The Banded Expanded Heel Turn – Part 1

This post assumes that you have a passing familiarity with how to knit socks, or can find elsewhere how to cast on and work a sock from the top down or the toe up.  Regardless of the direction you start, you will reach a point in the middle where the thing has to bend. And for this we need to do a heel turn.

The secret to getting a perfect fit on any foot shape with the Banded Expanded Heel is to take the diagonal ankle measurement.  Place a tape measure around the heel and ankle as indicated by the pink line in the illustration.  The top of the line is the exact middle of the point where your foot bends if you flex it as much as you can.  Record the measurement you get.


While you are looking at your flexed foot, you will notice a wider area where wrinkles of skin form in the bend.  The “band” part of this heel will be about the same width as the wrinkled bend, somewhere between half an inch and an inch.  It’s not real fussy.  The important thing to understand is that the “band” will be centered over that area (that is, centered over the pink line).  So let’s say you have decided to work a band that is one inch wide. That means if you are knitting your sock from the top down, you will need to start your heel when you are half an inch above your personal pink line. If you are knitting toe up, you will start the heel when you are about half an inch below your own pink line. Either way it should be just about where the bendy wrinkles start forming.  (So sorry for using such technical terms.)

  • If you are working your sock top-down, work your cuff and leg patterning as desired, then work about an inch of stockinette to bring you to the point where your ankle starts to bend.
  • If you are working toe-up, work the foot of your sock until it comes up to the point where the ankle starts to bend.

Now for a wee bit of math.

You need to know how many stitches per inch you are knitting. The sock you have knit up to this point is your perfect swatch. PREFERABLY you want to know your stitch gauge when the sock is worn (i.e. stretched). You could  try on what you have and measure from there, or you could measure around the right part of your foot or leg and divide the number of stitches in your sock by that measurement.  (Personally I find math the easier solution.)  You may find, for example, that you are knitting at 9 stitches per inch, but it stretches to only 8 stitches per inch when worn.  Use the stretched figure you come up with.

Multiply your stretched stitch gauge by the diagonal ankle measurement you took earlier.  This will tell you the number of stitches you need to have in the band around your ankle.  Chances are it’s more than the number of stitches already on your needle.  Maybe a LOT more. (I’d be tempted to say if your diagonal ankle measurement is less than your foot or leg measurement, you’ve got more problems than I can solve, but honestly, I don’t have enough experience to be sure.) You might want to subtract a few of those stitches off your total just for luck, since a too loose sock heel is worse than a slightly snug one. You will also want to make sure you are working with an even number, so round down if necessary. Don’t worry too much about the “right” answer. Remember, before you found this post you were probably going to do a heel turn that didn’t increase ANY stitches, so use your best knitterly judgement and make note of the number of stitches you decide on.

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