Sock Knitting: Balbriggan Heel

A while back I set myself the goal of exploring different ways to knit socks. The pair of socks I showed you in Tuesday’s post about my homemade sock blocker were knitted with a Balbriggan heel and are the first of these explorations.

Blocked Sock

The name Balbriggan comes from Balbriggan stockings, which were made in the 19th century at the Smith’s Stocking Mill in Balbriggan; a fishing village in Ireland.

So what is the Balbriggan Heel?

The Balbrigan heel is worked over half the total number of stitches. After knitting the heel flap, a very shallow heel turn is made by decreasing four stitches in every other row.

Heel turn Balbriggan heel

The remaining heel stitches are grafted together with Kitchener stitch.

Balbriggan Heel grafted together with Kitchener stitch

Stiches are then picked up around the bottom and both sides of the heel.

Stitches picked up for Balbriggan Heel

Gusset decreases are then made, before you knit on with the rest of the foot…

What I like about the Balbriggan Heel

  • This was a nice quick, simple, intuitive heel to knit.
  • I like Kitchener stitch, so was happy working that – but if you don’t, maybe this isn’t the heel for you.
  • There was a very small gusset – on even smaller sizes there would be no gusset, but a bigger gusset on bigger sizes. I don’t mind knitting gussets, but less gusset means you get back more quickly to not having to think about what you’re knitting.
  • Having a gusset –  if you have one – makes it a better fitted sock than heels without one, such as the short row heel.

What I (might) not like about the Balbriggan Heel

Although I enjoyed knitting them, I haven’t yet* worn my Balbriggan heel socks, so the dislikes are all potential dislikes:

  1. The heel cup is short so may not sit so well on the heel.
  2. There is inevitably a slight ridge where the stitches are picked up across the bottom of the heel. I don’t think it’s enough to be troublesome, but I have very sensitive feet, so if it’s a problem I’ll know.


Balbriggan Heel

The other thing I’ve been loving is the yarn I’ve been knitting these socks in. It’s Bergere de France’s sock yarn, Goomy. On the whole I’ve not been very impressed with their yarns, but this is a real joy to knit and according to Donna at the Woolly Beader – my LYS – it’s a joy to wear and hardwearing too. It certainly feels like it’s going to be a lovely sock to wear.

*Update 03/07/16 – Having worn these socks several times, I’m pleased to report that this heel fits my foot really well and is very comfortable 🙂


Bekki Hill

34 thoughts on “Sock Knitting: Balbriggan Heel

    1. Thank you. I presume you mean styles of construction, in which case, I would say you’re more likely to knit a sock to fit your foot better than an RTW as you’re taking it into consideration as you knit. What style suits may depend on your foot and personal preferences too. At the end of the day a sock stretches a lot on your foot too – unlike a sewn garment that needs to fit well. What makes you think you wouldn’t wear them?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think most people are fine, although I do have one friend who says hers always do. I do know what you mean though about thinking they would. I think there’s a feeling that the ribbed elastic bit in RTWs holds them to your ankle, but if you look at your socks they rarely do. I knitted a pair before these in a hurry, for a present, that I think are the simplest you can knit – and a good learning curve. I’ve been meaning to post the pattern for them for ages, so if you’re interested in that, knowing you are will make me actually do it next week 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I hate it when socks are too tight on your ankle. Promise to post by Friday next week. And thanks for the prompt – it keeps getting pushed to one side by other things I decide to natter about.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. 100g of sock yarn. They do some really lovely ones, so you look like you’ve been really clever when you’ve only been knitting stocking stitch 🙂 Feeling terribly responsible for the future of your knitting – eek!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ta! If I get patterned yarn will they both match? I image I’ll be asking you loads of daft questions once I get started. I think maybe you should do a knit along, I bet there’s more than just me want to have a go 😃

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      5. I confess I never make matching socks. You can make them match – although if you use a 100g ball that’s a blog post in itself. If you use two 50g, you just need to start at the same point in the pattern repeat. A sock along is an excellent idea and I’d love to do one, but it would take a fair amount of putting together – think I’d need to write several accompanying posts, including pre-starting posts. I’m also desperately trying to finish LH’s secret sweater as well as working on a HUGE secret project that I hope to unveil soon – so realistically I wouldn’t be able to knit along with it for about month – but that would give time for me to put things together and get the other knitting out the way. I’m also thinking starting it in a month would mean it clashed with Me Made May. So it would make more sense to start at the beginning of June and I fear I’ve got you all excited to start now? Could you wait that long? I’m also thinking you might be the only one following, but what the heck? I can live with that.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I can wait! It would be fun, but a lot of work for you, so now I nearly feel bad for suggesting it. (Only nearly!). June would be good, the cricket season will be in full swing and I’ll need something to do whilst watching H play 😀

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      7. Excellent! I’ll start getting my head around it. And no need to even feel nearly bad – I’d eventually love to teach knitting formally on a face to face basis, so it would be good for me to think properly about how to explain sock knitting. I’ll also be blogging about something so why not socks? Glad June suits 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a lot to be said for not complicating your life and enjoying someone else’s pattern – I often wish I did that more often, but then I do like to make life hard for myself.


  1. I’m probably going to have a go at knitting the first pattern you put up and recommend as easy for a beginner. I would have some concern about a ridge under my heel too, as I’m a bit ‘Princess and the Pea’ with my feet. I’ll be interested to hear how you find it.

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  2. They look great, I’ve only worked a gusset he’ll so far. I did attempt the fish lips kiss heel but didn’t get the hang of it, I’m hoping (of I ever get there) to give it a go on the pair in knitting now! after that I’m thinking my next pair may be crocheted! 😃 enjoy your weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good luck with the second attempt. I’m sure perseverance will pay off. Do you following Wolfberryknits? – she’s recently been crocheting socks. I might have a go at crochet socks once I’ve explore all the different knitting possibilities I can find. Hope you’re having a fab weekend.

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  3. I think its great your doing this exploration of sock knitting! It means I don’t have to… haha. Your sock looks great and I love that yarn. I very unintentionally wandered into the yarn department of John Lewis some time after New Years, – yes just after making no new yarn resolutions- and saw that same exact yarn. On sale. I was so tempted but I resisted. I’m glad you reminded me of it though – it’s March now so resolutions hardly exist anymore, right? 🙂

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  4. I knew that I would suffer from ‘second sock syndrome’ (i.e. knitting the first sock and not be bothered with the other one) so I chose the method of knitting two socks, from the toe up, on a magic loop. When you get to the heels you do work one at a time and the writer of the tutorial takes great care to avoid the holes you often get where the two sections of the heel join. I’ve made two pairs of socks using her method and, although I’d have to follow the tutorial again to make another pair – I really enjoyed it and definitely no heel irritation! Here’s the link to the heel part of the tutorial in case you are interested


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