How to knit afterthought sock heels
Afterthought heels are perfect for when you need to repair an old sock heel. Learn how to work them with Clare Devine's tutorial.
Knitters either love or hate afterthought heels! Champions of this heel style admire its simplicity and the fact you can whip through your socks first, before adding the heels once the main sock knitting is over. Some knitters struggle with the fit of an afterthought heel, but this is nothing a little bit of tweaking can’t fix.
The theory behind this method involves placing a row of waste yarn stitches at the point where you want to insert the heel.
As usual, you work half the total number of stitches to create the heel. Once the sock is finished, you carefully remove the waste yarn and place all the live stitches onto your needles.
Next you choose your heel style. Many knitters work the heel in the same way they would work a wedge toe, using four paired decreases every second round. When you reach the desired width of your heel you simply graft the live stitches together to finish your sock.
Placing the waste yarn
To work out where to place your waste yarn for the heel, you need to calculate how long your heel will be. This is fairly simple – you need to know the following numbers:
- Row gauge (either rows per cm or rows per inch)
- Number of decrease rnds – these figures are provided in the table on the below
- Length of heel = number of rounds divided by rows per cm / inch
Once you have this information you know where to place your heel.
Knitting top down: Place the heel yarn once your leg is the desired length. You need to factor in the heel length when measuring the foot for the toe placement.
Knitting toe up: Measure your foot. Subtract the heel length from this measurement, this is how long your foot should be. When your knitting is this long, place your heel yarn.
Set-up Pick up all sts from waste yarn. 56 (64:72) sts.
To avoid gaps where the heel meets the leg it helps to pick up four stitches.
Set-up round M1L, K28 (32:36), M1R, pm, M1L, K28 (32:36), M1R. 60 (68:76) sts.
Round 1 *K1, SSK, knit to 3 sts before mrk, K2tog, K1; rep from * to end of round.
Round 2 Knit.
Rep rounds 1 and 2 until 24 sts remain. Graft the heel closed using Kitchener stitch, as you would for a toe.
If you want to try something a little different, you could knit a star heel. It provides an unusual-looking heel that fits surprisingly well. The heel is divided into four equal sections and four stitches are decreased each round.
Set-up round *K 14 (16:18), pm; rep from * to end of rnd. You should now have four stitch markers in place.
Round 1 *Knit to 2 sts before mrk, K2tog; rep from * to end of rnd. Four stitches decreased.
Round 2 Knit.
Rep rounds 1 and 2 until you have the correct number of stitches for your chosen finish.
Number of decrease rounds for afterthought star heels
This heel can be finished in two ways.
Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until you have 24 sts remaining. Graft the live stitches using Kitchener stitch.
Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until you have 8 sts remaining. Pull the yarn through the remaining stitches to close the heel.
- If you need more room in your heel, try working the heel over 60% of the total number of stitches instead of the standard 50%.
- You can lengthen the heel by working a few rounds of knitting before you start the decreases.
- For more of Clare's sock patterns, take a look at Sock Anatomy.
Main image: socks with an afterthought wedge heel from The Knitter issue 62
Want to try another sock heel method? Take a look at our short-row heels tutorial.
Zoe is the launch Editor of Gathered.how. She has over a decade of craft publishing experience under her belt. She's a quilter and sewist who works with the UK’s best-selling craft magazines including Today’s Quilter, Love Patchwork & Quilting, Simply Sewing and The World of Cross Stitching. Zoe loves being immersed in Gathered’s quilting content, tweaking our tutorials and publishing new patterns. Zoe has previously written for radiotimes.com, Simply Knitting and The World of Cross Stitching and was previously Deputy Editor of Papercraft inspirations magazine. She has guest-lectured at Bath Spa University. She’s a keen quilter with 5 projects in progress at any one time and another 12 or so planned.