Learn Something New: Vertical Stranding

Our Paths Cross Socks by Lorilee Beltman, from Sockupied, Spring 2012

I went to Vogue Knitting Live: Seattle last weekend, and I saw my friend Lorilee Beltman. She's a favorite of mine, and she's an amazing designer and teacher. I took a vertical stranded knitting class from her at the second Sock Summit-that's right, vertical stranding. It's a really cool technique that allows the pattern stitches to be worked without carrying the contrasting colors across the back of the entire work. It's so much fun to knit!

Check out Lorilee's toe-up sock knitting pattern, Our Paths Cross, at right. See how the colors travel around the sock? It looks like the colors are knit in the intarsia or even Fair Isle techniques, but they aren't. They're knit with Lorilee's vertical stranding technique.

Here's how you work the vertical stranding technique:

Introducing CC strands
For each sock, cut two 4 yd (4 m) lengths of each contrasting color (CC).

*On Round 1 of chart, fold the yarn in half and knit first CC stitch from the middle of the strand. Drop the strand. With main color (MC), knit one stitch. With CC, knit next stitch, also from the middle of the folded strand just used. Drop the strand; do not twine the yarns on the back of the work. With MC, knit one stitch.

Repeat from * for the next two CC stitches; four CC stitches have been introduced, and four strands of CC yarn hang at the back of the work.

Repeat for CC2.

Managing CC strands
Before working Round 2, stop for yarn management: Use your fingers to comb each CC strand even and parallel. Trim the far ends even. Holding all strands together and beginning close to the work, wrap the strands in a figure eight (as for a yarn butterfly), then wrap the ends around the figure eight and tie about three half-hitches to secure. Watch how Lorilee manages her yarn:

As the chart is worked, pull out one loop at a time from the figure eight as needed.

Working CC stitches
Each vertically stranded CC stitch is knitted with its own strand; a strand is never used to knit more than one stitch in any round. Unlike typical stranded knitting, contrasting yarns are not carried across the round at the back of the work. There are a few things to remember when knitting with vertical stranding:

When using MC to knit into an existing CC stitch that is a part of a vertical strand that is moving to the left, no special treatment is needed; knit as usual.

When using MC to knit into an existing CC stitch that is a part of a vertical strand moving to the right, knit it through the back loop. Note: In this case, knitting through the back loop does not result in a twisted stitch. Because the yarn is coming from the left, the stitch must be knitted through the back loop in order to be open.

When creating a CC stitch, hold the MC off to the left. From the right, pick up the strand of CC yarn attached to that stripe and knit as usual, then drop the CC strand.

Reposition stitches as needed to avoid dividing a color section between needles.

—Lorilee Beltman, from Our Paths Cross in Sockupied, Spring 2012

Back view, showing the Eye of Partridge stitch pyramid heel construction

Besides the vertical stranding, there are lots of interesting details on these socks, including the really attractive pyramid heel done in Eye of Partridge Stitch. The Pyramid heel construction places all gusset decreases at the back of the heel, forming a pyramid shape from the heel turn, which ends in a point at the top of the heel. The resulting sock has heel shaping at the actual heel and a smooth, uninterrupted front surface for patterning.

Every time I show a sock with Eye of Partridge Stitch on the heel, people ask me for the stitch pattern. So, here it is:

Eye of Partridge Stitch (multiple of 2 stitches)
Round 1: *Sl 1 purlwise with yarn in back (wyb), k1; repeat from *.
Rounds 2 and 4: Knit.
Round 3: *K1, sl 1 purlwise wyb; repeat from *.
Rep Rounds 1–4 for pattern.

Sock knitting can be addictive, and we have sock patterns to keep you going! Get all three issues of Sockupied in our new kit! Order yours today and start knitting Our Paths Cross!


P.S. Do like to knit toe-up or top-down socks? Let us know in the comments!

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