How to Knit a Sock Heel and Gusset

Learn how to turn the heel and make gusset decreases on a knitted pair of socks.

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One of the most daunting aspects of knitting a first pair of socks is turning the heel. This task seems to have gained a certain degree of notoriety, but it's a simple process that you can master in no time.

Turning the Heel

Row 1 (WS): P11, P2tog, P1, turn.

Row 2 (RS): Sl 1, K3, SSK, K1, turn.

Row 3: Sl 1, P4, P2tog, P1, turn.

Row 4: Sl 1, K5, SSK, K1, turn.

Row 5: Sl 1, P6, P2tog, P1, turn.

Row 6: Sl 1, K7, SSK, K1, turn.

Proceed in this fashion, increasing by one the number of sts worked before the decrease in each row, until all of the stitches have been worked, finishing with a right side row. You should have 12 stitches on your working needle.

Divide your heel stitches in half, leaving the last 6 sts you just worked on the current needle and sliding the first 6 onto an empty needle.

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With the right side of the work facing you, take the needle holding the leftmost heel stitches, where the yarn is attached, and use the needle and yarn to pick up stitches all along the slipped stitched edge of the heel flap, moving upward toward the cuff, 1 stitch per slipped stitch.

You should have about 12 picked-up sts, but if your heel flap was made shorter or longer than suggested, the number of picked-up sts will vary accordingly.

Take an empty needle and continue knitting across the first needle with 10 stitches that have been "resting" all this time.

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With a new needle, continue across the remaining 10 resting stitches. You should now be at the other (empty) side of the heel flap, with an empty needle in your hand.

Proceed down the heel flap by picking up stitches just as you did for the other side, except now you are working from the cuff downward and starting with an empty needle. Pick up the same number of sts that you did on the other side, then continue across the 6 live stitches that are waiting on the last needle (the ones remaining from the section where you turned the heel).

You should now have a tube again: the two instep needles will have 10 sts each, as they have from the beginning, and two needles will have more stitches because you’ve picked up all those stitches from the sides of the heel flaps.

Gusset Decreases

With the tube, start working stockinette st in rounds, using all five needles. The needle that starts at the center bottom of the heel as you work around is Needle 1, and so on, with the needle that ends at the center bottom of the heel being Needle 4. (The fifth needle is your working needle.)

Round 1: K6, K tbl of remaining sts on Needle 1; K across Needle 2 and Needle 3; on Needle 4, K tbl until 6 sts remain, K6.

Round 2: K until 3 sts remain on Needle 1, K2tog, K1; K across Needle 2 and Needle 3; on Needle 4, K1, SSK, knit to end.

Round 3: Knit

Repeat rounds 2 and 3 only until all four needles have 10 sts each on them again (for example, the original number of sts that you had for the cuff, evenly divided among your four needles).

After completing the gusset decreases, continue working in stockinette in rounds until the foot of the sock is about seven inches (measured from the back of the heel), or about two inches shorter than your desired finished length.

If you're making the sock for yourself, you can try it on while it's still on the needles. Make sure the stitches are pushed in far enough from the needle tips so they won’t fall off as you carefully pull the sock onto your foot. The toe shaping will use the same two decreases you used for the heel – just more of them.

Toe Decreases

Round one: Needle 1, knit to last 3 sts, knit 2 together, knit 1; Needle 2, knit 1, SSK, knit to end; Needle 3, knit to last 3 sts, knit 2 together, knit 1; Needle 4, knit 1, SSK, knit to end.

Round 2: Knit

Repeat these two rounds until you are down to 12 sts total, then K across Needle 1 only and stop. Adjust the remaining sts onto two needles, so that the top and bottom (of the foot) rows of stitches are parallel and the yarn is hanging at the end of the needle holding the sole sts. Cut yarn, leaving about a 10" to 12" tail.

Graft the toe together using Kitchener stitch, as follows:

1. Hold the two needles one in front of the other, with the tail of the yarn attached to the back needle (it should be hanging from the right end of the line of stitches from your current point of view).

2. With a tapestry needle, feed the tail purlwise through the rightmost st on the front needle. Pull yarn through and leave the st on the needle.

3. Insert needle knitwise through the rightmost st on the back needle. Pull yarn through and leave the st on the needle. (Make sure you are feeding the yarn from front to back and vice versa underneath your needles, and not lifting the yarn over the top of the needles or otherwise creating extra loops.)

4. Insert needle knitwise through the rightmost st on the front needle and then slip that st off the needle. Insert needle purlwise through the next st on the front needle. Pull yarn through and leave st on needle.

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5. Insert needle purlwise through rightmost st on back needle and then slip that st off the needle. Insert needle knitwise through the next stitch on back needle. Pull yarn through and leave st on needle.

6. Repeat rows 3 and 4 only until all sts on both needles have been grafted together and slipped off the needles. Feed yarn through the last loop, then through to the inside of the sock and weave in the end.

Your toe should look completely seamless.

If you don’t want to graft your toe, you can decrease your toe sts down to 8 total, then cut your yarn, feed it through those 8 sts while removing the needles, then pull the yarn tight like a drawstring bag. Feed yarn to inside of toe and weave in end securely.

Weave in any remaining ends.

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