Darn it

I managed to get a funny hole in my sock.  It’s on top of the toes (not a spot where I usually get a lot of wear), and closer examination revealed that it’s just one popped strand.  There’s no sign of wear (the fabric around it isn’t thin), so my guess is it just got caught on something (kitten claws are a distinct possibility) and snapped.  This is easy to fix…

I started by securing the freestanding stitch with one of my very favorite safety pins/stitch markers (as always, amazon links are affiliate links).  The strand that broke is directly above this stitch.  The safety pin keeps the dangling stitch from running down any farther and makes it easier to recreate the fabric around and over the hole.  Then I moved out a few rows below and to the side of the hole (when in doubt go bigger) and started duplicate stitching over the existing fabric.

When I got to the row with the pinned stitch, I kept on duplicate stitching, just following the path of the existing yarn like I had been all along.  That meant going right through the pin.  The pin helps make the new stitch the right size and keeps the damaged fabric stabilized while I’m working.

On the row where the broken stitch means there’s actually missing fabric, I used the outside edge of the pin as a guide.  I just wraped the yarn around it to make the missing stitch. This is the only spot where I was actually creating totally new fabric (instead of tracing the path of existing fabric).  It’s easy enough when you’re only dealing with one stitch, but if there were more, I’d use one pin per column of bad stitches (and it does get trickier if there are lots of missing stitches…though it can be done).

Once I was past the hole, I just did a few more rows to finish it off and called it good.  The pin stayed in the same place the whole time and made it much easier to line up the stitches where the underlying thread was gone (and kept the hole from getting bigger as I tugged on the surrounding fabric as I worked).

If this had been a hole caused by wear I would have used thicker yarn and made a bigger patch.  But since this is just a snapped strand, this should take care of stabilizing it and make the socks fine for many more wearings.  The whole thing took about fifteen minutes (and would have taken less if I’d not been taking pictures), which seems like a fine investment to keep using something that probably took twenty hours to make in the first place.

Stopgap

So I had this necklace (and earrings to go with it too).  I liked it rather a lot, but I never ever wore it.  Why you ask?  Because of the clasp.

lengthening a too-short necklaceThis clasp drove me insane.  It’s meant to make the necklace adjustable and be lovely and decorative.  But there are two flaws with that.  Even at the longest setting, it’s still about an inch shorter than I’d like (I cannot stand short necklaces, they make me feel like I’m strangling).  Also, that lovely chunk of decorative rock dangling back there gets all snarled up in my hair.

Now, the proper way to solve this problem would be to track down some matching (or at least complementary) beads and restring the whole thing.  But that would take work.  Not so much in the stringing (that bit is kind of idiot simple), but in the hunting down more beads.  So the necklace languished, loved but unworn, abandoned in the bottom of the jewelry box.  Until I saw this.

lengthening a too-short necklaceThat’s basically a bracelet, but with a clasp only on one end.  Out of the package it looks like this.

lengthening a too-short necklaceNow, I will be frank.  It is not a high quality bit of jewelry.  It’s actually sort of crappy.  But, it cost next to nothing, it was easy to find, and I thought it might turn the necklace I never wore into something useable.

And amazingly, it worked.  I ruthlessly ripped apart the first link in the chain that came with the necklace and took the whole irritating thing off.  Then I clipped clasp of the new chain on where the original chain had been.  The whole thing took maybe 1 minute.  It took me far longer to take the pictures than to make the swap.

lengthening a too-short necklaceThe result is utterly practical, if not necessarily earthshakingly beautiful.  I’ve got the extra bit of length I wanted, and the hair-snagging dangle is gone (tucked away to see if I find something else to do with it, because the bead is pretty).  I’ve not done any damage to the beads, so if I want to go to the trouble of buying extras and restringing them later, I can.  But until I manage to get around to procuring the supplies to do that, this will turn the necklace into something I wear instead of something I feel irritated by every time I see.  For four bucks and a minute of time, I’m calling it a success.

Anybody else taking pliers to their things to make them suit you better?  I’m finding it surprisingly liberating!

Recovery

Remember the other week when the sock and The Boy and I all trooped off to the railroad bridge?  The unfortunate incident?  The dreadful dark, sticky goo all over the sole of my pale, delicate sock?

Yes, yes it was rather traumatic.  The good news is that, with a bit of careful work, things are somewhat salvaged.  Here’s where we stand now.

The transition was made with the help of several thorough soakings in goo gone, an awful lot of blotting with paper towels, and some judicious scraping with fingernails.  It’s certainly not perfect, but it is a whole lot better.  The remaining spots are just spots, not sticky.  The socks are completely wearable and will be making their way into the rotation as soon as the weather cools off.

