Double Heelix by Jeny Staiman from the First Fall 2011 issue of Knitty. As Jeny is already in my blog links list (Curious Knitter), I had already read about these and watched her video. And I've already been teaching Judy's Magic Cast On when I teach toe-up socks.
I can report that I thoroughly enjoyed the knitting. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I knocked out the project in about two weeks from cast-on to bind-off. First off, Jeny does some of the same twisted, maniacal stuff that I do. For example, she doesn't cast on at the end of the yarn, but rather, somewhere in the middle. Secondly, she and I agree that the Magic Cast On often works better if you cast on the lower stitch and then the upper stitch. (Accomplished sock knitter Woofgang Pug is also in agreement on this. Great minds in consensus.) The reason is that if you cast on upper then lower, when you rotate to start the first round you'll be knitting into the stitch you just cast on. If you do lower then upper, you'll end with an upper stitch, then rotate to knit into a lower stitch which was the next to last stitch cast on. Much better.
I am thinking it may be fun to try the helix flat in some other ways. Jeny has come up with an innovative increase using the Magic Cast On to create the heel shaping. In the heel there are two different colors going but four strands (two of each color) in what is called helix or helical knitting. Some people also call this barber pole knitting. If you worked on the Big Sock at STITCHES South 2010, then you've done helical knitting. TECHKnitter has a wonderful discussion here or you can dig out your back issue of Interweave Knits, Summer 2009, pp. 28-30.
So why do this? The upside is that you don't get a jog at all. And if you are working in the round, as you are on a sock, you just knit around and around and around merrily.
Jeny mentions three different "flavors" of Double Heelix. They can all be viewed on her blog here or on the Ravelry page for Double Heelix.
- A 2x2 spiral heel with a plain foot and plain leg. You can make your pair identical or fraternal, as you like.
- A 2x2 spiral heel, then 1x1 striped foot and leg. In this case, Jeny also worked a plain instep and heel cuff, but you could just run 1x1 stripes through the whole sock.
- A 2x2 spiral heel, then 2x2 stripes on either the foot or leg. On Jeny's blog, she worked the spiral on only half the sock and worked the other half plain. On mine, I worked the entire socks, heel to foot to toe to leg to cuff in 2x2 stripes.
For all flavors, I recommend dividing your yarn. So if you have two skeins, divide them in half using whichever method you like (scale, swift, or something else). You now have four balls, two of each color. One pair will be the left sock and the other will be the right sock. So right away, you can put half the yarn back in your knitting bag.
If you are knitting flavor 1, follow Jeny's directions in the pattern. She has you pull about 15 feet of yarn off the balls, then cast on at that location. That will allow you to work the spiral heel. When those 15-foot tails run out, you'll be left with a single strand of each color. One becomes the foot and the other becomes the leg, as you like.
If you are knitting flavor 2, you may want to find the midpoint of your strands and cast on there. This will allow you to knit your spiral heel, and then end up with one strand of each color to go down the foot and up the leg. I think flavor 2 with the plain toe and cuff would be especially good if you are knitting for someone with large feet. You can use a 100g skein for the plain main color and a 50g skein for the contrast. When the contrast runs out, just keep going with the plain main color.
And I had a little good luck. I managed to start both heels at about the same place in the color repeat on the skein, and did the same thing on the legs. If you look closely, you'll see that there is some flashing in the variegated colorway, but that the flashing is very similar on both socks. So they are closer to being an identical pair rather than a fraternal pair.
For someone who isn't a sock knitter, I seem to be having too much fun with socks!