... and apparently that place is on any and all socks knit for my mother's feet.
Until this winter, I hadn't knit a short-row heel for at least 4 years. I understand the economies of time involved in short-row versus heel-flap socks. I just don't understand why anyone devoting their time to making hand-knit socks would want to put their creative efforts into a machine-style heel, especially when heel flaps have such luxurious extra cushion and the variations of beautiful stitches and stitch combinations in the heel-flap/gusset construction are so much more aesthetically pleasing.
My mother presented a convincing reason: short-row heels stay on her feet better. Post stroke, her right foot has been largely numb and doesn't function as it did before. The change to her foot is not only functional, it's also visible. It looks rounder and less toned -- almost in the same way as a baby or toddler's foot.
One of the things I prize most about hand-knit socks is their customized and, therefore, more comfortable fit. Given my mother's needs, I had no choice but to set aside my personal aesthetic and kinesthetic feelings about sock heels... and I did so happily.
Mom provided the yarn from her stash. Last year my sister and I had added up all the yarn Mom's collected in the last four years or so since she started knitting again, calculated it by the amount of time it takes her to complete a pair of socks, and determined that she could knit for 15 years solid before depleting her stash. Something had to be done!
So before her winter visit this year, I offered to knit up some socks for her from her stash yarn. I asked her to bring some from the lighter fingering weight options, figuring this would reduce her burden even greater because I would not only reduce stash stress but also take on a greater number of total gauge stitches per inch required by her stash choices. I'd rather leave her with yarn that works up more quickly with fewer stitches per inch rather than yarn that knits up at a gauge of 7.5 stitches/inch or greater. If she were working 9 stitches/inch, I think it would take her 18 months or more to complete a single pair!
We spent a good amount of time contemplating stitch patterns. She wanted a pretty, all-over pattern that hugs her foot and leg. It's also important to her that the socks keep her feet warmer and not be too airy. We ruled out lace or slip-stitch patterns. And based upon the yarn she had brought, I also ruled out cables. We settled on the lovely little twin rib stitch, which I placed on the leg and top of the foot.
The socks worked up quickly, and not only because she prefers a 7-inch leg height (as compared to my preference for a 9- or 10-inch leg height on my own socks). The twin rib is a very simple, 2-row, 6-stitch pattern that flows easily over the needles -- and the yarn flowed equally easily. I spent just a week on them, knitting only a couple hours each evening.
Ironically, my efforts made it possible for her to add another new sock yarn to her stash during her visit -- a gorgeous single-ply wool hand-dyed by Lollipop Cabin, a local dyer in Snohomish. How could I refuse her? She also added another skein to her stash for a pair of fingerless mitts like the ones I knit several years ago.
Not to be accused of moving her one step forward just to let her take two steps back, I've now taken on the project of knitting up the fingerless mitts for her before she leaves Thursday morning.
I've also spent the last week working to teach her how to knit short-row heels. She's determined to be able to do this herself rather than rely on me or my sister to work the heels. It took us 5 days to get her through the first heel -- and I'm pretty sure I unknit more stitches than she knit -- but she finally did it! And she's made good progress on the second heel all by herself, with no help from me other than to confirm that she's on the right track.
How wonderful for her! (And I can return to my personal heel-flap/gusset bliss.)
Project: Twin Rib Holiday 2011 Socks for Mom
Pattern: Mash-Up Magic Toe-Up Socks (pattern by me). Freely available here on Aesthetic Entanglementz (in pictorial or conventional pattern forms) or on Ravelry.
Primary Stitch Count 64. Modified for short-row heel.
Started: December 26, 2010
Completed: January 1, 2011
Materials: Regia Bamboo Color, 2 skeins, colorway 1065 (pink variegated)
Needles: US 2 - 2.75 mm