Heel Stitches for Knitted Socks

One of the things I love about knit socks is that there are so many knitting techniques used in the process. And there are lots of variations for each technique, too! Take heel flaps for example.

Slip stitch heel flaps for your knit socks
Plain Jane slip-stitch heel flap

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 fantastic video is 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 from Lorilee Beltman years ago, and I’ve used it for heel flaps (and sometimes for toes!) almost exclusively whenever I knit socks.

Dress up your knit socks with Eye of Partridge stitch on the heel flap!
Eye of Partridge Stitch on a heel flap

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 photos here 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!

And here are a couple more sock knitting resources that I highly recommend:

For the beginning sock knitter, Getting Started Knitting Socks by Ann Budd. This book covers all the bases, and includes some great patterns for knit socks.

For the advanced beginner and beyond, Custom Socks by Kate Atherley. Custom Socks includes more than 15 original sock patterns and expert instruction to knit socks that fit properly. No more droopy socks!


P.S. What’s your favorite way to knit a heel? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Other Things You May Like to Check Out:


Knitting Daily Blog, Stitch Patterns
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

9 thoughts on “Heel Stitches for Knitted Socks

  1. 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 ; )

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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. :)