Step by step written instructions for knitting the german short row sock heel (+video)
Knitting socks can be tricky. It’s quite difficult to get the size right, then you have to tackle knitting in the round, and probably at the top of the list of “annoyances” is picking up stitches for the gusset. That’s why I want to show you how to knit a German short-row heel with double-pointed needles in this tutorial.
I’m from Germany, and here we call this heel “Boomerang heel” (well, Bumerangferse) because the finished short row heel kind of looks like one. But also because, much like the iconic throwing weapon rebounds, you will end up knitting the short rows in one direction and then in the other direction.
German Shor rows sound a bit complicated at first. In reality, it is probably the easiest sock heel knitting pattern of them all. It’s one smooth process and you don’t have to pick up any stitches, there are no complicated calculations or measurements to be made – so perfect for beginners.
This German Short row heel has a very snug fit and is ideal for people with rather narrow and slender feet. It’s, however, not the best option for most men, who prefer roomier options (like heel-flap & gusset).
Note: Check out this tutorial if you want to learn how to knit socks the right way because this tutorial only shows you how to knit a heel. And here is a tutorial to figure out when to start decreasing the toes.
Written instructions for the German short row heel
Like almost all other sock heels, you knit the German short row heel across half of your stitches. Typically that’s needles 1 and 2. You’ll knit this pattern in three very easy parts.
Preparation: If you are knitting a complex pattern, you should consider knitting across the heel stitches in plain stockinette stitch for around 1 centimeter before you start the heel because this heel is a bit shorter, and these extra rounds will make it look more balanced.
1. First part of the heel
Row 1: Knit across half your stitches. Separate the stitches into three equal parts using stitch markers. If your stitch count isn’t divisible by 3, then the middle section gets one more stitch (e.g. your heel is 26 stitches, then divide 8/10/8. If it’s 28, then divide 9/10/9). <turn around your work>
Note: Technically speaking you don’t need the stitch markers but I find it easier to knit and they help me keep track.
Row 2: Make one double stitch (mds) and purl to the end. <turn around your work>
Here’s how to make a double stitch:
Step 1: Bring the working yarn to the front.
Step 2: Slip the stitch (with the yarn) knitwise.
Step 3: Pull tightly on the working yarn (backwards with your left finger; if you are a continental knitter, there’s no need change the position of your finger, just pull) until you can see two loops wrapped around your needle. This pulls the actual stitch to the bottom and what is wrapped around your needle are the two legs of the stitch.
Row 3: mds and knit across to the (first) double stitch. Don’t knit it. Instead, turn the work around again. So, essentially your row is getting shorter by one stitch (= and that’s why it’s called short rows).
Row 4: mds and purl across to the double stitch. <turn around>
Repeat rows 3+4 until you used up all stitches to the left and right of your stitch marker.
Tip for advanced knitters: If you want to avoid turning the work around all the time, you can also learn how to knit backwards.
Knit across two rounds and all needles. So, not just 1 and 2 but also the two needles you haven’t been using for the short rows. As you come across the double stitches, knit the two loops of each stitch together through the back loop (k2tog tbl).
Go slowly, so you don’t accidentally end up with an increase here. Keep the stitch markers on the needle. Also, consider joining in another needle in the middle of your heel needle so it’s a bit easier to knit.
3. Second part of the heel
Remember how I said this heel is called “boomerang heel” in Germany? Well, now it’s time for the rebound. Before, you started the short rows on the outside and worked towards the center, and now you have to start on the inside and work towards the edge.
So, once again, you are only knitting across needles 1 +2.
Row 1: Knit across the center stitches, drop the stitch marker (we don’t need it anymore) and knit one more stitch from the left part of the heel. <turn around>
Row 2: Mds, purl across the center stitches, drop the second stitch marker, purl one more stitch. <turn around>
Row 3: Mds, knit across until you get to the double stitch, knit the double stitch together through back loop (the way you did before), and knit one more stitch. <turn around>
Row 4: Mds, purl across until you reach the double stitch, purl it together, and purl one more stitch. <turn around>
Repeat rows 3+4 until you reached the outer edges on both sides and you used up all stitches to the left & right.
Last step: From here, continue knitting in rounds. As your last row will be a wrong side row, knit one more mds as you turn around. Knit all double stitches together in the following rounds.
Notes: The two rounds of knit stitches in between the two parts of the German short row heel prevent holes.
If you are working the heel in a contrasting yarn, you might not want to end up with this stripe intersecting your pattern for various reasons. In this case, you can also just skip these rounds as well and knit the second set of short rows starting from the outside as well. Or consider picking a different short-row method.
What you have to know is that the pattern works no matter if you are using German short rows, wrap and turn, Japanese short rows, or shadow wrap short rows. The latter two would be more suitable if you plan skip the two middle rows.
How to prevent holes when knitting a german short row heel
A lot of knitters complain about holes when knitting this heel – especially right at the end of the little dart the short rows are forming. There are three ways to prevent these:
- Make sure you pull the mds tight
The first, and easiest way is to ensure that you pull really tightly on the yarn as you make your double stitch. It really needs to get all the way to the bottom and you need to close that stitch.
- Move the turn away from the gap
Now, only tugging on the working yarn often won’t be enough to close the little holes. So, what I do recommend is slipping two additional stitches from the 3rd and 4th needle to your heel needle(s) on either end. That way, you don’t end up working turns & double stitches at the very end of your needle. Just make sure to place a stitch marker so you don’t accidentally knit your short rows too far.
- Slip stitches
If none of the tips above help, then you need to employ a little trick. In the first round before you start the heel and in the first in-between round, slip the first stitch before, after the heel knitwise with the yarn in the back, and work the next stitch really tightly.
And as you come across these stitches in the next round, you lift the slipped stitch and the short stretch of yarn in the back onto your left needle and pass the loop over the stitch (you could also use a crochet hook).
- K1tog LL/RL
What also works instead of slipping stitches, is working a k1tog RL (or left loop) into the stitch right at the gap after you finished the heel and start knitting the first round. So basically, you pick up one loop from the row below (on the side of the heel) and knit it together with the next stitch.
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- # Part 1 of the heel
Row 1: Knit across half of your stitches and turn work around (needles 1+2). Use two stitch markers and divide. the stitches in three equal parts (if that's not possible, the middle part gets more stitches - like 8,9,8).
Row 2: Make one double stitch (mds) and purl across.
Row 3: Mds, then knit across to the double stitch and turn around.
Row 4: Mds, then purl across to the double stitch and turn around.
Repeat rows 3+4 until you used up all stitches before and after the stitch marker.
- # Intersection
Knit two rounds across all stitches and needles. K2tog tbl all double stitches.
- # Part 2 of the Heel
Row 1: Knit across the heel until the second stitch marker. Remove the marker, knit one more stitch, and turn around.
Row 2: Mds, purl to the second marker, remove it, purl one more stitch and turn around.
Row 3: Mds, knit until the double stitch, k2tog tbl, knit one more stitch, and turn around.
Row 4: Mds, purl until the double stitch, purl it together, purl one more stitch, and turn around.
Repeat rows 3+4 until you reached the edge on both sides.
Continue knitting in regular rounds from here. Make sure to add one more mds after you finished your last row and k2tog all double stitches in that first round.