Noob called me last week. Apparently, she has tossed aside the garter stitch scarf and knitted monogamously on her sock. We discussed the appropriate number of times you are allowed to try on your sock while knitting it (we lost count) and ask you husband if knitting your own sock is not just the coolest thing ever (somewhere in the double digits they lose interest in saying 'Yes, Honey'). We complimented each others skills and smugly patted our own backs for being quite clever. Now, she's ready to start the heel.
First, lets imagine what we are going to do. We cast on 60 stitches and joined them in the round using the magic loop method. Up until now, we have literally been knitting a tube to fit our leg. We could knit a tube all the way down to our toes and call it a day, but because we would like our foot to fit comfortably in the sock we have to make room for that obnoxious appendage 'the heel.'
Unlike Achilles, we won't let this minor setback get us down. Please now, conjure the image of a bendy straw in your mind's eye. Now bend it. If you can't do that please review the sample provided below. (This picture property of istockphoto.com I have added the arrows and numbers to demonstrative purposes._
Notice how one side gathers up to condense it in a smaller space, while the other stretches to increase it's area cover a larger space? This is essentially what you are doing when you make a gusseted heel. First, you knit on half of the stitches into a long flap to cover the back of your heel. (step 1.) Second, through a series of short rows you add a 90 degree "turn" to your "heel", also known as "turning the heel." This creates the actual bend in the sock (step 2.) These two steps make up the stretching to cover the increased area of the bendy straw. See?
Next, because you are knitting a sock and not a bendy straw, you must connect your heel back with the other half of your sock which has been "resting" or holding your pattern in waiting. To do so, pick up stitches down one side of the flap you just made, knit across your "resting" stitches, and pick up the same number of stitches back up the other side of the heel flap. Once all those stitches are picked up you will begin knitting in the round again. Now, if you pictured all this in your mind correctly, you have one billion more stitches on your bottom needle than you started with. Got all those stitches? Good. Onward to step three!
This is were the condensing and gathering up to minimize your area comes into being. I swear the eleventy billion stitches do condense back into a normal sock. You'll be very aware of the fact that now sock clearly has a top (where the pattern resides) and a bottom (where the heel resides). As you knit around you will knit two stitches as one on either side of your 30 top stitches. (step 3.) Because I know Noob is quite astute, I won't bother to mention that these decreasing stitches come from the extra 80 million stitches on the bottom needle, not the top one. After enough decreases, your sock will magically turn into an identical set of 60 stitches just like your leg tube.
There are a lot of words to describe the above process, but really it's just three-maybe four if you include picking up stitches-steps. Now, Noob go put on your big girl panties, because YOU are going to SHAPE your tube into a SOCK through KNITTING.
If I were the best teacher in the world, I would turn my own heel for her while taking pictures and posting directions all at once. Instead, I am turning her over to the World Wide Web and retaining my skills for emergency knitting calls at 4 am. (Not that she has mind you, but she can.) Without buying a book, I have found Socks 101 to be the best pictorial by far for beginning sock knitters. Thank you Terri Lee Royea. God bless you.
Dare I ask, 'Is Noob addicted to socks?' I am proud to say, 'Yes'. And I ask again, 'Can such a thing be bad?' The answer my friends is most certainly, 'No.'