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Short Row Heel
Short R
ow Hell!

It has been years since I used short rows for shaping. Years since I knitted an adult sock, with neat little wrapped stitches that did not show up at all. I know that my short row heels never looked like anyone elses and I switched off when people talked of holes or visible wraps as it was a problem I had never experienced. All the short row heels dotted around this page, as neat as they are, don't look anything like the ones I used to get. I thought I had that technique under my belt, part of my tool kit to use at a point when I felt a short row heel was just the thing I needed. As I am designing quite a few pairs of socks for patterns at the moment, I needed to make variations on the types of heel and construction. The short row heel is the best feature of a toe up sock certainly, because it is mirrored which ever way you approach it whereas the flappy heel needs to be thought out in reverse.

My favourite type of heel to wear personally is the slip stitch or double knitted flap heel shown here on the right. It doesn't look
great when you want to photograph a sock and it is the heel least like a commercial sock. However, unlike a commercial sock, hand knitted socks easily rub in to holes at the heel and a short row heel may look cool but it is the worst type of heel for becoming a bit baggy or wearing into a hole. Many knitters don't know that. The reason being that many knitters make socks as gifts and don't actually get round to making socks for themselves. Their recipients rarely complain about the socks falling apart after a few wears, that would be rude. Some knitters like their socks to look good as socks off the feet and photographed flat of course and don't realise that beauty sacrifices practicality. If they did, they would know a heel needs reinforcement either by knitting in a rib or holding together with a nylon thread or introducing another strand of yarn.

Anyway, last night I thought I would just knit a heel on its own, practice the old wrapping technique and see what shaping looks best over a certain number of stitches. Wrapping went well, shortening the rows OK. Then came the time to lengthen my rows and despite picking up the wraps and carefully placing them on the needle, I could not avoid getting a lacy hole! I looked back at a child's sock I did years ago for myself, couldn't find anything there that resembled the mess I had created. I started again, and despite now twisting the wrap the other way, got the same clumsy looking result ...mmmmmmm...... I seem to have forgotten how to perfect this technique. I have done short rows recently but somehow managed to avoid wrapping and didn't get a hole or any kind of mark at all. How did I do it?

Now, the sensible thing to do is to research, look at other patterns and practice the techniques described there to see if I have forgotten something very basic. However, I don't want to do this because I want the design to be mine and once I start looking at other people's instructions, I lose the originality of my own instructions because I will be influenced by their words and may repeat them in my own patterns inadvertently. I want to be able to publish a sock pattern and for me to be able to say, I did not use any other patterns as inspiration, I worked it out on my own, and this is the best result.

So, it is back to the needles and yarn, and see if I can invent my own way of getting rid of unsightly blips where the short rows end and start again.

Next I am going to talk about my personal bugbear, the argument over whether professional knitting should be laundered or not before returning to a client. Honestly, if I sent my knitting to people without washing it I would worry about hygiene and smells but more than that, I would worry that the first impression of my knitting would be that it is uneven and crumpled looking. Some yarns, especially sock yarns, only come into their own after the first wash. Some manufacturers do put a light dressing on their sock yarns to keep them stiff and non splitting whilst working with them and are transformed into soft and fluffy fabrics when washed after knitting.

I will demonstrate with some before and after shots of a simple baby sock. You should be able to see the difference. Even garments knitted in the round are helped with a bit of laundering and then blocking to the right dimensions. Watch this space for more on that.


Kathy Kathy Kathy said...

The shortrow heel thing is killing me, too. I can't get it and I have read all sorts of instructions and even had a friend talk me through it. I don't know why I can't get it. For now, I've had to give it up. P.S. I'm glad I discovered your blog. I am enjoying it.

Erssie said...

I can get the short row heel thing, but I can;t get it like I used to do it where there was not a bit of wrap showing at all and definitely no holes.