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Darn—There's a hole in my sock!

Apr 7, 2010

     
Party Socks by Nancy Bush, from Knitting Traditions.
Ever since I got my issue of Knitting Traditions, I've been thinking a lot about knitting socks. I'm planning to knit the Party Socks by Nancy Bush (photo at left) and I'm in the swatching process.

The yarn I want to use is beautiful—it's soft and a lovely charcoal color. I love my swatch so much it's hard to stop knitting! But I've heard that this particular yarn is fragile at the toe and heel, so I'm thinking of adding a reinforcing yarn. I've never done that before, have any of you?

In the meantime, I need to mend some socks I made for my mom a couple of years ago. They're beautiful socks, made from Schaefer Yarns "Anne," with a lacy cuff and a stockinette foot. Mom's worn them for two winters now and they're starting to wear at the heel.

I've been researching information about darning socks, and lo and behold I found what I was looking for in a back issue of Interweave Knits. It's good to know I'll have this technique on hand just in case I need to mend my Party Socks in a year or so.

This process will work for any piece of knitting, which is great because I have a summer sweater that needs mending, too!

 

Mending Techniques for Knitted Garments
by Beth Brown-Reinsel


YARNS AND TOOLS

   
My friend Mimi's gramma left her this beautiful, glass darning egg.

Here's what you need to repair a knitted garment:

  • The garment in need of repair
  • Scissors
  • Tapestry needles, both blunt and sharp
  • A darning egg—helpful, but not essential. An orange will also work for tapered areas.
  • Yarn to repair the garment with, hopefully leftover from the same used for the garment. If that's not available, choose a yarn close in color and fiber content.

 


   CREATE A FOUNDATION
First assess the hole in your garment and envision it squared off. Using a tapestry needle with a sharp point, sew a rectangle or square around the hole. Be sure to pierce at least one half of each stitch that borders the hole. Piercing the yarns will ensure that no further unraveling occurs. If you create your rectangle far enough away from the edge of the hole, you can safely go under each half stitch with your needle, rather than pierce it. Still, I recommend piercing the yarns. A good foundation row will reinforce the edge stitches, giving a solid base to the darning, and make the repair last longer. For a very solid base, work two foundation rows 1⁄8" apart all the way around the hole. This is especially good for fine gauge knitting.
Sew a rectangle or square around the hole.
MAKE A WARP
Once the foundation is laid, sew your yarn back and forth across two sides of the rectangle. These warp threads should travel around (under, then over) the foundation row once, so that two warp threads occupy the same space as two halves of each knit stitch, thereby maintaining yarn density. I use a blunt tapestry needle from this point on. A blunt needle is less likely to split the yarns, and split yarns can be very tricky to deal with.
Sew yarn back and forth across
two sides of the foundation stitches.
WEAVE A WEFT
Now move your blunt tapestry needle over and under the warp yarns, going around the foundation yarn, then turn back and weave under and over in the opposite direction. Be sure that you go under yarns that were gone over in the last pass, and vice versa. Every few rows, use the tapestry needle to push the rows of weft against each other, packing them toward the first row. Don't pack it too hard, or your darned area will feel like a board. Sew in your ends on the wrong side. You're done!
Weave a weft over and under the warp yarns.
Weave as many rows as necessary to fill the hole. And . . . you're done!

I hope you've enjoyed this darning lesson; may your socks have long lives! (And if you haven't gotten your issue of Knitting Traditions yet, hurry up before they're gone!)

Cheers!

 


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Comments

Augustarae wrote
on Jan 7, 2014 11:22 PM

I was hoping to find instructions for duplicating the knit stitch with a tapestry needle on a thin spot in my socks so as to reinforce the area before I get a hole.  Weaving is unsightly.  Of course the other solution is to cut the foot off the sock, unravel the stitches to get past a hole in the heel and then pick up stitches and knit a new foot on the sock.

Actually, I have done this many times as I love to wear my hand knit socks and sometimes they shrink from too much washing (wool) and the foot gets too tight.  It doesn't even matter if you use a different color yarn.  I have a lovely pair of red wool socks that I need to work on.  One sock has a big hole in the heel and the other is thin in the heel.

I hope someone knows how to duplicate a knit stitch on top of another - sort of like embroidery work and will post the instructions.

KayE wrote
on Apr 9, 2010 11:44 AM

There are even better instructions on how to mend your knitting in "Mary Thomas's Knitting Book".  Thomas's instructions create a mend with knit stitches rather than the woven looking mend these instruction create.

