“When I was growing up, Sweden was still a country where people darned their socks…Then suddenly one day it was over. Socks with holes in them were thrown out…The whole society changed. “Wear it out and toss it” was the only rule that applied…then it started to spread, until finally it became a kind of invisible moral code. I think it changed our view of right and wrong, of what you were allowed to do to other people and what you weren’t.”
~Henning Mankel, The Fifth Woman (thanks to CandyG on Ravelry for sharing this quote)
The sad, inevitable truth is that anything worn where the body meets the ground will develop holes unless you have chosen to frame and hang your paired works of art!
However, I could not respond to the cries from my ever-increasing pile of socks with holes--holes that were appearing faster than I could knit new socks--by simply tossing them out:
- As part of the Seam Allowance crew at A Verb for Keeping Warm, I've been thinking a lot about how the purchasing and discarding of clothing affects our world.
- As someone who enjoys tidiness, I was aware that I needed to take a hard look at what was in my chest of drawers (because we live in a house that was built in 1914, "limited" is a polite word to describe the available closet space!). Every sock in that drawer needs to be wearable, so I couldn't ignore the problem by shoving it to the back of the drawer.
- As a knitter who enjoys wearing handknit socks, I needed to honor the time and effort that goes into making them (~34,000 stitches per adult pair, according to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) by taking better care of them once they are off the needles.
These considerations were all at play when I decided to form a study group of one to learn how to repair my beloved socks.
So, here's my plan:
First step (this is ALWAYS my first step!): Read the heck out of the problem.
There are a number of different ways to repair socks--the best approach depends on the type of hole or thin spot in the knitting and where it is on the sock. First of all, terminology: I reflexively used the word "darning" to describe this activity, but darning appears to be a weaving technique wherein you create a warp and weave across it until the hole is covered. This does is not what I had in mind--it might work for other knitted items, but not on a sock: not stretchy, sort of bulky, most certainly an obvious mend (which I actually quite like when done boldly!).
As usual, Mary Thomas's Knitting Book (by you guessed it, Mary Thomas) covers this homely art better than any other resource in my library--the book was written in 1938 and republished by Dover. I found several sources on the web that illustrate the techniques she covers. I'll be linking to these in the next few posts.
Second step: Assemble materials (this is always the fun part!).
A darning egg and a darning mushroom--so great! (Despite my desires to not acquire too much stuff I might just be hunting down old darning eggs at antique stores and flea markets.... I can feel it coming on.) A collection of darning needles. Sewing thread to make guidelines. A bit of sock reinforcement yarn--could be handy. My world-class collection of size 1 double points. Odds and ends of sock yarn--sadly, not the yarns of the socks with holes (I've long since given those oddments away), but oh well.
Third step: Assess the problem(s).
Fourth step: Get to work.
Fifth step: Learn from it: Develop strategies for knitting socks that are less likely to get holes and learn how to care for them to keep them in good shape.
You'll be hearing more from me!
(Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans! The best way to show gratitude is to respect what we have--family, food, friends, and yes, footcoverings.)
12/6/12 Sorry--had to close the comments because the spambots found this entry! Jerks. I can't figure out what they get from it.....