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Learn Something New: Heel Stitches

Jul 9, 2012
Eye of Partridge Stitch on a heel flap

Plain-Jane slip-stitch heel

One of the things I love about sock knitting is there there are so many knitting techniques used in the process. And there are lots of variations for each technique, too!

The heel flap is one of the parts of a knitted sock that has A LOT of variations. Short-row heel, heel flap, slip-stitch, stockinette, or garter stitch. Sky's the limit. Personally, the heel flap isn't my favorite way to knit a sock. I actually prefer the short-row heel for looks, but you can't argue with the durability of the heel flap.

I'm going to talk about a couple of heel flap knitting techniques here, which designer and video star Donna Druchunas (her video is the PieceWork workshop Knitting Lithuanian Socks) calls "Heel Stitches."

When I want to work a sock with a heel flap, I make the flap more attractive by knitting the Eye of Partridge stitch. I learned this stitch at Sock Summit, and I've used it for heel flaps (and sometimes for toes!) almost exclusively whenever I knit a heel flap sock.

Here are the directions:

Eye of Partridge Stitch (version for heels)
Row 1: (Right side) * Sl1, K1*, repeat across, ending with K1.
Row 2 and all even rows: Sl1, purl across row.
Row 3: Sl2, * K1, Sl1,* repeat across row ending with K2.
Row 4: Repeat Row 2.

This pretty stitch offsets the slipped stitch every other row, resulting a diamond pattern.

Here are the directions for the tried-and-true Slip-Stitch Heel:

Row 1: (wrong side) Slip the first stitch purlwise with the yarn in front, purl the rest of the stitches.
Row 2: *Slip the first stitch purlwise with the yarn in back, knit the next stitch. Repeat from * across.
Repeat these two rows until your heel flap is the desired length, ending on the knit side.

Both of these photos are still shots taken from Knitting Lithuanian Socks. Donna Druchunas is such an excellent teacher, and the Lithuanian knitting history she's researched for this workshop is fascinating.

Get your copy of Knitting Lithuanian Socks today. You'll learn several more methods of knitting and turning heels, as well as get three beautiful sock patterns that Donna designed in the Lithuanian style.

If you can't wait, you can download the workshop and get started right away!


P.S. What's your favorite way to knit a heel? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Knitting Lithuanian Socks DVD

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PieceWork Magazine presents an adventure in culture, symbolism, and turning heels. Learn the history and techniques of knitting Lithuanian socks with Donna Druchunas.


Knitting Lithuanian Socks (Video Download)

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PieceWork Magazine presents an adventure in culture, symbolism, and turning heels. Learn the history and techniques of knitting Lithuanian socks with Donna Druchunas.


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hudsonmama wrote
on Jul 2, 2013 2:15 PM

I almost gave up on knitting socks, too. I'm very hard on them and it's heartbreaking to spend so much time knitting in some beautiful color and then have then wear holes in a month!!! But this hasn't happened since I started using Mountain Colors Crazyfoot yarn. It's a very tight twist and super sturdy yarn. I also have to knit a very tight gauge on size 0 needles (you could even try 00s!) and I've used Elizabeth Zimmerman's basic sock directions so I could get the size right with the super tight gauge. I also have found that the Star Toe works better for me than the Wedge (the decreases right along the sides of my toes wears much faster). To work a patterned sock this way you'd have to do some math and see if it will work for your gauge. :)

Farrelly wrote
on Jun 28, 2013 9:24 PM

My heel and toes wore out so now I add a thin yarn of linen with the wool so it is a bit thicker and much stronger.  

on Jun 28, 2013 1:52 PM

May I tell you my helpful hint for heel flaps?  I use (ideally) an uneven number of stitches so that I can begin and end the RS rows with slip 1.  If my pattern demands an even number of stitches for the heel flap in order to place it nicely among the pattern stitch motifs, I will do 2 K1 stitches in the centre of the heel flap thus still beginning and ending with a sl 1.  The reason for this is so that picking up the stitches after turning the heel is easier and neater. You have the correct ratio of picked up stitches to rows as every slipped stitch is the length of 2 rows.


Wendy Leigh-Bell

nmgappa wrote
on Jul 24, 2012 4:11 PM

I like to have knitted socks but have all but given up since I wear out the heels so quickly. I started using the after thought heel on a size smaller needle with reinforcement yarn. I would love to come up with an alternative that would be durable. I can't say that I enjoy replacing the worn out heels so if anyone has any better suggestions please let me know.

TammyT wrote
on Jul 9, 2012 10:10 AM

I favor toe up socks and I use either a short row heel or the gusset heel that Wendy Johnson of Wendyknits uses.  I really do not like the fit, bulk or lumpiness of a heel flap so when I do cuff down socks I always use a more streamlined heel method.

SpruceGum wrote
on Jul 9, 2012 9:21 AM

I've knit socks for fifty years, always with a heel flap, using a k1, slip 1 knit row. This past winter I learned how to knit two socks together on a circular needle, toe up and using Cat Bordhi's Sweet Tomato Heel. Love the easy heel that comes out so smooth and fits so well! Now I prefer the Sweet Tomato Heel.

CreationsBME wrote
on Jul 9, 2012 9:18 AM

The Eye of Partridge looks so easy and looks so nice.  I just started knitting socks - I will use this stitch on my next pair.  Anyone have an easy way of joining in the round?  That's the greatest challenge for me - when that is done, knitting socks is a breeze.  Thanks ; )

Besty Keller wrote
on Jul 9, 2012 8:14 AM

Thanks for eye of partridge.  I thought the plain slp st heel was the "eye of partridge".  Think this will be my new favorite!


MarjorieH@3 wrote
on Jul 9, 2012 7:49 AM

Like the ease of short-rows, and have started doing the "sweet tomato heels" which fit me much nicer.