Sock Serenity 5: Continuing the Top-down sock

When we last saw my top-down sock, it had barely begun and I was planning to knit around thre inches of blue ribbed cuff. I was working on three DPN needles.

Now, there is no doubt about it, the long circular needle makes trying on socks much easier – it is not impossible to try on a sock on DPNs, though – especially if you arrange the stitches on four needles, preferably long ones.


What does appear to be impossible is a shake-free photograph when holding a camera in one hand, with one leg in the air, and all while having a bad back.

Let us move on.

As you can see, I swapped to my main colour and stocking stitch. I actually have about 2¾ inches of rib. As the cuff is long, my sock leg is pretty short – I worked around 20 rows.

A sock leg, with contrast rib

A sock leg, with contrast rib

That’s it. Leg finished. Let’s make a heel…

The Heel Flap

Most heel flaps are worked on half the sock stitches, or thereabouts. I made mine on 30 of my 64 stitches. Conventionally, the heel flap is worked on the second half of the stitches. I like to arrange things so that my cast on/beginning of round is at the centre back when I have things to hide such as that colour jog you can see in the photograph – so I knit around until I reached the last 15 stitches and then worked my heel on those and the following 15 stitches.

A heel flap may be worked in any stitch. Stocking stitch is fine, carry on as you are. Garter stitch or swap to purl, for an interesting change of texture. Many heel flaps are worked in a K1P1 rib. If your socks are for wearing in sandals and for showing off, go right ahead and embellish your heel with cables or lace or a little Fair Isle motif. I like functional socks and, recalling the discussion about wear points, I like to work a reinforced heel.

Heels (and toes and soles) can be reinforced in several ways. You can double up your yarn, if your footwear is roomy enough. If your shoes are a little snug, incorporating a nylon reinforcing thread won’t make your socks much thicker than they would be without it. There are stitch patterns that lend themselves to reinforcment too.

May I introduce you to the slip-stitch heel?

NB. Heel flaps are worked on an even number of stitches.

NB. Take my advice and however you choose to pattern your heel flap, SLIP the first stitch of EVERY row in your heel flap. You will thank me for this sage advice later.

NB. ALL slip stitches are slipped as if to purl – hold the yarn to the inside face of the sock.

Beginning with a right-side row,

R1 (RS) – (Sl1, K1) repeat to end

R2 (WS) – Sl1, Purl to end

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until your heel flap is finished.

An attractive variant of the slip stitch heel, and the one that I generally use, is the Eye of Partridge heel. In this heel, the slip stitches are staggered, rather than lined up.

Beginning with a right-side row,

R1 (RS) – (Sl1, K1) repeat to end

R2 (WS) – Sl1, Purl to end

R3 (RS) Sl1, (Sl1, K1) repeat to last stitch, K1

R4 (WS) – Sl1, Purl to end

Repeat Rows 1 to 4 until your heel flap is finished.

 When is the flap finished?

Most patterns would have you knit until the flap is a square.  There’s no need to measure any angles. Just eye it up. If it looks squareish, good enough. This is a good enough direction for many socks. If you have tall heels, feel free to make a longer flap.


You should have an odd-looking object by now. Your total number of stitches should be unchanged, but half of them, or very much thereabouts, have been knitted into an extension.

In a flap

You may be able to discern (click for larger image) the extra thickness of the heel flap afforded by carrying the yarn behind the slipped stitches.

Flap. flipped

There’s a Turn up

Pay close attention (you would not believe the number of times that I have missed this part out through lack of concentration…)

It is time to work that most magical and mystical of the knitterly arts – the heel turn.

Until now, we have been working from the top, straight down to  the ground. We now have to turn the corner and work along the ground. All is takes is a few decreases, and we shall suddenly be heading in a completely new direction.

See? I told you that it was magic.

Still working with the 50%-ish of your stitches and the heel flap, we need to sort our stitches into three groups: Right hand, Left hand and Centre. The centre is the important part. We need a small group of stitches there, perhaps an inch’s worth. In my case… 5 stitches. You may choose a different number – use a small number for a narrow heel, or if you are using thick yarn. Broader heels will require you to leave larger group at the centre.

If you recall, I had 30 stitches. We shall continue to slip the first stitch on every row.

With right side facing: Sl1 stitch, then knit until you reach the end of your centre group (in my case, 16 stitches), SSK (or K2togtbl, should you prefer), then Knit 1 more stitch (I have 10 stitches remaining)


With wrong side facing: Sl 1, Purl 5 (or your chosen centre group number), Purl 2 together, Purl 1


NB. A gap forms where the turns are made. These gaps make automatic stitch markers. Learn to recognise them.

Working the heel turn

Three stitch groups

The heel is continued by working in the same way, closing the gaps left by the previous turns with SSKs or P2togs, gradually consuming the stitches in the two side groups:

Right side rows: Sl1, Knit to 1 stitch before the gap, SSK (or K2togtbl), K1, TURN

Wrong side rows: Sl1, Purl to 1 stitch before gap, P2tog, P1 TURN

Keep going until all stitches have been consumed.

Your stitch count will have been reduced. In my case, from 30 stitches down to 18 on this half of the sock.

The canny knitter will have noted that the centre group of stitches increases by one in each row and that simple counting can take the place of gap-spotting.

The heel, turned

The heel turn, annotated

Now that the heel is turned, we need to recover some of those stitches, and then find a few more, which we shall then (mostly) get rid of again. What? Don’t panic, we are simply going to make a fabric insert, called the gusset, that will afford some room about the instep. After that, it will be a quick romp to the toe.

NEXT: The Toe-up Sock – Toe to Heel