Sock-A-Long: Turning a Heel is Like Freaking Magic


Posts in this series:

Sock-A-Long: A Prelude

Sock-A-Long: Getting Gauge and Getting Ready

Sock-A-Long: Cuff and Cables

Sock-A-Long: The Discipline of Knitting the Whole Leg and Not Skipping to the Heel (because I know how I am)

Sock-A-long: Don’t Get Flapped by the Heel Flap

Sock-A-Long: Turning a Heel is Like Freaking Magic

Sock-A-Long: Knitting the Foot is Like Freaking Boring


This is going to be my favorite post in this series. I’m at the very beginning of writing it but I already know I’ll like it once it done. Turning the heel is my favorite part of knitting socks because turning heels is totally cool. When you perform do it, you will be totally cool. You will be as cool as penguin pee.

I’m knitting up a pair of Cirque Socks which is a design by The Sexy Knitter. Its a free pattern. Its a pretty pattern. Want a copy? Then go here… and then come right back so we can talk about the uber-coolness of turning heels.

When you knit socks, at some point you have to turn and go off in a perpendicular direction. Legs and feet are at a 90 degree angle to each other. Your socks, no matter what pattern you follow, had better accommodate this anatomical reality (unless they are tube socks which are NOT real socks… they are tubes… and your feet will hate being forced into them). This pattern accomplishes that perpendicular turn with a basic short-row heel. Yes there are other ways to get the turn made and if you are, or if you later become, an accomplished sock knitter you’ll end up getting sucked into every sexy and fashionable new way of heel-turning that ravelry spits out at you. But if you are a bit new to sock knitting, a basic short-row heel is a good heel for you. And it feels like freaking magic.

I’ve put together an outline of the basic/generic short-row heel method. There are (of course) specific instructions for making this heel in the pattern for Cirque Socks. But if you are having trouble getting your head wrapped around how to turn a heel, maybe this will help.

1) You gotta have the heel flap finished. After you do, its easiest to have all the flap stitches on one needle.


2) All short-row heels are made with short rows (duh). However, unlike traditional short rows, there are no wraps to make and therefore no wraps to pick up. Wrapping at the end of short rows is part of keeping knitted fabric smooth and even. You don’t have to worry about such niceties.

3) So, starting on the Right Side, knit over to the center of the heel flap… and then knit a few more stitches. How many more (or less) will depend on the pattern. But it won’t be much. So knit “a bit past the center” and then stop. Turn. Ignore the rest of the stitches that you haven’t worked yet.

4) Now you are on the Wrong Side. So purl (sometimes you slip the first stitch but that is just cosmetic) back to the center… and then purl a bit more. It has to be an equivalent “bit” as you knitted past the center in the previous row. Then stop. You will be turning but before you do, let me point out that all this stop and turning (without wrapping) leaves gaps.

5) Those gaps are the key. On your next Right Side row, you will knit over to the that gap, stop one stitch before the gap actually, and then knit 2 together. You’ll “knit 2 together” that gap closed. And then knit one more. And then stop and turn. On the Wrong Side you purl over to the gap, purl 2 together across that gap, and then purl one more. Every time you do… you push that gap one stitch over to the edge of the heel flap. And that is the freaking magic of it.

6) Once you have pushed that gap all the way to the edge (and therefore have no more gaps) you will have turned the heel.

Congratulations! You are now cool enough to fart snowflakes.

Ramble #5: If you are Having Trouble Turning a Heel, Lock Yourself in Your Bathroom

Back when I was a beginning sock knitter turning a heel was tricky. I could knit the leg; that is just a tube after all. I could knit the heel flap. In its basic form a heel flap is just a rectangle big enough to go from the end of your ankle to the bottom of your foot. So I could manage things up to that point. But turning the heel required concentration. I had to scrunch my forehead, stick out my tongue (sticking out my tongue has ALWAYS increased my intellectual power), and put myself in a distraction free environment. So I locked myself in my bathroom. I swear all of my early heels were made while sitting on the toilet.

Why the bathroom? Because I live with two evil and psychic cats who always know when I need to be left alone and choose that moment to demand food/pets/that I clean the litter box.

But why the bathroom? Because when I shut the door to the bathroom the cats can’t get me.

But why not lock THEM in the bathroom? Because then they protest howl at top volume and when they do that I can’t concentrate or turn my heel no matter how far I stick out my tongue. Its just easier to lock myself up and give them free run of my home.

So my advice for any newbie heel-turning knitters: go hide in the bathroom.

What about after the heel is turned? Ahh. Then you have to get back to knitting in the round. You do that by picking up and knitting along the side of the heel flap.

If you’re feeling a bit uncertain about the “pick up & knit” maneuver, I have a free video tutorial that should help. You do the pick up and knit along one side of the heel flap, work across the instep stitches in pattern (those are stitches that have been hanging out on a holder) and then pick up & knit along the other side of the heel flap.

But what about that annoying hole that you get where the top of the heel flap meets the instep stitches? Ahh. That hole is annoying. First, you can always close it up after you have finished the sock with a bit of yarn and a needle. I have a tutorial for that too. But if would like to try and take care of it as you knit, then you can. Right when you transition from pick up & knit stitches to instep stitches, you need to pick up a horizontal bar running between stitches, place it on the left needle, and IMMEDIATELY knit it together with the next stitch.

For best results don’t pick up the top horizontal bar. Go lower and grab one below.

Now, you are back to working in the round and that can be a nice feeling.

Next you have to get your “gusset decreases” done. These decreases start right where that annoying gusset hole would have been if you hadn’t closed it, and continue down a diagonal line.

Those decreases get made every other round and they are (usually) shaped; one side is a slip-slip-knit and one is a knit-2-together. Get those done… and then your heel is done. All the way done. You’ll have nothing left but the foot.

Trust me after the excitement of turning a heel the foot is just ten kinds of dull. Really, the heel is the highlight and its all downhill from here.

On that enthusiast note… keep on knitting those socks. I will be.

Print Friendly

Related Content


"There is no failure. Only feedback." - Robert Allen

8 Comments on "Sock-A-Long: Turning a Heel is Like Freaking Magic"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted

Your socks are beautiful Jenn. Hope you and your friend has buried the hatchet and made up. True friendships are far and few between. I’ve been really busy doing knits for charity and making packages up for a couple of our military boys who won’t be going home for the holidays. Just thought I would pop by and say hello. Hope your Thanksgiving went well. Until next time.


A big thank you! Your description of the heel turn, including the gaps that mark where you want to be, was very helpful. I love that part, too. But I’ve been very glad when it’s done! I guess I like boring. Can’t wait till I can start on a pair of socks. I’m getting better, but still restricted. Bummer. Your socks are looking good, by the way.


ahhh, joy! I have turned the heels and picked up my gusset stitches and have started down the foot. [two rows down!] you’re so right about turning the heel, but I say get enough sox made and you’ll be zipping right through the turn! btw, fifty some years ago, I, too, knit in the bathroom, closing out the kiddy pies for a few minutes of peace [not quiet] to regain my equilibrium.


What a neat way to deal with the little hole at the top of the flap. You are so full of tricks Jenn!
On a side note. The part I enjoy most when locking the cats out of the bathroom, is the sight of that skinny persistent arm reaching under the door.
Thanks for all the insight into socks.