First Socks, then Heels

My Arizona raised Grandgirls are facing their first Utah winter, so their Grandma, that would be me, is hard at work stitching up some quick and easy wool socks to get them through those frosty early morning treks to the bus stop. When you count them and their two little cousins, there are six Grandkids – that’s twelve chilly little tootsies that need covering, so I’m working on some easy vanilla socks to keep them cozy. In the process, I’ve gotten a little lesson in knitting socks with afterthought heels, which I thought I might share with you, Crafty Friends.

The great thing about afterthought heels is that they’re put in after the fact, which gives you miles of knitting plain stockinette little tubes before you have to go back and worry about all the bother of heels. I can knit away on my little tubes during my lunch hour, while watching movies in the evenings and while waiting in lines. It’s amazing the amount of tubes I can turn out when I don’t have to pay much attention.

Knitting Tube Socks with Afterthought Heels

Of course, there is some planning to do before cast on. I’m making socks for children aged about one year, up to fifteen. Foot size charts to the rescue! I use this handy one from the Yarn Council. It covers a variety of sizes, but hey – knitting is stretchy…there’s some room to work with. You can go by age or shoe size, but given that my Grandgirls seem to have giant feet for their ages, it’s probably safer to go to the trouble to get the shoe size of your recipient. That will give you some important information, such as the circumference and length of the person’s foot.

Knitting Socks with Afterthought Heels

waste yarn in place for afterthought heels

When you know your gauge, or the number of stitches per inch you knit in the yarn/needle combo you’ll use, then you’re golden. Just multiply your number of stitches per inch by the desired circumference to get the number of stitches to cast on. I round that number up or down to the nearest number divisible by four for easiest decreasing of heel and toe.  Next, I cast on my stitches using a very stretchy cast on, (the Twisted German Cast On is my favorite for socks), and work ribbing for an inch or two before knitting the leg of the sock to about 2 inches less than the desired length. There’s suggested lengths for each size in that handy foot size chart I referred to earlier. Then knit half your stitches onto waste yarn, holding a place for your afterthought heel. Work those same stitches again with the working yarn and keep blissfully and mindlessly knitting the foot part of your little tube until you’re about 3 1/2 inches away from the final length you want the foot of the sock to be. At that point you can decrease the toe of the sock down to your desired number of stitches and graft the toe closed. Finally, you’ll add the heel by picking up the stitches above and below the waste yarn before pulling it out to create the opening for the heel.

Knitting Socks with Afterthought HeelsAs for knitting the heel itself, you proceed in much the same way as decreasing a toe. The Knitgirllls have a fabulous video tutorial for a basic afterthought heel. Laura Linneman, LaLa of the Knitgirllls, also created the Afterthought Heel Sock pattern, which is an excellent reference I recommend you refer to the first time you make a pair. Once you’ve done it, the simplicity of it will no doubt stick with you and you can do it anywhere – without a pattern reference.

And just when you thought sock knitting couldn’t get any easier – if you want to pay even less attention while you’re knitting your tubes, Emily B. Miller of Skyline Chilly has created A Sock Surgeon’s Afterthought Heel Pattern that teaches you how to snip a stitch in your tube in just the right spot to insert your afterthought heel, avoiding the need to mark the row with waste yarn. If you find cutting your knitting scarey, breathe deeply and slowly into this paper bag, Crafty Friends, she even created a youtube video to walk you through the process. I’ve almost gathered my courage to try that pattern/tutorial next. Imagine the freedom from all those pesky measurements, allowing you to lose yourself completely in meditative tubular bliss!

Knitting Socks with Afterthought Heels

Knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit…



  1. Andrea says

    I’ve been playing around with afterthought heel socks lately too. I realized while knitting some baby socks that if you knit 4 and then don’t put heels in one pair, you get a matching pair of newborn mittens 😉

    So sweet of you to knit socks for your grand kids (knitting grandmas are the best, I still miss mine)

    Andrea (bluej2009)

  2. says

    How flattered I was to sit down this morning with a cup of coffee and see my name mentioned on y’all’s blog. The socks look wonderful, you have some very lucky grandchildren!

    • Mom says

      Thank you Laura! 😀 I love knitting for the Grandkids. I’m lucky enough to have Grandkids that looove whatever Grandma makes them too. My little three year old Grandson put on the last slippers I knit him and ran around the house sliding on his knitted feet, saying “AWESOME!” 😀

  3. says

    What a cool (read, “scary”) tutorial on performing sock surgery, lol! Afterthought heels are next on my list of things to learn.. and then maybe I’ll be brave enough to perform some surgery of my own!

    • Mom says

      I’m with you, Carrie! Maybe we’ll dive in together. I’m sure as soon as we make that first snip, we’ll find there was nothing to fear. :-)

  4. NanGreen says

    Thank for this article. I love socks and being able to knit them myself but the stress point has always been the heel. I am going to try this!

    Also, I could not get your Pinterest link to work and I wanted to share with my fellow Pints so I used my own app. Hope that is OK?

    • Mom says

      It’s more than okay, Nan! Thanks for pinning. :-) Hope the afterthought heel solves the problem – I love doing socks this way!


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