Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Tomorrow shall be my darning day" or "Avoiding the Christmas Knitting Part 3"

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I said it, I said that I was surprised that my MIL didn't wear out her socks more often given that she wears them daily.  The Knitting Muses, curled up in their cosy stash-lined eyrie in the Great White North (not Mount Olympus - too hot), put down their needles, untangled the yarn from around their ankles and stretching out a lanquid arm, twisted a finger through the wind and rain to snag a tiny hole in each heel of yet another pair of lovingly knitted socks.  I think they must have something against Colinette Jitterbug - it's always the Jitterbug socks that come back for mending.

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But with fairy godmother-esque timing, the Fates smoothed out the winds, and gently shooed the clouds away so that my darning day dawned sunny and bright, and I had time to take a few photos and put together a tutorial of sorts to mend a short row heel.

So, step one: Have a good look at your heels.  If the yarn has broken, it's likely that some stitches will have dropped back down, and it will all look a bit of a mess.

Top tip - If you see the yarn wearing thin, darn it with duplicate stitch before you get a hole - it's so much easier (and if I took my own advice I wouldn't have a pair of beloved handspun socks with holes under the ball of the foot)

You are looking to find a round of nice plump stitches, one or two rows before the longest of the short rows.  If you want you can go to the last rows of the pattern, but I think it's a little easier to work with a buffer zone.  If you need to ladder some stitches back up to make this round complete then that's fine as long as the yarn you are using is still in decent nick.

Step 2: take a couple of DPNs a size or two smaller than the ones you used to knit the project and slide one under the right hand leg of each stitch on your chosen round.  Spread these stitches over two needles, turn your sock over and repeat for the other side of the round.  Your sock should look like this:

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Step 3: time to rip! First, work out which side of the heel was the last that you knit, ie. if you were working top down it would be the side on the bottom of your foot, for toe up it's the back of the heel.  Snip a thread in the row above the row you have on your needles and tease out the ends.  You should be able to simple pull the knitting back now although occasionally there will be tangles where things have felted together and when you get to the holes you might have to do a bit of jiggery pokery to find the right end to pull.

At then end, you should have something a bit like this:

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with two ends coming from the sock and a little pile of squiggly yarn.  You can see my two ends at either end of the base of the triangle of needles. 

Step 4: Count your stitches. I frequently end up with one or two fewer on one side than the other.  If you're the same, pick up loops at the corners until it works, this is darning not restoration of a priceless treasured antique.  At the same time, arrange one half of the heel stitches over two needles and the rest on one if you like to knit using 4 DPNs or two if you prefer 5.

Step 5: Double check that the heel you are about to knit is going to line up nicely with the existing toe.

Step 6: Using the new yarn, and starting at the middle of the two needle side, knit 1 round.  As you go around the corners, check that the stitches you are making are nice and neat; knit through the back loop if you need to close anything up.

Step 7: Knit your favourite toe.  Mine is as follows:

Round 1: Knit to 3 stitches before the end of needle, k2tog, k1; k1, ssk, k to 3 stitches before the end of needle, k2tog, k1; k1 ssk, knit to end.
Round 2: Knit

Repeat these two rounds until 24 stitches remain at the end of a round 1; knit to end of needle 1 and graft shut.

Step 8: Gather up your courage, maybe award yourself a square of chocolate and a gold star, and repeat with the other sock.

And there we have it:

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Two Hopscotch socks returned to circulation with wildly contrasting crazy heels.
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And if all else fails, Mandy's failsafe is just to needlefelt the holes closed!

PS - I've decorated for Christmas - do you like it or is it taking too long to load?


  1. This must be some Southern definition of darning because that looks like knitting to me. I don't like darning, too reminiscent of sewing up, which is why I have a pile of socks with small holes and runs. The big holes that need reknitting always get done first.

  2. Am loving the heels, I must try harder at this technique. Your blog is loading just fine for me, but then I have a speedy enough computer with a fast connection. I think your blog looks very pretty.

  3. Love your new header!! Thanks for this...I haven't had holes yet (please don't smite me knitting goddess) and I wonder if I have the patience to do this...but will bookmark this for future reference!


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