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.

Introducing the Banded Expanded Short Row Heel

I like to have a plain vanilla pair of socks on my needles as a ready-to-carry project.  Toe up.  Judy’s Magic Cast On.  2-at-a-time Magic Loop.  Fit as you go.  Tubular bind off.  Boom!

My latest go-to heel has been Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato Heel — smooth, easy to remember and execute, no gaps or weak spots. What’s not to love!  But because this heel is very rounded, without modification it may be too snug on those with a high instep or prominent heel.  My latest pair of socks in progress was intended for someone with just this problem  trait, so I postponed a final decision on the heel as I knit up the foot (-er, feet).

Inspiration works in mysterious ways!  I awoke one morning with a bad case of vertigo, the room spinning around and around me.   As I waited for the appropriate medication to kick in, I braced myself upright in a chair as rigidly as possible to help the swirling to settle down, which is how I came to be staring at the side of my ankle for forty-five minutes.  And without consciously thinking about knitting or sock heels, I realized somewhere along the way that I had figured out just what I needed to do to make a heel that fits perfectly.

My Banded Expanded Short Row Heel starts just like the first wedge of a Sweet Tomato Heel, but adds pairs of increases along the bottom of the foot, thus expanding the heel the exact amount needed.  Then several rounds are worked even to create a diagonal band around the heel where the foot bends.  After that, ever longer short rows are worked to make a wedge that is the reverse of the first (just like any traditional short row heel), while decreasing off the stitches which were added previously.

I now have a new go-to heel!  (And you can, too, as soon as I get the instructions written up.  Stay tuned….)

socks 0731

When the going gets tough, the tough get blogging?

Friends have been trying to convince me to start blogging about my knitting explorations for a long time now, and I have finally relented.  I love knitting, I love thinking about knitting and moreover I love teaching knitting.  I have taught in my LYS for a few years now, but that opportunity may be soon coming to an end.  Well, as they say, when God closes a door, he opens a browser window — or something like that!

I begin this little enterprise fully aware that this may be nothing more than a high tech way for me to talk to myself.  I’m OK with that.

But if you happen to have stumbled upon my postings actually hoping to find useful tips and insights into knitting, I’ll try not to disappoint!

Let me know how I’m doing!

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