Reknitting A Sock Heel


The instructions below are for experienced knitters. Most beginners won't be interested in repairing socks with holes. But those of us who do a lot of knitting are always eager for shortcuts. I did quite a bit of browsing to see how someone else might have reknit a heel but I couldn't find anything on the internet. So I decided to share my technique. Here it is.


I have a friend who wears holes in the heels of  her socks. Rather than throw them away I repair them. (We joke about her having a "lifetime guarantee"—she loves to wear the socks and I enjoy knitting them.)

To begin with I salvaged the legs and reknit feet. But that's wasteful—the feet often have another season's wear in them. So I changed to fixing just the heel—first I tried darning the hole but often the hole is too large for a successful darn. Next I tried knitting a patch over the hole, but the sides of the patch created a strain on the sides of the heel and she ended up with holes on the side. I've reinforced the bottom of the heel with a double strand of sewing thread (as you can see if you look closely at the image below) but where the thread ended on the sides left that area vulnerable.

I have finally figured out a way to reknit just the heel itself. I've used two strands of polyester sewing thread along with the yarn (two separate spools) to reinforce the heel. We'll see how well that has worked next spring!

Here's how I do it:

Step 1: Pick up stitches

heel 1

Begin by picking up stitches where the heel begins and across the instep. My sock leg is usually 64 stitches, that means I have 32 stitches for the heel. I pick up 32 stitches at the heel, and 46 (7 + 32 + 7 which includes the gusset on each side) for the instep. I use a darning needle and contrasting colour yarn. I slip just one side of the stitch onto my needle being careful to stay in the same row. I use a separate piece of yarn for the instep—that makes it easier to pull out the yarn once I have the stitches on my needles.

Step 2: Cut Out The Old Damaged Heel

heel 2

Cut out the damaged heel—I leave a couple of rows extra so I don't accidentally cut the stitches on the carrying threads.

Step 3: Unravel extra rows

heel 3

Using a darning needle, carefully unravel the extra rows. This can be a bit time consuming because the yarn may be matted on the inside, and you may have cut across rows. But eventually you'll get down to the stitches on the carrying threads. Be sure to leave yourself a tail of yarn at least 6 inches in length from the unravelling where it meets the stitches on the carrying yarn—you'll need to weave that into the back of the sock when you're done.

Step 4: Pick up heel stitches on needle

heel 4

I use fairly short dp needles, but you can use a circular needle. I pick up half the stitches (16) on one needle and the rest (16) on a second.

Step 5: Pick up instep stitches

heel 5

Now I pick up the stitches from the instep, 23 on one needle, 23 on a second.

Step 6: Knit the heel flap

heel 6

At this point, I put the heel stitches on one needle. I knit what's called "an eclectic heel." I prefer it to the standard “knit 1, skip 1” technique because I like how smooth this one is.  It’s done by knitting “short rows”.

Start by knitting the heel flap—I knit across all 32 stitches, turn the sock, purl back across the 32 stitches. I do this 7 times until I have a heel flap (a total of 14 rows).

Here I'm using a contrasting colour yarn for the new heel, but obviously you can use whatever colour yarn you wish.

Step 7: Turn the heel

heel 7

Once I have 14 rows I start to turn the heel. Knit 2/3 of the heel stitches (I have 32 stitches on my needle so I knit over 21) turn the work and purl back 1/3 (in my case I purl back 11 stitches). At the end of each subsequent row I pick up one stitch and turn; eventually I have all the stitches I began with on the needle.

Then I pick up 7 stitches along one side of the flap, knit the 32 stitches for the front of the foot, then pick up another 7 stitches on the other side of the flap (These 7 stitches on each side of the heel form the heel gusset).

Here are the original detailed instructions:
(My modifications are in red.)

Step 8: Grafting the heel to the instep

heel 8

Now you're ready to attach the remade heel to the instep of the sock. I use what's called a "3-needle castoff" or the "kitchener" stitch. (Here are detailed instructions with photos for doing the grafting stitch) I start with half my heel stitches on one needle, half on the other. Same with the instep. Having all the heel and instep stitches on a single needle is too difficult because you have no way to flex your work.

Hold the needles parallel with the tips pointing in the same direction and the wrong (purl) sides facing inwards.

First you need to "set up" for grafting by performing the following two steps one time: Insert the threaded tapestry needle into the first stitch on the needle closest to you as if to purl and pull it through, leaving the stitch on the needle. Then insert the needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to knit, leaving the stitch on the needle. Pull the yarn through. These first two steps are preparatory and are only done once.

The following four steps are the ones you will repeat until you've worked every stitch on the needles. I usually chant to myself "knit, purl—purl, knit" while grafting and you'll soon see why.

Step 1
Insert the needle into the first stitch on the front needle as if to knit, while slipping it off the end of the needle.

Step 2
Insert the needle into the next stitch on the front needle as if to purl, but this time, leave it on the needle. Gently pull the yarn through.

Step 3
Insert the needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl, and slip it off the end of the needle.

Step 4
Insert the needle into the next stitch on the back needle as if to knit, and leave it on the needle. Pull the yarn through.

Repeat steps 1-4 over and over again. After you've worked a couple of inches, pause [being sure to complete step 4 so you'll know where to begin again] and tighten up the stitches using the end of the tapestry needle to tug at each loose loop in turn, working from the beginning of the join towards the last stitches worked. I find I get a nicer final result when I pull the yarn lightly through the stitches during the process of grafting and then adjust the tension on the yarn to match the gauge of the knitting as closely as possible afterwards.

Keep repeating steps 1-4, pausing to tighten up the stitches now and then until all the stitches are worked.

Step 9: The Finished Heel

heel 9

Turn your work inside out and weave in all yarn ends.
Remove all lint, pilling, fuzzy yarn spots from the sock—I use a garment shaver and a roll of sticky tape.

And you now have a new sock.


By the way, if you're interested in sock heels here's a comprehensive description of the various ways to knit a sock heel:

If that link doesn't work, try here:




Judth is busy as a sock knitter, sewer, singer. To see some of her production click here.