So I just learned this great new way to work short rows from Cat Bordhi. She taught a class called Cat’s Sweet Tomato Heels a couple weekends ago during a four-day Cat-class-stravaganza hosted by my local knitting guild, and I’m so glad I went.
Cat’s new method of working short rows is phenomenal. There are no wraps, no gaps, and virtually no difference between turns on the knit side and turns on the purl side. Therefore, I have been freed to put short rows everywhere, with no thought to the consequences!
However, you may have noticed that the name of the class was not “Cat’s Short Rows,” but “Cat’s Sweet Tomato Heels.” You are absolutely right! Good observational skills. She has developed a great new heel that will fit on virtually any sock and is so easy to knit that once you learn it, you won’t need to follow directions again. You will be able to just slap in a heel wherever and whenever you feel like it.
These magical heels are made up of short-row wedges. I will let her do the explaining for you, since they are her heel, her Thanks Ma’s, and her idea. She has a great video tutorial here, and her book is equally recommended.
All I did was take her brilliant heel wedges and play with them. I felt like a kid in a sand box!
But before I can tell you that story, I have to tell you this story:
You see, after Cat’s class, my friend Annie and I had to, just had to, go buy some really luscious yarn. Cat’s sample socks felt unlike any socks I’ve ever knitted, and I knew once I felt that yarn that I was missing out. I had to go find some high-quality, bouncy, springy yarn. We made our way over to one of the local yarn shops and spent a good hour or two ooh-ing and ahh-ing over all its delights. I came home with four skeins of luscious yarn: two in superwash merino sock weight, one on-sale silk/wool blend, and some on-sale Blue Faced Leicester Aran, all of it springy and delicious.
Here is the one I was most excited to knit up: a skein of Colinette Jitterbug in “fruit coulis,” reminiscent of 80’s punk-rockers and dying to be made into arm warmers or wrist bands or leg warmers. I decided to satisfy two cravings at once: I have always wanted to buy Eva some Babylegs, but as a knitter, I can’t bring myself to spend $14 on machine-knit socks with no feet. So, I decide to use the Jitterbug to make her some really amazing arm warmers, which I hoped would also double as leg warmers.
The only problem with hand-painted and variegated yarns, in my mind, is that I fall in love with them in the skein, but then I hate how they knit up! Stockinette always makes them look so blotchy and busy, and I’m invariably disappointed. And even though I loved knitting with this gorgeous yarn, the colours just weren’t working for me. As I sat, dejectedly, at my kitchen table, trying to think of an alternate stitch pattern that wouldn’t ruin the yarn, I heard the voice of one of my fellow knitting-class students bubble up from my memory: “These heel wedges look really great with my hand-painted yarn!”
And then I thought, “What if I could use the wedges in my arm warmers? I could rotate the wedges to form a cylinder.” I remembered taking a class with Lucy Neatby and her explaining that she had made a vest out of four triangles, since four triangles form a cylinder, and I figured that the wedges were somewhat triangular…
So I tried it.
For my first try, I worked the wedges to be a little more pointy than Cat recommends for a sock. In fact, I worked them until there were just 3 sts left between turns. They looked really amazing, but ended up forming tiny mountains that stuck out from the arm warmer. I’m going to file that information away for later because someday, I may want arm warmers (or whatever) that have lots of texture to them. But that wasn’t my goal with this project, so I ripped it out.
It turned out that working a heel wedge exactly the way Cat instructs, leaving about an inch of stitches between the last turns, gave exactly the effect I was going for.
(The bottom photo, above, shows what the wedges look like in the direction I knitted them. The top photo is of me holding it upside down, if you want to call it that.)
Amazingly enough, they will fit Eva as arm warmers and leg warmers, and I can fit them on my wrists! I think that my second try made them just the right size to be long-lasting, wearable garments, since even when she outgrows them, they’ll still fit me.