Oh, and if any of you ever need to do this, I found that drenching the stain in goo gone and letting it sit for an hour, then blotting with paper towels was the way to go.  The tar came off on the paper towels.  Repeat until it’s gone or until it’s not coming up on the towel anymore.  I soaked, waited, and blotted three times.  Then you need to wash the sock.  The goo gone is super greasy, and you’ll need a lot more soap (and possibly even a stronger soap) than you normally use.  I ended up using shampoo because my usual wool wash wasn’t taking the greasy feeling out.  The last step will likely be to wash the residue out of your sink (or wherever you were working).  It sort of gets everywhere, and you don’t want to leave it where pets can get to it.

Rhymes with Yarn

So I have a confession.  I’ve been playing a game of chicken with the laundry.  I somehow decided it would be much more efficient to wait to wash knitted socks until I had a whole load full.  Have you looked at a sock lately? Even for the big footed among us, they’re pretty small.  It takes a lot of socks to fill one washing machine up.  Still, I’ve knit a lot of socks, so I’m getting close to that point.  But, in working my way down to the bottom of the basket of socks in the closet, I’ve come across some rather elderly socks.  Some socks that are in need of love.  Like these.

My notes indicate I finished these bad boys in October of 2008.  For those counting along at home, that’s more than 4 years ago.  That’s back when I still didn’t know why the heck my stitches were always twisted when I worked in the round (and didn’t care).  The thought of the blog and the patterns and the books hadn’t yet popped into my head.  It’s perfectly reasonable that they might need a bit of attention.  A few hours with a darning egg, a blunt needle, and some back up yarn, and they look like this.

Is it the most riveting fiber work in the world?  Nope,  not at all.  Is it kind of soothing in a sort of meditative way?  Oddly, yeah.  But really, if it means I’ll get another 4 years out of these, it was worth the two hours I spent on it.  I’ve got another pair or two that are going to get the same treatment in the next few days.

What about you guys, do you ever darn your socks?  Any other knitwear repairs in your future?

Edit to add a link to a good video resource over on Knit Picks site. It shows several techniques you may want to have in your arsenal!

The Venerable Tweed

My father has a sweater.  Well no, he has lots of sweaters.  But our tale here concerns one sweater in particular.  It is a rather well aged sweater.  As far as we can tell, it’s a few years older than me (and I am shockingly old, it surprises me more or less every time I think of it).  This sweater has fared amazingly well.  Alas, this winter, it seems to have finally started to show a bit of wear around the edges (I know the feeling).

A few stitches at the collar wore right away.   Once those stitches blew, the remaining stitches unraveled a bit.  It’s knitting, it does that.  The corollary is it’s knitting, you can fix it.  The first step, find some yarn.

A bit of stash plundering revealed three choices.  The one on the right is probably the closest color, but it’s 50% bamboo and a bit too thick for the job.  The one in the middle is close, but super scratchy and a bit too rustic.  I also wasn’t sure I had enough to do all the necessary repairs.  The ribs beside the unraveled one were about to go too, so I needed to do a fairly big patch.  It takes more yarn than you’d think.  So the one of the left was the winner, even though the color isn’t quite spot on.  (I did broach the idea of using something like neon orange and doing the whole collar, but this was quashed…I still think it would be cool).  Now it was time to stabilize the damage and start repairing it.

First, I ran a tiny bit of scrap yarn through each of the loose stitches.  Then I freed each stitch in turn and used a (tiny) crochet hook to run that stitch up as high as I could.  There came a point where I couldn’t run them up any higher because the fabric had just worn away.  When I hit that point, I put the scrap yarn back in to hold the stitches in place while I worked.  That’s the yarn sticking up and running off the top of the picture above.  Finally, I threaded a very long piece of yarn onto a very blunt needle and started duplicate stitching.  Yes, you can duplicate stitch purl stitches, it’s not quite as intuitive as on knit stitches, but it can be done.  I started about three rows before the missing fabric to be sure I had a solid base.  I duplicate stitched as much as I could.  When I got to the part where there was no fabric to follow, I just knitted entirely new fabric on the smallest needles I had.

It’s not quite perfect, but it’s pretty close, and it should be good for a few more decades of wear.  It was also the perfect project for a snuffly day where anything requiring much in the way of brain power was out of the question.

Housekeeping

After my shameless whinging about sock blow outs, someone asked how I wash my socks.  It’s a totally valid question.  There is a special washing regimen for fancy socks at Chez Violence.  (Fancy socks are both the hand knit ones and the cashmere/alpaca/angora/generally spiffy ones from the store that I buy The Boy to make up for my inability or unwillingness to knit him work socks in the quantity he needs.  The first hand-knit socks got him addicted to awesome socks, and this is a quicker way to feed the addiction than actually knitting a whole sock wardrobe.  Yes they’re a bit expensive and require special washing.  On the other hand, they don’t cost any more than the knit ones, and I’m doing special sock washing anyways.  It’s a good compromise for us at the moment.)  They all go in the washer together, and nothing else goes in with them.  The washer is set to use cold water and run the gentle cycle.  Then, and this is the bit that makes me think this is basically the same as washing by hand, I leave the washer’s lid open.  On my washer, this prevents it from agitating.  So basically the washer fills and sits there for a while.  Then I drain it, it fills again, and I drain it again.  If something was extra filthy I may do it once more.  Then the socks get strewn all over the basement to dry. I’m fairly convinced that this is just a larger and more convenient version of washing them totally by hand in the bathroom sink.

