In my upcoming sock pattern, I make use of the short row heel technique, which is one of my favorite heels because I don’t have to figure out gusset increases/decreases and I prefer the fit. But I know some people are completely intimidated by short rows and heels, so the two together may seem a wee bit overwhelming.
Fear not! Here’s a photo tutorial run-down on how I prefer to work my short row heels. This tutorial is done on a sock worked toe-up, but it would work exactly the same for a cuff-down sock, too.
Knit to the position in the pattern where you will start the heel. On your heel stitches, knit across to the last two stitches.
Now you will wrap and turn the next stitch on the left needle. To create the wrap on the knit side, move the yarn to the front, as if you were going to work a purl stitch. Then slip the stitch from the left needle onto the right needle, keeping the yarn in front of the slipped stitch.
Now, bring the yarn around to the back of the slip stitched – ta da! You’ve wrapped your stitch. Then slip the stitch you wrapped back into the left needle. You should see the horizontal wrap around the base of the stitch.
Now turn your work to the purl side. The yarn should be already in place to work purl stitches.
Purl across the row to the last two stitches.
Now we will work a wrap on the purl side. To do this, bring the yarn to the back, as if you were going to work a knit stitch. Then, just like before, slip the stitch from the left needle onto the right needle, being sure to keep the yarn to the back of the slipped stitch. Then bring the yarn back to the front.
With the yarn in the front now, slip the stitch back to the left needle from the right needle, creating a wrap around it.
Now you will turn the work a knit row and the yarn will be in the back of the stitches ready for you to go. You should see the wrap you just created at the base of the stitch on the needle now in your right hand.
If everything’s gone as planned, should have 1 unworked stitch and 1 wrapped stitch on both sides of the heel.
Now, knit across the row until you reach the stitch just before the wrapped stitch.
Wrap this stitch like you did before on the knit side, then turn the work to work across the purl side. You should see a bit of a gap between the wrapped stitches. This character, along with the horizontal wrap of yarn across the base of the stitch, will help you identify them as you continue working the heel
Now work across the purl side of the heel until you reach the stitch just before the wrapped stitch.
Wrap this stitch and turn sock to work across knit side of heel.
Now you should have 1 unworked edge stitch and 2 wrapped stitched on both sides of the heel.
Keep working across the heel to the stitch just before the last wrapped stitch and performing a wrap&turn. Work in this fashion until you have your desired number of stitches left unwrapped in the middle of the heel. Generally, I aim for about 1/3 of my total heel stitches in the middle between the wrapped stitches.
You will stop working the wrap and turns after a purl row (ready to work a knit row). You should have an equal number of wrapped stitches on either side of the center stitches plus that one unwrapped stitch on either end. In this example, I have 10 wrapped stitches on either side of the heel and 9 center stitches because I have a relatively narrow heel. If you have a wider heel, leave more center stitches for yourself. It may take a couple tries to figure out what fit you prefer.
So now we’ve created one wedge of the heel (in this example, this wedge will sit on the bottom of my heel) and we have to work back out creating a matching wedge (the wedge that will sit across the back of the heel).
So, knit across your center heel stitches until you reach your first wrapped stitch. Now you will pick up the wrap you created and work it with the stitch it is wrapped around to close up the gap.
To work the wrap, insert your right needle into the front of the wrap from the bottom towards the top.
Then insert the right needle into the stitch on the left needle to work it exactly as you would normally work a knit stitch.
Then work the stitch as normal, but pull the new stitch through both the stitch on the left needle and the wrap you picked up with your right needle.
The next stitch on the left needle is another wrapped stitch. You are going to wrap this stitch again, creating a double wrap, and turn the sock to work the purl side.
Now, purl across to the first wrapped stitch. You will now pick up the wrap and work it with the purl stitch it is wrapped around.
Place the right needle through the back of the wrap (behind the purl stitch) from the top to the bottom.
Then place the picked up wrap on the left needle right in front of the purl stitch you are preparing to work.
Now work the wrap and the stitch as if it were a working a purl2together decrease.
The next stitch on the left needle is a wrapped purl stitch. You are going to wrap this stitch again (creating another double wrapped stitch) and turn to work across a knit row.
So now you have picked up one wrapped stitch on either side of the center stitches of the heel and created one double wrapped stitch on each side.
Knit across the row until you reach the double wrapped stitch. You will pick up both wraps as before with the single wrap…
…and work the wraps with the knit stitch.
Then, wrap the next stitch on the left needle (creating a double wrap) and turn to work across the purl side.
Purl across the row to the first double wrapped stitch. As you did previously with the single wrap, pick up both wraps and place the in front of the purl stitch.
Purl through all three loops on the left needle closing up the gap created by the wraps. Then wrap the next stitch on the left needle (creating a double wrap) and turn to work across the knit side.
On the right side of the heel you should be able to see how the top wedge is joining with the bottom wedge, closing up the gaps of the wrap and turns and creating the heel pocket.
You will continue working across the heel, back and forth, picking up the double wraps and then wrapping the next stitch. Do this until you reach the very last double wrapped stitch on a knit row. Pick up the double wraps and work them with the stitch. You should be left with the one, lonely unwrapped edge stitch. Wrap the edge stitch and turn the work to across the purl side.
Purl across the row to the last double wrapped stitch, pick up the wraps and purl with the stitch. Then wrap and turn the last edge stitch.
Knit across the heel, being sure to pick up and work the last wrapped stitch.
And that’s it! Your short row heel is now (hopefully) successfully complete! Just be sure that when you work your first full round of the sock, you pick up the very last wrap you created on your final heel purl row.
I find that wrapping and then working the wraps of those very last edge stitches help close up the potential gap between the heel and the front of the leg that has a pesky habit of occuring with short row heels.
If you are like me and hate figuring out when to start gusset increases or hate picking up the gusset stitches on your heel flap, you can adjust almost any sock pattern to work a short row heel. I think they work the best on stretchier sock patterns, like ribbed or lacy socks, especially if you have a bit of an instep because this heel doesn’t create any extra height for the gusset.
Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions or didn’t understand a particular step. And happy (sock) knitting!