LadyKRose wrote
on Apr 8, 2010 11:20 AM

WOW!  I thought darning had gone the way of the dodo.   We darned socks with a darning egg [wood oval with a handle] as I was growing up.  We even had darning thread with which to do it.   Am I telling my age or are you?  ;~)))   The process you describe is what I remember.   I guess the biggest  factor is to keep the darning as flat as possible for a good and easy to wear darn.  

   And....darning knitted items is a very green thing to do.   How avant garde!  

catmomnw wrote
on Apr 8, 2010 10:23 AM

Wanted to add that in my Durability class at Sock Summit Charlene recommended kntting the toes, heels or soles on a smaller needle to make the fabric denser so it will wear better.  I've tried it with my sons's socks and so far so good.

Aunt Gert wrote
on Apr 8, 2010 8:07 AM

I use wooly nylon, sometimes in the heel and always in the toe.  It can be found at  fabric shops and comes in many colors.  I have some socks over 10 years old and have never had to mend any of them.

FayeS@5 wrote
on Apr 8, 2010 4:34 AM

When I knit socks I use crochet cotton to reinforce the heel and toe.it I comes in many colors ans makes them wear better.

I enjoy this site and get many tips. I have been knitting most of my life and have been married for 48 years and I can always learn something new.

greay site

LindaY@15 wrote
on Apr 8, 2010 1:10 AM

Thank you for posting your darning illustration - it's a good skill to know.  I've used that type of darn in the past, but have moved on to the type that reproduces the knitted stitches, using reinforcing thread with some of the original type of thread, if I have it.  I find that type of repair has a little more of the "give" of the original fabric than the woven repair.   Hope you'll do a tutorial on that type of darning, as well, so people have one more trick up their sleeve.  Thanks!

CookieB wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 9:41 PM

Kathleen,

Kudos to you! I love my emails and Always Read them!

I have a "Few" knitting projects In-Holding mode right now because I am Enjoying Beading Daily Too!!!

I wanted to tell you that when I first started knitting over............ 40 years ago.... Geez I was born in 1957. Anyway... I learned to use a Light bulb as my mending egg. Go figure. I wonder how many other people still use one?

Again,

Thanks for your great emails to All Contributors. Love 'Em

Happy Spring,

Cookie B.

AnnR wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 6:00 PM

hello,

As a child my mother taught me how to darn socks, since money for new socks was hard to come buy after the war. We lived in The Netherlands at the time.

I used to hate to wear the darned socks, it was very uncomfortable on my feet. But at that time, we had no choice. Now I do have a choice. I know that a lot of people love handmade socks and they are beautiful. I don't knit socks for the reason that I don't want to wear darned socks again. After all that work, I keep my knitted socks in my drawer and don't wear them. So, why knit them? I haven't thought about reinforcing the heels and toes, though. That seems like a fantastic idea.

daisywreath wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 4:18 PM

sford034: There is a method that uses duplicate stitch instead of weaving.  There are instructions here: www.hjsstudio.com/darn.html  

I haven't tried it yet, but I have a sock that needs darned and am planning to try out this method to fix it since the hole is at the ball of the foot and I think a woven patch would be really irritating.

JudyH@47 wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 3:59 PM

I have finished the Party Sox in cream wool & they look great - the pattern is easy to follow & memorize.

Years ago a lady told me to knit clear nylon sewing thread into the heels & toes of socks to reinforce them - I have always wondered if the nylon would be incompatable with the wool - maybe cause wear sooner than no reinforcement at all?  I always tell people to NOT wear the socks alone on carpeted floors - that really wears them out quick.  

My grandma taught me to darn when I was about 6 - when I was cleaning out her things I found my first effort in a little box with a note 'Judy's first darning' - it's now more than 50 yrs old!  I'm a little better at it now.

I knit my 'end of the day' socks with all the leftover self-striping yarn - they sell as quickly as the matching ones - be bold - wear unmatched socks!

ALA wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 2:45 PM

When the sock fabric is wearing thin but hasn't actually broken through yet, I prefer Swiss darning. It's basically duplicate stitch over the thin bit - it has more stretch than a woven darn and is less likely to cause a bump. Actually, I use Swiss darning even when there is a hole, but that does take some practice!

Using reinforcing yarn or thread - I just add it and knit with both strands at the same time. I frequently use a complimentary color of sewing thread.

