub your foot at its flex points. Thank you for the confirmation that this isn't the best most perfect sock construction ever. I looked at it and had the same issues just looking at the pattern.

Incidentally, this is also (one of the reasons) why I don't like the normal flap and gusset heel, as my feet are a little more sensitive than others' and the one and only pair I made with the flap/gusset (which I did because of the patterning) I actually hate wearing because the picked up stitches rub so weirdly against my foot.

I may look at Cat's new book if there's anything that's not a modified flap and gusset (which her first book was). That heel never looks good to me, and it doesn't fit me quite right. (I bought the first book, worked all of the sample socks, cried, and sold it to someone else in my knit group.)

--S. said...

Extra-bonus points for using "embiggen," a perfectly cromulent word.

Cat Herself said...

Oh, Great and Evil Sock Genius, thank you for dealing with all these strange variations and saving us from having to suffer them!

knittingbrow said...

I am happy that you share your opinion as you continue your sock obession. The creative thinking for this heel has a great deal of merit to it and I expect that it will inspire your next great pattern. I am feeling the need to knit socks.

Karen said...

I have the hat heel pattern on my desk right now, and I've been mulling the construction but coming to no firm conclusion. Like you, I wondered about the idea of the seams at critical junctures on the foot. Thanks for the heaping dose of reality!

=Tamar said...

Idea: use extra circulars to hold live side stitches, and do the 'flaps' as short-rows. Kitchener the two ends together and arrange the live stitches on your circulars. You then have your live stitches in both directions ready to knit smoothly.