Heel Flaps: lots of options

Knitting socks top down is all hunky-dory and easy as its a simple tube until you get to the heel. That’s when a bit of engineering comes in. You must sufficiently accommodate that part of the human anatomy while also still maintaining comfort. And if you can provide a cushioning or slightly thicker surface for the area because it often develops a hole, even better. My favorite heel configuration when I knit my top down socks is the traditional heel flap. This is knit back and forth so one must abandon knitting in the round for the duration. This heel is a natural extension of the leg and is straightforward to knit and deal with. In a previous post I discussed how to pick up stitches along the edges, a common bugaboo for knitters. Today, I’d just like to discus the composition of the flap itself.

Heel flaps are rarely knit in stockinette, its just too thin of a fabric; it wears through too easily. A popular heel flap pattern is called the Eye of the Partridge (EOP) show below in one of my patterns*. Not sure where that name comes from. It’s quite attractive and many swear by it.

EOP makes a very satisfying alternating pattern that is quite cushiony. It is made by repeating these 4 rows:

Row 1: (RS) [S1, K1] repeat to end of flap.

Row 2: (WS) S1, P remainder of ST 

Row 3: (RS) S2, [K1, S1] repeat to last 2 ST, end K2

Row 4: (WS) S1, P remainder of ST

I find it draws up laterally a bit too much for my taste (making a rather narrow flap), so don’t tend to use it much. But I can certainly admit that it’s pretty.

Here’s another flap pattern that yields a decorative and springy heel. This time the springiness is accomplished by knitting into the back of the stitch. This is a very distinctive heel for sure.

In the pictured sock* I had a lot of lace going on and a fancy cuff. This heel flap fit right in. It was accomplished by working the following 2 rows. This gorgeous icy blue yarn is from WN Yarns (see their link on side of page!).

Row 1: Sl 1  [P1, K1tbl] end P1, TURN

Row 2: Sl 1 [P1tbl, K1] end P1, TURN

Of course, these days, many folks wear hand knit socks that are not stuffed into a shoe or boot and the heel doesn’t have to be quite as functional. If one wears clogs or Birkenstocks, one may even wish to show off one’s fancy-schmancy socks to the world. If that’s the case, then all bets are off and the sky’s the limit. Patterns exist for fair isle motifs on heel flap or even lace motifs as shown below:

My go-to heel flap, however, is the good ole Sl 1, K 1. This produces a cushy flap that is handsome and comfortable.

This one is accomplished by the following 2 rows:

Row 1: (wrong side) S1, P remaining ST, TURN 

Row 2: (right side) [S1, K1] end in a K1, TURN

Could not be easier, eh? Here’s what it looks like from the back. You can see how it gets to be nice and cushiony.

There are more possibilities for heel flaps out there; these are just my favorites. Hope you enjoyed!

*Pattern information: the first sock photo is of a free Ravelry pattern of mine “Running Bond Bricks”. Its a good beginner’s pattern. The pattern for the sky blue lace socks are also available on Ravelry. These are my Ivy Leaf Socks. These are definitely meant for more advanced knitters.

4 thoughts on “Heel Flaps: lots of options

  1. I can’t knit top down socks to save my soul. Picking up the stitches and doing the short row wrap and turn stitches stump me every time. So, I knit my socks toe up. I can do the Fleegle heel with toe up socks and my socks look great. Do you have any toe up sock patterns? If so, would you please provide links to them? I just found your blog and I love reading your posts.

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    1. Hi Linda, no, sorry! I’m a top down gal. Check out my post on picking up stitches; it’s not so bad. I also encourage you to try one of my free patterns. All my heel turns are the same. No wraps! Just SSKs and P2tog. Easy-peasy.

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