Gusset stitches: A Tutorial for Sock knitting.
I don’t consider myself an expert at all, but I have agreed to share my technique for picking up stitches on the gusset of a top down with heel flap sock. The fabulous model in this post is Star Athena’s Pinata sock, knit with Pneumatic Yarn Tube (CY) on McClellan DK from Three Irish Girls. This yarn contains bamboo, so the sheen was hard to get around in the pictures. The photos were taken with the… let’s call it assistance of Stick, my 4 year old who thinks it’s really funny to bump into my arm as I am about to take the picture. So, keep that in mind as you read on.
Before I talk about the gusset, let me tell you about the heel flap. Patterns are usually really great at telling you either a number of rows to knit your heel flap for, or a length, before the heel turn. I have found that this is always too long for me. I don’t know if I have short heels or what, but my advice to you is to work the heel flap as directed, (Don’t forget to slip the first stitch of every row!) but to try it on a lot, and work until the base of the flap is just above the curve where the back of the heel becomes the bottom of the foot. Then work the heel turn. This part should just cover that curve. But, oh no! You don’t have the called for number of slipped stitches along the flap! Trust me. That’s ok. This sock will fit your foot.
So. Your sock leg is knit, the heel flap is done, and you are ready to pick up for the gusset. Have a look at the very edge of the heel flap. It looks funny, right? Ok. Hold the edge of the flap like this.
Now you can see the two sides of the stitch, right? So, poke the right needle under the two legs of the stitch, form a new stitch using your normal knitting method, and pull the loop through.
See that? (No, that’s not the same stitch I showed you in the first photo. I had a lot of blurry pictures, see above.) So, you are picking up each stitch through both legs of the slipped stitches along the edge.
Ok, now the tricky part. How to avoid holes at the points where the heel and instep meet? This is what I do. Have a look at this picture. Do you see that gold stitch?
Right there by my thumb. See it? Ok. Pick up a stitch right through the centre of that lovely gold stitch. When working on your own sock, you probably won’t luck out with a shiny gold stitch that says “Right here! Pick up a stitch right here!”, so what you are looking for is the point about 2-3 rows down from the edge under the left needle, where a stitch lays flat, isn’t distorted by the picking up of gusset stitches, or the knitting of the heel flap. You should have a nicely formed stitch there, even if the others around it look sketchy. (They won’t stay sketchy, they just look that way for now. Don’t worry.)
Can you see the gold stitch in this picture too?
And here you can see how nicely the rest of the surrounding stitches lay now? No holes either. (Can you see the gold stitch? Just below and to the left of the purled ridge that you can see on the instep.)
Work across the instep stitches, and pick up in the gap between heel and instep again in the same way. Pick up along the gusset edge as before. I often find that I pick up one more stitch on this edge than the first one, but remember what we said before. Who cares. Pick up the right number of stitches to not get holes. It won’t matter how many rounds it takes to decrease the stitches all out, because remember that you knit the heel flap to fit your heel, and the gusset will consequently fit you too.
On the first round after picking up the stitches, I usually knit the picked up ones through the back loops, which tightens them up nicely, like this.