Wednesday, May 18, 2022

My Square Heel (toe up!)

Flap & turn heels don't have to be worked cuff down! 

When working a square heel using the traditional cuff down method, first you work a flap, and then you turn it at the base. Hence the name "flap & turn." Then you pick up sts along the sides of the flap and work gusset decreases in the round. 

Toe up, you simply work in the opposite order:

1. Increase by the number of desired gusset sts.
2. Work the sole as a flap.
3. Pick up the edge sts around the sole flap, then work back-and-forth across the heel back, working the last stitch on each side with a gusset stitch on each turn. 

This is why I want to avoid using the term "heel flap." It's used to describe the flap worked at the back of the heel. However, when you work toe up, the sole is the flap, and the heel back is the turn. 

The traditional proportions for the Dutch/square heel are 1/2 of total stitches for the back of the heel, and 1/3 of those stitches for the sole. This creates a small gusset and a narrow band at the sole, like this. 

 Source: Folk Socks, Nancy Bush (Interweave Press, 1994). 

I personally prefer to work my sole over 2/3 of the heel back. This simple change improves the fit greatly IMO; the sole (blue) is now the same width as the weight-bearing part of my heel, and it leaves more room in the gusset.

If you work a flap & turn heel from the toe up, you have to know how many stitches and rows you'll need in the different parts of the heel before you knit it. So I’ve put together a chart with the numbers you'll need. (Note this is not a custom fit worksheet. For custom fit socks, Kate Atherley is your guru.)

Click on the chart to see a larger image.


Detailed instructions 

1. Work the gusset increases

It's up to you to determine where to begin your gusset increases. I start mine at about the middle of my arch.

Starting with 48[56, 64, 72, 80] sts, increase by 2 sts every other round until you have increased by 9[10, 11, 12, 13] sts on each side of the sock.  

2. Work the sole as a flap.

Select the desired location for the sole of the foot. From the center of this location, k 8[9, 10, 11, 12] sts, turn. Sl 1 pw, p 15[17, 19, 21, 23] sts, turn. 

Black: foot. Purple: Gusset. Blue: sole flap.

Work the sole flap back and forth over a total of 8[10, 12, 14, 16] rows. You should be able to count 4[5, 6, 7, 8] sts along each edge of the flap, starting 1 row below the live sts on the needle, up to & including in the last full round below the flap. 

For a detailed tutorial on how I pick up and work the edge stitches of a heel flap, please see this companion post on my blog.  

Stitches along the RS left edge. The purple stitch is from the last round worked before the flap. This sole flap is 8 rows high. 

3. Work the heel back.

Pick up and knit tbl 4[5, 6, 7, 8] sts along the RS left edge of the sole flap, working the last into an ssk with the adjacent gusset stitch to its left, turn. Sl 1 pw, purl back to other edge of the sole flap, pick up and purl 4[5, 6, 7, 8] sts along WS left edge, working the last into a p2tog with the adjacent gusset stitch, turn.

* Pro-tip #1: The ssk and p2tog on this first set of turns will each have a gap if you work them traditionally. See ssk example below. For more details on working these two decreases please visit this post, section 3, "working decreases with picked up sts," which goes into detail on this point.

The image below shows stitches picked up along the R edge of the sole flap (viewed from RS). Note how the sts lean the opposite way from normal. When you purl these sts (from the WS) they will twist in the opposite direction as the sts on the other side of the flap. 

Now that you have incorporated the sts along both sides of the sole flap, work back and forth across the heel back, each time ending with an ssk (RS) or p2tog (WS), until you have decreased all the gusset sts you created earlier and you have returned to your original stitch count of 48[56, 64, 72, 80] sts. The heel is now complete and you can resume working in the round. 

* Pro-tip #2: To avoid having a gap at the top of the heel back on the right side, after you work the last ssk, continue working around the front of the sock, and work that last decrease as a k2tog from the RS. In the image below, do a k2tog into the first 2 sts on the L needle.

* Pro-tip #3: I always get loose stitches on the left side of my heel back. To help with this, I use the hungry stitch method to tighten up this side. Even after using hungry stitch, I still manually distribute the slack across the rows as needed. In the photo below, the stitches in the lower half of the heel back have been manually adjusted, and those in the upper half have not. 

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