Thursday, 26 June 2014

De-mystifying toe-up socks part 3: Finishing off, inserting the heel & grafting

This is the final part of the Demystifying toe-up socks series. If you missed the other posts, you can find them here. If you've been working along with me, you should now have something that looks like this: 
Ready to knit the cuff
This sample sock is a short one, so it's time to knit the cuff. I've chosen to use a simple rib in the contrasting yarn, knit as follows:
Sock tube finished and bound off. Time for the afterthought heel

You're almost finished and from the front it looks like a sock! It's time to move onto the afterthought heel. This is a great heel for a number of reasons: it's easy to do, there's no need to calculate anything, and it can be ripped out and replaced if you wear through it, or.... for any other reason but we'll come to that later!!!! If you've ever made a cuff-down sock, you'll recognise that this heel is identical to a standard wedge toe, simply a matter of decreasing and then grafting it shut. (If you haven't made a sock, you can see this in the photos below.)

Step 1: It can be easier to pick up the stitches on the 'wrong side', so start by turning the sock inside out. Then use one end of the circular needle to pick up the stitches along one side of the scrap yarn which was placed last week. Repeat with the other end of the needle, so that you pick up the stitches to either side of the scrap yarn. 
Pick up the live stitches to either side of the scrap yarn
Step 2: When all the stitches have been picked up, carefully remove the scrap yarn. I find it easier to do this from the right side of the sock. 
Step 3: Once you've done that, flip the circular needle through the hole so that you're ready to knit. If you count the stitches on your needle, you may find that you have picked up a loop which is not a stitch (on one or both sides) - don't worry about this as you need to pick up 2 stitches in each of the gaps between the needles anyway, just pick up less. I didn't pick up any loops and you can see that I have my original 24 sts on each needle. 
Step 4: You're now ready to knit the heel. Using the heel yarn (it might be the same as your main sock, a contrasting colour like mine, or your yarn plus reinforcing thread held double) and knit across the first needle. When you get to the gap between the needles, pick up and twist (knit into the back of) two stitches to close the gap. 
Picking up the stitches will leave a neat finish and after a few rounds will look like the picture below. Don't worry too much - you can also close any small gaps when sewing in the ends.  
Repeat on the other needle so that you have the original number of stitches + 2 (for me that's 24 + 2 = 26) on each needle. 

Step 5: You need at least a few rows of plain knitting before the decreases start. This means you can make any further adjustments to fit the heel you're knitting for - more rounds will make a deeper/bigger heel. I've knit three rounds in stocking stitch so I'm ready to continue as follows: 
  • Round 1 - *k1, ssk, k to last 3 st on needle, k2tog, k1, repeat from * on other needle
  • Round 2 - knit
  • Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until desired number of sts remain (for me, that's 8 on each needle)
  • Graft closed using kitchener stitch
Time to graft
Grafting / 'Kitchener Stitch' sounds terribly complicated, but it's simply a way of joining two lots of open stitches by sewing a row of stocking stitch between them. It's much easier than you might think, although I believe that - like anything - it can take a little practice to make it super neat (but maybe that's just my own aversion to sewing knits). Once you can get the tension right, it looks lovely and you can't see the join.
  • Cut the yarn so that you have a long tail (30cm or so is plenty for a few sts) and thread onto a needle, then hold the sock in your left had as if to knit. You'll be working with the sewing needle throughout. 

We'll be working into the first front stitch and first back stitch and either sewing into them as if to knit or as if to purl. When each stitch has been worked twice it's slipped off the knitting needle and is effectively cast off. (If you'd like to watch a video, lesson 3 in the free Craftsy Class Ins and Outs of Grafting* is excellent and much clearer than I can show you in still photos.) Work as follows: 
  • SET UP: front stitch, purl, keep stitch on THEN back stitch, knit, keep stitch on, THEN
  • 1. Front stitch, knit, slip stitch off
  • 2. Front stitch, purl, keep stitch on
  • 3. Back stitch, purl, slip stitch off
  • 4. Back stitch, knit, keep stitch on
  • REPEAT steps 1 to 4 until all the stitches are bound off. 
Apart from sewing in the ends, that's it - a finished sock. It's time to make the other one! (Next time, you might like to make two-at-a-time, my tutorial will help you get started.)

At this point I must apologise for the picture which was taken just as a bright flash of sunlight came into the room. I would have taken another but something happened to my sock shortly afterwards. I'm still traumatised about it, but I'll tell you more another day!
Finished sock (almost)
I hope you've enjoyed this series. If it's inspired you to knit more socks and to try different techniques, you might like some of the following links.
- Socks from the Toe Up* - a great book of toe-up patterns by Wendy Johnson
Knit Socks From the Toe Up* sock-knitting class on Craftsy
Knit Original Toe Up Socks* sock-design class on Craftsy
Tube Socks - a free kid's sock pattern by Jane Richmond which doesn't have any heel at all!
- There are thousands of afterthought heel sock patterns on Ravelry
- Finally, I have lots of tutorials on various topics which you can find here.

*CftC is part of the Amazon and Craftsy affiliate programmes - read more here


  1. I have really enjoyed these posts - I have knit (badly) a few socks, but really like the afterthought heel - Thank you

  2. I love the clarity of your photos. You do a great job of incorporating text instructions on images.


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