Thursday Sock-a-long: Afterthought Heels

Hi friends, and happy Thursday from Kapiti Coast! My Marigoldjen Socks are just a smidge (and by smidge, I mean one row of kitchener stitch) away from being done.  Over the weekend, I put afterthought heels in them and took some pictures of the process, which I thought I’d share with you.  This is by no mean a full tutorial, but it’ll give you some sense of how easy they are to work if you’re thinking about trying them out!

The last few pairs of socks I’ve knit, I’ve done afterthought heels.  I started doing them because I wanted to knit socks two at a time, and I thought it’d be easier to not have to worry about how to work two heels at the same time.  I think they’re great for a couple of reasons:

  • Versatility: you work them the same way regardless of whether your sock has been knit toe-up or top-down.
  • Portability: afterthought heels are great if you’re knitting your socks on the go, because you just knit a tube with a toe, and insert the heel after the fact!
  • Ease: there’s no picking up gusset stitches! (or turning of heels, or short rows, or, did I mention you don’t have to pick up gusset stitches!)  You just decrease stitches in the exact same way you do for the toe of a top-down sock.
  • Aesthetics: If you’re working in a self-striping or other self-patterning yarn, your heel won’t interrupt the yarn sequencing on the front of foot.
  • Wear: if you tend to wear holes in your heels, afterthought heels are suuuuper easy to replace.

The downside to afterthought heels is there’s no gusset.  If you have flat feet like me, then that’s no problem.  But if you have really high arches, you might find the lack of gusset compromises fit. (For an awesome round up of sock info, where I found out about the gusset-arch connection, check out this post from Mason Dixon Knitting. And save it so you don’t, er, spend ten minutes googling around every time you want to refer to it!)

Ok, let’s get down to it.  Here’s what you’ll need to put your afterthought heel in:  P6262884.JPG

Two circular needles in the same size you’ve knit your sock in, a tapestry needle and the yarn you’re knitting your heel in (oops, forgot to put that in the picture!) Flowers: optional.

To create an afterthought heel, you’re going to unravel waste yarn that you placed in the sock when you were knitting it.

How do you know where to put the waste yarn? — you might ask.  Super simple! When knitting your socks, when you’ve reached your desired foot/cuff length (for toe-up/top-down) you take a bit of waste yarn, and knit across half of your stitches.  This was a 60 stitch sock, so I knit thirty stitches with waste yarn.  Once you’ve done that, you just go back to where your working yarn is, and keep knitting as if nothing’s happened.

Here’s my sock with the needle pointing toward my row of orange waste yarn.  It’s a little hard to see since my sock yarn is so multi-colored!


And here’s what it looks like on the wrong side.:


Ok, right, we have our sock, here’s how I like to get my heel stitches ready to knit.  First, pull the tail of the waste yarn out to the right side if it’s not there already.  Then, with the sock lying flat, take one of your circular needles and, working from right to left, insert the tip of your needle into the right leg of the stitch below the waste yarn, like so:


You’ll pick up as many stitches as you knit with the waste yarn.  So I picked up 30 stitches.  Easy, right?  When I’ve done one side, I just rotate the sock 180 degrees, and repeat with the second circular needle (you could also magic loop, if you’re so inclined):

Just like the first side! Except you can see where I’ve picked up the first 30

Make sure you pick up the same number of stitches on the second side.  So I picked up another 30, for 60 total – the same number as my sock cuff had.  I love how neat and tidy all those numbers are!

60 stitches picked up, 30 on each needle.

Now, you’re ready to unravel that waste yarn — starting with your tail and using the tapestry needle, unpick the yarn from your picked up heel stitches:

2016-06-26 10.37.53.jpg

I find this part particularly satisfying!

Some people suggest that you just unravel the waste yarn and then put your live stitches on the needle, but I like doing it this way — it means you have your stitches secure on the needle before you ever unravel, so you don’t have to worry about pesky dropped stitches!

When you’re done unpicking, you’ll have your heel stitches ready for knitting in the round:


Join whatever yarn you’re using for your heel, and knit one round even.  You’ll probably need to pick up a stitch or two where the two circular needles meet to avoid holes.  In my case, I picked up two stitches at each side, bringing my total stitches to 64.


After you knit one row plain, work a decrease round: k1, ssk, knit to last three stitches on needle, k1, k2tog.  Then repeat on second needle.  Then, just as you do for a top-down toe, you’ll continue on, working one plain round and one decrease round until your heel is the desired size.  The great thing is, you can try it on as you go to get the fit that’s perfect for your foot.  I decreased down until I had ten stitches on each circular needle:

2016-06-30 12.03.22.jpg

Then, kitchener your remaining stitches together and you’re done!  Easy peasy, yeah?

The heel might look strangely angular off the needle, but I promise it looks grand and heel-shaped when it’s on your foot!  I’ll share some pictures of the finished socks as soon as I finish my second heel and block them.

As much as I love afterthought heels, since I’ve done them on the last few pairs of socks I’ve made, I think it’s time to try something new!  I’m planning on casting on socks for Mr. N’s dad this weekend, and some more for myself shortly thereafter … do you have a favorite heel method?  If so, I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

There’s a lovely group of bloggers who write about sock knitting on Thursday, and I have enough sock knitting planned for the future that I’ll jump on that bandwagon, if they’ll have me! Alex blogs at Alexand Knits, Paula at Spin a Yarn and Hannah at unsophisticated + jejune.  Go check out their thoughts on socks!  (Though if you’re reading this in the United States and it’s Wednesday, wait one day — I’m a day ahead here in NZ!)



16 thoughts on “Thursday Sock-a-long: Afterthought Heels”

  1. I’ve thought about trying afterthought heels one of these times…great tutorial! I love the colorway you used for these. It has so many great colors incorporated and it looks awesome with the purple and orange accents. Thanks for joining up–I’ll link up with your post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always been a bit leery of an afterthought heel; however you make it so simple! Thank you so much for joining up with our Thursday Sock-A-Long! I love the colors in your yarn and the simplicity of the heel. I think one of my favorite heels is the Eye of the Partridge and I also love the German Short Row Heel; however I really haven’t done enough of them to be sure of my favorite as of yet 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Paula! I’m so happy to have some sock inspiration – I always want to knit more socks, and it’s always being shoved to the back burner. I haven’t tried Eye of Partridge or German Short Row, so I’m adding those to the list!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember my very first sock post and being asked to join. It definitely motivated me to get into sock knitting and trying different methods. I am slow at it because of all the projects on my needles; however really enjoy learning new techniques and patterns. We don’t rush ourselves and are on the quest to find our perfect sock pattern. If you are on Ravelry and would like to friend me, my user name is ftlsweetie 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. That sounds like just my speed! I usually have other projects on the go, and socks are my background knitting. I’m excited to learn some new techniques! (And: friended!)


  3. Hi Katherine! I am so happy we have another sock group member! What a great first post, I learnt so much! Yes, we don’t rush ourselves AT ALL. Haha, I’m super slow – I’m on the same pair of socks since the first day sock group was born. I get a lot out of trying though, and watching the progress of Paula and Alex. Welcome aboard! 🙂 Hannah

    Liked by 1 person

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