Sock Immortality

by Anne M. Wingfield


I remember two things about my great grandmother visiting when I was a kid, her `shows' on TV and sock darning. Since she had followed soap operas since they were radio programs I could never quite keep up with her shows, but I learned a lot about sock darning that is now serving me well as a tightwad mom. She could take the oldest rag and turn it into a comfortable sock for another year, and even my mom who would rather go buy new, had to admit that these were good socks again.

A good darned sock starts with good thread. The best I have found is the heavy quilting thread available at sewing stores. It is stronger than regular thread or yarn yet inexpensive. The thread at the grocery store is too cheap to make it worth your effort in darning a sock. The other piece of equipment you will need, besides a needle, is a lightbulb. This keeps the heel in a nice shape when patching or darning, plus the stem of the light bulb is nice to hold onto.

After getting your supplies together, you need to evaluate your hole. The two basic sock holes are a toe hole and a worn heel. The toe hole is straightforward, just turn the sock inside out and take many tiny stiches along the seam. The worn down heel has two options depending on the size of the hole and the condition of the surrounding sock. A small hole in a good sock gets similar treatment to a toe hole. THe difference is that you want to avoid a bumpy seam, so sew in a criss cross or weaving fashion to get a nice flat mend.

In more extensive heel holes or on socks that are badly worn, a heel patch is the best mend. For patching material use an old sock that has lost it's mate years ago (you have been saving them, haven't you) ot another part of a holey sock. You don't need the heel part of the sock you are cannibalizing, or even the same color, but the section should be smoothly knitted. Cut out a good size circle to cover the whole heel. Now put the light bulb in the heel and pin the patch on top of the hole. The first stiches should be to quickly go around the outside and baste the patch onto the sock. Once it is secured, remove the pins and take your time sewing the patch down firmly to the sock, making sure to catch all the raw edges to get it well bonded.

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Now a few of you may have read this far and are still wondering why anyone would go to this much trouble to save a $2 pair of socks. It is a challenge for me to see how long I can make things last. I think I have gone 3 years now without new socks, not bad. Plus a good patched sock is comfortable. I have gone hiking all day in patched socks without any problems. But one of my best reasons comes when I wear my black socks patched with hot pink to a `shoes off house'. I get usually get a comment or a question and then I have the perfect opportunity to show others what they can do to combat waste in small ways and save money while being creative and fun. I might even convince someone to compost their sock scraps too!

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