Monday, May 23, 2022

Banditoe (The Banded Toe)

Banditoe is a variation on the classic wedge heel, in which the sides of the wedge go all the way across the foot, in a band. 

Yes I realize it has a funny name. It's an ode to the humor of incorrect autocorrects. The story: I came up with this toe configuration with the help of my friend Brenda Dayne. We text each other a lot, and at the time I was calling this the "banded toe." But my phone kept autocorrecting it to "Bandit Toe."  So we decided to just go with it, and named it Banditoe!

The method consists of three basic steps.  If you're working toe up:

1. Cast on sts provisionally.

2. Work a small tab back and forth.

3. Shift to working in the round; pick up and knit sts along each side of the tab, then continue working regular increase rounds until you reach the target stitch count for the foot.


Instructions are written for an 8-stitch band in fingering weight yarn, 8 or 9 st/inch, but Banditoe can be worked in whatever width band you choose, and worked to any size, any desired final stitch count.

1. Cast on 16 sts using JMCO (8 sts on each needle), rotate 180°.

2. Starting and ending with a knit row, work 7 rows back and forth in stockinette stitch, slipping the first st pw at the beginning of each. (9 rows total)

3. Shift to working in the round, and continue with toe shaping.

This involves picking up and knitting edge sts using the My Edge method. Using My Edge is important with Banditoe because the traditional method leaves a seam on the inside, and especially at the toes I find this is uncomfortable.

- Pick up and k tbl 4 sts along the edge.  

4 edge stitches viewed from the WS.

Here the outer legs have been picked up but not yet worked.

4 edge stitches picked up and each worked tbl.

- Now k8 to the other side of the band, pick up and k tbl 4 sts along other edge in the same way.  24 sts.

Once you have picked up sts along both edges, k22, stop; this leaves the last 2 sts in the round unworked. Group them with the next 10 sts on one side; 12 st remain on the other side. The band is now in the middle on each side. Image shows the sts ready for being worked on a magic loop.

Now simply follow the chart below. You may choose whatever increase pattern that works for you; I like to work the first 4 increase rounds consecutively, then the next 5 alternating with a non-shaping round.

Banditoe can also be worked top down. I don’t have a tutorial yet for working in this direction, but conceptually it’s the opposite of the three steps for working toe up:

1. Work regular shaping (decrease) rounds until you are almost at the tip of the toe.

2. Work a band back and forth a few times, decreasing on each side (like turning a heel).

3. Graft.


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

My Square Heel (toe up!)

Flap & turn heels don't have to be worked cuff down! 

When working a square heel using the traditional cuff down method, first you work a flap, and then you turn it at the base. Hence the name "flap & turn." Then you pick up sts along the sides of the flap and work gusset decreases in the round. 

Toe up, you simply work in the opposite order:

1. Increase by the number of desired gusset sts.
2. Work the sole as a flap.
3. Pick up the edge sts around the sole flap, then work back-and-forth across the heel back, working the last stitch on each side with a gusset stitch on each turn. 

This is why I want to avoid using the term "heel flap." It's used to describe the flap worked at the back of the heel. However, when you work toe up, the sole is the flap, and the heel back is the turn. 

The traditional proportions for the Dutch/square heel are 1/2 of total stitches for the back of the heel, and 1/3 of those stitches for the sole. This creates a small gusset and a narrow band at the sole, like this. 

 Source: Folk Socks, Nancy Bush (Interweave Press, 1994). 

I personally prefer to work my sole over 2/3 of the heel back. This simple change improves the fit greatly IMO; the sole (blue) is now the same width as the weight-bearing part of my heel, and it leaves more room in the gusset.

If you work a flap & turn heel from the toe up, you have to know how many stitches and rows you'll need in the different parts of the heel before you knit it. So I’ve put together a chart with the numbers you'll need. (Note this is not a custom fit worksheet. For custom fit socks, Kate Atherley is your guru.)

Click on the chart to see a larger image.


Detailed instructions 

1. Work the gusset increases

It's up to you to determine where to begin your gusset increases. I start mine at about the middle of my arch.

Starting with 48[56, 64, 72, 80] sts, increase by 2 sts every other round until you have increased by 9[10, 11, 12, 13] sts on each side of the sock.  

2. Work the sole as a flap.

Select the desired location for the sole of the foot. From the center of this location, k 8[9, 10, 11, 12] sts, turn. Sl 1 pw, p 15[17, 19, 21, 23] sts, turn. 

Black: foot. Purple: Gusset. Blue: sole flap.

Work the sole flap back and forth over a total of 8[10, 12, 14, 16] rows. You should be able to count 4[5, 6, 7, 8] sts along each edge of the flap, starting 1 row below the live sts on the needle, up to & including in the last full round below the flap. 

For a detailed tutorial on how I pick up and work the edge stitches of a heel flap, please see this companion post on my blog.  

Stitches along the RS left edge. The purple stitch is from the last round worked before the flap. This sole flap is 8 rows high. 

3. Work the heel back.

Pick up and knit tbl 4[5, 6, 7, 8] sts along the RS left edge of the sole flap, working the last into an ssk with the adjacent gusset stitch to its left, turn. Sl 1 pw, purl back to other edge of the sole flap, pick up and purl 4[5, 6, 7, 8] sts along WS left edge, working the last into a p2tog with the adjacent gusset stitch, turn.

* Pro-tip #1: The ssk and p2tog on this first set of turns will each have a gap if you work them traditionally. See ssk example below. For more details on working these two decreases please visit this post, section 3, "working decreases with picked up sts," which goes into detail on this point.

The image below shows stitches picked up along the R edge of the sole flap (viewed from RS). Note how the sts lean the opposite way from normal. When you purl these sts (from the WS) they will twist in the opposite direction as the sts on the other side of the flap. 

Now that you have incorporated the sts along both sides of the sole flap, work back and forth across the heel back, each time ending with an ssk (RS) or p2tog (WS), until you have decreased all the gusset sts you created earlier and you have returned to your original stitch count of 48[56, 64, 72, 80] sts. The heel is now complete and you can resume working in the round. 

* Pro-tip #2: To avoid having a gap at the top of the heel back on the right side, after you work the last ssk, continue working around the front of the sock, and work that last decrease as a k2tog from the RS. In the image below, do a k2tog into the first 2 sts on the L needle.

* Pro-tip #3: I always get loose stitches on the left side of my heel back. To help with this, I use the hungry stitch method to tighten up this side. Even after using hungry stitch, I still manually distribute the slack across the rows as needed. In the photo below, the stitches in the lower half of the heel back have been manually adjusted, and those in the upper half have not.