Peasant Heels, also known as Forethought Heels or Afterthought heels with scrap yarn, are worked in the same manner as an Afterthought Heel, but with a “safety net” as you are not cutting into your knitted fabric like you would with a true Afterthought Heel. They’re inserted into the sock after you’ve already completed the rest of the construction.
Peasant Heels are a beginner-friendly heel construction that utilizes the placement of scrap yarn as a placeholder while working the sock, which you can go back to later to insert your heel. You pick stitches up above and below the scrap yarn, which prevents the sock from then unraveling when you pull out the scrap yarn.
Typically, you’ll work a Peasant Heel with the same stitch count you had when working the sock and pick up 4 extra stitches to close up any gaps, two at each end of the heel. You then work the heel in the round, decreasing 4 stitches every second row, until you achieve a certain stitch count. However, Peasant Heels also give you the opportunity to be creative with your decreasing, creating swirls/stars, a wedge, etc depending on the placement and frequency of the decreases. Play around!
If picking up the correct stitches for a Peasant Heel makes you nervous, you can always put in a lifeline before the scrap yarn and after the scrap yarn, ensuring that you’ll get the exact stitches you’ll need. It can make it much easier than trying to stick your knitting needle through each stitch, particularly if you’re working with a unique fibre type.
My favorite thing about knitting a Peasant Heel is how amazing they look in self-striping yarn! You’re able to continue the stripes right through the heel without them being disrupted unnaturally and have an outstanding bullseye effect in your heel. They’re also ideal for those who find traditional heel flap and gusset constructions too roomy for their low insteps or narrow feet as it has a very snug fit.
K2tog: Insert the right needle into 2 stitches simultaneously and knit the 2 stitches together. (1 st dec.)
Ssk: Slip 2 stitches, one at a time, knitwise. Knit the slipped stitches together through the back loops. (1 st dec.)
These directions for this Peasant Heel are written for magic loop, and based on 48 [52, 56, 60, 64, 68, 72, 76, 80, 84, 88] stitches, having the stitches divided evenly between the two needles. They can be worked using DPN’s or mini-circulars, being mindful of where each half of your stitches begin and end. You’ll find general foot information here should you need it.
The directions assume you’ve already worked the leg (for a cuff-down sock) or foot (for a toe-up sock) approximately 1 [1.25, 1.5, 1.5, 1.75, 2, 2.25, 2.5, 2.5, 2.75, 3]” / 2.5 [3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5] cm less than your desired length and are working with a gauge of 32 stitches by 40 rounds in the stockinette = 4″ / 10 cm, after blocking. If you’re working with a different gauge, check out the modifications at the end of the directions to adjust to your personal gauge. Gauge is crucial in obtaining the correct fit. Changes in gauge will result in a size difference for your finished socks.
Setup: Work the instep stitches as established; with your scrap yarn, knit to the end of your round. Slip the stitches purlwise back onto the left-hand needle and then pick back up with your main yarn and knit to the end of the round. Your heel is now in place to go back to later in the project. Complete the rest of the sock. Note: If you’re working a cuff-down sock, you’ll need to add the reserved heel depth mentioned above to your toe measurements when working the foot to your desired length. If you do not, your sock will be much too long for your foot. Cuff-down patterns will often say to work the foot until it measures x less than the desired length. That’s the number you’ll add with your heel depth.
You’ll be working the stitches above and below the scrap yarn you placed earlier in your sock. With your sock toe pointing down, working right to left, pick up the right leg of all the stitches directly below the stitches of your scrap yarn. Rotate work, so your toe is now pointing up, moving right to left, pick up the right leg of all the stitches directly below the scrap yarn. You’ll now have 24 [26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44] stitches on each needle.
Using your tapestry needle, pull out the scrap yarn. Join your yarn and begin working in the round as follows:
Round 1: *Pick up 1 st to close the gap, knit across the needle, then pick up 1 more st to close the gap; rep from * once more. (4 sts inc.)
Round 2: Knit across round.
Round 3: *K1, ssk, knit to last 3 sts on the needle, k2tog, k1; rep from * once more. (4 sts dec.)
Repeat Rounds 2-3 until you have 40 stitches (20 on each needle), then work Round 3 three more times; you’ll have 28 stitches (14 on each needle). Cut yarn, leaving an 8” / 21 cm tail, and Kitchener Stitch your heel closed.
If you’re working with the same stitch counts, but with a different gauge, we can do a little math to help calculate how much length you need to reserve for your heel from your desired length. The directions for this peasant heel are worked across 10 [12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30] rounds, which is what gives you your heel depth.
Step 1: Determine your round/row ratio. You’ll divide the swatch by the number of rows you worked.
Imperial Example; 4″ swatch divided by 40 rounds = 0.1
Metric Example; 10 cm swatch divided by 40 rounds = 0.25
Step 2: Multiply the heel rows for your size by your ratio.
Imperial Example; If I was working a 64-stitch sock, I’d have 18 rounds in my heel. 18 multiplied by 0.1 = 1.8″ heel depth. This can be rounded to the nearest 0.25. I’d need to work my sock until it’s 1.75″ less than my desired length.
Metric Example; If I was working a 64-stitch sock, I’d have 18 rounds in my heel. 18 multiplied by 0.25 = 4.5 cm heel depth. I’d need to work my sock until it’s 4.5 cm less than my desired length.