Socks: Short Row Heels without Holes

WordPress told me yesterday that that was my eight year anniversary! So long.

Finally got to be able to share the information below with you all.

This post is especially for anyone who likes to make their socks with short row heels which involve wrapping stitches but find they have a problem with holes appearing where they go back to circular knitting.

The general advice in this post which is basically to go back to circular knitting when you knit up the last of the wrapped stitches on the knit row and to leave the last wrapped stitch on the purl row till you get to it. This applies to any similar method of wrapping stitches for short rows as it is about proximity.

My Story

In the beginning I decided that toe up socks with short row toes and heels seemed to be something I could manage, rather than top down socks with picking up stitches for flap heels and grafting the toes which I knew I would be hopeless at.

And there was a pattern that I found to help me on my way by Wendy Johnson.  An archive version can be found HERE.

When describing the process of creating short row heels towards the end she says: “on your first round, you may want to pick up an extra stitch or two between the “live” stitches and the stitches you left on a needle for the instep, to close up any holes there might be there.”

Now as someone who likes exact instructions I did not find this advice very comfortable but it was all I had and indeed there did seem to be a tendency for a hole to develop when combining the stitches of the short row part with the stitches that had been left to one side. So I tried each time I made a sock to do this neatly.

However

I often found that my attempts at closing the holes only made matters worse and struggled to get a satisfactory result. And so I searched for a fool proof, follow each time, method that would be more suited to my temperament.

I did discover two things along the way that helped.

  1. When wrapping stitches, pull the yarn firmly while making the next few stitches to ensure that the wrap is short and tight.
  2. Put the stitches from the front of the sock, that are left while doing the short rows, on a length of lightweight plastic and not on a heavy metal needle. This ensures that the adjoining stitches do not get stretched.

I have now found the final part of the puzzle and I am ready to share it with you

I realised eventually that a large part of the problem was because when you combined the short row stitches with the stitches that had been left to one side you were actually jumping rows, as it were, and the stitches no longer followed on from each other.

However I also realised that the first wrapped stitch from the first knit row was actually adjacent to the retained stitch that you would later knit into. However you would be doing this when you had knitted two more rows. (These rows being the final purl row and then the knitting back before moving onto the retained stitches.) This seemed to be part of the reason for getting a hole.

It is also the case that the first stitch wrapped at the end of a purl row is the one adjacent to the retained stitches.

So the answer was to move back onto the retained stitches straight after you knit the last of the now double wrapped stitches on the knit row.

This only leaves the problem of what to do when you encounter the last of the stitches wrapped on the purl rows which you meet when you have knitted up all the stitches you had put to one side but of course with the wraps in the wrong position as they precede the stitch.

If you have made these wraps nice and tight you should find you can lift them gently onto the needle ahead of the stitch and then knit all three loops together.

With my latest socks, confident in what I was doing, this has worked very well – and no holes!

Here you can see what I mean.

Right side of heel
right side of heel

Left side of heel left side of heel

Here are some photographs to illustrate the process

I used a piece of orange crochet thread to show where the adjacent stitches are. Ideally I should have added the thread before I wrapped any stitches as I had to reposition the thread later after the first photographs and ended up stretching the stitches more than I would normally. However I didn’t want to wait to the next pair of socks to show you this technique.

Before starting the short rows the stitches for the front of the sock are put on one side. I like to use a bit of scoubidou as anything heavy tends to stretch the stitches at the ends.

The stitches for the heel are put on a straight needle.

I took these photographs half-way through the heel.

Here you can see the stitches at the right hand end. The adjacent stitches at linked together with the orange thread.

After putting the stitches on a straight needle, the stitch on the left was knitted after the one on the scoubidou then on the second (purl) row it was wrapped.

At the other end of the straight needle

This stitch was the last on the straight needle, it was adjacent to the one on the scoubidou and was wrapped without being knitted. This was the first stitch that was wrapped.

For the second half of the construction of the short row heel all except the last (that is the most recent) two wrapped stitches are wrapped again.

This is that last stitch that you double wrap at the end of a purl row. It is important to make extra sure that this stitch is wrapped firmly.For the next (knit) row, when you get to the last stitch (that is the first stitch that was wrapped on the first knit row) it will have two wraps,as shown here.

See below the pale blue and dark blue wraps on the white stitch on the grey needle.

When you have knitted this stitch together with its wraps, this is the moment to put the stitches on the straight needle back onto your circular or double pointed needles.

If using a circular needle put the stitches on the scoubidou onto a straight needle, with the end where the yarn is. Otherwise they can go onto double ended needles.

Now you knit up the retained stitches and are back to circular knitting. For the first few stitches if the retained stitches have stretched a bit towards the ends, pulling each stitch as you knit it will move any excess yarn back to the middle stitches.

When you get to the last of the retained stitches, the next one is that stitch wrapped at the end of the last purl row.

Here the wraps will be in front of the stitch.

Pull the wraps up gently onto the left hand needle leaving them to the right of the stitch.

Then knit them in the normal way.

From now on you should be able to continue with circular knitting and not have to worry about holes.

Unlike the first sock, because I had struggled to tie in the orange thread the end stitch had got rather stretched. However by working from the wrong side towards the once retained stitches it is possible to pull the excess yarn stitch by stitch towards the centre.

Here you can see them later on. Not quite as good as the other heel but acceptable.

The other side was fine. If you are fond of creating short row heels by wrapping the stitches, I hope you have found this helpful.

5 thoughts on “Socks: Short Row Heels without Holes

  1. Very neat! I’ve never enjoyed knitting socks, mainly because I struggle with the circular needles. I have done them on DPNs though. Stupidly I’m currently using a circular needle to knit in the flat as I couldn’t find my normal needles in the right size!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had always thoughts that DPNs were the normal go to for socks. I just am not happy using them. But I had a friend once who didn’t like circular needles said it was the way her fingers went. I probably prefer straight needles for flat knitting but the extra length circulars allow you can be useful.

      Liked by 1 person

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