My name is Lesley Smith and I am a knitter and designer living and working in Shetland. Ella has asked me to write a short blog post for Wool Week 2020 about my method for knitting an afterthought heel into a Fair-isle sock.
An afterthought heel is as the name describes, a heel that is knitted on when the rest of the sock is completed. It’s a common sock heel construction but not one that was traditionally used in Shetland as far as I can find. All the old examples of socks I have seen here have a heel flap and gusset. I chose to use an afterthought heel for a number of reasons. It allowed me to use the same design on the heel and the toe. I could also use design elements from the crowns of Fair-isle tams and berets, which I love. Best of all I don’t have to purl every 2nd row of colour work on a heel flap. Here, I am going to show you how to pick up the heel stitches after the rest of the sock has been knit.
As you can see from photo 1, I have knit the whole sock save for the heel, with waste yarn knitted in where the heel will go. The waste yarn I used is a synthetic in a contrast colour which makes it easier to see and remove. I have knit it across half the stitches of the sock.
The next step will be to pick up the stitches above and below the waste yarn. I like to pick these stitches up before removing the waste as it avoids dropped stitches! I use a circular needle with a long cable in a finer gauge than the sock was knit with as it makes it easier. Begin picking up the stitches from the side of the sock where the row begins. This will keep the jog in the pattern on the sock and the heel at the same side.
In this example, I’m picking up the leg stitches first. Once you’ve picked up the leg stitches (half of the total number of stitches to be picked up) slide the stitches onto the needle cable. Turn the sock so the toe is nearest you. Pick up the sole stitches by going behind the right leg of each stitch. Picking them up this way prevents them from being twisted. When all the sole stitches are picked up slide them onto the cable needle.
Next, we are going to remove the waste yarn. With a tapestry needle or knitting needle pick out one stitch at a time all the way along. If the end gets too long snip it off as you go.
Now all that’s left to do is transfer these stitches onto the needles you knitted the rest of the sock with. In my case, it was a short circular needle.
Before you begin to knit, check your stitch count. I usually have one extra stitch on the sole which can come in handy! When you knit the sole stitches, knit up to the last stitch. This last sole stitch can then be knitted together with the leg stitch next to it. This helps to close any small holes at that side. If I don’t have an extra stitch there, I would pick up something to do this with. Any holes at the other side can be closed by using the yarn ends to weave in on the back.
I hope this will help and inspire you to give it a go. If you’d like to see any more of my designs you can find me on Etsy as TakDeeSock and on Ravelry as Lesley Smith Designs. Hope to see you for Wool Week 2021!
Thanks to Lesley for this guest post, the yarn used in her sock shown here is Shetland Heritage, we hope you are enjoying our Wool Week content – make sure to follow our instagram and subscribe to our youtube channel – if you haven’t already! Happy Knitting!