Those Darned Socks

Posted November 16, 2019 by Maire in Hobbies, Knitting / 0 Comments

A plastic jar full of socks-to-be-darned with a Stephen King book for reference
A plastic jar full of socks-to-be-darned with a Stephen King book for reference

I came across a strange artifact yesterday while I was cleaning a few surfaces in my home studio/office. It’s a strange plastic jar with a hole in the hinged lid. And it’s filled with socks waiting to be darned.

You know that old joke that goes: “Where do I get my story ideas? I have the brain of a small child…and I keep it in a jar on my desk.” It’s almost the same shape of jar. Only it’s filled with soft, pretty socks that have obviously been well-loved. Some a little more than others.

I found the jar somewhere like Michaels. It had a ball of scratchy, clown-barfy, rainbow-coloured acrylic yarn in it. The idea is you open the jar at the hinge, place your yarn inside, feed one end through the hole in the lid, and keep your skein safe. I’ve been using a similar trick for the skeins of Super Saver I’ve been knitting my Phoenix Blanket out of. I’m going to swap the basket for the jar, but first let’s see just what happened to these socks.

Going through the jar is almost like an excavation of socks long past. Most of what’s in the jar are made from boutique sock yarn of one sort or another. TOFUtsies, Mama E’s C*eye*ber Fiber merino tencel sock, Koigu, The Dyeing Arts, Scout’s Swag, Knitglobal Sock, and a self-striper from Three Ewes Twisted in Fiber. There are at least two pairs of Monkey socks, two Jaywalkers, and a couple of vanilla socks. There’s a striped pair with an afterthought heel, just for variety. All these socks need to be darned. One needs re-knitting.

A hole in the foot

Sock with afterthought heel, hole on ball of foot

I bought this yarn from 3 Ewes Twisted in Fiber as a treat to myself. I think Carin of Round the Twist had received a yarn-of-the-month shipment from them and was raving about the way it knit up.

She wasn’t wrong. It knit up wonderfully. The problem is that it’s just a little thin. This sock blew out under the ball of my foot, likely due to rubbing and stretching against the liner in my shoe.

This sock probably won’t be darned. I think I was trying to decide whether to attempt a patch, use some of the leftover yarn to re-knit the toe, or just scrap them. See, the sock is a self-striper. The only way we’re going to keep that aspect intact is to rip back to the black stripe below the hole (or a little further than that), and re-knit. I have a the little ball of leftover yarn that I saved.

A patch may or may not do the job, but just re-knitting leaves us open for the possibility of having the exact same problem occur again. I guess this quandary is the reason it’s still in the jar and not already darned.

Two holes in one sock

Pink Monkey Socks from Scout's Swag with a hole in the heel

Again with the 2-ply merino base. These socks were made of Scout’s Swag, which were talked up by the Lime & Violet podcast many many years ago. The socks are a pair of monkeys. They also didn’t last long. They’re another pair that I’m considering just tossing. See…they don’t just have the one hole in the almost impossible-to-darn area right below the heel flap. There’s also a hole in the lace of the leg of the yarn. It’s not easy to see, but there’s a second hole. You can see the notched chunk just to the left of the blue block on my tablecloth.

Already darned socks

This is one of the most heartbreaking sights I’ve seen. Koigu, at least this vintage, tends to fade fairly quickly. I’m not sure if it’s a colour-fast issue or just the fibre, but it happens. I remember being pleasantly surprised when this sock started to stripe, and I wore them to one of our family Yule parties.

These socks are still pretty vibrant. There’s a pretty big hole in the bottom of one foot, which is obviously why the socks are in the jar. What actually takes a moment to notice is that these socks have already been darned (right). Both socks have darning patches on the bottom of the heel, under the flap. As much as I loved the look and feel of these socks, they wore out extremely quickly.

I think it has something to do with the base. I’ve noticed the same problem with Louet Gems (of a similar vintage). Beautiful, vibrant colours and a buttery-soft 2-ply merino yarn that just feels awesome to knit. I have a pair of Gems socks that lasted maybe two wearings before the toe blew out in a huge way. It was really upsetting.

Lesson learned? If you don’t want to constantly patch or toss your socks made out of 2-ply yarn, use some sturdy thread or yarn to reinforce the thinner areas. No, those areas won’t be elastic, but it will force the sock to find new and more elaborate ways to fall apart.

Oh Darn.

Socks with a short-row heel made of Knitglobal Sock. I worked on these at a Henry Rollins spoken word event.
Socks with a short-row heel made of Knitglobal Sock. I worked on these at a Henry Rollins spoken word event.

I realize that these socks are all close to ten years old, if not older. Some of them are among the first socks I knit. There was a huge push in the knitting community to consume as much boutique hand-painted yarn as possible, and I went along with it. I had a good job that paid well, so I could afford it. The unfortunate down-side is that these socks have needed to be darned for more than five years. None of the pricey boutique yarns that were so lovely to knit with lasted more than a year or two at best.

I’ve since gravitated to more sturdy commercial sock yarn. No, it’s not as smooth on the fingers, but I can get a couple of years worth of washes out of them before they explode in little fraying patches of worn-away fibre.

The more I think about these socks…the holes in impossible places, the one TOFUtsies sock that I ripped back, intending to re-knit…these aren’t socks to be darned. They’re socks of the darned. Or maybe of the Damned. I’m thinking they may just need the age-old ritual of the Old Sock.

Hold thine sock over the garbage receptacle and chant with me:

“Oh, darn.”

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