Day 7 – How to knit short row heels

You’ve made it to day 7 of the Advent sock-along – hurrah!  And now it’s time to do our first heel.

As we mentioned in our first Advent blog, we’re going to use a short row method to knit our heels.  It may sound daunting but, in this post, we’re breaking it down for you and you will hopefully realise how easy short row heels can be.  This method generally takes less than an hour once you know it.  For your first time, we’d recommend setting aside 90 minutes just in case.

It is worth mentioning that there are several ways to knit a short row heel, this is just one of many.  We like the look and finish of this particular one – sometimes known as the fish lips kiss heel. 

The only thing you’ll need to know is how to make a knit twin stitch and a purl twin stitch (henceforth referred to as TSK and TSP).  Once you’ve done it a couple of times you will pick it up really quickly.

So, let’s break it down.

TSK – knit rows

 To make a TSK:

  1. Knit to the stitch you want to twin (the actual pattern details are below, this is just detailing the stitch itself).
  2. With your right-hand needle, pick up the right leg of the stitch below from behind and place it on your left needle.
  3. Knit the stitch you have just picked up, just as you would knit any other stitch – this is your twinned stitch.
  4. You now have a twinned knit stitch, BUT…  You have one twin on your left needle and one twin on your right.  Transfer the twin on your right needle to your left, so that both twins are on your left needle.

TSP – purl rows

To make a TSP:

  1. Purl to the stitch you want to twin.
  2. Slip this stitch purl-wise onto your right needle.
  3. With your left-hand needle, pick up the purl bump from the row below the slipped stitch.  Place it onto your right needle, but do not remove your left needle – you should now be ready to purl the stitch you have picked up.
  4. Purl the stitch you have picked up, just as you would purl any other stitch.
  5. You now have a twinned purl stitch, BUT… It is on the wrong needle.  Transfer both twins from your right needle to your left needle.

It is important to remember to transfer the half twin stitch (on a knit row) or the full twin stitch (on a purl row) to your left needle before you turn for your next row – otherwise you could end up with a wonky heel and a dodgy stitch count.

So how do we put this into practice and make it work for our heel?  Well…  The heel is broken down into four stages.

Stage one – build first half of heel (colour G)

You will work your heel back and forth across half of your stitches.  You shouldn’t need to move the other half of your stitches onto scrap yarn or spare needles, but if that is what feels more comfortable to you then please do.  So, you will be working on 30, (32, 34, 36) stitches – you may find it useful to add a different coloured stitch marker to mark the halfway point, depending on which needles you are using.

Row 1 (knit): Knit to 2 sts from end, TSK, turn.
Row 2 (purl): Purl to 2 sts from end, TSP, turn.

You should now have one unworked stitch at each end, and then one twin stitch at each end, with 26, (28, 30, 32) stitches in the middle.

Row 3 (knit): Knit to 1 st before TS, TSK, turn.
Row 4 (purl): Purl to 1 st before TS, TSP, turn.

Repeat rows 3 and 4 until you have knitted short rows for approximately one third of the stitches on each side of heel, with approximately one third of the stitches remaining in centre of heel.  End on a Row 4 purl row and turn so the right side is facing you.

For example, if you have cast on 64 stitches for your sock, you will have 32 stitches on your heel, and you will repeat rows 3 and 4 until you have 10 knit stitches in the centre, 10 twin stitches on each side of the centre stitches, and 1 unknit stitch at each end.

Stage two – set up rows

Row 1 (knit):

  • Knit to 1st TS.  PM on right needle.
  • Continuing in the same direction, (so do not turn), knit each TS as a single stitch, (slip your needle knit-wise through both loops of the TS and knit them together), until all twin stitches are knitted.
  • TSK in last stitch on needle.
  • Once the TSK is complete, move the just completed TSK to your left needle.
  • Turn.

Row 2 (purl):

You now have a completed TS on your right needle, and all remaining heel stitches on your left needle.

  • Pull working yarn tight on the last TS, (this prevents a gap at the corner of your heel), then purl to stitch marker.
  • SM to right needle, and then purl the centre heel stitches until you come to the first TS.
  • PM on right needle.
  • Continuing in the same direction, purl each TS as a single stitch, (slip your needle purl-wise through both loops of the TS and purl them together), until all TS are purled.
  • TSP in last stitch on needle.
  • Move the just completed TSP to left needle. 
  • Turn.

Yay!  Now you can start the second half of your heel!

Stage three – build second half of heel (colour G)

With right (knit) side facing you, you should have one TS on your right needle, with the remaining heel stitches on the left needle.

Row 1 (knit): Pull working yarn tight and knit to 1st marker.  SM and knit to 2nd marker. Remove marker, TSK in next stitch, turn.
Row 2 (purl): Purl to marker.  Remove marker, TSP in next stitch, turn.

You should now have your centre heel stitches with one twin stitch at either side.

Row 3 (knit): Knit until you reach the TS, knit TS (as a single stitch), TSK in next stitch, turn.
Row 4 (purl): Purl until you reach the TS, purl TS (as a single stitch), TSP in next stitch, turn.

Repeat rows 3 & 4 until you have worked your way across the entire heel and have two TS at each end of your heel, ending with a row 4, purl row. Turn.

With right side facing you, you should now have two TS on your right needle, and remaining heel stitches, (including two TS) on the left of the heel.

Stage four – finishing the heel

Knit across the remaining heel stitches, knitting the last two TS as single stitches, (like you have been doing throughout).  Stop here!  This will be your new beginning of round – move your BOR stitch marker to this point.  Note that you will still have two unworked TS later on.  Don’t worry, they will soon disappear – just remember to knit them as single stitches when you come to them on the next round! 

And there you have it!  Your short row heel is complete!

We have created a short video to demonstrate this technique if you are not familiar with it: https://youtu.be/7zbrRrI854A

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