Friday, August 30, 2013

Tips & Techniques: Fish Lips Kiss Heel

A couple weeks ago I was checking out one of the sock forums on Ravelry. That's when I noticed a post by one of the members, Sox Therapist about something called a new sock technique called the Fish Lips Kiss heel, which she'd invented.

I was intrigued.  I'm always on the look out for new sock techniques. And the creator promised that this new heel eliminated gaps, results in a guaranteed fit and can be worked cuff down or toe up. The last part really caught my attention since I constantly stumble over finding a good toe-up heel.

I mentioned it to my knitting buddy Geri and within a few days she'd tried it out and blogged about it (here). (Spoiler: She loves it!) And she's not the only one. In just under a month, 112 sock projects have been recorded in Ravelry. The Sox Therapist group on Ravelry is filled with pictures of the heels along with rave reviews. The Sox Therapist is there to answer questions and share suggestions. She also has a couple Youtube videos demonstrating her short row method.

I have to admit, I haven't tried it myself - yet. But I was intrigued about the technique and wanted to find out more. So I contacted the Sox Therapist who kindly agreed to do an interview. I have to admit, her enthusiasm about socks is evident.
Picture someone puckering out their lips ready to give you a kiss
Well, this heel, when off the foot, looks a wee little bit like that.
Photo courtesy & (c) Geri Inglis
In fact, her enthusiasm is so contagious, that I've decided to do a giveaway (even though I just finished doing one). I'll give away 5 copies of the Fish Lips Kiss heel to winners chosen by a random number generator.

To enter:  Leave a comment (make sure I have some way of contacting you, either a Ravelry ID or your email - which isn't published). For a second contest entry, in your comment include your favorite sock tip or technique. Don't worry if someone's already mentioned yours. Comments don't have to be original. I just want to hear a helpful sock tip or technique.
Deadline: Contest closes Wed, Sept 4th, 2013. Winners announced Sept 5th, 2013.
So, here's what I asked the Sox Therapist and how she responded:

1. So what is the FLK heel?

The Fish Lips Kiss Heel is not just a heel -- it's a totally new method for making pretty socks that fit!  I devised a method for making and using cardboard sock templates with critical markings that allows you to knit perfectly-fitted socks easily and without math.  Then there is the heel design -- simple, yet innovative.  There are no wraps, gaps, or holes (anywhere!!).  Also no gussets or flaps, no counting, no math, no changes in number of stitches, (so absolutely no getting lost!), no knitting around the front of the sock before the heel is completed, no disruption of front-of-sock patterning to create the heel. Just a beautiful, easy heel that fits every time, no matter who you knit it for, even if you never once tried the sock on the actual foot while you were knitting it.  I knit socks for people who live across the country, and whose feet I have never even seen.  I mail them their socks, and when they pull them on, they fit!

2. What inspired you to come up with the FLK heel?
I am insatiably curious.  I am also a math and English major.  I love to teach. (Knitting, yes, but lots of other things, too.)  I learn things very easily, but I've noticed that not everyone has a strange brain like mine.  Lots of people hate math, for instance.  Lots of knitters who have tried to knit wrap-and-turn short-row heels have lost their place, couldn't see the gaps, and gotten into a whole mess of trouble with their stitch counts.  I see many published patterns where even the sock photographed in the pattern was loose under the foot and had "interesting" things happening above the heel.  I am a passionate toe-up knitter, but it was beyond irksome that it took too much effort every time I knit a sock to make things work.  If I knit socks for a different person, or with a different weight yarn, or with a different stitch count or different sized needles, it was near-impossible to figure out where to start the gusset, and things just got more complicated from there!

