Technical Tuesday: Turning a Heel

My obsession with socks continues to bleed though into my blog posts, I am sorry for all the non-sock knitters. There are quite a few different ways to go about making socks, and a lot of people are intimidated by them, but they are without a doubt the least intimidating and HIGHLY portable knitting I have. I am constantly knitting socks because they take next to no mental bandwidth. I have knit so many that I have a vanilla pattern memorized. I’ve also taken a few liberties with it so it isn’t quite as confusing as it is worded.
Turning a heel is always something that confuses a lot of first time sock knitters. I always go from the cuff down because I haven’t perfected my toe up mental pattern. So help me, I have that heel turn down to a science. Turning a heel is making a series of decreases so that the flat heel flap curves around your round heel. If you don’t turn the heel, you would have pointy edges along the corner of your sock heel. No one wants pointy heels; it’s just weird.
Normally the heel turn is written something like:

K 19 sts, ssk, k1. Turn.
Sl1, p7, p2tog, p1. Turn.
Sl1, k8, ssk, k1, Turn.
Continue in this pattern until all stitches have been worked.

Which isn’t bad if you’re following the pattern carefully and taking it one row at a time, but it looks scary and confusing. I usually take a mental step back at this point and try to look at the bigger picture. What does the pattern require?
First of all it wants you to knit across 19 stitches of the 32 you have on the needle because you need to make this decrease past the mid point on the sock or else you would get a weird triangular shaped heel.
What I have ended up doing is looking at it from the other way around. This technique will work if you have adjusted the pattern for bigger socks or added stitches in anyway.

Knit across your row until there are 13 stitches left on the needle, SSK, K1 then turn.

Knit Side Ten

Now you are going to have to get to the other side of the midline of the heel. You want the space between your first decreases to be equal or else your heel will be off centre (which is a problem I had A LOT). Instead of doing all kinds of complicated math you simply:

S1, then purl across your row until there are there are 13 stitches left on the needle, P2TOG, P1 and turn

Purl Side Ten

Now you have made your first decreases, the rest is cake. You don’t even need to count at this point because the first decreases will tell you where you need to make the decreases. There will be a small gap between two stitches; since you don’t want holes in your heel, you knit or purl those two together and K/P one after that so you can slip it when you turn your work.

The Hole

I find this easy to remember and it works for any size sock you care to name. If you happen to be doing a sock with really huge yarn and having 13 stitches left on each side doesn’t work then just leave 7 or 5, whatever number works for the yarn you are using.
The last thing I want to note is about the number left on each side; 13 might seem kind of arbitrary, but after you have done your decrease and K/P1 there are ten stitches left. I never forget it because it is simply ten stitches, plus three for decreasing.
I hope this helps out some peeps with their sock heels. I’ve done it so many times it is completely mindless. When I get toe up socks completely figured out I will probably begin posting about how wonderful they are as well! Any great two up patterns are always appreciated!