Learning new tricks

The thing about a comfort zone is that it's comfortable there. It requires not too much thought and you can just relax and enjoy your knitting. Moving out of your comfort zone - Hmmm - not so much.

Thus it was this weekend when I decided to try a new-to-me heel. The Smooth Operator heel by Susan B Anderson. The pattern is written cuff down and she has you place 3 rows of waste yarn for the heel, working on for 2-3 inches before going back and working an afterthought heel. Unusually for me I decided to follow the pattern completely and herein lies my mistake. I am so used to working an afterthought heel (my way) that I can do it practically in my sleep with all manner of domestic distractions going on around me. 

Trying to follow unfamiliar instructions whilst dealing with Sunday afternoon homework dramas was, inevitably a recipe for disaster. Tears (mine), frustration (again mine) and a burnt dinner later I realised something. a) I really (really) hatred using waste yarn for an afterthought heel and b) when trying to learn new tricks make sure you have the house to yourself.

Still, the benefit of an afterthought heel is that you can just rip it out and redo ithe. I'll just need some coffee first.

A stripy Sunday morning

It really does feel as though Spring is on the way now. The lighter mornings are such a boost after the dark grey days of February and, sitting here with a coffee and my sock before the rest of the house wakes up feels like such a treat.

Self striping yarn really is a miracle - especially when it comes in such happiness inducing colours as this West Yorkshire Spinners yarn. Even a minor mishap such as having to reknit half of the leg (note to self - even if you think you are picking up the 2.5mm needle tips, check with the gauge) can't dent my enthusiasm for this sock.

The observant among you will notice that I'm forgoing my usual toe-up sock method and working cuff down for a change. I've been looking for an excuse to try the Susan B Anderson Smooth Operator heel and this seems as good a time as any. I'm sure there is a way of adapting it for toe-up but for now I'm happy to work through the cuff down directions as written. A few more inches and I should be ready to put the waste yarn in for the heel.

The art of a good heel flap

When it comes to the heel flap everyone has their personal favourite. I know some people who prefer a plain stocking stitch heel flap but personally I prefer something with a bit more texture and a bit more structure. The plain stocking stitch, whilst being smooth and simple to work can lack structure and end up creating a heel flap that is a bit too loose.

My personal favourite is a slipped stitch heel flap where the right side rows are worked (slip 1, Knit 1) all the way across and the wrong side rows are purled across (after the first stitch is slipped). This creates a thicker fabric as the slipped stitches create an extra layer of bulk across the back of the heel. The slipped stitches draw in the fabric and create a heel which grips better and gives a good fit.

There is also the Eye of Partridge heel where the right side rows are worked as follows:

Row 1: sl1, k1 to end

Row 2: sl1, p to end

Row 3: sl1, (sl1, k1 )to end

Row 4: sl1, p to end

This creates a really lovely texture, but it is a little bit more difficult to remember and for that reason it tends not to be my go-to heel. But it is well worth a go if you are looking for a pretty and fun alternative.



Now don't get me wrong. I absolutely love a bit of plain knitting in the round. Give me some self striping sock yarn and I'll happily knit a plain vanilla sock for hours on end - given the chance. Sometimes though it can feel as though you are wading through treacle, knitting and knitting but not seeing much in the way of results. My husband has very long feet and that trek along to the heel turn can feel very, very long.

This is when I like to use little progress keepers. Those little clip on stitch markers that you can clip directly into your knitting. Stick one in at the start of the day, carry your sock around with you as you would do normally and by the end of the day you can see how much progress you've made. Perfect for those times when you are lacking a bit of motivation. 

I also like to use them if I'm knitting in the cinema so that I can see how much progress I've made whilst everyone else has been busy guzzling popcorn.

It's a little thing, but sometimes it's those little things that can help to perk up your motivation and keep your knitting moving in the right direction.

Don't underestimate the humble stitch marker

I don't know about you but I never hesitate to use stitch markers to demarcate repeats when I'm knitting lace shawls. Somehow though I'm often reluctant to use them in sock knitting. Partly because they are on such a small scale, part of me thinks that I should be able to manage without them. And also, for ages I didn't have any stitch markers that were really suitable. Anything too large or too dangly got tangled up and anything too heavy just felt cumbersome.

Now I have found the very small solid type of stitch markers I am a complete convert and now own an impressive selection. I like my sock stitch markers to be very narrow - about 3mm - is perfect and solid with nothing dangle or tangly to get in the way. These tiny fluorescent markers from The Little Grey Girl are ideal - especially as you can locate them when they ping off into the dark recesses of the sofa cushions.