The Fish Lips Kiss Heel - Photo courtesy & (c) Sox Therapist
So one day a few years ago I just got sick of it all and threw up my hands.  After all, it occurred to me, people go to stores and buy socks all the day long, and they fit!  So why then, I asked myself, is there all this difficulty when sock knitters encounter a high instep or socks that bind at the ankle hinge?  I figured that if flap and gusset heels really did fit most people better, then industry would be using them. But nope, the industry doesn't!  Puzzled, I went to my sock drawer to seek out answers to these vexing questions.  I pulled out a store-bought white sock with a gray heel knit into it, and stared that thing down, oh yessiree, I did.  I even counted the teeny tiny rows and heel turn stitches to figure out exactly what was happening there.  
It was my light bulb moment.  It started my "I will solve this mystery!" process, and I haven't looked back.  The day I stared down that sock, I sat down with paper and pen, and first wrote out a list of everything I observed about the store-bought sock.  Next I made a (very long!) list of all the angsty things that annoyed me and others about hand-knitted socks.  For the past 2+ years I have worked my way through that list, determined not to publish my design until I had crossed off every single "ugh!" that made knitting socks sometimes not so much fun.  At one point I was almost there!  The heel was beautiful, the socks always fit and never had gaps or holes, etc., etc. But... the pattern/design wasn't simple to memorize.  My heart sunk, because "must be able to knit from memory without a pattern" was on my must-have list, and I just couldn't let that one go.  I literally chucked the design and started over, simply not willing to compromise on a single element of my ultimate sock method.  
The Fish Lips Kiss Heel eBook is the happy result.  There are lots of pages in the eBook, but it's a fun, easy read.  And believe me -- once you've knit a pair, you will toss the whole thing aside and not need to pick it up again!

3. How is the FLK heel method different from other sock heels?

Simple answer:  It's blindingly easy to knit, and it fits!  You can choose any pattern you like, and plunk this method/heel into it.  The sock will look beautiful and will fit the recipient, cuff-down or toe-up.  I encourage knitters to click on the pattern page to learn more, but briefly, I use an unusual short-row stitch, an innovative heel construction, and a foot template to get a perfect fit.  The eBook comes complete with high-quality photos that more easily show what stitch is what, (different-color yarns so you can see what is happening, there).  But even simpler, you can just use my videos and knit along with me as you learn to knit the new short-row stitches.  I also created a math algorithm that enabled me to devise a simple formula for drawing guideline markings on your foot templates, (plural, because you're going to now be knitting well-fitted socks for everyone you know!).  Knitters don't have to figure out anything complicated, because I have done that for you.  Just measure where I tell you, drop the numbers into the formula, and presto!

My new heel method and foot template, when combined, are quite unique.  And yet you end up with a beautiful heel that just plain looks like a simple store-bought sock that fits properly.  You might think you've seen this "pattern" before, but I would assert that all together, you haven't seen this until you've seen it.  And for only a dollar, that's a happy surprise.

4. Does it work every time?
Yes, every time.  I have knit over a hundred pairs for many dozens of different people.  I taught the method in retreat classes and my students had the same experience.  There is an ever-growing number of Ravelry projects with surprised and happy knitters who now have a way to knit socks that fit, when many previous patterns and attempts were unsuccessful, or spotty at best.  The pattern is currently rated 5.0 of 5 stars because, knitters say, "It's easy, it fits, and it's pretty!"
Photo courtesy & (c) Geri Inglis

5. Why not make it available for free?
My personal experience on Ravelry has been thus:  Click on a cool pattern and see that it is free. Yippee!!! Click on a cool pattern to discover that it is $6, (or much more).  Heart sinks.  Knit cool free pattern and wish that there was some easy way I could thank the designer monetarily, but within my budget, (and not look cheap or ungrateful).  I decided to charge a dollar, which is far less than the average pattern price because, to be perfectly honest, it was important to my husband that he not "lose me" to my passion without at least minimal compensation.  Now when he sees me knitting with a notebook next to me, or responding to Ravelry forums and private messages, he says, "Oh -- I see you are working!"  It seems to be a Y chromosome thing for husbands to want others to value their wives' time as much as they do.  I don't need the money, but FLK knitters are so excited to be able to afford the pattern and also are thrilled at how much they are getting for that dollar.  I won't get rich charging a dollar for my patterns, but if it was free, I wouldn't enjoy designing and supporting patterns as much as I do.

6. Any other innovations up your sleeve?
Oh , yeah!  Knitters can follow me on my group, Sox Therapy, where I will announce upcoming and new release patterns, as well as share in KALs, Q&A, finished project pictures, etc.

7. Tell us a bit more about yourself.
I have been happily married to my wonderful husband for almost 30 years, and we have four great kids, two of them married, and one grandson (so far!).  I come from a very long line of innovative knitters and crocheters, and all of our kids, (even our son), know how to knit.  I own my great grandmother's historic spinning wheel.  She invented and patented the process of turning milk casein into fiber, and would spin it, weave it into cloth, and then sew fine men's tailored suits with the resultant cloth.  She took that wheel and traveled around the country to state fairs demonstrating her methods at a time in history when women just didn't do such things, (get patents and travel without their farming husbands).  I have articles about her, and a treasured photo of her on the Vermont family homestead porch, spinning with that wheel.

