My Arizona raised Grandgirls are facing their first Utah winter, so their Grandma, that would be me, is hard at work stitching up some quick and easy wool socks to get them through those frosty early morning treks to the bus stop. When you count them and their two little cousins, there are six Grandkids – that’s twelve chilly little tootsies that need covering, so I’m working on some easy vanilla socks to keep them cozy. In the process, I’ve gotten a little lesson in knitting socks with afterthought heels, which I thought I might share with you, Crafty Friends.
The great thing about afterthought heels is that they’re put in after the fact, which gives you miles of knitting plain stockinette little tubes before you have to go back and worry about all the bother of heels. I can knit away on my little tubes during my lunch hour, while watching movies in the evenings and while waiting in lines. It’s amazing the amount of tubes I can turn out when I don’t have to pay much attention.
Of course, there is some planning to do before cast on. I’m making socks for children aged about one year, up to fifteen. Foot size charts to the rescue! I use this handy one from the Yarn Council. It covers a variety of sizes, but hey – knitting is stretchy…there’s some room to work with. You can go by age or shoe size, but given that my Grandgirls seem to have giant feet for their ages, it’s probably safer to go to the trouble to get the shoe size of your recipient. That will give you some important information, such as the circumference and length of the person’s foot.
When you know your gauge, or the number of stitches per inch you knit in the yarn/needle combo you’ll use, then you’re golden. Just multiply your number of stitches per inch by the desired circumference to get the number of stitches to cast on. I round that number up or down to the nearest number divisible by four for easiest decreasing of heel and toe. Next, I cast on my stitches using a very stretchy cast on, (the Twisted German Cast On is my favorite for socks), and work ribbing for an inch or two before knitting the leg of the sock to about 2 inches less than the desired length. There’s suggested lengths for each size in that handy foot size chart I referred to earlier. Then knit half your stitches onto waste yarn, holding a place for your afterthought heel. Work those same stitches again with the working yarn and keep blissfully and mindlessly knitting the foot part of your little tube until you’re about 3 1/2 inches away from the final length you want the foot of the sock to be. At that point you can decrease the toe of the sock down to your desired number of stitches and graft the toe closed. Finally, you’ll add the heel by picking up the stitches above and below the waste yarn before pulling it out to create the opening for the heel.
As for knitting the heel itself, you proceed in much the same way as decreasing a toe. The Knitgirllls have a fabulous video tutorial for a basic afterthought heel. Laura Linneman, LaLa of the Knitgirllls, also created the Afterthought Heel Sock pattern, which is an excellent reference I recommend you refer to the first time you make a pair. Once you’ve done it, the simplicity of it will no doubt stick with you and you can do it anywhere – without a pattern reference.
And just when you thought sock knitting couldn’t get any easier – if you want to pay even less attention while you’re knitting your tubes, Emily B. Miller of Skyline Chilly has created A Sock Surgeon’s Afterthought Heel Pattern that teaches you how to snip a stitch in your tube in just the right spot to insert your afterthought heel, avoiding the need to mark the row with waste yarn. If you find cutting your knitting scarey, breathe deeply and slowly into this paper bag, Crafty Friends, she even created a youtube video to walk you through the process. I’ve almost gathered my courage to try that pattern/tutorial next. Imagine the freedom from all those pesky measurements, allowing you to lose yourself completely in meditative tubular bliss!
Knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit…