The Flap Heel: Gussets Come and Go

So where were we? Oh yeah, you just turned a heel. Don’t you feel clever now? I always do.

Anyway, now that you’ve got a nice heel, we need to connect it back up with the rest of your stitches to make a tube again. But the long sides of that heel flap are in the way. Annoying! We’ll get rid of them by making them into a gusset.

So if you haven’t already, knit across all your heel stitches. Now your working yarn and needle are right next to the edge of the heel flap, which has all those chain stitches along the edge so conveniently waiting to be picked up. You will pick up and knit each one of them. Here’s how you pick up and knit:

Stick your left needle into one side of the “V” of the chain stitch closest to your right needle. (It doesn’t matter which side of the “V” you pick up. Just be consistent.)

Then, knit into it! See, that wasn’t so hard. If you find that your picked up stitches are leaving an unsightly line of holes , that’s because your chain stitches are kind of loose. It happens sometimes. You can fix this by, when you pick up and knit, knit into the back of the stitch you pick up. This twists your picked-up stitches and makes them tighter, closing the hole.

Now you’ve picked up all the chain stitches (This should equal half the rows in your heel flap, e.g. 32 rows of heel flapping = 16 picked-up chain stitches). Your needle has now reached the rest of the leg stitches that are still on the needle, that have been waiting patiently all this time to rejoin the party. However, if you get too eager and just start knitting on them, there will be an unsightly hole in between your gusset and the stitches on the front of your leg/top of foot (most patterns call these the “instep” stitches; this bothers me). You can fix this by picking up an extra stitch in between the gusset and instep stitches called the “ditch stitch.”

There are supposedly “methods” to do this “ditch stitch”; I’ve never actually read any, so here’s the method I came up with. Right next to your right needle right now there is an enormous gap – so big you can actually see a ladder of stitches decreasing into the gap. yipes! I pick up the second ladder down, twist it, then pull the first ladder through it, as if I was picking up a dropped twisted stitch. The result looks like this before you knit into it.

Do knit into it. Then work across your instep stitches, pick up another ditch stitch, and pick up the chain stitches around the other side of the heel flap.

Congratulations! You now have a heel flap, a turned heel, and a re-joined tube ready to become the foot of your sock. However, you have a new problem – what with all those gusset stitches, your tube is WAY bigger than it was when it was just going around your leg. You need to get that stitch count back down to previous leg levels, because most of your foot is about the same circumference as the bottom of your leg. This will happen by slowly and sneakily getting rid of those gusset stitches.

Here’s how it works: Every other round (and at this point, rounds generally start at the middle of the bottom of your foot. Don’t ask me why), you’re going to decrease a gusset stitch right before and after the instep stitches. First you’ll come across the right gusset on the right side of the instep stitches,

Then the left. The tricks to slick-looking gusset decreases are to (a) use opposite leaning decreases on either side of the foot (Usually right-leaning on the right side and left-leaning on the left), (b) decrease every other round or every third round, and (c) decrease right next to the instep stitches, but don’t decrease the instep stitches themselves. When you’re done it’ll look like this:

Not obvious enough? Here’s a “diagram”

Get it? Good! You know you’re done decreasing when you have the same number of stitches as you did back in the leg portion before we started all this mess. Then you can just toodle down the rest of the foot (It’ll go really fast at this point), do a toe, and bob’s your uncle, you have a sock. Glory in your success.

“Clockings” or “Stockings with Clocks” from Folk Socks by Nancy Bush. Yarn: Pace by Universal Yarn Company, 2.5 balls. Needles: Addi Turbo 32″ US 1 (which are secretly US 1.5, if you care).

Review of pattern: Loved it. The details were terrific, and turned a sock you might think was boring into a craftperson’s delight. I’ve reinforced the heels now, so I can be confident they’ll last me a while. My nitpicks: I found that I was instructed to stop and do the toe rather too early. These barely fit my feet lengthwise, but I’m not going to fuss about it right now. Also, I did the round toe the opposite way on the opposite foot because symmetry makes me happy (see below).

Review of yarn: I really hate to say bad things about any yarn at all (and I’m sure it will take its revenge by garroting me in my sleep), but… Do not buy this yarn unless you value your wallet way more than your fingers. It’s rough. For some reason I was knitting really tight on these socks; I’m not really sure why. If you’re lighter on the yanking, you might be fine. But I got what I paid for, which was what mattered to me at the time! What with my impending scholastic poverty, I may very well find myself using it again. I’ll just…. put a bandaid over my right ring finger first to prevent callousing.

June socks done! Done and loved. Shown with new Birks, bought expressly for the purpose of having comfy sock-showing-off sandals. Priorities.

9 thoughts on “The Flap Heel: Gussets Come and Go

  1. Huzzah for shoes that show off socks! I am seriously thinking about coming up with a few awesome heel patterns for my next pair or two (or five! let’s not be stingy!). Must find good charts. Did you block these socks?


  2. no, I didn’t block them yet. I don’t have blockers… certainly none this long! tho next time i’m in a place with rigid placemats they will be purchased and appropriated for sock block manufacture. because I will DEFinitely need to block the next pair.

    yay for awesome heel patterns. pictures! Heck there are enough stitches in a heel flap that i bet you could use patterns for like dishcloths and things to be miniaturized on a heel.


  3. If you have the time and patience, I’d greatly appreciate your help. I’m knitting a single Socks with Clocks (for my husband’s Christmas stocking – a “priest’s sock,” as he calls it) from Folk Socks by Nancy Bush. I haven’t knit many socks, but so far so good. However, now I’m ready to start the heel flap and am completely flummoxed. For the life of me, I can’t figure out which 34 sts go on N #1 and which 34 sts go on N #2 just before I “Divide For Heel” (p. 72.) I don’t understand what’s refered to as the “seam line.” All six “seam pattern” sts? Where are these six sts placed on the needles? How can six sts be placed “between N #1 and N #2? Must needs they be either all on one needle or the other, or are three sts on the beginning of N #1 and three sts on the end of N #2? I’m sure there is a mortifingly obvious explanation, causing me to immediately run out and stick my head in the snow and stay there. Any help or suggestions are greatly, fondly appreciated. All the best to you!


  4. Hi Theresa! I don’t usually use those needle #1, #2, #3 type instructions. But I can tell you that you will want all of your heel flap stitches on one needle, with your six seam stitches exactly in the middle. The “seam stitches” are the patterning that’s been at the beginning and end of every round since the ribbing, where the calf decreases were. Those will be at the back of the leg, so they are in the middle of the heel flap. So if your heel flap is supposed to be 34 stitches wide, you should have one needle with the 14 stitches before the seam, 6 seams stitches, and 14 stitches after the seam. If the math worked out right, the heel flap should come right to the middle of the clocks on each side. You can divide the rest of the stitches for the instep (front of the foot) on 2 other needles however you like.

    Hope that helps!


    1. Hi Clare! These are “Socks with Clocks” I believe; I do know they are the first pair in Nancy Bush’s book Folk Socks, which includes this and other types of toes in the introduction. (I think this one is called the round toe.)


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