Possibly the Laziest Smartest. Short-Row Heel. Ever.

DH_sockHey, the Olympics are over and I did get something finished on my 2010 Knitting Wish List — well, one sock, anyway.

But it's a doozy of a sock.  This picture may not look like much, but trust me on this.  (Plus, there are better pictures further down.)

First of all, though, I must explain that DH seems to have grown to prefer a tight-fitting sock.  His socks have gotten longer and skinnier over the past couple of years, to the point where I frankly think they look kinda weird.  But each successive pair — or in this case, sock, singular — he proclaims to be "the best-fitting one yet", so who am I to quibble?

stitch chart broad spiral ribThe stitch pattern for this sock was taken from good ol' Barbara Walker (although I admit at this point, I can't remember if I adapted it a bit, and I'm too lazy to go check).  Here's my chart, anyway — it seems to indicate an 8-st repeat, but I only did 2 purl sts in between each rib instead of 4, to get a 6-st repeat.  So I guess I did adapt it!

The fun part here is the "K2tog, K first st again, drop both sts".  You do exactly that, and you get a crossed st effect WITHOUT a cable needle, and WITHOUT having to hand-manipulate teeny little dark brown sts.

What you end up with is a lovely ribbed mock cable with a lot of yummy texture that is super-easy to execute, AND it only has 4 rounds, and two of them are plain rounds.  Now that's my kind of stitch pattern.

stitch texture detailDoesn't that look handsome?

I had a little trouble keeping track of which of the two twist rounds I was on, until I started looking not at the stitches on my needle, but at a couple of rows' worth of the overall pattern.  Then it became crystal-clear whether I needed to cross the first two sts, or the middle two sts.  Piece of cake after that.

But… the best part is the HEEL.

OK, so as previously stated, DH likes his socks skinny and tight.  But what that means is, when you get to the heel, there are fewer sts than one might usually have and thus — if you do a short-row heel like I do — the heel is going to be proportionally smaller.  And tighter.  Possibly too tight across the front of the foot to wear.  This is not ideal.

So, what to do?

Add more sts, of course!

There is no rule that says you can't increase a few sts on the heel side just before you go into your short row heel, and then decrease them away again after the heel is finished.  Simple, no?  Clever, yes?

annotated heelHowever, in this case, I took that idea one step further, and started a little gusset about an inch before the short-row heel, increasing maybe 3 or 4 sts on either side of the heel.

Then I did my short-row heel over my larger number of sts, using my fave techniques:  the double-stitch method for the short-row turns; and doing the first half twice, so that you're always short-rowing down, instead of short-rowing down and then back up — I like this trick a lot because 1) you only have to remember how to do one thing, 2) it gives the identical heel shape as the short-rowing-up-and-down method, and 3) it looks better.  What's not to like?

Then I decreased that cute little gusset away while doing about an inch of plain stockinette on the back of the leg.  If you take a look at commercial socks, you'll see they often do this.  Some say it improves the fit; I say it made the knitting easier.  And because a picture is worth a thousand words, I tried to draw these things in, but I added a few words as well, which are:  "inc gusset", "dec gusset", "heel wedge 1" and "heel wedge 2", in case you can't read my mousewriting.

heel closeup

A thing of beauty, is it not?

Now I just have to figure out the numbers for what I did on this sock, so I can make a second one…

(BTW, I also incorporated the heel trick in the pattern for the socks I just finished for the upcoming March installment of the For Yarns' Sake Sock Club, but you'll have to wait a bit to see those babies.  Can't let that cat out of the bag yet!)

  14 comments for “Possibly the Laziest Smartest. Short-Row Heel. Ever.

  1. Stephanie Baker
    03/02/2010 at 3:32 PM

    Tess–I tried the yo yo heel on a pair of Christmas socks for my daughter. i had the heels out twice because of that same problem. (not enough room). You have solved it very well. Is there a rule of thumb about when to start the increases?

    • 03/02/2010 at 7:18 PM

      Thx Stephanie! I’ve only done this on a couple of socks so far — but on the sock club socks to which I alluded, I just did 4 increases evenly spaced across the heel sts in the final round prior to the start of the heel, and it worked fine — though admittedly, not quite as elegant.
      The gusset does take a bit more forethought if you’re going toe-up, but if you’re going top-down, it’s not a problem.
      On these, I basically did one inch worth of rows, increasing 1 st each side on every other row, and started about an inch from where I was going to do the heel.

  2. Lisa Helfrich
    03/02/2010 at 7:51 PM

    That’s a darn nice looking sock. I am looking forward to knitting the next installment of Nellie’s sox club. Lisa

    • 03/02/2010 at 8:36 PM

      Thank you! Tho this is far from original — I found at least 2 other independent bloggers who had used this st patt for socks, as well as it seems there is a pattern using it in “More Sensational Knitted Socks” that I was not aware of. I just love reinventing the wheel. 🙂

      The Sock Club sock, OTOH, should be fairly unique, I think! I got the st pattern for that one from an obscure former library book. I hope you will like it!

  3. Cynther
    01/25/2011 at 8:27 PM

    I love this technique. It took me a couple of tries but I finally got it! (At least I think I do! LOL) Where will you have the patterns you’ve written with this type of heel? Will your patterns be written out in ‘detail’?
    Thanks so much!

  4. 02/17/2011 at 5:59 PM

    Hi Cynther — The only patterns I’ve written with this heel are both sock club patterns, so neither is publicly available right now. One of them I will be able to make available in April this year. Hope you enjoy it!

  5. chemistrydiva
    11/09/2011 at 8:35 AM

    I’ve just come across your blog during my search for the perfect short row heel! I’d love to ask you a few more questions about this construction if you don’t mind…or if one of your sock club patterns are available, could you tell me which one uses this gusset+double short row method, so I can buy it? Thank you!

    • 11/10/2011 at 2:56 PM

      Hi, and thanks for stopping by! I don’t currently have a pattern with this method spelled out in it. This pair of socks was the very first time I tried this, so I intend to refine the idea a bit before including it in a pattern.
      Right now, I am focusing on creating a whole new website that will be much less of a “what I knit this week” blog format, and more a place where you will be able to find all my good stuff like this. I hope to have the new site up and running by the end of this year or the beginning of next. I will be sure to have links to it on this site, so I hope you will stop by there when it is a reality!

    • 11/10/2011 at 5:58 PM

      I should clarify: when I said in the post, “I also incorporated the heel trick in the pattern for the … Sock Club”, that means only the trick of increasing a few sts on the one round just prior to starting the heel. I did not include the gusset bit in that pattern, because I hadn’t thought that bit up yet!

  6. chemistrydiva
    11/10/2011 at 4:46 PM

    I will definitely have a look at the new site, and I’ll stop by and let you know how I get on with your fabulous heel – I’m going to practice on my brother’s Christmas socks. 🙂

    • 11/10/2011 at 5:53 PM

      LOL! brothers are PERFECT for that sort of thing. 🙂

  7. Theresa
    07/18/2017 at 8:37 PM

    this is a PM from Ravelry before I discovered you hadn’t been posting there for years so I hope this reaches you

    Hello Tess, (and fellow Iowan)
    I often visit your blog for help for various things. Right now it’s the unicorn short row heel. And l Ike your writing style.

    Man do I wish you had worked out the ‘commercial’ heel (hint)

    So on to the important stuff. I’m right now stuck on the “Possibly easiest/laziest short row heel”. I get lost in the various comments/questions (on any blog) but you mention a sock club sock you provide detailed info. That was 2010 so I’m hoping, hoping the sock is here somewhere but I’m not sure. Could you tell me which pattern it is? I really want to give it a try.

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