I know that nylon is the secret to longevity, and I’m trying to buy only nylon-fortified sock yarn.  Alas, sometimes I’m overcome by the pretty and succumb to temptation.  I also have a fair amount of nylon-free yarn that I purchased before the realization of nylon’s importance had properly sunk in.  I can’t quite bring myself to toss it.  I have procured great quantities of wooly nylon (I am still overly entertained by the name and take unreasonable joy in saying it aloud at every opportunity), and am using it for socks knit from nylon-free yarn.  It’s easy to work with and doesn’t really show, so I’m pleased so far.  I’ll report back on its success once I’ve worn the socks using it enough to know how it holds up.

Because Just Knitting Them Isn’t Enough

You have to darn them too…

I mentioned the other day that three pairs of socks had worn thin in the heels.  I considered just chucking them, but The Boy professed a fondness for his, and I (grudgingly) acknowledged that it was far less work to darn them than to make new pairs.  It’s true it was less work, but it wasn’t exactly a quick process.  Let’s have a little before and after.

First, the damaged sock:

predarn

You can click on the picture to see an alarmingly massive version of it if you really care.  The sock is stretched over the bottom of a vitamin bottle, which made a perfectly-sized if rather noisy darning egg.  You can see that the fabric is generally quite thin and that there is a spot (a little to the right of center) where the strands between the stitches are almost totally gone.  There wasn’t an actual hole just yet, but there would have been if I’d worn them another few times.

You can also see that I used to twist my stitches when I worked in the round.  Notice that the stitches in the heel turn (up at the top) are untwisted and the stitches in the rest of the foot are twisted.  I won’t tell you how long I did this, all the while thinking ‘huh…those two bits look different…oh well’ and carrying blindly on.  It’s a bit embarrassing really.  However, this does bring up a small point.  I’ve often seen people suggest that working twisted stitches on the heel of a sock will result in a sturdier fabric.  My experience would seem to indicate otherwise.  The fabric of the twisted section is far more worn than the fabric of the untwisted section.  This has been the case in all of the socks I made in this fashion.  I would not recommend using twisted stitches in high-wear areas.

And now for the (partially) repaired sock:

postdarn

Again, a giant version awaits your click.  This shows my progress about 2/3 of the way through.  It’s not perfect, and it doesn’t need to be.  I ended up working about 6 more rows of darning before I decided I had gone far enough.  I snipped off the ends close to the sock and didn’t bother to weave them in.  After a wash or two they’ll just sort of disappear.

The final verdict?  Ehh…mixed.  It looks ok, and it definitely thickened up the heel.  The socks will certainly last much longer now.  On the other hand, the process is fiddly and slow, and the darned spot feels just a tiny bit different under foot.  I’m thinking that may go away after a few wearings, in which case I’ll elevate the verdict to moderate success.  It just felt more like a chore than like something fun, and knitting is supposed to be fun.

I think in future I’ll hold a strand of the wooly nylon along with my yarn when I knit the heel.  The stuff I ordered came, and it seems like an interesting product.  It’s quite thin, but strong enough that I can’t break it no matter how hard I pull on it.  I may also try running it through the soles of my existing socks to see if it makes a difference.  I’ll report back as I experiment with it, but it seems promising so far.

They Come in Threes…

Over the past week or so I have had three, yes three pairs of socks wear out at the heels.  One of them is an early pair of The Boy’s (made during that period of deeply unsuitable yarns I mentioned earlier).  The other two are mine and were made a bit later and with more suitable yarns.  Alas, even with appropriate yarn, socks are not everlasting.  In all three cases I caught the damage when it was just a thin spot and not a full-fledged blow out.  This means darning them isn’t actually all that hard, and I have very little excuse not to do it.  I even have remnants of all the yarns.  I just need to collect the necessary fortitude and dedication and actually do it.  If I waver, I’ll just have to compare the time to make new socks (at least 20 hours a pair) versus the time needed to repair them (about an hour a pair) and brow beat myself into doing the right thing.

I am, however, taking the spate of holes as a sign that I need to buy some of the mythic ‘wooly nylon’ reinforcing thread.  I’ve heard it’s perfect for carrying along with the main yarn while working heels and toes.  My socks (and The Boy’s too for that matter) always wear out at the ball of the heel.  I think it should be fairly simple to reinforce that area in upcoming socks.  I may even take the reinforcing thread and work it into our existing socks in that area to see if it helps stave off future holes.

I’ve got two other small administrative notes.  First, Wednesday is the last day to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win one of three free patterns.  Second, a new sock is coming out either at the end of this week or the beginning of next week.  This is one of the (many) secret projects that’s been depriving you of pictures over the last few months.  It’s finally ready to go and will be here soon!