My grandmother and mother taught me many, many skills, and I started knitting,crocheting and sewing at age five. When I was a few years older, Grandma taught me to spin, first with my hands while she treadled  and then we traded.  When I had each separate skill mastered, (relatively speaking -- I was very young!), she set me to spinning on my own.  She also taught me to sew, quilt, do all manner of needlework, to garden and preserve food, and to cook.  She shared a voracious passion for reading with me as well, pointing me to many an interesting book.  She only had a 4th grade education, but was one of the most brilliant women I have ever known.  Her passion was civic and political activism, (again, at a time when women didn't do that sort of thing -- guess she learned that from her mother!).

Music and instruments were and are also a big part of my life, and I have passed that love and those skills to our four kids.  My husband is a "doer" as well, and the two of us have enjoyed sharing our passions with our kids as they've grown.  The kids have helped us roof our house and out-buildings, rebuild a 1929 Model A Ford, grow and harvest our orchard and gardens, raise chickens, and oooohhhh, how we love to make music together!  Hubby and I feel very blessed to have young adult kids who are close to each other and to us, and who enjoy being a part of each others' daily round.  Oh... And they're proud as punch of their Mama's new-found little bit of knitting glory.  Life is very, very good!


  1. I'm in search of the perfect heel so I'd love to win a copy of the Fish Lips heel.

    My sock tip is to avoid the holes you sometimes get when returning to knitting the instep stitches after finishing the heel. I pick up a stitch from the row below in the instep and knit it together with the last stitch of the heel.

  2. I would love to win a copy of Fish Lips heel. Just the name makes me giggle.

    Best sock tip - make your first pair of socks worsted weight instead of sock yarn. It's easier to learn a new technique with bigger yarn.
    su3385 on Rav

  3. Ooh, this looks interesting. I'm going to have to try it.

  4. It amazes me just how many ways clever knitters have come up with to deal with those pesky heels! And I love her enthusiasm and passion about the FLK heel.

    Both of my tips have already been mentioned, but if you're a bit nervous about making your first pair of socks, start with a worsted weight Christmas stocking. The construction is the same, but it'll be easier to work with thicker yarn...and you don't have to worry about it not fitting someone's foot. :)

    Rav ID: SaraMCrafts

  5. I've invented what I call my "Denise" sock. I knit my sock foot my way, regardless of what the pattern says, just because I know it will fit. Then I do the design on the top part of foot and up the leg so that it looks like the pattern. Unless you look at the heel, no on ever knows my sock isn't just like the design. I always encourage everyone to do the same thing so that they always know their socks fit.

  6. My sock tip as a fairly new sock knitter is to try different things. Toe up, cuff down, different toes & heels--how else will you know what works best for you? So far I've done flap & gusset heels, grafted toes, short row toes & heels, and I'm looking forward to trying this!

    anotterchaos on Rave

  7. Oh, that looks interesting! I'm curious to find out how it works.

    I don't knit socks very often, but I do usually have a pair on the needles -- it just takes me about a year to finish them, because my wrist get unhappy very quickly when I work at gauges smaller than about 6sts/1" -- but I think my next pair will be worsted or aran weight slipper socks, so those should be much quicker and more comfortable to knit.

    Er, that's not actually a tip. Well, it's a common one, I think my favourite tip I heard about sock knitting was to avoid second-sock-syndrome by finding a two-at-a-time method that suits me, so when I'm done, I'm DONE.

    I usually use magic loop, which has the bonus of less dropped dpns. ;)

  8. What a cool heel. I am always up for something different

  9. Oh this heel looks great! My favorite way to do socks is toe up and two at a time :)

  10. I'd love to win a copy - have been trying to find the perfect heel to fit my difficult feet!

    My only tip at this point in sock knitting,,,,patience!

  11. My tip is that a sock is the perfect small project to try out new stitch patterns or techniques.
    sewsable on Rav

  12. Interesting. I wonder how it blocks up given the pucker? I'm usually a German short row sock heel knitter. I can pretty much do that in my sleep.

