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!

Sock It To Me Heel Patterns Glossary

Look at the new blog page! I’ve been so enthralled by the different types of knitted sock heels that it’s time to make a glossary so I can quickly look up.

If you know of any other heels or links I should include, PLEASE leave a comment so I can add it to the page.

I know that I don’t have links to all of the toe-up sites, the grandkids have been here since Wed so I’ve had to squeeze this project into the little time I’ve had.

QHave a crafty day!

Sock It To Me Heels

Heel options. Ravelry: Taina's Kannanottoja

Heel options. Ravelry: Taina’s Kannanottoja:Cuff down: French 1 Dutch 2 Taffy 3 Band 4 heel Shaped common heel 9 Toe-up: French 5 Dutch 6 round 7 Reverse Dutch 8 other Afterthought: sädekavenus 13 Heel edeellä 10 unnamed 11 Afterthought tape 12, Short Rows One wedge heel 14 hourglass 15 Sweet tomato 16

I’ve been on a sock knitting kick since February. Unfortunately, my head injury has slowed me down considerably. If I’m not seeing double, I’m dizzy, both make it hard to knit.  Anyway….. I’ve been introduced to different ways to knit heels. Who knew? It was a sock knitter’s secret.

All of these wonderful names for heels, but what do they look like. The Addicted to Knitting Socks FB group drops these names as if they are old friends. To a newbie socker, such as I, this sock heel key is a wonderful tool. It was posted on FB Knit-N-Purl- Soctober. The chart is downloadable to use as a reference. This is the link to Taina’s Ravelry page where she has the chart, scroll down to the bottom for descriptions and links. Taina also has a wonderful blog, Käsillään. It’s in Finnish but I found links to English sites for the socks.  I know some of the heel patterns shown in the chart are not free. An Internet search did turn up quite a few free instructions.

Onerva Socks picture by © verano

Onerva Socks picture by © verano

I’ve found so many Finnish sock patterns lately. I’m figuring it has to do with the mtDNA (maternal DNA) which leads directly back to Finland. The earliest Finnish female line I have is from the 1500’s. In fact, I just translated the Onerva sock pattern, by Suvi Heikkilä from Finnish into English. I contacted her to see if she wanted the English translation, but have not had a response.

Fish Lips Kiss Heel © Patty-Joy White aka SoxTherapist

Fish Lips Kiss Heel © Patty-Joy White aka SoxTherapist

The wildly popular Fish Lips Kiss Heel, by Patty-Joy White aka Sox Therapist, which is $1.00 on Ravelry, is not shown in the chart. I purchased the pattern, but have not tried it yet.

So, what is your favorite heel? I really need to try more heels. I did knit the French heel in my February socks.

QHave a fun, crafty day!