Should I slip knitwise or purlwise?

“Should I slip knitwise or purlwise?” is one of the most common questions that gets asked in my Winwick Mum Sockalong Facebook group (the real-time help group for the Sockalong tutorials).

The question relates to whether it matters if you slip your sock heel flap stitches knitwise or purlwise and when faced with a pattern that simply says “Sl1” (slip 1), it’s a reasonable thing for a beginner to ask.  It’s questions like this that remind you how much of knitting knowledge is assumed, as the convention for slipping stitches is to slip purlwise then your stitch stays mounted the right way around on your needle for when you work the purl row, but if nobody told you that, you would have to work it out for yourself.  If you slip your stitch knitwise, the stitch twists on the needle and you’ll end up working a twisted stitch on the purl row.

Obviously, if you’re knitting a jumper, a hat or some other project where you need the stitches to look the same then this is an important consideration but to be honest, I don’t actually think that it matters that much for a sock heel, and my answer to the question of “Should I slip knitwise or purlwise?” is to go for the method that’s either easiest or gives the effect you like best.  I like the twisted stitches of the knitwise slip so I often use that one, but I also slip purlwise on other pairs and it just so happens that I’ve done both on these socks.

The sock on the left has the stitches slipped purlwise, and the sock on the right has the stitches slipped knitwise.

Image shows two socks side by side on a knitting needle. They are both at the stage of having the heel flap knitted

There doesn’t really look to be that much difference, does there?  And you’d be right – it really is something that a blind man on a galloping horse wouldn’t notice (one of my Nan’s favourite phrases 🙂 ) and unless you pointed out what you’d done, I don’t think that anybody else except another knitter would spot.

Here’s a closer picture of the purlwise slips – you can see if you look closely that the raised V stitches match the Vs in the stocking stitch lower down, and the stitches sit proud of the heel flap …

Image shows close up of slipped stitches on the left hand heel flap

whereas the twisted stitches sit a little flatter and if you look closely, you can see that the V stitches are twisted … you do have to look quite closely, though!

Image shows close up of slipped stitches on the right hand heel flap

Having made and worn socks using both methods, it really doesn’t seem to make any difference to how the socks wear so if slipping knitwise is something that you’ve done inadvertently, don’t worry that you’ve knitted socks that are going to wear out faster.

My problem is going through the toes with my pokey toes but I can slow the damage down by using the same heel stitch on the toes – there’s a post on reinforcing soles, heels and toes here if it’s something that causes you problems too 🙂

Here are a pair of my twisted-heel-stitch-heel-flap socks …

Image shows a pair of feet wearing socks knitted in The Yarn Badger yarn. The soles of the feet are touching so that the stripes match upImage shows a vertical picture of the pair of feet in the striped socks

Unless you stop to look closely, no one will ever know and choosing to slip knitwise or purlwise can be your secret – another reason why hand knitted socks are special and unique compared to bought socks!

The yarn used for these socks is merino/bamboo eco yarn from The Yarn Badger in shade Allotment Harvest, and the pattern is my Basic 4ply Sock pattern.

You can find the free pattern and step-by-step Winwick Mum Sockalong tutorials for beginner sock knitters HERE.



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25 Responses

  1. Ruth Howard says:

    Thanks for explaining that for us – never really thought about it and being left handed do all sorts of things differently to everyone else!
    Love the yarn
    Survive the rest of the hot weather – we are enjoying having all the doors and windows open!!
    Thanks again
    Love Ruth x

    • winwickmum says:

      Yes, it’s a completely different ball game being left handed, isn’t it? I’m always impressed how you lefties manage so well in a right handed world! 🙂 xx

  2. Cynthia Brock says:

    Thank you. I’m about to start my first sick. Well, in a few days, I should say. So, knitwise or purlwise,is a perfectly good question that I believe I would have been asking also. Perfect timing. I am blind,but I have knitted some perfectly good pieces this far. I do however,use you tube a lot. The Audio is great. Also, if you know anyone that has vision problems,there is a wonderful knit/crochet group for the blind and visually impaired I about to join. It’s with Had Hadley School for the Blind and Visually impaired. I learning Braille Literacy for the Blind and Visually impaired. I hope this isn’t too long. Also, I hope it is allowed. Check out Hadley and pass the info along if you wish. Thank you again.

