We all wear out socks differently; for me, it’s always the heel that goes first. While mending is an excellent way to extend the life of your socks (and I have a three-part series linked above, walking you through different sock mending methods), sometimes, completely replacing a heel might be a better use of your time and effort.
Often when I have a pair of socks that have been extensively mended in the heel area and are again in need of repair, I evaluate how sound the fabric is around the hole and whether it makes more sense to completely replace the heel.
While an afterthought heel is easily replaceable (find my tutorial here), the heel flap with heel turn construction has its own unique set of challenges. However, those challenges do not mean it’s impossible. It’s really quite approachable if you follow this tutorial.
Tools and Materials
If you hand knit socks, then you already have all the supplies you need.
Yarn: Choose a yarn intended for sock knitting in the same weight as the original sock. These socks were knit in a wool/hemp blend and my new heel will be knit in a wool/nylon blend. The nylon content and tighter twist in the replacement yarn make it more long-wearing than the original yarn.
Needles for small circumference in the round: You’ll need one set of five double pointed needles or two sets of needles which may be a combination of circular needles, DPNs, or straight needles. Use your usual needle setup (traditional or flexible DPNs, magic loop, 2 circulars) in a size that will result in the same gauge as the original sock. If you’re using two circulars or traditional DPNs, they don’t all have to be the same size; you need 2 DPNs, 2 straight needles, or a single working circular in your gauge size, but the other circular/DPNs can be smaller.
Scissors: Sharp scissors to cut out heel.
Locking markers or scrap yarn (not pictured): Used to mark end of heel flap.
Yarn needle (not pictured): Tapestry needle with a large enough eye to thread your yarn.
Original sock pattern instructions (not pictured): There are many heel flap/heel turn constructions that involve different stitch counts for the heel turn. Referring to the original instructions will make the heel replacement much easier.
All images by Holli Yeoh.