Sock Basics 5: Toe up Gusset and Heels

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Well, it has taken me longer than anticipated to get back to my Sock Basics series. Things have been fine here, but quarantine really set me back a bit mentally. I am finally feeling like myself again, and feeling like there is a point to doing normal things again. I hope everyone is well, both physically and mentally. I know what a struggle it is for many people, and it can be hard to keep pushing through. But, the more we can get into a routine, the better. One thing I was finding was that I was unreasonably bored. Like super bored, sit on the couch doing nothing bored. It was bizarre. I was likely having some depression symptoms, which is a very common occurrence for people right now, and is totally understandable. To combat it, I pulled myself up by the boot straps, so to speak to get after it. That meant getting up at my normal time, alarm set and all, making the bed when I got up, getting out of my pajamas, showering, shaving all that. Then I had to find something else to get my brain engaged. So, the hubby and I set about making a music space. We have instruments that have been ignored for quite some time. We were going to have our spare bedroom remade into the guest room, until we got the basement renovated, but since no one is visiting in the near future, we took over that room. Instruments are set up and ready to go, still in their cases as needed for safe keeping, but there and accessible. Music stands are set up, music books are out, and chairs are in place. We can walk into the room, grab an instrument and just play. No having to look for anything. I have moved my guitar downstairs and that is what I have been working on. It’s down here so that the hubs can be in the music room and play, and I can just randomly pick up the guitar at various times of the day, without an extra trip up the stairs. My legs are pretty bad right now, so not going upstairs is a good thing. Fender was offering 3 months of lessons, so I jumped on that. 🙂

But, enough about what is going on. That is for another post! ON to the socks!!

One of the great things with toe up socks is that you don’t have to pick up stitches for the heel. Yay! However, you will find that your edge stitches look a bit loose. So, we’ll try to find a way to fix that. 😀 But, before you get to that, you have the gusset. As I explained in the cuff down socks, the gusset is that triangle on the side of your sock. You’ll see it in store bought socks as well. You will see that about 3/4 of the way up the foot to the heel there starts to be an increase in stitches that will follow your instep up to the top of your foot. It creates a little triangle, which gives you extra room in your sock for the thickest part of your foot. In order to do this, you just need to increase stitches as you go. In my patterns you will see that I specify that you should start your gusset when the foot of your sock is 2.25″ or 2.25″ (depending on the size you are knitting) shorter than your desired length of the sock. This means, that if you want the foot of your sock to be 9″ long when finished, you will start your gusset increases when it measures either 6.75″ or 6.5″, again depending on the size sock you are knitting. This gives enough room for your gusset increases and the heel. The gusset increases are pretty standard. You will increase on the sole of your foot, so only the needles holding your sole stitches will get increases. For example, in my patterns I tend to write for the magic loop method. I will instruct you to knit across needle 1, which is the instep or top of your foot. Then on needle 2, you will knit 1, make 1 right leaning stitch, knit until you have 1 stitch left on needle 2 that is unworked, make 1 left leaning stitch, and then knit 1. The next row will be simply knit across needle 2. I prefer to do the decreases every other row to create an even angle to the gusset. It also helps smooth out the increased stitches, and keeps them from getting too tight.

This sock picture shows that triangle of the gusset:

If you are unfamiliar with how to make the right and left leaning stitches, it’s actually pretty easy, and I’ll walk you through it now. The right leaning stitch, often written as M1R, means that you will pick up the bar that is between two stitches. Insert your needle from the back to the front, picking up that bar onto your left needle. Knit into this thread as you normally would, going through the front. When you do this, you want that bar to twist on itself. That will close up any holes that could have been created. The left leaning stitch, often written as M1L, means that you will pick up the bar that is between the two stitches, going in with your left needle from the front to the back, this time. To knit this stitch, you will be knitting through the back loop. Again, this will twist that stitch and close the hole. If you need to have a visual aid for this, Purl Soho has a great page on these stitches, with pictures and videos. They have some great resources. I highly recommend checking out their website!

The gusset may feel a bit fiddly as you start to get to your stitch numbers. You will be increasing on the sole of your foot until you get to the required stitch count, but needle 1 will just be worked as normal, either in pattern or plain, depending on the pattern you are following, and will not get increased. This means that as you work between the needles, you will want to take a little extra care to tighten up that second stitch. Just to make sure you don’t get extra gaps at the needle ends. I like to keep my needles very close together for the first 3 or so stitches, which helps keep your stitches more even.

As with the cuff down socks, you do have some heel options. There are a number of them that you can purchase the patterns for, such as the Fish Lips Kiss heels, that can be substituted into a pattern. However, keep in mind that you will need to know how much space this heel will take, because this will change when you need to start your gusset. The gusset I described will go with the heel flap, which tends to only take up about 1/2-3/4″ of space. If you are using a heel that will create more space them that, you’ll have to calculate accordingly. I will give you the details on the heel flap, which is very commonly used.

