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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Darn Socks: Two Fixes for Two Problems

Steve has worn through the heels of a yet another pair of socks and it's my job to darn them.  Darn them! There, I did it.  Not good enough?  Ah well.  I wouldn't bother for cheap gym socks, because they're not worth the effort, and you probably shouldn't either.   The cotton in gym socks tends to be a little rotten by the time it wears, what with all the sweat and all, so it's a little too brittle to worry about.  This pair was a good woolen pair for keeping his tootsies warm, and I think we ordered them from somewhere, so between the cost of the socks and the shipping, these were well worth darning.

Since we live in a disposable age, I don't have a darning egg, which used to be a pretty ubiquitous item found in a sewing basket.  I even think my mom has one.  They can be an egg-shaped or a concave piece of polished wood at the end of handle.  In Britain, I think they call them darning mushrooms.  In any case, darning eggs are as scarce as hen's teeth at my house, so I used my glasses case for one.

Start by turning the sock inside-out.

This problem is an entire hole, so it will taking some doing.  Run a line of stitches around the hole to stabilize the edges. (By the way, this method is different from the accepted old-fashioned way of doing it, but I think it does a better job of enclosing the fraying edges.)

Then run a 'ladder' back and forth across the hole, making sure you get at least as far as your stabilizing stitches.  I usually start in the middle because I think it makes for a more even darn. Then I go across, starting my weave stitches.

Once you have all the warp stitches in, start weaving the weft stitches in.

Once I get the infill done, I do the same thing all over again, only this time, I run the warp and weft stitches diagonally.  You won't see them for the most part, because you're running through your new fabric.

And this is the new fabric from the outside. It's not pretty, but it'll hold well enough for slipper socks which is all this pair is good for anymore. I think part of the problem with them is their thickness, which caused the rubbing on Steve's shoe, so I doubt they'd last much longer in his shoes again.

The problem on the other sock was that the hole hadn't quite happened yet.

Working from the inside of the sock again, after anchoring your yarn, you want to do the same kind of laddering stitch, but only do one row at a time. You're working the yarn back and forth, kind of the same way a lace goes into your shoe.

On your back pass, you want to catch the stitch you took on the previous row.  This is not a good picture because it doesn't show me catching that lighter green stitch (all my shots of that were out of focus).  But you want to catch your previous stitch because you're creating a new fabric over the old.

This is the second fix from the outside.  It's a lot neater, so obviously darning socks is easier and tidier if the husband doesn't wait until the heel completely fails before pointing it out to his wife.

There are other ways to darn socks.  This is just the way I do it.  If I had to darn a pair of hand knit socks, I would probably learn how to Swiss darn, or use a duplicate stitch, or some version of the toe graft or Kitchener stitch, and maybe I'd finally learn it instead of having to refer to the bookmarked YouTube video like I do currently.  The Kitchener stitch intimidates me.

The important thing is, to darn your darn socks. It makes them last a little longer, which makes the money last a little longer.  Let's hear it for longer lasting money!


Rae said...

I don't think I've ever darned a pair of socks. I've repaired other clothing, but never socks. We normally either toss them, or they become rags. Then again, most of our socks are cotton, so it's not really an option. I see darning eggs occasionally at estate sales and such. If I run across a cool one, I'll grab it for you.

Anonymous said...

You can do the Kitchner. If I can, anyone can. I had to put two halves of a shawl together with Kitchner, and I was SO nervous, but it worked!

Christian said...

I love it. It's not unlike patching a ding in a surfboard.

Paula said...

That would be cool Rae.

SissyJane- I can only do the Kitchner (Kitchener?) stitch with my laptop in my lap, with the video up, and pausing and resuming it while I stitch it. I'm totally helpless without the video. Which is unusual for me; I usually get stuff. It's probably all in my mind, though, right?

Christian- I'm assuming that you don't have to actually stitch the surfboard, but I've never seen one repaired, so what do I know?

Anonymous said...

In my family, we always used a lightbulb as the "darning egg". Works great.

Paula said...

I imagine that a light bulb would make a great darning egg (If you were really, really careful), but I pretty much only have compact fluorescent bulbs in the house, and they just won't do!

Joleen said...

Nice to know how to do this now! Thanks for the photos and instruction. Easter is right around the corner, so buy a couple of those big plastic eggs (the kind that break in half) and they'll work great for a darning egg!

Paula said...

You're welcome Joleen; I hope this helps you in the future.

Your plastic easter egg idea is a really good one. I'm just not in love with plastic. I'll probably just use my glasses case until Rae finds me an antique, or I can talk my mom out of her darning egg, which ever happens first!

Miriam said...

I've never darned a sock either, and now I'm wondering why the heck not? You make it look very do-able. Thanks!

Jennifer Montero said...

I darn our shooting socks regularly, and I use pretty much the smae technique as you do. I find darning a relaxing task, though I'm not sure what that says about my level of intelligence.

I LOVE my darning mushroom, and I would be more than happy to send you one for your sewing kit, as a thanks for the sorrel seeds you sent to me.

Paula said...

I forgot about those seeds. Before you make such a generous offer, have you planted them yet? I am finding French sorrel to be a hell of a weed! I thought I'd eradicated it from the bed I had it in, but it keeps sending up a new plant from bits of root still in the bed. If you plante it, make sure it's in a pot, and don't bother burying it. I'm sure that if it sent a root through a bottom hole, you'd still have a problem.

Let's hold off until we know how you feel about the seeds! You may not think I did you such a favor. In the meantime, my new friend Rae is going to keep her eyes open for one when she hits the estate sales. And if worse comes to worse, I can always use my glasses case again. But thanks Jennifer!

Jennifer Montero said...

I planted the seeds in a pot, as I remembered that they can be slightly invasive. They were great last year (I suspect they've self-seeded in the same pot, like my antirrhinum do). The offer of a darning mushroom still stands. They're all of £3 at our local haberdashery shop as I guess lots of people must still darn their socks here in England.

Paula said...

If you are happy with them, then I would gladly accept the gift of a darning mushroom. Thank you!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

I have never in my life darned a sock. We wear such cheap socks that I suspect I will never be able to bring myself to do it.

Now I know there's a tutorial available, we might just start wearing better socks!