Here, in a nutshell, are my instructions for making your own cylinders like mine. I’m not going to explain Cat’s method of short rows, since like I said, they’re hers. Also, she is an excellent teacher, and she’ll do a much better job than I could. 🙂 So, these instructions are assuming that you already know and understand the Sweet Tomato Heel wedges.
I used fingering-weight yarn and size 1 US (2.25mm) needles. My preferred method for working in the round is to use two circular needles, but you can easily use dpn’s or magic loop. My gauge with those needles and that yarn is about 8sts/inch in stocking stitch. The size I made fits my 19-month-old’s arms loosely, with room to grow but without falling off right now, and stretches comfortably to fit my adult wrist.
I cast on 48 sts using Jeny’s Stretchy Slip Knot Cast On because I wanted both ends of the arm warmer to be super stretchy. It was a new-to-me technique, and I found it a little tricky at first, but the tip she gives in the end of her video fixed the problem I was having. I highly recommend you try it out! Otherwise, cast on using whatever stretchy cast on you know and are comfortable with.
Join for working in the round. Work in 1×1 ribbing for about 4 or 5 rounds.
Knit one round, then begin first wedge. Unlike while you’re working a heel wedge, work over only half the total stitches; in this case, 24. (A heel wedge is worked over two thirds of the stitches.)
After your first wedge is completed, work a wedge on the opposite half of the cylinder in the same manner. This will give you two wedges, one on each circ. Now, you might notice that you have two hollow spots left between the two hills, and your arm warmer is no longer an even cylinder. The next two wedges (wedges 3 & 4) will fill in those hollows. After completing the second wedge, perform a mental shift. Basically, in your last round of that second wedge, after you Thank Ma up the hill, you knit back down the hill and then up the next hill only halfway (12 sts, half the stitches on that circ). Then, you turn your work and start the 3rd wedge in the valley.
Work the 4th wedge in the other valley, then do another quarter rotation and start again from the beginning.
You work in repeats of those four wedges until your arm warmer is as long as you want it to be. Then, work in 1×1 ribbing for almost an inch. Cast off using Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off, or whatever other super-stretchy bind off you know and like.
Don’t be afraid to play around with the rotation. You don’t have to do things exactly the way I did to get a good result, since knitting is so stretchy and resilient. I had a lot of fun just playing around to see if my experiment would work, and I was thrilled when it did!
I am also imagining using this rotating-wedge method to make really amazing socks. They would, of course, feature a Sweet Tomato Heel. 🙂 I see another trip to my LYS in the near future to get some more hand-painted yarn!
I also wonder what it would look like to rotate wedges that weren’t made over 50% of the circumference, but over 60 or 70 percent instead. Wouldn’t it be fun to find out? And what if the wedges were more narrow….. ??
I will end now with a few more pictures:
Please show me pictures if you experiment with rotating wedges. I’d love to see them, as I’m sure Cat Bordhi would, too. In fact, I showed her these ones before I posted about them here, since they’re based pretty heavily on her design. She has a Ravelry group you can join that is dedicated to her Sweet Tomato Heels, and I’m going to head over there now and share some of these pics! Maybe I’ll see you there. 🙂
If you have any questions about the rotation, feel free to ask! If my written instructions are confusing, let me know, and I’ll work to clarify them and add some more pictures of the process when I can.
Cat Bordhi developed her Sweet Tomato Heel over many months, working closely with over a hundred test knitters of all skill levels. During this time she distilled her illustrations and explanations again and again, until her test knitters and tech editor agreed the instructions were as clear and perfect as possible. In order to be sure that her work is not misrepresented, Cat asks that designers who wish to use her heel in their patterns send their readers directly to her free videos as well as to purchasing links for her eBook, Cat’s Sweet Tomato Heel Socks ($20), and to the eBook’s individual patterns ($6 each). She is encouraged that many knitters have been able to work from the free videos alone; if not, the eBook or individual patterns will give you the detailed instructions, illustrations, and explanations you need.