How to Shape the Heel of a Toe-Up Sock
In the first part of this knit-along we cast on stitches and shaped the toe part of the sock. Then we spent some time making the foot part of the sock (it was our homework) and now the sock is ready for the heel shaping.
The heel of Sneaker Socks has a slightly unusual construction, so some instructions are different than the instructions we normally see in a sock pattern. Please, don’t let this fact discourage you.
If you want to have peace of mind, add a lifeline to the sock before you start working on the shaping of the heel.
The shaping is not complicated but we have to carefully follow the pattern instructions. Don’t skip steps, don’t omit any lines or numbers and don’t improvise. Just follow the pattern instructions to a T and the heel of your sock will get shaped nicely without any issues.
As you get to know this pattern (let’s say, when you make the second or third pair of these socks) you’ll understand the construction of the heel better and would be able to add whatever improvements you think are necessary. But while you are making your first pair of Sneaker Socks, I strongly recommend that you stick to the instructions outlined in the pattern and refrain from any alterations.
To shape the heel of the sock, we’ll use short rows and we’ll do the whole shaping process in three stages.
First, we’ll make the bottom part of the heel.
Because the heel of a human foot is more rounded than a plain 90-degree angle, we’ll add a few additional short rows to accommodate for the curve and make sure the sock fits the heel without relying too much on the stretch of a knitted fabric.
Next, we’ll work on shaping the top part of the heel.
This part of the shaping is quite straightforward. We’ll simply work in short rows without adding any unconventional steps.
It took me almost a year to figure out the last part of the heel shaping. As I was designing these low-cut socks, I tested different ways of short row shaping to keep the socks from slipping off the feet.
Even though adding more short rows to the bottom of the heel (the first part of the shaping) improved the fit of the socks, they still refused to stay on the feet.
My eureka moment happened in a gift store that we visited during a road trip. That store had water shoes for sale. When I looked at the shaping of the water shoes, I realized that the great fit is achieved not just by the stretch of the fabric, but also by raising the back of the shoe.
This little tweak totally makes sense when we analyze the natural shape of a human heel. It is curved at the top and requires more fabric to create an ideal fit.
Making that extra fabric at the back of the sock is the task of the third part of the heel shaping.
We’ll continue to work in short rows, but this time, we’ll use most of the stitches we have on the needles, not just the half of the stitches we used to make the basic shape of the heel.
That’s why it is not possible to do this shaping when we make both socks at the same time on the same long circular needle. It is a slightly advanced trick that many sock knitters love and use quite often. I don’t show this technique in the knit-along but I want to mention this point just in case.
So if you chose to make these socks two-at-a-time, transfer one sock to spare double-pointed needles before you start shaping the heel part of the sock. You’ll have to do the heel shaping on each sock separately.
For everyone who has just one sock on the needles, there is nothing special to do before we get to shape the heel of the sock, aside from probably adding a lifeline to calm down the jitters.
Here’s how the feel shaping looks in a detailed video tutorial:
Next time, we’ll add a short cuff to the sock and we’ll finish it off with a beautiful stretchy bind off. In fact, I’ll show you two ways to bind off stitches – a great-looking but slightly challenging one (the bind off described in the pattern) and a nice-looking easy one that provides the same stretch but does not look as perfect.
If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:
“Neat Side Edges” Book
Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.