As you were, comrades!

I thought of another way to illustrate the helical path of stripes: I wound a length of stripy grosgrain ribbon around a roll of paper towels.

Think of your vertical color repeat: if you’re using two balls of yarn, it’s two stitches high; three balls, three stitches, and so on. If you’re playing with grosgrain ribbon, it’s the thickness of the ribbon. As you knit your sock, your vertical color repeat wraps around as one entity – the stripes never cross one another, and the edges abut. Where I sliced my ribbon at a shallow angle – that’s where you would introduce all the different colors at the onset of the spiral (and remove them at the end of your work). The idea of attaching the yarns at equal intervals would necessitate an even shallower cut, of course.

Question: I really, honestly don’t need to twist the yarns?

Answer: Please don’t ;). Twisting the yarns will change the order of your stripes. I’d need to cut up my ribbon along its length to demonstrate twisting, and I don’t want to do that ;). Just go with the flow, and always pick up the lowest available strand – no twisting and no holes!

Question: How do I make stripes which are more than 1 row thick?

Answer: By attaching several balls of yarn of the same color, one right after the other. The number of balls equals the height of the stripe – 2 stitches high needs 2 balls, 3 stitches high needs 3 balls, and so on.

Question: Are you seriously going to stick a heel in there somewhere?

Answer: It wouldn’t be a sock without one!

First, identify your heel stitches. As you know, this is typically half of the total number of stitches. If you’re using dpns, some people like to put the heel over needles 1 & 4. Others like the heel over 3 & 4. It really doesn’t matter: just decide which ones will belong to the heel.

Next, knit your spiral such that the heel yarn (the yarn with which you’ll knit the heel) is on the left side of the heel stitches AND the other yarns, however many you’re using, are not. You don’t want your other yarns to be in the middle of the heel, either. You’ll be working back and forth over the heel stitches using the heel yarn, and you don’t want to trap any of your other working yarns in the process.

Here you see the heel yarn (B for Blackberry) hanging on the left side of the heel stitches. At the point the photo was taken, I was about to turn my work and purl back, thus starting my short-row heel. Note: all the heel stitches are currently blackberry – you probably can’t see this, I’m going to ask for your trust on this one. Depending on the instructions you follow, you can count this as the first row of the heel. Of course, no other yarns are in the way, so I can proceed full steam ahead!

Fast forward 30 minutes…

What I want you to see is that (wouldn’t you know it?!?) the yarns are in exactly the same positions as they were before I started! So, what more is there to say? As you were, comrades! You’ve successfully inserted a heel, and now you continue knitting as though nothing happened!

Question: How does it work when you get to the end of the tube?

Answer: Same as the beginning! I will abandon each strand in turn, spacing them out evenly over the circumference of the sock. I will tidy up any holes by carefully weaving in my ends. But I’m getting ahead of myself here ;).

Before I go ahead and finish the sock, do you want me to take out the short-row heel and show you how to finesse a flap heel into this colorful contraption? You can do it without breaking any yarns – it just requires a certain set-up so everything flows correctly.

48 thoughts on “As you were, comrades!

  1. Martha

    Brilliant! Thanks for the explanation. You’ve made it clear, logical, and understandable. I look forward to your tutorials! When can we expect a book?

  2. Laura

    This is so interesting! Even for a non-sock knitter like me. Are you going to write up these instructions in one place? I’d love to see it as a “pattern.” (I guess it would be more of a “recipe.”)

  3. margaux

    i think I’ve FINALLY got it.. haha i noticed just like your ribbon that your first “stripe” on your sock – for instance the white – doesn’t go completely all the way around at first and then it does… i was confused at that at first… but i get it now!

  4. Betty

    Ah yes, heel flap , please. What with my high instep, short rows just don’t fit my foot, as much as I love the look of them. I know, I know, commercial socks don’t do flaps. My handknit socks have a tighter, less flexible, gauge on the theory that they will last longer. I can’t bear the idea that they would actually wear out. The real solution for that, of course, is to have so many handknit socks that, worn in rotation, they will last years and years.

