French Braid Socks

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These socks are a big accomplishment for me.  The first reason is because it’s the first time I’ve made a significant contribution to a design element in a sock pattern.  I took a basic sock pattern (modified to fit my foot) and added a cable braid to both sides.  I really like how it turned out…it gives a little more visual (and knitting) interest to a very simple pattern.

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The other significance of these socks is that they include a new heel technique for me, the afterthought heel.

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I found a very helpful post by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee about how she did Elizabeth Zimmerman’s afterthought heel.  Mine is very close, but geared toward the more fearful in one step.  Here’s how I did it.

First, knit the body of the sock.  Cuff down or toe up, it doesn’t matter.  Make it as long or short as you like.  You’ll end up with a knitted tube sock.

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Now, either using another pair of perfectly fitting socks as a guide or your own brilliant guesswork, figure out where your heel is going to go in the tube.  Flatten out the sock so it is easier to pick up exactly half your stitches.  If you’ve got a pattern in the sock body (I did), you want to make sure that the stitches are picked up symmetrically to the pattern.  My sock has 56 stiches, so I needed to center 28 stitches, starting and ending in the middle of my cables. Make sure to use a double point needle.

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This is what it looked like when I was done.

Now comes the freaky part. You are actually going to snip the center of the knit row below the row you’ve picked up.  Yes, I said snip.  You might need some liquid or chocolate fortification to go through with this…

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Get another dpn and start picking up stitches right below the snip.

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Work from the middle to one side with one dpn, and then use another dpn to pick up the other half of the row.  Make sure you’ve picked up the same number of stitches that you picked up with the first, pre-snipping dpn.

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Stephanie goes ahead and unpicks the snipped row as she’s picking up stitches.  She’s braver than I am.  I’m afraid of myterious unraveling gnomes, so I just leave the to-be-snipped row alone until the stiches are all picked up.  I find that the one snipped spot gives me enough wiggle room to do the picking up. 

Some afterthought heel knitters plan the location of the heel as they are knitting the tube of the sock.  The use a contrasting piece of waste yarn over the spot that will eventually be snipped and picked out.  That’s a great idea, but it involves commitment to a certain spot.  I like the idea of going longer or shorter should yarn or energy inspire.

Once I have all my stiches picked up, I unpick the snipped row all the way to the sides.

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Tuck the unraveled ends to the inside of your sock.  You’ll weave them in at the end.  At this point, working from your dpns, you knit another toe.  I know, it sounds bizarre.  A toe for a heel?  But seriously, mine fit so nicely.  Very strange how knitting and anatomy work together, huh?

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So you get the perk of your toe and your heel coordinating.  You also have the option of taking out and redoing a heel when it wears out without compromising the rest of the sock.

So, lesson learned: Knit fearlessly!  New techniques are your friend! :)

*I’m planning to write up the pattern and post it on the Free Patterns page soon. 

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8 thoughts on “French Braid Socks

  1. mamabeck

    Can I let you know that I literally choked when you said “SNIP”?????

    I think an “afterthought heel” is miles and miles and miles down the road for me. WAY FAR FAR AWAY!!!

    Beautiful job, BTW!!! And I love the cable on each side!

    Reply
  2. knitty, witty, woo

    I must admit I too cringed when I saw the word ‘snip’, arghh you are so brave.
    I am planning to do my first pair of afterthought heel socks once I finish the one in progress. Lots of research going into it on different methods but there will be no snipping.
    I’m going to use wast yarn and put lifelines in the row above and below it. I know I’m a coward.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: New socks! | Knit One, Blog Two

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