For the most part, I’ve got a tried-and-true system for sock knitting: figure-8 cast-on, kf&b increases set in one stitch from the edges on every other row, short-row heel, 1×1 or 2×2 ribbing with stretchy bind-off. It makes satisfying, wonderfully-fitting socks that I can knit effortlessly.
I had a nagging feeling like I wanted to try other toes and heels, just to broaden my sock vocabulary, as it were, but any time I planned such a deviation from my formula, laziness or inconvenience would prevail, and I’d revert to what I knew.
A pair of rainbow stripe socks (heeee!!!) finally gave occasion for learning a new heel technique, as I didn’t want to interrupt the delightful, cheery striping sequence to do the toe-up short row heel I typically favor.
I found the most wonderful, incredible afterthought heel tutorial on Jobo Designs, which explained not only the technique, but the overall progress of working an afterthought heel.
I used the waste-yarn method described. I was knitting toe-up (as usual), so I knit the foot until I reached the point on my ankle where I would ordinarily begin my short-row heel. I then worked half the stitches (two needles’ worth when I was working on four) using waste yarn.
You then drop the waste yarn, move back to the beginning of that portion and knit the waste yarn with your working yarn (my rainbow). It made a happy little zip across the back of my sock, which looked like this on the inside:
(Bonus: I could clearly visualize how knitting forms fabrics from loops – magic!)
I knit up the leg and cuff to my desired length, bound off, and then came back to the heel. I think if I were a newer knitter, I might not have had the nerve to pull out my waste yarn zip, but it was really no trouble to gently remove it and pick up the stitches on each side of the gap it created.
Once again, I got to see the structure of knitted fabric from one row’s point of view, which kind of fascinated me.
After picking up all the stitches, I essentially worked a sock toe, but located on the heel. I fumbled for a second about how one works a top-down toe, since I almost never do them, when I remembered that it is literally the reverse of a toe-up toe: decrease stitches set in one stitch from each edge on every other row, until you have about 40% of your stitches (in my case I went to 12) in the middle. Then graft it shut with Kitchener stitch.
Is it the easiest, most awesome heel I’ve knit? Well no, not exactly, but it was still vastly more enjoyable than any top-down flapped heel I’ve worked. More to the point, the afterthought heel let me preserve my striping pattern on the body of the sock and choose the colors I wanted to insert at the heel.
Oh did you think I was going to give away how great it looks now?? No, no, I’m saving that for the FO pics!