Caroljmh wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 2:08 PM

Kathy, I have a pair of my handknit socks sitting on the couch back waiting for someone to fix the hole in the bottom of one foot.  I guess now I have no excuse!  Thanks :-)

Helen Hayes wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 1:53 PM

I have knit these socks, only in the FAVORITE SOCK book.  I did not add any reinforcing yarn, as the lady I knit them for said they were too beautiful to even wear.  They turned out absolutely lovely only they were called ANNIVERSARY SOCKS in that book.

Alltangledup wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 12:56 PM

I find darning socks using this technique to leave a bump on the socks, where the yarn is joined in.  It  makes it a uncomfortable to wear.  

I repair holes, by grafting row by row and taking the ends to edge where the sole and instep meets. It takes longer to do, but gives a smooth, bump free sole.  

DonnaW wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 12:44 PM
AnnetteS@21 wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 11:56 AM

I've used reinforcing yarn in the heels and toes of every pair of socks I've made.  I figure if I'm puting all that time and effort into my beautiful handmade socks, I want them to last as long as possible.  I've worn my first few pairs regularly for several years now and they still show little sign of wear. Sometimes I use a complementary color, sometimes a contrasting. I wish the reinforcing yarns were readily available in more colors!

Annette

AndreaW wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 11:20 AM

There was an article in Piecework (March/April 2009)  "Civil War Socks to Knit". On p 29 there is a box discussing "how to run your heels + toes". Maybe this would be a good technique for your new socks, Kathleen?  Actually the pr I have on now...I did that to as a trial. it's worked out fine. They suggested taking just a layer...however I wove up + down over the "cross bars" of each st/ inside the sock. Actually when I darn I try to catch socks as they are just getting thin...+ do exactly that. Don't pull the yarn too tight to allow for shrinkage/ stretch. I only work with the knitting...not across if I catch it quickly. If you match colors...it's quite invisible. If I do have to darn a hole I've never created a box. To me...that would limit the stretch too much. I do stitch through the open loops on either end to stabilize when laying down the warp. I try NOT to end each weaving pass @ the same spot so the patch "feathers" in.  Like others above...I much prefer to simply re-knit heels + toes w/ holes. Looks + feels better. My husband + I both wear out under the heel so I use 1 sz smaller needle there when knitting. I have added 1 strand of sock wt yarn to heels + toes when knitting dk/worsted wt wool socks. My mum has a wooden darning egg. Nice to see "fixing" being encouraged!!!  Take Care .... Andrea

intavira wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 11:03 AM

Despite the occasional instructions to "purchase a small package of reinforcing wool", that product seems to have gotten lost n the mists of time.  Instead, I use rayon machine embroidery floss since rayon is a natural fiber and shouldn't cut through the wool like a poly might.  Mostly I use a variegated thread in a complementing color for a little touch of "something"  Occasionally I use a contrasting one for more impact.  Either way it a) doesn't jump out and hit you in the face  and b) seems to help with the strength issue.  Btw, I've also tried the elastic thread and it made me crazy trying to use it.  Too much stretch.  I hated it.  I'd love to know more about the LAng and Fortissima.  Anyone?

on Apr 7, 2010 11:00 AM

Sorry for the confusion about the DPNs. My source material had two methods for fixing holes (I'll post the other one sometime, too!), and it uses DPNs.

The article was originally printed in the winter 1998 Interweave Knits.

Rosetta Beck wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 10:52 AM

I Love you knitting patterns, and techniques. When I darn a sock, and with 7 kids I have mended a lot of them, I use a light bulb to put under the hole. It was taught to me by my Grandmother many years ago. I am 70 now so you can imagine how many times I have done this. I still have a 35 year old single son who brings his socks to me for mending when he comes to visit. Sometimes I think he comes to visit just so he can do some wash, and get Mom to do some mending. Keep up the good work. Rosetta Beck

June@21 wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 10:18 AM

Kathleen,

your post on darning socks bring back memories of my grandmother and mother using the darning egg.

I have darned handwoven wool socks my husband wore in his boots and found that a light bulb works great as a darning egg. I think if you used an orange it would be poked; a hard surface works best.

Good luck, it's not hard to do.

