Soldiers’ Socks: Heel-Flaps and Heels


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Published Feb. 9, 1916 in the The Sydney Mail.

Just at the present time the lives of the majority of women are bounded by knitting.  Every worker asks the other how many stitches the casts on for the top of the sock, what sized needles she uses, and the class of wool she prefers. When all this has been satisfactorily explained, the question of heels and toes comes uppermost. One woman swears by the Dutch heel, another by the common or square heel, and a third by the Swiss heel. It is wonderful how many ways there are of turning a heel, and how excited the novice feels when she has negotiated the corners, as it were, with success. Every woman can cast-on and knit round and round for the leg, but the heel is quite another matter. Each worker should acquaint herself with several methods. It is a pity to be tied down to any one style, and after all there is a certain amount of variety even in a small change like this. There are many kinds of excellent heels, some being suited to one kind of foot, others to another. Amongst the number may be mentioned the Dutch or horseshoe heel (to the writer’s idea one of the very best), the French, or round gusset heel, the manufacturers heel, the Balbriggan heel, the square heel, the Swiss, the Welsh, and the Niantic. The last named is to be seen on the majority of machine-knit hosiery; but as it has no gusset it is not as elastic as the other kinds.

The general rule for heels is that when the ankle is reached the stitches are evenly divided, half being used to work on for the heel, the other half left for the instep. But as there are always exceptions each variety of heal will be dealt with in turn. For the Dutch heel the stitches are divided as above. Knit to the seam stitch, purl it, and then knit along for a quarter of the number of stitches on the needles; turn, slip1, and then purl back to the seam stitch; knit this, and then purl for another quarter of the stitches. This will give the exact half for the heel flap, with the seam stitch in the center. The worker must now knit as many rows as there are stitches, as the flap is square. To turn the heel knit to the seam stitch, purl this, and knit 5 more. Take 2 together, and turn. Slip 1, purl to the seam stitch, knit this, purl 5, purl 2 together. Continue these two rows thus until the whole of the stitches are knitted off, and 14 stitches remain for the top of the heel.  

The French heel is eminently suited to the high instep. For this proceed in exactly the same way for the flap as just described for the Dutch heel; but the “turning” is different. Slip the first stitch, knit plain to the seam stitch, purl this, and then knit 1 stitch more, knit 2 together, and knit 1; turn, slip the first stitch, purl 4, purl 2 together, purl 1; turn, slip 1, knit 5 (the seam stitch is now abandoned), knit 2 together, knit 1; turn, slip1, purl 5, purl 2 together, purl 1; turn and continue, knitting 1 stitch more each time so that the heel widens out as the work proceeds, and all the stitches are knitted in. The last row will be a purled one. Knit across, and pick up for the gusset in the usual way. The square heel also requires half the number of stitches, with the seam stitch in the centre. This stitch is then abandoned, and work must be proceeded with (one purl and one plain row) until about three inches of flap are completed. The stitches must be then cast off, and the cast off stitches sewn neatly together. This of course, makes a seam in the middle of the heel; but it should not be uncomfortable if properly sewn. At the same time, this heel is not general for soldiers’ wear, but it is simple to accomplish. The wool is then joined on from the right hand corner of the instep needle. For the manufacturer’s heel proceed in exactly the same fashion, but knit as many rows as there are stitches. Then proceed to shape the flap. Knit to within three stitches of the centre, knit 2 together, knit 1, knit 2 together, and plain to the end. Purl back. Repeat these two rows four times, when cast off and se up. The gusset stitches would be picked up as previously described.

There is a little variety with regard to the Welsh heel. Again half the number of stitches must be arranged on one needle, with the seam stitch in the center, the heel flap consisting once more of as many rows as there are stitches. Then slip 1, knit to within 10 stitches of the seam stitch, then *wool over the needle to make 1, knit 2 together, knit 5, knit 2 together, knit 1, purl the seam stitch, knit 1, knit 2 together; turn, wool over the needle to make 1, then purl to 10 stitches past the seam stitch; turn and repeat for * until all the side stitches are knitted in. Do not make a stitch in the last purl row. There should be 17 stitches when the work is completed. Later on some hints will be given on the finishing of the toes as well as full directions for refooting a sock.

Q – When doing a search for Welsh Heel, this article came up as a hit. I found it quite interesting. In researching old sock knitting patterns, the heels always refer to a “seam stitch”. It appears that pre-knitting-in-the-round, socks would be seamed up at this point. I’ll be discussing the seam stitch in upcoming blogs.

QHave a happy crafty day!

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