Saturday, April 22, 2017

My darn socks!

A darn sock, just mended.
So I bet you've been wondering what I have been up to. This past winter was spent in front of the fireplace, sipping tea and hot chocolate. And now we’re just starting to come out to spring. So it was a good time to mend our socks.

What? Mend socks? As in old-fashioned darning a pair of socks?

Yes. I have been darning socks. This winter has just been that rockin’.

We wear through socks pretty quickly on our little village homestead. Our athletic socks tend to develop holes on a pretty regular basis. And your favorite uncle goes through his dress socks for the office more quickly than I do my athletic socks in my winter sneakers.

Darning socks is one of those old-fashioned skills that not many people know how to do anymore. And most people would rather throw out their socks and buy a whole new pack then to spend some time with needle and thread and darning egg to weave a nice tight darn through a hole in the toe.

But what more homesteading skill could a person possibly have then too darn her own socks? So taking up needle and thread I have been working on our socks, closing up all of the little holes in our lives.

Have you ever darned a pair of socks? Well keep reading; I will teach you how to do that.

Notions needed:

  • Darning egg or darning balls
  • Yarn, crochet thread or embroidery thread
  • Darning needles in various sizes 
  • Your most holiest of socks

What is a darning egg?

Darning balls
A darning egg or a darning ball is what you use to hold the sock in place and keep the threads steady. These are the darning balls I found and I think that they work pretty well. They come in three sizes to fit your family’s differently sized socks. (You didn’t think your favorite uncle and I have the same sized feet, did you?) Darning eggs have been around for a long time—your grandmother may have had one. Darning balls are slightly newer and are similar to darning eggs; they have a wooden ball attached to a handle.

Step 1: Wash your socks

Yes, wash your socks. Don’t darn them fresh off your slightly damp and possibly aromatic feet, no matter how big your new hole is. When you do your laundry, take the socks from the dryer and look them over for holes or thins spots that are about to wear through. Pull any pairs that have one or both socks with a hole. Put them in your darning box until you have a nice collection to work on during the evenings.

Step 2: Use your darning ball and matched yarn

I use crochet yarn and embroidery threads depending on the thickness of my sock. Athletic socks and
fluffy yarns get crochet thread. For your favorite uncle’s dress socks I use a heavy embroidery thread because the weight, or thickness, is closer to the sock’s knit.

Match your thread to your sock. I keep three colors of yarn on hand: white, black, and tan. These seem to be the closest colors to most of our socks. You can pick up colors that match your socks, but I like to use the basics.

Fit the darning egg or ball in your sock.
You'll begin by measuring out a length of yarn that will best fit the hole you're working with. For me that is two or three lengths of my arm. (Yes, I measure by my arm, with is about two and a half feet. Your arm length may vary.)

Fit the darning ball into your sock. It should look like this. You don't want to stretch the whole too
much but you want to keep the area stable. Don’t pull the sock so tightly that the hole stretches and the egg or ball pops out.

Step 3: Darn it

Don’t knot your yarn. We’re going to sink in our stitches, which will secure the ends. A knot will be felt by your toes. It will hurt, especially by the end of a long day.
Make your vertical stitches through the
thin knit and across the open hole.

Start by threading your yarn just underneath the whole in the horizontal direction like this. Next make
a little loop and start working up and down your sock. You will want to make a series of vertical stitches first through the fabric of the knit of the sock and then across the open hole. It should look like this when you're done. Keep the vertical stitches as close together as you can; even touching if you can. This will help you weave a tighter darn patch.

Once you have your vertical threads going across the hole and on either side of the hole through the thin section of the sock you will want to start coming back and forth horizontally. Alternate an over-
under-over-under stitch through the vertical stitches. Press the stitches down while you're working, so they're closer to together. What you're actually going to do is weave new fabric through the sock and across the open hole. The closer your stitches, the better the woven darn patch.
Weave your horizontal stitches through
the thin knit and across the hole.

Take it slow. Darning is a meditative skill. I find that old TV Western shows and a glass of wine can help this process. But that’s just me; you need to find your own darn Zen.

Step 4: Finishing up

When you have completed your weave, continuing stitching a weave into the knit surrounding the hole and be sure to loop your threads around the original anchor thread. When you’re done, weave the last stitch through the existing stitches and cut close to the fabric. This will sink the thread into the darn. Wearing and washing your socks will actually help to tighten up the threads and keep the darn from unraveling.

Freshly mended, neat and tidy

What could be a more homesteading skill than knowing how to darn your own socks? We get to keep our socks a little longer. When you wear through socks quickly, it helps to go a little more easily on your clothing budget. And we are keeping fabrics and clothes out of the landfill for just a little bit
Your completed darn
across the darning ball.
A neat darn on a
your favorite uncle's foot.