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This is a great one, knitters … the afterthought heel. The pattern is lovely: Hedera Helix Socks, a design from James Arnall-Culliford, co-creator of A Year of Techniques.

What does the name “Hedera Helix” mean? Read on.

Our fearless pattern designer shares a bit of his thinking about what we’re diving into this month:

Afterthought heels struck me as brilliantly clever the first time I came across them. There are so many options at a knitter’s disposal in terms of how you do the decreases, the yarn you use and so on. Furthermore, as someone who is hard on his socks, I love that, if you’re careful, the heels can be replaced.

The cables are adaptations of a couple of charts from Twisted Stitch Knitting by Maria Erlbacher. The book is a fascinating record of motifs and patterns from the Styrian Enns Valley in Austria. What I love is that the chart symbols are written in a different way from the one I’m used to, so it’s a bit like translating between languages.

I didn’t name the pattern until after the samples were knitted, but it was pretty straightforward. The combination of colour and interlinking pattern reminded me of the battle I had years ago to rid a shed of ivy. I think that it turned out that he ivy was actually the thing holding the shed up, but we won’t dwell on that. So that’s how I ended up with the Latin name for English ivy.

We’re knocked out by the elegance of these swirling motifs. The double helix is especially juicy for all us fans of, you know, DNA.

We like the way the pattern runs on the top and front. It means that each round of the leg has a bit of action and a bit of easy peasy stockinette.

Jen Arnall-Culliford’s video tutorial up top takes us through the clever steps that result in an elegant, tidy afterthought heel.

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Twisted stitch motifs pop in combined-twist construction by Laneras. Thanks for your Shop purchases. They keep everything sprouting here at MDK.


  • Good morning everyone at MDK! I just wanted you to know how happy I am that I found your wonderful, helpful, insightfu, and ( lovely, words that make me smile, and giggle) site. When I get up in the morning, I always look to see my e-mails from you all! Thankyou again, dorian

    • Thank you so much, Dorian! You just made our day. We appreciate your coming to visit MDK, and wish you excellent knitting in the holidays ahead.

  • Even though I have been left way behind on my year of techniques, I am so glad to have the whole series to work through as time allows. There have been many great things learned, and more to come. What a great idea, I’m glad I joined in!

    • So glad to hear it, Brigid! I’m thinking of a sort of Decade of Techniques . . . I wish I had more hands.

      • Bring on the decade!! Have soooo enjoyed AYoT, many thanks to you, Kay, and Jen for the great fun and learning with it. Have just cast on Julia Farewell-Clay’s Ceilidh with short row shaping, a new skill for me, love it! Peace be with you and happy knitting.

  • I always use afterthought heels but add a crescent moon shape of a few short rows in the corners before I get to heeling. This is completely replaceable later but adds that smidge of extra space across the instep, preventing pulling and tightness for anyone with an arch to their foot. Lots of internet tutorials exist, it’s fast and one of those fiddly steps that designers leave out for pattern brevity but is indispensable for fit.

    • Thanks for this tip! I will definitely look it up!

    • I’d like to know more about that technique!

      • Me, too! I’m using afterthought heels now and then, and find they fit better (closer) than the usual flap and placket heels.

  • Am I the only person who LIKES heel flaps? However, that doesn’t mean I won’t try this technique (after I finish this baby blanket….)

    • Nope. I also like knitting a heel flap and all that it entails. Easy peasy, zen like and fits me perfectly I do like an afterthought heel every now and then,when I don’t want to disrupt a stripe sequence, but my go to heel is the heel flap.

    • #heelflapnation

  • I only do afterthought heels on socks – sooooo easy, and if – no, when – the heel wears out, you can knit in a new one. Win-win. 🙂 I am currently working on a sweater, and considering adding an afterthought pocket – I have yet to find instructions on how to do this (I’m sure they’re out there, I doubt I’ve unvented this idea) – but once you know the afterthought heel, I know an afterthought pocket will be no problem.

    • There’s a really nice tutorial for afterthought pockets here:


      • Thank you! 🙂 I figured tutorials were out there (I hadn’t yet taken a look for any) but really, it only makes sense to do afterthought pockets if you love afterthought heels!

  • Toe-up, afterthought heels are my favorite kind of socks to knit! So much less fiddly than Kitchener and the seemingly endless gusseting. Also, the Hedera Helix pattern is so pretty. I know that ivy is invasive, but I still love the look of it. And, as the designer found out…it can be a building material!

  • I start 6 rows before the place for the afterthought increasing 1 stitch on each side with a plain row in between (3x) to give that little bit of extra space. I love the no fuss of an afterthought but miss the magic of ‘the turn’!

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