How To Use This Class, Prerequisites, Materials

Lesson 1
The Pattern

Lesson 2
Planning Your Socks

Lesson 3
Cast On, Cuff, Leg

Lesson 4
Sherman Heel

Lesson 5
Foot, Sherman Toe

Lesson 6
Kitchener Stitch

More Ideas
The Not-So-Basic Ribbed Sock

Tips & Tricks
2 Socks on 2 Circulars, Heel Gaps, Kitchener Points, Using Markers

Basic Ribbed Socks

Lesson 4: Sherman Heel

Many sock patterns center the heel of the sock at the beginning of the round. A center back seam is more important for socks that utilize colorwork than plain ones like ours, but it's a good habit to start so we'll center our heel at the join, too.

Before actually beginning the heel, we're going to work a bit of stockinette above where the heel will go. This makes the sock more comfortable in shoes, as ribbing can be bulky at the back of the heel.

Let's go back to your chart and fill in the boxes for "Rounds before heel", "Unworked heel stitches", and "Unworked toe stitches" with the suggested values (1/10 C, 1/6 C, and 1/6 C respectively). My chart now looks like:

Leg Diameter (inches)
Gauge (st/inch)
Reduction (%)
Number of Stitches
to Cast On
D x Gs x R = C
Foot Length
Gauge (rows/inch)
Miter Length
Number of Rounds
for Foot
Gr x (L - 2 M) = F
Ribbing Pattern k2p2
Ribbing Repeat
(number of stitches)
4 stitches On first round,
start ribbing with
Cast on method Twisted German
Rounds for Leg/Cuff
Rounds before heel
1/10 C
Unworked heel stitches
= 1/6 of C
Rounds for Foot   = C - 2 (or F)
Rounds in Plain Stockinette before toe   = 2
Unworked toe stitches
= 1/6 of C

Now reorganize the stitches on your needles, if necessary, to divide the heel and instep stitches:

If you are using 4 dpns, put the first 1/4 of your stitches on needle 1, the next 1/2 on needle 2, and the final 1/4 on needle 3. Needles 1 and 3 hold your heel stitches and needle 2 holds your instep stitches.

If you are using 5 dpns, place 1/4 of your stitches on each of 4 needles. Needles 1 and 4 hold your heel stitches and needles 2 and 3 hold your instep stitches.

If you are using 2 circulars, place the first 1/4 and last 1/4 stitches on needle 1 and the remaining 1/2 on needle 2. Needle 1 holds your heel stitches and needle 2 holds your instep stitches.

If you are using the Magic Loop method, move your loops to 1/4 and 3/4 of the way around the sock.

For all methods, the beginning of round marker is at the center of the heel stitches.

On your last leg round, continue the ribbing 3/4 of the way around your sock. At this point, there should be a needle change (or a loop if you are doing Magic Loop). Abandon the ribbing pattern and knit to the end of the round.

At the beginning of the next round, knit 1/4 of the way around your sock. At this point there should be a needle change (or a loop if you are doing Magic Loop) marking the beginning of your instep stitches. Continue your ribbing pattern across the instep stitches (middle 1/2 of your round).

Finish this round as you finished the last round of the leg: knit the last 1/4 stitches. You have now completed 1 heel round. Continue this way until you have completed 1/10 C rounds. End at the beginning of the round, in the center of your heel stitches. Your sock should now look something like this:

Leg done, about to start heel.

In the photo, my sample sock is folded in profile. The marker you see halfway down the leg marks the beginning of the round.

Now we're ready to begin a Sherman Heel. The Sherman Heel is one of several types of short row heels. Short row heels are easy to learn because they require no additional shaping; you just insert them at the appropriate place, then continue knitting.

Short row heels are characterized by a diagonal line going from the ankle to the widest part of the heel. This diagonal line is sometimes referred to as a miter line.

Short row heels are sometimes maligned because they can be a challenge to execute correctly. Knitters complain of gaps at the end of the miter line at the ankle or along the miter line itself. The Sherman Heel virtually eliminates those gaps. It's an excellent heel for beginners to learn because there are no yarn overs and only 2 wraps, and even a sloppily done Sherman Heel looks great.

Directions for the Sherman Heel were posted to the Socknitters Yahoo! Group by Mary Lycan. You'll need to join the Socknitters group in order to view the instructions, but this is a Good Thing. You can set yourself up to receive no mail and still have full access to the Socknitters mail archive.

You'll find the Sherman Heel directions at Take a few minutes to read through the directions, keeping in mind that we may need to alter them a bit to fit your sock. Note that Mary wrote her directions as a sock pattern, starting from the toe. That's okay - short row heels are done the same way whether your sock is knit from the cuff down or the toe up.

If your C value is 52, you are in luck! You can use Mary's directions exactly as they are. If not, you'll have to modify Mary's directions to work with what you've got. (Or click here and I'll do the math for you.)

To modify Mary's directions, rewrite them so that you knit your heel over 1/2 C stitched instead of 26, making your pivot row after there are 1/6 C unworked stitches on your needles between the slipped stitches. Here's how I modified the pattern for my sample sock:

I cast on 60 stitches, so C = 60, 1/2 C = 30, 1/4 C = 15, 1/6 C = 10.

First wrapped row: knit 15 (because we are starting in the middle of the heel), wrap the next stitch per Mary's directions, then turn.

Second wrapped row: purl 30, wrap the next stitch per Mary's directions, then turn.

Row 1 of the heel: slip 1, knit 28. Row 2: slip 1, purl 27. Row 3: slip 1, knit 26. Row 4: slip 1, purl 25. Row 5: slip 1, knit 24.

At this point, I followed Mary's directions exactly.

At Mary's row 15, my heel looked like this:

Halfway through the heel.

You can see that I've got 10 slipped stitches on either side and 10 unworked stitches in the middle.

Then I turned and worked my pivot row: slip 1, purl 8, P enc.

At this point I deviated slightly from Mary's directions. I prefer to slip the first stitch in each row after the pivot row, just as I did before the pivot row. So my next row was similar, but not identical to Mary's row 21: slip 1, knit 8, K enc. After that I followed Mary's directions, but slipping the first stitch on each row instead of knitting or purling it, until row 34, after which I continued with:

Row 35: slip 1, knit 22, K enc.
Row 36: slip 1, purl 23, P enc.
Row 37: slip 1, knit 24, K enc.
Row 38: slip 1, purl 25, P enc.
Row 39: slip 1, knit 13, knit 1 and mark this stitch, knit 12, K enc.

Then I continued knitting in the round, continuing the ribbing pattern over the instep of my sock.

The marked stitch indicated the beginning of the first round after the heel. It lined up with my previous beginning of round marker, and made it easier to count foot rows later on.

Two rounds after the heel was finished, my sock looked like this:

Two rounds after the finished heel.

Did you pick up on the rhythm of the heel? Before the pivot, begin each row with a slip and work one less stitch in each row than you worked in the row before. Pivot on the first wrong side row after you have 1/6 C stitches between slips. After the pivot, you work one more stitch and end each row with a knit or purl encroachment. The pivot row and the last heel row are the only ones that are a little different.

If you are having trouble grasping the Sherman Heel, you are in good company (I did it incorrectly for years before I realized that I was doing the encroachment stitches wrong). Set your ribbed sock aside temporarily and pull out some scrap yarn. Cast on 52 stitches, join, and knit a few rounds in stockinette. Then follow Mary's directions exactly. Somewhere along the way it will "click". If not, send me an email and maybe I can help!

Proceed to next Lesson.