  5. Seanna Lea

    I really love this idea. I’m assuming that this is easier with the short row heel, and I’m happy to use it as I’m trying to get better at this technique.

  6. Marin

    “Yes, please,” to the heel flap question.

    And “thank you” for the end-of-the-tube question. I’d still like to see it when you get there, if you don’t mind.

  7. korinthe

    Thank you AGAIN for this terrific tutorial! The more methods, the merrier.

    Hey Betty — have you tried working a short row heel over more (60-75 percent) of the stitches, instead of just 50%? I also have a ginormous instep, and that method has helped my short-row heels fit.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with a flap heel — I just wanted to pass on the advice another knitter shared with me at the time :)

  8. Meg McG

    I think you and Cat Bordhi should get together and figure out how to make socks insideout, upsidedown and sideways with cables that don’t require a cable need and lace that doesn’t need any k2tog. A cuff down sock thats grafted without kitchener stitch. Dye yarn that looks like a 28 color repeat Starmore Fair Isle pattern in garter stitch. Then the two of you can abandon socks and open an engineering firm and figure out how to build housing on the moon.

  9. Kathy in KS

    Is there no end to your amazing-ness? Seriously, you have a way with explaining with words that is truly a gift. For me, it’s like trying to give someone a haircut over the phone; I can’t tell them, I have to show them. But you manage to do both. Wow.

  10. Kathy Sue

    Too amazing! Please show us the flap heel. I am thinking that learning to do this would be a good step to mastering Fairisle. Am I making a logical connection, or do I STILL not get colorwork?

    I am truly enjoying your tutorials.

  11. Erin

    Beautiful presentation! You have taken something that seemed impossible and explained it in words (and pictures) that truly take the mystery out of it. I can’t wait for the next installment of your tutorial :)

  12. Ann

    I love love love your spiraling stripes. And your pictures make it so clear how they work. Just one question: In the “before” pic, it looks like you knit around to the point where you would drop the lilac and pick up the natural. But instead you “skipped ahead” to the blackberry and knit that section so that half your stitches are now blackberry instead of one fourth. Do I understand that correctly? Thanks and yes please on the heel flap.

  13. Sarah

    I wish my brain would wake up and grasp what you have been showing us. I think I need to grab needles and go for it to understand. I am mega-interested in this.

  14. knittripps

    It is a beautiful sock and I really do appreciate your detailed instruction of the technique. I never ever would have thought of that. Still, it seems very fiddly to me.

  15. Meg

    Yes, please, I would love to see the heel flap demo. Thanks for going through this technique in such detail – it is truly an amazing concept.

  16. mel

    Yes, Please, I’d love to see more!

    I am soaking this up like a sponge, thank you so much for sharing this and all the detail and pictures. I was absolutely intrigued with the first post, but didn’t quite grasp it – on the second one, it all made sense!

    I’m not a regular commenter, but am a regular reader, and I do really appreciate all the effort that goes into your postings, particularly these educational ones – Thank you!

  17. Tracey

    I do prefer the traditional heel flap, I think it is more comfortable. Can you elaborate on that?

  18. Sharon T

    Yes, please do the heel demo. I think I’ll try your technique on my next pair of socks. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Diana

    I DID a heel flap! I made the flap and heel turn of one color, then just picked up stitches with whichever color was in the right position. It was a little nerve racking, but it went OK. I’m cruising down the gussets now… I’ll try to post a picture on my blog.

    And it’s all thanks to you, Grumperina – I love my candy cane spiral sock! This is a great technique!

  20. Amy

    Yes! Please! Heel flap-and-gusset heels work best for my odd feet, and I confess I am fascinated. I’d love for you to show me how to do this with a flap. :)

  21. Rosi G.

    Dude, you’re making me want to whip out a bunch of yarns and get to making stripey socks! Will you make up a nice printable pattern and add a linky to your sidebar later? Pretty please?

    Oh, and yes, flap please!

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