Many a knitter has sung the praises of the afterthought heel on handknit socks. You knit a tube with shaping for the toes and then add the heel afterwards by either unraveling a piece of waste yarn previously knitted in or by (gasp!) cutting your knitting at a spot just past your ankle bone on the back side of the sock and taking a needle(s) and picking up the live stitches and knitting what essentially is another toe.
To me, it was appealing and intimidating at the same time. I mean, what would happen if I lost my live stitches and my sock became a tangled mess? 😮 I finally got up enough courage to attempt it when I decided to take some leftover Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn–about 190 yards worth, and knit some socks. Since 190 yards probably wouldn’t be enough for both socks, I picked up a skein of Cascade 220 Sport Superwash in a matching color to knit the toes, heels, and top ribbing with. Originally, I was going to knit my fall-back toe-up gusset heel pattern, but realized that the gusset was probably going to eat up more yarn than I wanted it to. That’s when the afterthought heel came in.
When knitting the first sock, I did learn a couple of things that will make future socks easier. One is that I only have to knit 1 inch beyond the length I normally knit my toe-up socks before needing to put the waste yarn in–definitely less knitting than with putting in a gusset. Secondly, the waste yarn needs to be a contrasting color to the color of the sock. When taking out the waste yarn on the first sock, I accidentally pulled on the wrong yarn and dropped a good many stitches. While annoying, I was able to fix it, though.
As I continued to work on my socks, a few things dawned on me. My husband adores the handknit socks I knit for him, but he has a tendency to blow out the heels. Perhaps I should knit all of his socks with afterthought heels so that when he blows out a heel, I can just simply replace the heel rather than having to ditch the whole sock. Another thing is that since I’m knitting a tube, more intricate patterns will be easier to deal with since there is no gusset involved. I also really like the concept of 2-at-a-time socks. I’ve tried them both toe-up and top-down, but never could figure out traditional heels, so I gave up. Since I’m basically knitting a tube then adding the heel later, 2AAT with afterthought heels is definitely do-able. In other words, this has opened up a new avenue of sock knitting possibilities to me.
I am a happy camper. 🙂