How to Do a Heel Turn While Knitting Socks

Knit socks
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Overview
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Turning the heel is the part of sock knitting that scares most knitters away from ever knitting socks. The truth is that turning a heel isn't any more difficult than any other part of making a sock, it just requires a little more attention than the other parts. If this is your first time turning a heel, read the directions several times before you begin, and double-check each step before you go on to the next. 

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Double-pointed needles to continue the sock

Materials

  • Top-down sock, heel ready to turn

Instructions

  1. Preparing to Turn the Heel

    The instructions for a typical heel turn are given below. The first thing you'll notice (besides the knitting abbreviations) is that you aren't working all of the stitches across the row. That makes many first-timers nervous, but it is the way it must be done to make the proper curve. This technique is known as knitting with short rows, and it is the key to making a heel that's actually three-dimensionally heel-shaped.

    • Row 1 (WS): sl1, p14, p2tog, p1, turn.
    • Row 2 (RS): sl1, k4, ssk, k1, turn.

    Trust the pattern and follow the instructions as written, no matter how complicated they seem. If you were working a sock with the instructions above, you would slip the first stitch, purl 14 stitches, purl two together, purl one more, and then turn the work like you normally do at the end of a row.

    Any stitches after the p1 on the needle remain unworked.

    End of the first row of turning the heel
    Sarah E. White
  2. Next Short Row

    With the work turned to the right side as you would in regular flat knitting, the needle with the unworked stitches is now in your right hand and the needle with the stitches you worked in the last row will be in your left hand.

    Knit back across these stitches as the pattern indicates. In the case of our example, you'd slip the first stitch, knit 4, work an ssk (slip, slip, knit decrease), knit one more, and turn the work again.

    Now you have unworked stitches on both needles, and just a few stitches that have been worked on both rows.

    Second row of heel turning.
    Sarah E. White
  3. Continuing the Turn

    Continue working the short rows according the pattern instructions. You would work progressively further and further away from the center with each row. If you were knitting the sock we have been using in this example, the next two rows would read:

    • Row 3: sl1, p5, p2tog, p1, turn.
    • Row 4: sl1, k6, ssk, k1, turn.

    The rows continue until eventually you have worked across all the stitches, and you have made a little knit cup that will hold your heel when you wear the sock.

    Finished turned heel
    Sarah E. White