Aug 182013
 

Let’s face it. Sometimes you just want to knit a plain, no-frills sock — short row heels and toes, nothing fancy. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. But no matter how hard you try, you knit and frog until you’re completely frustrated as you sit and stare at a pile of crinkled yarn and bare feet.

I’m going to show you how to knit what I call the good-enough-4-me heel. Well… eventually… first I’m going to tell you what causes those nasty little holes in the first place.

Knitting is created with one long continuous thread. When the thread of one stitch isn’t connected to the stitches on either side, you get a hole. That’s really handy if you want a buttonhole, but not so good for a sock heel.

Since you form your short row heel on one bed, the trick is to make sure the edge stitches on both beds are connected when you either begin or end your short rows. You can use this method on both Japanese and French machines for toe-up or cuff down socks regardless of whether you knit your heel on the front or back bed.

How To Knit The Good-Enough-4-Me Heel

When you’re at the end of your circular rows, the last carriage pass must be done on the bed opposite the heel. If you’re going to shape your heel on the back bed, the last pass is on the front bed and vice versa. This may mean that the front of your sock has one more row than the back, but that’s okay. It’ll work out — I promise.


Last circular row before starting short rows on back bed with carriage on left hand side

Last circular row before starting short rows on back bed with carriage on left hand side

On my Superba, my carriages only knit right to left on the front bed and left to right on the back bed. I shape my heel on the back bed so after knitting my last circular row, my carriage is to my left.


Edge needle on carriage side pulled to holding position

Edge needle on carriage side pulled to holding position

After knitting the last circular row, pull the edge needle next to the carriage to hold. See how the yarn running from the carriage runs underneath the needle? This will manually wrap the needle when we knit across.


Needle just held was wrapped by the yarn when the row was knit

Needle just held was wrapped by the yarn when the row was knit

Now knit across. Notice how the yarn travelled from the non-heel bed and floats across the held needle. That’s the thread that will connect the last circular row to the first row of your short rows on this side.


Carriage on right

Carriage on right

The carriage is now on the right side.


Needle pulled to hold

Needle pulled to hold

Pull the needle next to the carriage to hold…


Held needle on right edge was wrapped when the row was knit

Held needle on right edge was wrapped when the row was knit

… and knit across. You now have two needles in hold — one on each side. You’ve done two carriage passes and the carriage is back at the side where you started your short rows. For me, that’s on the left.


Yarn from the carriage running over the needle

Yarn from the carriage running over the needle

On the carriage side, notice how the thread from the carriage is laying on top of the edge needle. We want to manually wrap the edge needle a second time, so grab that thread…


Yarn from carriage is below edge needle so it will wrap on the next carriage pass

Yarn from carriage is below edge needle so it will wrap on the next carriage pass

… and move it underneath the edge needle so it will manually wrap the needle on the next carriage pass.


Second needle from the edge pulled to hold

Second needle from the edge pulled to hold

Pull one more needle on the carriage side to hold…


Yarn floating over the two edge needles

Yarn floating over the two edge needles

… and knit across. See how the yarn is now floating over the two edge needles. Yes, it looks strange, but ignore it. This is exactly what you want.


Yarn from carriage positioned underneath the needle so it will be wrapped on the next carriage pass

Yarn from carriage positioned underneath the needle so it will be wrapped on the next carriage pass

Now do the same for the other side. Move the yarn underneath the edge needle…


Another needle pulled to hold

Another needle pulled to hold

… pull another needle to hold and knit across.


You now have four needles in hold, you’ve done four carriage passes, the two edge needles are manually wrapped, there’s a short float running on top of the two edge needles on both sides and the carriage is once again back at the side where you started your short rows.

That’s the end of the manual wrapping for now. Continue to work normal short rows: pull the next needle to hold on the carriage side and knit across, but when you get to the last needle, don’t knit across yet… you need to end the decreases and start the increases on the opposite side in the same row. In other words, at the same time you pull the last needle to hold, you’ll want to push the centermost held needle opposite the carriage back to UWP. Then knit that row. If you happen to forget, it’s not the end of the world — just push that needle to UWP and knit it off manually.

