Short-row heels are great for simple socks. If youíre knitting for someone with a low arch, socks made with this kind of heel may actually fit better than those with gussets! Also, short-rowing allows for endless versatility and knitting on the fly. The technique is a bit challenging, but once learned, youíll have it forever, and be able to use it on any size sock.
To start, knit a pair of socks up to the point where youíre ready to insert the heel. Arrange your stitches so that the instep is on one circular needle or a stitch holder; youíre not going to work on these stitches until the heel is complete. The heel stitches should be on one needle, either a longish double-point or a short circular. Count the stitches on that needle and divide the number by three. You will either end up with a whole number, a fraction involving a third, or a fraction involving two-thirds. If you have no fraction, then your heel will be made from equal side, heel, and side stitches. A one-third fraction will have a heel that is one stitch larger than the side stitches, while a two-third fraction will have a heel that is one stitch less than the side stitches. Once you know which camp youíre in, you can begin.
A short-row heel is knit in two parts. The first part involves knitting to a certain stitch, wrapping it, and turning. Letís say youíre working on thirty-one stitches, which means that the sides will each be ten stitches and the heel eleven. For the first row, youíll knit to the last stitch, bring your yarn to the front, slip the last stitch, turn your work, bring the yarn back, and slip the stitch again. You have wrapped that stitch with your working yarn and turned to work in the other direction. Purl to the last stitch, wrap it, and turn your work. You now have one pair of wrapped stitches at the edges of what will be the heel. Youíre going to do this again, but with the second to last stitch on each end, leaving the wrapped stitches unworked. Then on to the third to the last stitch on each end, and so forth, until youíve wrapped and turned ten stitches on each side, and are working on just the middle stitches. This section requires some concentration, as you are creating the shape.
The section part of short-rowing involves knitting to each pair of wrapped stitches and knitting or purling them together with the wrap. Using the above example, you have just knit to the tenth stitch on each side. Youíre going to repeat your last row, but instead of wrapping the stitch, you are going to bring the wrap up around the stitch so that you can knit it together with the stitch before turning and purling to the wrap on the other side. At this point, you will bring the wrap up so that you can purl it together with the stitch before turning. You will then do this with the ninth wrap on each side, then the eighth, then the seventh, and so on. You will see the shape of the heel in this section, and it will be somewhat easier to keep track of where you are. When youíve gone back and forth and knit or purled all of the wraps together with their paired stitches, voila! You have a short-row heel on your needle!
If you look carefully at the heel, you will see a decorative line of eyelets across the heel. When you resume working in the round, you might be making the last two eyelets as you connect the heel to the instep. These holes will be somewhat bigger; if you donít want them there, simply twist the last heel stitch with the first instep stitch, knitting the latter and then the former. The same manoeuver on the other side (heel stitch before instep stitch) will fix the hole on the other side. From here, continue knitting the sock in a tube. Thatís it!