The first part of the heel is the heel turn. This is what creates the little triangle pocket for the back of your heel to fit into. It gives it a little cup. 😀 This will be worked on just that second needle, with all those extra gusset stitches on them. You’ll pretty much ignore needle 1 for a while. You are going to be working back and forth as if this is a flat piece, so you will be knitting one side and purling the other. The knit side is going to be the right side, as this is the side that is going to be facing out to the world. The purls are inside the sock, and are the wrong side of your work. You are going to be working fewer and fewer stitches on this needle, and you will be creating wraps. These wrapped stitches are what will give you a little pucker to make that little cup.

Here is how you wrap and turn:

w&t – wrap and turn. Right side (knit): Bring your yarn to the front of your work. Slip the next stitch purlwise onto your right needle. Move your yarn to the back of your work. Slip the stitch back to your left needle. You can now turn your work, and the yarn is in position to purl.
Wrong side (purl): Bring your yarn to the back of your work. Slip the next stitch purlwise onto your right needle. Move your yarn to the front of your work. Slip the stitch back to your left needle. You can now turn your work and the yarn is in position to knit.

Knitting wraps -Right side (knit): Insert your right needle into the wrap from front to back, as if to knit, and then into the stitch as if to knit. Slip both onto the right needle together. Reinsert your left needle into the stitches and knit them together. Wrong side (purl): Insert your right needle into the wrap from back to front, and then place the wrap onto the left needle. Knit the wrap and next stitch together.

These instructions are the ones I use in my glossary for every toe up sock. They look intimidating at first, but once you see them in action, it’s awesome. From here, you will be working the heel flap. This is what will get rid of all those extra gusset stitches! You will still be mostly working on just that second needle. Although, you may find that you have to work across needle 1 to just get everything set up and aligned. Your pattern will specify if that is necessary for those socks. The heel flap is a pretty simple construction. The first row will have you knitting across a particular number of stitches, then doing a decrease. Some will have you turn here, which is what I do. Others will have you knit 1 after the decrease. Once you turn, you will knit a specified number of stitches, then again decrease. After this, you simply knit or purl to the gap, which you will find at your decrease. The decrease causes just a little gap between the worked and unworked stitches. Also, you will find that after your second row to get this all set up, you will always be working the exact number of stitches that you are going to be ending with. For example, if the sock you are working has 28 stitches on the instep, and had 28 stitches on the sole (before the gusset), you are going to have 28 worked stitches in your heel flap. That way, when your heel flap is done, you can transition right into the leg with the exact number of stitches you need. This will give you the little flap at the back of the heel, while finishing off the triangle of the gusset.

The beautiful thing about the heel flap, is that you can make it as decorative as you want. Since you will have a specific number of stitches, and a decrease on each side, you will always know where your pattern will be. A popular design is Eye of Partridge, which is a repeat of slipping a stitch and knitting a stitch, then purling across the wrong side. Again, since you know exactly where your stitches are, it can be easily worked across the flap. The first row would be “sl1, *k1, sl1; repeating from * to the last stitch and then decrease”. The second row would be “sl 1, purl across to the gap, decrease”. The third row would be “sl1, k1, *k1, sl1; repeating across to the gap, decrease”. And the forth row is “sl1, purl across to the gap, decrease”. Many people find that this does actually give a bit of extra strength in the heel, which is very important for wearability.

Now, I mentioned earlier about loose stitches on the heel flap. As you work across those decreases to make the flap, the last stitch on each side, where the decreases are can look a bit sloppy. One way to remedy that is to make sure your pull your yarn a bit tighter after you turn. After you work the decrease, you will be turning your work, and then slipping that first stitch. This action can loosen that stitch, and the one that was before it. So, before you slip the stitch, make sure that yarn is nice and snug. Then slip the first stitch, and when you knit the next one, give it a little extra snug to keep that first stitch from looking sloppy. Also, many times the purl side decrease is a purl 2 together. This can create a looser looking stitch as well. If it suits your knitting style better, try doing a slip slip purl. This can help with creating more pull on your stitches and helps cinch things in better.

That wraps up the gusset and heel section of our socks! You are in the home stretch now!! Very soon, I will put up the final details on how to work the rest of your sock, and how to finish your cuff so that it is comfortable.

Thanks for reading!!

Update!! I found a discussion a little while ago about decreases being sloppy, especially on the gusset. A video was mentioned about an alternate way to do the SSK. It’s worked more like a Slip 1, K1, PSSO, except that after you work the K1, you do not slip that stitch off your left needle, until you pass the slip stitch over, then you let it fall off the needle. Holding that stitch on the left needle pulls everything tighter and creates a very crisp decrease. Here is the video for you to watch and see what is being done! Another option that was given was to Slip one knitwise, slip one purlwise, then knit them together as a normal ssk. This twist in the stitch helps it to lay flatter. I hope these tips help!! Personally, I’m going to try the alternate SSK that is in the video on my next socks. I’ll be sure to post when I do, to show you the difference between the two options!

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