June

DonnaS@28 wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 10:16 AM

Kathleen, you asked if any of us uses reinforcement thread ... I didn't in the beginning, but now do on all the socks I knit.  Sometimes recipients seem somewhat afraid to actually WEAR the handknit socks,so I tell them that one of the best compliments they can pay me is to enjoy the socks, wearing them until they wear them out!  But when they do actually wear a hole in their treasured socks, they are heartsick.  So I feel the least I can do is to reinforce the heels and toes to help prolong the wear.  Sometimes the reinforcement for the toe is from an extra-long tail left from grafting (I prefer to knit socks top-down); after grafting, I weave this tail around the toe on the inside.  I also do this on socks for myself so I know personally that the toe feels good.  I keep a supply of the reinforcement threads from Lang and Fortissima in every color they make, as well as spools of the wooly nylon serger thread in black and white.

temah24u wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 10:00 AM

Having a "darn" in the heel of a sock is awful and too many times caused a blister from my 50 years of sock knitting.  I did, in the old days, knit some elastic thread along with the sock yarn in the top ribbing and some other "stronger" yarn in the heel gusset area.  I have had better success knitting another piece just a bit larger than the worn area, and then grafting that into the sock.  SOOOOO much work so usually I just "darn" the sock... i.e.  say darn, darn, darn and throw the socks away and go out and buy more wonderful yarn and knit up a new pair.  Or you can made a reckless wild and crazy fashion statement and wear mismatched socks?  Margaret

ewert wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 9:54 AM

Instead of reinforcing yarn consider the suggestion in the instructions for thermal socks at www.planetshoup.com/.../soxtherm.shtml (found on www.knittingpatterncentral.com/.../socks.php): continue the slip-stitch pattern for the heel flap through the heel. Do the same at the toe, using the slip-stitch all around.

JulieW@46 wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 9:26 AM

Thanks for the tutorial.  I always wear my socks down on the bottom of the heel.  What I have done several times is to pick up a row of healthy stitches, a couple of rows below the worn area and a couple of stitches wider, then I just knit however many rows it takes to cover the worn area.  When the patch is big enough I pick up the same number of stitches with a second needle above the worn area and Kitchener stitch to join the top of the patch to the sock.  Then I whip stitch the sides closed and the patch looks pretty neat.  Hope this makes sense.

sford034 wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 9:23 AM

Isn't there another way -- one that mimics the knit stitches rather than creating a "woven" section?

RobinH wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 9:14 AM

I've had good results with nylon reinforcing yarn.  You can find it in colors, and in a nearly transparent versions.  It's much lighter than the sock yarn, so it doesn't bulk out the heels or toes much, but it adds a lot of strength.   You just pick it up and hold it doubled with your working yarn and knit it into the area(s) that tend(s) to wear.  

kjrussell39 wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 9:05 AM

It would have been useful to add what issue of Interweave Knits the darning article was in - many of us have back issue ...  knitchick39@yahoo.com

JoAnneWM wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 9:05 AM

This is a very useful tutorial for afterthought heel problems. But why not reinforce the heel on your new socks as you knit them and avoid the "hole" problem?

lindak@93 wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 8:53 AM

While this method would be fine for some repairs, I personally would bite the bullet and unknit back to above the hole, and reknit the sock rather than have a mend at the heel or toe.  Just think of the pressure that was there to cause the hole and then think of the seams of that patch with the same pressures.  Cause for pain and blisters I'd think.  

HeatherS@51 wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 8:19 AM

I haven't needed to darn my socks yet. But, I found this tutorial helpful. I did get a little confused about why dpns were needed?

RebeccaC@30 wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 8:19 AM

The "Tools" section of the instructions list "Double-pointed needles the same size the garment was worked on and at least two sizes smaller," but the instructions never call for them to be used. Is something missing from the instructions? Or is there an extra something in the "Tools" list?

Thanks!

on Apr 7, 2010 8:16 AM

Kathleen, I enjoyed your comments about darning a sock but am mystified about the requirement for "double-pointed needles the same size the garment was worked on and at least 2 sizes smaller."  Where do you use these when you're darning?  Thanks, Carole

jkdobie wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 7:49 AM

You mentioned using an orange if you didn't have a "darning egg."  My mother always kept a light bulb in her darning basket.  It slips into a sock very easily and is very lightweight.  Easier to handle than an orange, I would think.  This won't work, though, with a new fluorescent type bulb, however!

SusiW wrote
on Apr 7, 2010 7:27 AM

you asked if any of us had used reinforcing yarn when knitting sox.  i have done this quite often since i go thru sock heels and toes rather fast.  one sock yarn i bought had a spool of same colored yarn in a lighter weight to use for this purpose.  recently i made a pair of winter sox in a solid orange and just used some lighter weight variegated yarn that had orange as one of its colors.  everyone who sees them is impressed by how it worked.

susi