Continue with the increases until only the two edge needles remain in hold. The carriage will be on the side opposite to where it was when you started your short rows. In fact, it must be on that side in order for this to work. The only way the carriage can end up on the wrong side is if you didn’t hold the same number of needles on each side or if you forgot to start the increases in the same row as the last decrease.

We’re not going to knit those last two held needles until after we’ve switched back to circular. The next carriage pass will be on the bed opposite the heel, so you need to use a one-prong tool to manually move those two edge needles back to WP with their stitches and floats in the hooks. If you just push those needles to UWP on a White/Superba, they’ll knit off before they’re supposed to and that’s not what we want. Japanese machines may work differently, but if you want to play it safe — just push them to WP.

Notice that the yarn coming from the carriage simply floats above the edge needle next to it — just like it did when we held the first needle on the other side. This is exactly what you want. This is the thread that’s going to connect the stitch on this side of the heel to the next stitch on the opposite bed.

Set the carriages to circular making sure that the next pass of the carriage will knit on the bed opposite the heel. Continue knitting the rest of your circular foot or ankle.

  15 Responses to “Machine Knit Double-Bed Sock: Short Row Heels Without Holes”

  1. I would like to try your sock heel on my Superba. Is it okay if I copy to my computer? I don’t know what URI means so couldn’t fill that part in. : )

    • Of course it’s okay. You’re so kind for asking.

      This is quite a coincidence as I’m just now taking a break from my current sock. I’ve been dying to try another little tweak and if I go too fast, I mess up :)

  2. Hi, can you tell me if you still have to take up or reverse the stitches at the end of the rows on the main & back beds? I do find that the front bed stitches really stretch loose from all the dropping the bed during the weight placement that is done every few rows.

    Regards,
    Brian Smiley
    aka mrb123 on Ravelry

    • That’s a great question. I don’t have that issue because I generally don’t drop my bed to move my weights — I use heel grips which are a little easier to hang without dropping the bed. On the few occasions when I do, I try to ease the end needles up to hold position so the stitches don’t stretch so much. Any residual stretch can usually be corrected after the sock is off the machine.

      • Thanks for the reply, however what are heel grips, and a picture of them would be great to see. Would you mind sending me a pic?

        Thanks so much,
        Brian

        • I think I know what you mean about the heel grips. I just did a search on ebay. Time to order more of them!!

          • Glad you figured it out. Mine look like this. Would love to hear what you think of them and whether you like them better than the other weights for socks.

          • I have 2 of them now, however one is missing almost all the teeth. I like the idea of a long ‘handle’ on them, makes it easier to give them a tug. That’s why earlier in the thread I had posted a diy solution by bending a coat hanger and attaching to my other weights, just so that I could have an easier time giving the weights a tug when & where it was needed.

  3. After the decreases and increases you talk about the last two needles in hold, connect ribber bed again, knit on ribber, then main bed over all needles. Do you mean the last two needles on each side, 4 total, or one needle on each side?

    • 4 total — last two held needles on each side.

      • Thanks so much. This is the best method to avoid the holes.
        I actually tried both ways, with 2 needles on each side and one on each side. Both comes out nicely.

        • So glad it worked for you. I actually have one more thing I want to try, but there aren’t enough hours in the day… sigh…

  4. Wow, Brenda. It’s so generous of you to document and share your method. It looks great. I can’t wait to try it out.

    • Thanks. I’m still tweaking, but I’m significantly happier with these heels than I have been with my previous attempts. Stay tuned… I’m determined to discover the never-fail perfect heel!

  5. Thanks for sharing this, Brenda. You’ve spent a lot of time and effort in both perfecting the technique and posting to your blog for us. Both are great.

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