    • winwickmum says:

      Cynthia, that is such useful information, thank you! And can I ask you – I’m not always very good at remembering to add the alternate text for the photos (and I’m often not sure what or how much to write) – is this something that is useful for you? If so, I can work on improving! 🙂 I hope your first sock goes very well, do let me know how you get on! 🙂 xx

  3. Maureen says:

    I didn’t know that about slipping stitches so Thank you for that info – constantly learning in knitting.
    I love the sockalong webpages too and refer to them constantly.

  4. Laura says:

    Brilliant post. Having done heels both ways I think the twisted version comes up very slightly thicker, maybe because the yarn is twisting to give almost a doubt thickness stitch. I could be wrong but it was something I noticed. Stay cool! xx

    • winwickmum says:

      You could be right, there is a slight difference in the thickness so maybe there is something in that! I probably need to think about that more with my pokey toes 🙂 xx

  5. Bracken says:

    To be honest I just knitted and slipped so don’t know which way I have done this. I am coming up to a heel flap though so will pay attention now to how I do this. Trouble is you tend to think more about it once someone points out a difference so will now have to compare with the first sock to see if what I do matches!

    • winwickmum says:

      Ha ha, I’ve caused confusion where none existed! You should be able to tell what you’ve done already by looking at your existing socks and comparing the stitch to my photos, but don’t overthink it – your socks look great! 🙂 xx

  6. Charlotte says:

    I have always agonized over this whenever I see it in a pattern. Glad to know that it really does not matter.

    • winwickmum says:

      It doesn’t matter on a sock heel flap, certainly, but if you’re knitting anything else then it’s worth checking how the stitches should lie so that you don’t spot a twisted stitch later where there shouldn’t be one! 🙂 xx

  7. Susan Rayner says:

    Those socks are gorgeous! Must go and have a look at Yarn Badger!
    Thank you for the notes on slipping stitches! I have always slipped purlwise but in fact I like the look of the twisted stitch when slipped knitwise – so might have a go! Knitting baby things in a bamboo cotton mix at the moment so not too hot for that – even though it is upper 30Cs again today! Praying for rain and cooler weather – the garden is dying!

    • winwickmum says:

      Uh oh, I might have sent you off down another yarn rabbit hole! Liz has some really lovely yarns so be warned, your credit card will be shouting to you! 🙂 xx

  8. Barbara says:

    Well I’ve learnt something today as I always slip knitwise. Will give purlwise a go now. Just love that expression. Wonderful. Have a good Sunday. B x

  9. Lisa says:

    Thank you so much for explaining this, so simple when you know the difference. Lisa

  10. Kay from Wistaston says:

    I think most of us do ssk (slip-slip-knit) these days for a left-leaning decrease but if doing sl1, k1, psso (which is another way of achieving the same thing) it’s definitely a case for slipping that first stitch knitwise. In fact, anywhere a slipped stitch is involved in a decrease it should usually be knitwise. But as you rightly say it it’s always best to check the specific instructions with the pattern, if there are any.

    • winwickmum says:

      Good point – I hadn’t been thinking about slip stitches on decreases particularly here so thanks for reminding me! 🙂 xx

    • Charlotte says:

      Is that because twisting the stitch helps to take up some of the excess yarn in a decrease? I know that some people find that their left-leaning decreases look “loose” compared to k2tog, which I understood to be because the “unworked” stitch lies on top of a left-leaning decrease, so perhaps twisting it helps to correct for that?

  11. Sue Dale says:

    I really laughed when I saw your nan’s quote ! My mum used to use it and I have carried on the tradition. Thanks for all your wonderful patterns and interesting blog

    • winwickmum says:

      I think we need to carry these quotes on for the future generations, it’s the least we can do! 🙂 I’m glad you’re enjoying the patterns and blog, thank you! 🙂 xx

  12. Debbie says:

    Thank you so much for the kids socks pattern Christine. Really appreciate it and doubly so that it’s free!
    Best wishes

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