There’s the easy way…


and the pretty way!

Like all good things, the pretty way of picking up stitches along the heel flap came about as a happy accident. I think when I knit my very first pair of socks, I didn’t understand what picking up stitches meant! Once I learned what I was supposed to have done, I knew that I had discovered something unique in the process.

You’ll need a spare needle to pick up the stitches this way; it doesn’t have to be the same size/type as what you’re using for the sock.

(click for big)

Step 1. Upon completing the heel flap and turning the heel, you’re faced with a row of slipped stitches. Typically you would pull a loop of yarn through both “loops” of the slipped stitch and place it on your right-hand needle. Here, hold the spare needle in your left hand, and use it to physically lift up only the front “loop” of the slipped stitch. Effectively, you now have a stitch sitting on your left-hand (spare) needle; it is comprised of a single strand of yarn, and it is the front “loop” of the slipped stitch.

Step 2. Next, knit this “stitch” through the back, i.e., twist the stitch while knitting.

Repeat steps 1 and 2 until all slipped stitches are picked up. Then repeat for the other side of the heel flap. That is it! Clear?!?

So the comical part is that I now realize that when I read, “pick up and knit 15 sts along right side of heel flap,” I did just that! I physically picked up and then knit (for whatever reason, through the back) those slipped stitches! I tell ya, I think in my own way.

39 thoughts on “There’s the easy way…

  1. paula

    Ok, Miss…when I first encountered “pick up and knit” stitches, I did THE SAME THING. I did! And ever since discovering the “right” or accepted way of doing it, it’s alwas been a pet peeve that they tell you to pick up and knit, yet you don’t actually knit!

    Anyway, unlike you, I kept doing it the accepted way thinking there was some logical reson for it involving construction or something. Bleh!

    Your way=much nicer. 🙂

  2. jess

    Whoa! I did the same thing the very first time I picked up stitches on the heel flap when I read “pick up and knit” … (socks were the first thing I ever knit). ha! Glad to know I am in such good company with you and Paula. 🙂

  3. Kim

    Very nice! I like it : ) I think I wouldn’t use it for all socks.. but for socks that I wanted a little extra prettyness this would be great. (IE. On a sport sock it could look kinda funny.. or maybe on a man’s sock.. hehe.)

    Thank you!

  4. Karma

    I don’t think your first way was so comical… that’s how I picked up and knit on several of my first projects. Funny how the directions are so simple but can be interpreted in different ways (Pick up and knit. Pick up. And knit.)! Thanks for your pictures and descriptions.

  5. debbie

    thank you for the pictures. when i saw them, i said “that’s what i did the first time too!” except, maybe, knitting through the back. i guess i’m in good company! if it wasn’t for all those books showing us how to ‘pick up and knit’ we probably would be doing it the ‘pretty way!’

  6. freecia

    Excellent! I experimented with Japanese short rows on my latest socks, but after getting a little confused, did a “freecia interpretation”. Then I did a little crochet chain from the inside of the heel up the diagonal to pick up loose stitches. This closed up those gaps nicely. (Gaaaaarrr. gaps) It isn’t the prettiest and I’m hoping to perfect a suitable short row method soon.

    Next time I pick up and knit, I’m following these directions! No more ugly gaps!

  7. gleek

    ah brilliant! it looks much easier too than trying to just pick up and place the stitches on the needle 🙂 i’ll have to try it my next sock project. thanks!

  8. natasha fialkov

    when i tried my first pair of socks…which never got finished, mind you due to not understanding where the hell i was supposed to be “picking up” stitches from…cast on? what? so i think it is funny that someone else in the world was confused too. i decided that even though i am not good at learning things like that on my own, i could do it and then did really well until it came to that section, at which point i abandoned it and was told by a friend later, how it worked. i will try that if i ever get time to knit a sock again. the socks are gorgeous!

  9. Elspeth

    That’s how I’ve always done it too! (Without the stitch twisting, though, I’ll have to try that next time.) It’s easy enough to me — is the other “non-intutitive but traditional” way that much easier? Thanks for the demo!

  10. heather

    I also did the exact same thing the first time I had to pick up and knit. And I also like that way better than the right way for many projects. I just used it to make a firm decorative seam when I was picking up to edge the neckline on my sweater.

  11. Mary

    That’s the way I’ve always done it too – it just seems to give a better finish. Nancy Bush recommends it in ‘Knitting on the Road’, although I didn’t read that until I’d been happily going along doing it that way for about 5 years!

  12. Holly

    I’m amazed that so many people interpreted those instructions in that way. I would have never thought to do that. But I will from now on!

  13. Kristin

    That isn’t the “right” way? I’ve always done it that way (even knitting throught the back loop). Now I have to find out how I’m supposed to be doing it (not that it will change the way I pick up and knit).

  14. Stephanie

    I think I just did that exact thing on my socks. Nancy Bush has instructions like that in Knitting on the Road and I was very happy with how my heel turned out. Thanks for the great pictures.

  15. Ruth

    That’s how I do it, too … I tried picking up stitches the “correct” way once, but nope. I like this way much better.

  16. Faith Flashbang

    When I knit my first pair of socks, this lady in my knitting group taught me the same way to pick up the stitches! Then when I was picking up stitches in another project, I refered to a knitting book and got all confused. Thanks for making this “ok” to do! =)

  17. Bookish Wendy

    This is so interesting! I did this on my recent sock that I finished Sunday. Ann Budd has it in her book, the pattern one, it’s in the glossary. Elizabeth Zimmerman is so right, we all un-invent stuff. Great minds think alike!

  18. April

    That’s how I do it, too, but unlike you, it was intentionally “wrong” as I knew from the books the “right” way, I just hate it SO much. Your way is easier, more even – everything wonderful as far as I am concerned. =)

  19. Peg

    Many thanks – I’m dealing with this issue of gaps now that I’m knitting sox for the first time – thanks for this solution.

  20. Lisa

    Holy Sock! I’ve been doing this method all along without knowing there were other ways to pick up the slipped stitches, and I didn’t read this anywhere until now. Happy accident!

  21. MaryLouise Bauer


    I love the easy! Also love those socks that you used to demonstrate. Do you have the pattern or do you know where I could get it?



  22. Päivi

    I’ve done it that way for 20 years. My granny taught me to knit socks and that’s the way she did it so i learned it, too! I think it works with every yarn and needle size and gives a better outcome (if that’s even a word… me beeing a finnish makes me think I sometimes create totally new “finglish” words.

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