Socktober 2022: A Hele Heel Turn Variation

The heel flap, heel turn, and gusset of Hele Socks, knit in a pink and white Sock Kit called Rose Canyon

It seems like only yesterday when I was knitting my first pair of socks and could not for the life of me figure out how to knit a Heel Flap. It was quite the challenge to learn a sock pattern when I barely knew how to read ANY knitting pattern. And then the Heel Turn, with those short row decrease segments! Whether you call it practice, persistence, determination, or sheer obstinance, learning Heel Flap and Turn construction was a top priority. … And look at me now, eh?

The heel flap, heel turn, and gusset of Hele Socks, knit in a pink and white Sock Kit called Rose Canyon

The Hele sock I’m knitting (by the way, this yarn set has me SWOONING. I am going to have to order another set) has a somewhat classic Heel Flap and Heel Turn—it’s called a Round Heel aka French Heel. It’s smooth and… well, round (lol) at the very bottom, back edge of your heel. It suits my feet, though sometimes I’ll swap it out for a Dutch Heel.

Heel Turn Adjustment

Swap it out, you say?

I meet so many knitters who never really thought about swapping out their heel or toes of the socks they’re knitting. Not a bad thing, certainly, but when socks come a “standard” way (i.e.: Round Heel + Wedge Toe for the norm), it can frustrate for the sock wearer to find a construction that suits their unique arch, heel shape, or toe width.

The heel flap, heel turn, and gusset of Hele Socks, knit in a pink and white Sock Kit called Rose Canyon

For example, let’s say you have a somewhat higher instep. You might benefit from having fewer decreases in the Heel Turn and more decreases/slower rate in the gusset, so allow for that slope. You’d make that change by increasing the number of center stitches at the base of the heel. Let’s peek at Hele’s Heel Turn (using the smallest size) so you can see what I’m talking about:

  • Row 1 (WS): Sl 1, p16, p2tog, p1, turn.
  • Row 2 (RS): Sl 1, k4, ssk, k1, turn.

This sets us up for five stitches in the center of the heel and will cause a final heel stitch count of 17 stitches after all the decreases. Then, when we pick up our gusset stitches and rejoin in the round, we’ll have 76 stitches around the heel arch.

If you were to increase the number of center heel stitches, to something like 9, you’d have 19 stitches after all the Heel Turn decreases, which then sets you up with 78 stitches around the heel arch. 2 stitches don’t look like much, but it comes out to about a ¼ inch difference at eight stitches per inch, which IS a notable difference for the wearer.

Heel Flap Adjustment

You could also work a slightly longer Heel Flap, which then enables you to pick up a few more stitches for the foot gusset. All in all, making a roomier heel zone.

If you have a narrow heel, you can work fewer stitches in the center of the Heel Turn, like three or one.

Heel turns and toe variations

There are, of course, a lot of other Heel Flap/Turn variations and I go over some of them in my new School of SweetGeorgia Course. In Heel & Toe Variations for Top-Down Socks, I deconstruct four heels and four toes and why you’d choose them: Round, Dutch, German, and Half-Handkerchief. I encourage you to check it out and discover a new-to-you variation to suit your unique style and fit.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep cruising on these socks and hopefully finish up the toes before next Tuesday! I can’t wait to see the finished results in Rose Canyon. See you next week!


About Tabetha Hedrick

Tabetha Hedrick, Design Director for SweetGeorgia Yarns, lives by the belief that joy comes when fully participating in the present moment. And that joy is ever so easy to find when immersed in the world of fibre! When not knitting, writing, editing, or researching, she fills the time raising two girls, two dogs, and one husband in Tennessee.

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