A couple of people have asked me why I thought a Dutch heel was easier than other forms of heel-flap sock heels; and how they fit.

First, there are lots of other treatises on Dutch heels elsewhere on the Web. Judy Gibson has a nice write-up on this heel variant. It’s part of the Socknitters Cybersocks on-line sock tutorial. Regina Williams has done a work-up on the math needed to construct Dutch style heels on toe-ups.

In terms of history Dutch heels date back to at least the 1880s. I found one mention of them on the Web in a transcription of an 1883 edition of The Girl’s Own Paper, a typical young women’s interest magazine of the time. They may in fact be older, but sources on sock heels before 1883 at my fingertips as I type this aren’t very copious.

In terms of fit, Dutch heels have the ample instep (upper foot/ankle) of other shaped heels. That means they’re deeper in the ankle than are short-rowed sock heels. They are also a bit more snug side to side than other forms of round or square heels. People with average to narrow width feet and especially people with narrow heels will find them quite comfortable. While my own feet are in the walrus flipper range of size, my heels are narrower than one would expect given my paddle-like toes. I am still experimenting with Dutch heels, knit both cuff down and toe up. I’ll report back on comfort and fit as compared to short-rowed heels once I get a few more pairs into my wash/wear cycle.

I think the Dutch heel I’ve learned is easier than a standard round heel because the heel cup area maintains the same stitch shaping repeat throughout. the short-row segment that forms the heel has parallel sides. You don’t need to keep as close track of where you are in the shaping’s progression as you complete that stage of the work.

Here’s an example of a hypothetical Dutch heel, worked on 7.5 stitches per inch/10.5 rows per inch (the standard label gauge of Schoeller/Stahl Fortissima/Socka – a textbook classic sock yarn). I’ve calculated this for a average sized cuff-down sock, one that would probably fit someone wearing a US Women’s 7-8 medium shoe size. This works out to a very average sock of 60 stitches around. To simplify things, I’ll suppose a plain stockinette heel flap.

I’d work the ankle as desired. When it was completed, I’d work my heel on 30 stitches (half the available circumference). Because I normally use a set of 5 DPNs, that means I’d be doing my heel across two of them. People using two circs would work this across one of their needles. Magic Loop folks would work this across the stitches on one side of their needle’s loop.

I’d knit the heel flap in plain stockinette, slipping the first stitch of each row to make nice easy to pick up in chain selvedges. I’d probably make it about 30 rows deep, ending after completing a wrong-side row.

To turn the heel, starting on a knit side row, I’d knit 18, work a ssk, then turn my work over. Heading back in the other direction, I’d slip the first stitch, then purl 6. Then I’d do a purl two together, and flip my work over again. Back on the knit side row, I’d slip the first stitch (that’s the one I purled two together on during the previous row), then knit 6 and work another ssk. I’d repeat the slip 1, purl 6, p2tog, turn row; followed by the slip one knit 6, ssk, turn row until I had consumed ALL the stitches available on my heel needles, and my total on-needle(s) stitch count was 8, after the completion of a purl side row.

To make the gusset, I’d knit across the top of the heel to put myself in position to start the gusset pick-ups. Looking down the left side of the heel flap, I’d pick up 15 stitches in the chain stitch selvedge loops. At the bottom of the heel flap I’d do the anti-hole cheat by picking up an additional stitch at the base of the flap, for a total of 16 new stitches. Then I’d pick up my dormant instep needle and work across the top-of-foot stitches. If I were using the circ methods, I’d switch back to my heel-bearing circ or circ segment after the foot-top stitches were done. Now At the base of the heel flap on the other side of the foot-top stitches, I’d first pick up that anti-hole cheat stitch, then 15 in the chain stitch selvedge loops heading back up the right side of the heel flap.

I now have all the stitches I need to create my gusset. I’d knit across the heel flap and down the left hand edge until only three stitches remained, then I’d do a K2tog, and knit the last stitch on the needle. Changing to my top of foot needle(s) I’d work those stitches, then switch back to my heel needle(s), working a K1, ssk, and then knitting back up the side of the gusset and across the top of my heel. I’d knit the next round plain (no K2tog or ssk decrease at the corners of the gusset). After the plain row, I’d do another decrease row, alternating decrease rows and plain rows until I was back to having 60 stitches total again, the same number I had before the heel began.

so we see that the only real difference between a Dutch heel and the other standard heel flap and gusset heels is in the formation of the heel turn (heel cup). In the Dutch heel there are only two rows to remember – s1, knit (x), ssk; and s1, purl (x), p2tog. That to me at least makes it easier to calculate and to teach. Also to work in fits and starts, as my briefcase sock per force should be a project in which the need to keep track of where I am is minimal.

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