Friday, May 22, 2009

Balbriggan heel

I adore this heel!!!!

I stumbled upon it in a vintage knitting book....another thing I love. :o)

Um yeah nice pix huh...sorry I can only contort myself to an extent. Did you notice the sock isn't even done yet?....yeah that's so I could try it on both ways. And my ribbing ends at an odd place, I should have continued it down the instep. Oh well this pair is just an experimental pair anyway the sock pictured above is worked cuff down, its mate will be toe up. :o)

Why do I like this heel so much? Plenty of reasons, primarily I like the fit. It is also a very intuitive heel, not a lot of stitch counting, and/or wrapping and lifting those wraps, and it looks good toe-up as well as cuff down. Sure a short row heel can be worked both ways as well, but this little heel has gussets whereas short row heels usually do not.

I've already got plans for a cute little vine or flower growing up out of that seam on the back of the heel. A perfect heel for clog socks!

There are some aspects of this heel I dislike, but I've figured a way to get around those. I'm not exactly sure if the more recent renditions of this heel in some of the current sock books out there address these points but the way my circa 1940's pattern explains it is a really fiddly heel. The 40's era pattern has 2 yarn ends to be worked in plus my nemesis the kitchener stitch....ick.

The adaptations I do eliminate the cutting and rejoining of the yarn (thus the ends) and the grafting.

Here's a few notes on how to do the balbriggan heel with some modifications. (ie minus the cutting and joining and the grafting)

If you'll notice this heel allows you to take whatever pattern you're working almost all the way down to the sole. Without having a whole lot of experiences with this heel yet, about all I can tell you is work the leg to the length you want so it just grazes the top of you instep and then begin the heel.

You will use half the total stitch count for the heel. An even number of stitches works best, and if that number is divisible by 4 you're golden. :o)

Here is a quickie row by row for a heel on 28 sts.

Heel flap: work 15 rows in stockinette beginning on a purl row (WS).

Begin heel shape/turn:

Row 1: k5, ssk, k5, ssk, k2tog, k5, k2tog, k5

Row 2 and all even rows: purl

Row 3: k5, ssk, k3, ssk, k2tog, k3, k2tog k5

Row 5: k5, ssk, k1, ssk, k2tog, k1, k2tog, k5

Row 7: k5, ssk, ssk, k2tog, k2tog, k5

Row 8: purl

This is where you would normally divide the remaining 14 stitches on two needles and kitchener stitch them together, but since I don't like doing that.....

Row 9: K7, place the remaining 7 stitches on a second needle and forget about the working yarn for a while all you'll be working with are loops.

Begin with the center two stitches, one from each needle and "weave" the stitches over each other "eating" one of them. How do you weave them together? Simple, take a stitch from one needle and lift it over a stitch from the other needle. You just eliminated one stitch by "weaving" them together. Now lift the this woven stitch over another stitch from the other needle. Continue eliminating stitches alternately until one stitch remain. There you go, a nice little seam done without kitchenering and you have your working yarn right where you need it.

To finish the heel:

This one heel stitch on your needle is now the new beginning of the subsequent rounds. Pick-up and knit 18 stitches, knit across the instep stitches, pick-up and knit 18 stitches. You are now at the beginning of the round again. Start decreasing one stitch at the heels stitch/ instep stitch junctures until you reach your original stitch count and your heel is complete. In this example 56 sts. (56 stitches makes a nice sock for me in sport wt.)

If you try this heel yourself let me know how it goes. I think you can see the decrease pattern that creates the heel cup, if you have trouble figuring it for a different stitch count feel free to drop me a line. I've crunched the numbers for all even numbered heel stitch counts from 20 sts to 44 stitches.


  1. I want to see a pic of the "toe up" sock using this heel pattern!

  2. Hi Tracy,

    Loved knitting the heel - it tourned out pretty well on a side to side sock. Would you kindly send me the stitch counts for the heels from 20 - 44 stitches? Thanks so much