People have been knitting for literally hundreds of years, and over that time innumerable patterns or instructions for various garments or objects have been created. I find it astonishing that despite knitting’s long history, there are still new innovations in construction being created and new versions of techniques evolving through the creation of new tools and modes of communication. Scientific advancements in the use of plastics brought us the circular needle, which gave way to the magic loop method. Although their stitches may be created in the same way, and they may actually be knitting the same pattern, a young woman knitting a stocking for a soldier during the American Revolution and a young man knitting a stocking for himself to endure this seemingly endless winter, might be using methods so dissimilar, that one might not think they are doing the same thing at all.
However, throughout the ages, certain shapes and construction methods have passed the test of time. After all, the foot shape of King Henry VIII is hardly unique when compared to that of George Clooney. The main differences between traditional top-down heels are in the stitch pattern used for the heel flap, and the number of stitches decreased over the heel turn. Before the advent of the printing press, patterns were passed down from parent or grandparent to child orally. Even after printed material became widespread, knitting patterns were often still passed from generation to generation through oral instruction. When literacy became more prevalent throughout every level society, printed knitting patterns found their way to markets, but it was a long time before knitting terms and abbreviations were standardized. I’ve even come across some patterns that have an instruction as vague as “turn heel in the usual manner”. Even a short-row heel can have only so many variations.