Raindrop Heel Socks Part 4:  The Gusset - Wabi Sabi

Raindrop Heel Socks Part 4: The Gusset

This article is part of our All About Socks series. To knit along, use the Raindrop sock calculator to generate a custom pattern based on your own gauge and foot measurements and follow along with this guide for more detailed instruction.

At this point, our sock is not looking very sock-like.  Half of the original stitches are being held on a holder or spare needle, there's a weird-looking heel flap thing hanging off the other side, and there are some stitches at the end of what looks vaguely like a knit trapezoid.  The good news is, it's about to start looking more like a sock very shortly. 

If your sock looks something like this, you're on the right track.

Our end goal is to have a tube of knitting from the strange creation that we currently have.  Imagine the sock at this point as a square.  One side of the square is the instep stitches that we've been ignoring up until now.  Opposite that, we have the heel stitches that we've been working on.  The other two sides of the square are going to be the edge stitches of the heel flap, but to incorporate them into our sock-square, they need to be picked up.

This is the square.

Because it can be difficult to distinguish what's going on as we pick up stitches, I strongly recommend placing markers as we go.  I like using colourful markers as a reminder of where I am, so I am going to use red markers to mark off the instep section of the sock.  You can use any colour marker you like for this, of course, but make sure it is distinctive -- these markers are for navigation, not to indicate decreases.

If you are using double pointed needles, it may be useful to inset the red markers by one stitch so they don't fall off the needles.  For double pointed needles, I recommend using one needle for each "side" of the above square, and, as the gusset decreases are worked, rearranging your needles to however suits you best.

If you're not sure how to pick up and knit stitches, there is an excellent tutorial here

Slip the first stitch as if to purl, and then knit across the heel stitches. Pick up and knit __ stitches along the heel flap. Place a red marker. Work across the instep stitches in established pattern for leg. Place a red marker. Pick up and knit __ stitches along the heel flap. Knit to the centre stitch of the heel. This is the start of round, and there should be __ stitches on the needles in total.

From each of the red markers, count off __ stitches toward the heel, and place a blue marker. These two blue markers indicate where the decreases will happen:

This is what the same square looks like, once all the stitches are picked up and the markers placed.  The area between the red markers on the right is the instep, and the needles are currently at the centre of the bottom of the foot, which is the start of round.

The important thing in picking up stitches is not so much the number, as making sure that the same number is picked up on both sides.  Naturally, be sure to pick up the same number on the second sock as for the first.

Most conventional patterns will place the decreases around the instep (at the red markers), however, if they are put a little further down (where we're placing the blue markers), three things happen differently with the sock:

  1. The sock heel gets a distinctive "raindrop" shape when the gusset decreases are finished.  The side stitches between the red and blue markers on each side of the sock can be used as a mini-canvas for a small bit of decorative cabling or lace if you're feeling fancy.
  2. The construction of the decreases add a little extra fabric to the arch of the foot when they're finished.  This makes the sock fit closer to the arch of the foot, and provides an ergonomically shaped cup for the heel.
  3. It's much easier to see how close you are to finishing the decrease section.  Each decrease brings the blue markers closer together, and as soon as there are  5 stitches remaining between the two markers, the gusset section is complete.
This is a sock with conventional gusset shaping. Note that the foot is flat, and that the decreases end directly between the sole and instep of the foot.
A sock with Raindrop gusset shaping. Note that the arch is shaped, and that the decreases end at the middle of the sole of the foot.

Round 7: Knit to 2 stitches before the first blue marker. Knit two stitches together, slip marker, knit to the second blue marker, maintaining any pattern stitches as established across the instep of the sock and slipping the red markers as needed. Slip blue marker, knit 2 stitches together through the back loop, knit to the end of round. (2 stitches decreased)
Round 8: Knit all stitches, maintaining any patterning as necessary across the instep, without decreasing.
Repeat the last two rounds until only 5 stitches remain between the two blue markers. There should be __ stitches in total on the sock. Remove both blue markers, but keep the red markers in the sock, as they will be used for doing the toe decreases.

As you progress through the gusset decreases, the piece will come to resemble a sock more and more and, when you're finished the decreases, you should be able to try the sock on and get an idea of how it will fit: just remember to give it a little extra tension, as the sock would have when worn after being knit!

This is what the heel section looks like when the gusset decreases are completed.

When the count between the blue markers is down to 5, the decreases are finished. The blue markers can be removed, and it's time to progress to the foot!

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