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Learn Something New: Vertical Stranding

Apr 8, 2013
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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on Nov 16, 2014 3:58 PM

this demo does not show the actual technique, only how to wrap a butterfly loop of all the yarns together.

on Jul 4, 2013 1:34 AM

all i have ever done is top down ... i wasn't aware that you could do toe-up ... i may have to look into that and see if i can find a pattern i can learn off of ...

lrwill wrote
on Apr 14, 2013 8:03 AM

Toe-up, two at a time!

ljones619 wrote
on Apr 13, 2013 10:28 PM

Ok watched the demo . That  helped some, but don't understand the part that talks about the left side and the right side.? Don't you only knit to the left ?

ljones619 wrote
on Apr 13, 2013 10:19 PM

Love toe-up 2 at a time always!! Will do cuff down but only if I have to. I hope there is a book or video on this. I could not get my minds-eye to see it, as it is written here.  I really like the heel. And I am guessing this sock is a toe-up sock! I know ( at least I think I know) that you can't do the same heels you do for toe-upmasnyou do for cuff down.

AnneS wrote
on Apr 13, 2013 8:21 PM

Ever since I saw "toe up, two at a time" I work all my socks this way, (sorry designers of the top down patterns).  I love doing anything circular on two circs; sleeves, hats, socks, sweaters, etc. etc. etc. ;-)..... who said 'old dogs can't learn new tricks' ??  I will be 73 next week and have been knitting since I was 4 yrs old.... not a day goes by without my needles ;-).  Thanks for all you contribute to my knitting world, it is appreciated.  Anne

mncatnapper wrote
on Apr 13, 2013 6:46 PM

My favorite is toe up, two at a time, but on DPNs (I own two sets).  Easy to take on-the-go.  I work on one sock for an inch or two, then switch back to the other sock.  I usually carry both socks with me so I can switch between socks often enough.  This way I am working one sock at a time, on DPNs, which is my preferred method, but both socks are done at the same time!  Best of both worlds, in my opinion!

Strix wrote
on Apr 13, 2013 2:05 PM

I'd like to see a comprehensive video of this technique, as the written description is not sufficient -- for me, anyway!

I like toe up and cuff down. I  have not knit a sock flat, though.

Judy Bethea wrote
on Apr 13, 2013 11:38 AM

Toe up on at a time on circular needle.  What's the difference between the stranded knitting and the use of bobbins for different colors of yarn?

katglad wrote
on Apr 13, 2013 11:02 AM

Don't really have a preference, although I seem to do more toe-up than toe-down. If I'm tight on yarn, I always do the toe-up, but either way works. Love to experiment with heels and patterns.

k4tog wrote
on Apr 13, 2013 8:15 AM

toe up 2 at a time!

ngould wrote
on Apr 11, 2013 4:05 PM

I prefer toe up...either 2 circlular or dps...Other than the toe CO (I use Judi's Magic CO) which is easier on the circulars.  The eye of partridge is cool...I frequently make my soles cushy my starting my s1, K1 rnd, K plain rnd immediately after the toe do have to add a pair of short rows after every 6 rnds to make the gauges match, but my feet love them

Denise@67 wrote
on Apr 10, 2013 5:48 PM

I knit my socks toe up two at a time so they come off the needles and onto my or someone else's feet!

Joyknits wrote
on Apr 10, 2013 12:01 AM

Top down generally, but always on DPNs.

DeEtte W wrote
on Apr 9, 2013 11:34 AM

I prefer the good old-fashioned top down.

How is the vertical stranding better than putting CC yard on a bobbin as with any multi-color knitting?

Where can I find instructions for the pyramid heel construction? Is it only for toe-up socks?

Aggie R wrote
on Apr 9, 2013 11:06 AM

I use both toe-up and top-down, one sock at a time, on two needles.  

Some cast-on methods for toe-up were hard to remember, so I developed my own easy to remember method:  

annellis1 wrote
on Apr 9, 2013 9:52 AM

this is  an awesome sock; but  I am no doubt slow; I don't understand it at all; a video would be great; it is hard for me to see the short video here.

on Apr 9, 2013 9:12 AM

Vertical stranding? Hmm. Interesting concept. Would it work for other things besides socks? I really don't knit socks at this point in my life.

LauraR@15 wrote
on Apr 9, 2013 8:20 AM

Toe up two at a time on one circular needle.  Never have to worry about finishing the second sock!

ribbet39 wrote
on Apr 9, 2013 4:57 AM

I had done cuff down socks but a few years ago there was a pattern in an interweave mag for a toe-up sock with a faux cable up the side....Thats all it took.  Since then its been toe up.  Just love them and so do the people that have received them.  

sarahsnail wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 11:59 PM

I've never done toe up. I'm sure it's not any more difficult, but it's still hard to break out of the mold I'm used to. However, great patterns like this one make me want to take on the challenge of something new...or maybe a few new things like vertical stranding, toe up construction, Eye of Partridge stitch, and pyramid heels!

Roseangel wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 10:19 PM

Toe up, of course

rswiftt wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 9:38 PM

I like both methods as long as it is 2 at a time.

rswiftt wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 9:38 PM

I like both methods as long as it is 2 at a time.

MrBiggs wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 1:10 PM

New to socks, but two at a time toe up. Don't know why some people prefer top down. What's the advantage?


Betty from the Oregon coast.

vrisayda wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 12:59 PM

My email showed a video link to this article, is there one?  This looks interesting.

Thank you.

anniehunt wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 11:54 AM

I'm a fan of toe up since I taught myself how to do the cast on in 2005.  Now I have trouble casting on both socks at once for cuff-down Magic Loop -- have to get out the instructions!

I love the heel variations -- wedge, eye of partridge, sweet tomato.  Good to have a choice :)

KarenS@149 wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 11:46 AM

I love top down socks. I have tried toe-up several times but don't enjoy it. I will do it if I am in love with the pattern and am uncomfortable with converting it.

TwilaN wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 11:32 AM

Top/cuff down.

on Apr 8, 2013 10:52 AM

    todo lo que hacen ustedes me parece genial. si me gustaria aprender a tejer calcetines, se usan todo el año , no tienen desperdicio. gracias

LindK wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 10:36 AM

Toe Up

mellian wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 10:33 AM

This is an interesting sock variation, but since I am a visual person, I'm not sure I will be able to do it without more videos. I do have all issues of Sockupied.

I prefer top down socks.

Also, that's not the pattern that I have for Eye of Partridge. (worked flat on one circular needle) The first row is the same, but rows 2 and 4 are purled, after slipping the first stitch. Row three, the first TWO stitches are slipped and the last two are knit.

Mel Meister

Helene RL wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 9:26 AM

It would be helpful if you added a video showing how the separate CC strands were knitted in.

bonini wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 9:07 AM

toe up

cjsr wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 8:47 AM

toe up

PhyllisD@8 wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 8:24 AM

I'm a toe up, 2 at a time on 2 circulars girl.

on Apr 8, 2013 8:01 AM

toe up - two at a time!

knittabitta wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 7:51 AM

I am always looking for intriguing techniques and this one is going to be at the top of my list. I am also very interested in the eye of partridge stitch on the heel.  Love it.

bonn13 wrote
on Apr 8, 2013 7:09 AM

Definitely Toe-Up