The Sea of Despair socks are done. (Yes, really done; the ends are actually woven in, not just tucked under for the purpose of photography. Not that I would do such a thing, ahem.)
The only interesting thing about this pair of socks (and its many, many friends) is the heel construction, which is my own. I've designed it to mimic, as accurately as possible, the traditional top-down flap-and-gusset round heel. When I say "as accurately as possible," we're talking viceroy vs. monarch here.
The foot circumference was 68 sts before beginning the gusset increases. I like mirrored left and right lifted increases for the gussets (the ones where you knit one leg of a stitch in the row below, not the "make 1"s where you knit the running thread between stitches); they look the most like decreases when viewed upside down. I work 12 gusset increase rounds every other round, increasing at each end of the sole stitches.
The bottom of the sole is a flap shaped exactly like the turning of a round heel. To get started, I mark the center 22 stitches of the sole and knit to the end of them, then turn and purl back to the beginning marker. Then I work in rows, working ssk at the end of each right-side row and p2tog at the end of each wrong-side row, until only 9 stitches remain after finishing a right-side row. I pick up and knit down the left side of the flap, one stitch per row (13 stitches), turn, sl1, purl to last 2 stitches, p2tog, pick up and purl 13 stitches down the other side of the flap. Now there are 34 stitches on the heel needles again, ready to turn.
The back of the sole is rectangular. It looks like a top-down heel flap, but it's executed with short rows, like turning a top-down square heel. Slipping the first stitch of every row, I just work back and forth on the 34 stitches on the heel needles, working the last stitch of the row together with one of the sole/gusset stitches with ssk or p2tog.
Now here's some really fidgety business, for complete sock construction junkies only. I don't have high insteps, so a stockinette heel back worked exactly like I just described would be too tall for me. The quick-and-dirty fix for this is to work sssk/p3tog every third pair of rows. I knit a lot of pairs of socks that way. However, gettting even more fidgety, this method also reduces the number of chain stitches down the sides of the heel back, producing a slightly "gathered" appearance which bothered me. So eventually, I figured out how to reduce the number of rows without reducing the number of chain stitches along the sides of the heel back. Every third right side row, after working the ssk, I put the last stitch made back onto the left hand needle and work another ssk. At the end of the next (wrong-side) row, I put the last stitch made back on the left needle and work another p2tog.
Got a headache now? Go knit something. I know I will.