    Entry 1 - swamps42 on Ravelry

  13. My favorite sock tip (and I'm a knitting teacher so this gets LOTS of repetition!) is either, "Be sure to pull the first stitch on each DPN a bit tighter so as to avoid laddering," or (and this is the one that nails me over and over), "Be sure to swatch IN THE ROUND because your round gauge is often different from your flat gauge."

    Mostly I like to knit colorwork socks, so I'm also often reminding my students about yarn dominance. IT MATTERS.

    Entry 2 - swamps42 on ravelry

  14. my sock tip is when picking up the heel stitches pick up from the row below which does help to avoid holes but mainly patience and practice :)

    the new heel looks very interesting and i would love to try it. Thank you for the give away.
    Woolytanis on Rav

  15. Having just knit my first toe up sock I am searching for the perfect heel for the next.

    Two techniques I used were to pick up an extra stitch to avoid the dreaded hole I could see forming. I knit two together on the next round.
    The other technique was to try on over and over again. I checked to make sure the toe fit, the length was good, and that it was long enough.
    I am LakeviewChica on Rav.

  16. Would love to win pattern for this heel...always looking to learn a better way

    Nhsarab on ravelry

  17. From the pictures this looks like a very interesting heel and the comments on Ravelry seem positive! I'd love a chance to try it out.

    My tip with sock knitting is to try out all the different types of ways to knit them -- double pointed needles, 2 circulars, magic loop, 9" needles. It is good to experiment with the different tools out there to decide what works best for you.

    knithemiptera @Ravelry

  18. marmeline from FranceSeptember 2, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    Hi, I'm a fairly new raveller and sock-knitter, but well on my way to become desesperately addicted…
    I'm very curious about this heel technique, now, it looks great. Thanks a lot for that giveaway, I'll be crossing my fingers until the end of the week !

    As for tips, I won't say anything original, since I've only knit three pairs so far (well, the first one was in May, so that's almost one per month…) : same as hemiptera, try differents techniques. My favorite so far is 2AAT on circulars (magic loop). Toe-up is great when you're not sure if you'll have enough yarn!

    marmelineravel on Ravelry

  19. I was lucky enough to trip over this heel the first week it was out - and for $1 - I had to satisfy my curiosity that it could be all that it claimed to be.

    After suffering through years of wraps, gaps, holes and lots of Grrr moments with short row heels I was thrilled to discover that Patty had cracked the code and I now have the Nirvana of heels ☺

    Just love the pattern, it is soooo easy and it IS all it claims to be.

  20. I would love to win a copy of this heel.

    I don't know if this counts as a tip but whenever a sock has a ribbed cuff no matter what the rib pattern is written to be, I alter it to be a 2x2 rib because it is the stretchiest ribbing and the best at returning to its original shape after multiple washings and wearings.

    Rav id HeatherDesigns

  21. I'd love to win a copy!

    Sock tip- If not knitting 2aat, make sure you cast on the 2nd sock the minute you bind off the first! I only have one orphan at the moment and that's because I'm not positive if I want to frog it- not a great yarn/pattern match.

  22. My tip is: if you're not sure how long you want the heel to be, go right ahead and finish your sock, and put in an afterthought heel.

    I love the afterthought heel, and would love to try your heel, too.

  23. This technique is NOT NEW, she just gives it another name.

  24. This is the Shadow Wrap technique.. Google it...

  25. Would love to try the "Fish Lips Kiss" heel and am curious where the name for the technique came from. Haven't noticed any reference/comment on this.

  26. This technique sounds fascinating! I recently knit my first pair of socks and I think I'm hooked. Please enter me in the contest.

    Oh, my tip would be to always knit a swatch...I'm so glad I swatced b/c I was reading the chart wrong and I (and my little girl) would have been very disappointed with my results.

  27. socks are one of my favourite things to knit there is always something new to learn.
    My tip is when picking up the stitches along a heel flap, pick up what you need not the # the pattern calls for and adjust the # after picking them up, this way you avoid holes.

  28. I'm a newbie sock knitter, but nothing is fitting me correctly. So I think this is exactly what I need! Yay!!!

    My fav sock tip is: don't be afraid of kitchener. It does require concentration, but if you just do what the directions say, you'll be amazed at how GOOD it looks!!!

    ~Rav BrownChicken

  29. This is very kind of you! I love learning new ways of doing stuff.


  30. I am going to start on my first oair of socks as soon as I finish my Christmas projects.

  31. I am very interested in the Fish Lips pattern