January 9, 2021

Mending Socks

Does anyone keep a mending basket? A basket full of clothing items that need a ripped seam sewn, or a patch for a hole? Apparently, mending is the latest cool, sustainable thing to do. Keep old clothes out of the landfill! Of course, I agree. But because I remember a time when mending was looked down on as totally uncool, I feel a little smug that it's something I've always done. 

Winter is a fine time to keep a mending basket handy. Lately, mine has been filled with socks. Of course, hand knit socks must be mended. Too much much time, heart, and soul goes into making them!

The is one of my most frequently worn pairs.

To mend: sock yarn, darning egg, and tapestry needle.

This is just plain darning.

Actually, weaving a patch where the hole used to be.

Done. Inside view.

How it looks on the outside.

The socks I really seem to go through, however, are everyday cotton socks. And because I buy a large pack, they all seem to wear out at the same time. I've never been a fan of the buy&throw-away cycle, so since I was doing socks anyway, I decided to mend some of those cotton socks too. 

Plain darn with matching carpet thread.

Small holes are easier to darn. I used carpet thread in the above photo because I had it. Embroidery thread is a popular option because it comes in all colors (easy to match) and is inexpensive. Sometimes though, the holes in the heels are too large to darn, like the socks in the photo below.

Cutting cotton socks into rags.

These I usually cut into rags, so at least they are still useful. The other day, however, I wondered if it would be possible to patch the holes in the heels. Most of the socks with the heels gone still have good toes.

Sock toe to be used as a patch.

Why wouldn't these make good patches? So, I started cutting off the toes, cutting them in half, and then using them for heel patches.

Patched heel on sock.

I put the sock on my darning egg and pinned the patch in place. A running stitch holds it in place and a whip stitch further secures the edges. A blanket stitch in a colorful embroidery thread might be fun too. I also stitched around the holes to help secure the patch. 

How well will it work? Time will tell! But they're comfortable and I feel really good about getting more wear out of my old socks. 

Do you do much mending? 

43 comments:

Gorges Smythe said...

I rarely wear socks in my camp mocs, even in winter. When I do, They're so cheap that they aren't worth repairing. I can remember my grandmother darning socks, but not my mom. I've done it a couple times just to say I'd done it.

tpals said...

I don't wear socks either; my feet are too warm normally. Fun to see your mending, though.

Leigh said...

Gorges, being able to say your done something even a couple of times counts in my book!

Tpals, I can't imagine having feet to warm to wear socks!!!! Mine are always cold. I could never enjoy ice skating when I was a kid because my feet were always frozen. I'll have to show you the gloves I just mended!

Mama Pea said...

I do A LOT of mending! My wooden darning "egg" looks identical to yours. A hand-me-down from my mom. Yes, hand knit socks always must be mended. Papa Pea seems to "grow" holes or tears in his nice wool shirts (purchased "used" on eBay over the years) so those get taken care of right away. Daughter gives me all her mending. (How'd I get that job?) I find if things to be mended get tossed into a basket, they never get done so I try to do what needs to be done right away. And always feel good about making something good again. Great idea you had and implemented for the heels of your cotton socks!! Wonder if a toe from a discarded sock would work as well as a new toe? That's where hubby goes through his socks. And even though he wears the hand knit wool ones about 9 months a year, he does go through the toe of purchased light weight, white wool ones he wears in the hottest of weather.

daisy g said...

No, but I think I need to! I do wear socks in the winter months and have just bought myself a new set that I adore! I will want to keep these for as long as I can, so I think I need a darning egg!
Thank you for the push in the right direction!

Ulvmor said...

I wear hand knitted socks most of time, only two-three months of summer I don't wear them. I don't wear cotton socks at all, only hand knitted woolen socks. They need repairing. But, we dont't use darning egg - we have mushrooms! Or more precisely, ceps, lookin like porchini. I got one this Christmas, my sister's spouse made one for me!
But yes, I have a mending basket fot knitted items. I also have a box and a pile of stuff that has to be mend with swing machine...

Kaelin said...

Yes to the mending basket! Or pile, as it would be. I was taught mending by my mother (hand sewing was a skill she insisted all her children learn, even though that was rare for most of my modern millennial generation), but it wasn’t “proper darning”. I just taught myself that with my husband’s woolen mittens last weekend. I had no idea it was popular these days... it’s just what I grew up doing for the sake of frugality! Socks are the one thing that I’ve never bothered with, but after now learning how to properly darn, I think that will change. Great post as usual!

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, good for you! I've been looking at a lot of mending videos lately, and am discovering a whole new world of creative mending. :)

Daisy, if you love those socks mending is the best way to keep them! My cotton socks are relatively cheap, which is probably one reason they wear out so quickly. But I like lightweight in summer when I go outside.

Ulvmor, I've seen those darning mushrooms! And I've wondered if they might not be better than an egg. My husband's socks, especially, are large and pretty much dwarf the egg. A larger working surface might make it easier.

Leigh said...

Kaelin, well, a basket is simply a constrained pile, lol. Good for your mother for teaching her children to sew and mend. Those are almost lost skills that desperately need to be revived. And good for you for teaching yourself how to darn! Yes, it's becoming very popular and trendy now. The new green thing to do.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, this is something that (literally) I have started this year (to be fair, I have mended my tabi for Iai for years as they tore, but that was because at $12-$20 a pair, I needed to keep them going a long time). I have cotton sock and mine always wear at the same place: the ball of the foot (due to some kind of neurological issue, I always walk high on the balls of my fee). I just started, so I cannot report how "well" my mending experiments will go. So far they have all survived at least two cycles of use and washing so I am hopeful!

The ball is super interesting. I just sat at my desk, pulled the edges together, and mended, not knowing any better.

Leigh said...

TB, if it works, it counts! :) I'm realizing, though, that there's plain mending and decorative mending. The decorative is quite creative, so that's something I think will be fun to branch out to.

Retired Knitter said...

I went through a year or two just knitting socks for myself. I have a bunch of pairs. I have never needed to mend a hole but you sure make it look easy. For some reason I don’t have much problem with holes or seams that need mending. BUT I must be a messy eater because my main problem is stains. Sometimes I just can’t get the stain ou of an item - so then it becomes a rag.

Leigh said...

RT, stains are another category! I have the problem too, but mine seem to come from wrangling goats and digging in the dirt. I have found some ideas to hide or cover stains, although I've not tried any of them. By then it's a work garment, and so the stains don't seem to matter much, any more.

Florida Farm Girl said...

So long as the patches don't hurt your feet, go for it. DH wears out socks all the time but I seldom do.

Joy said...

I got such a kick out of this post. I have darned socks in the past, and I did it while I had them on--carefully!). Just the other day I labored over the decision whether or not to darn a pair of socks that had holes in the toe (it felt wasteful to toss them). I cut the stretchy tops off to use as a rag... what a great idea to use the toe as a patch on the heel, I love that! Recently I was thinking about how my mother had a box of socks that needed to be darned... the box sat in the kitchen for years as she worked full time and did not have the time to darn socks. When she moved from that house, I think the socks were tossed--just a memory that gave me a chuckle. Another use for worn out socks is to use them as a dusting rag, just tuck your hand inside,wipe away and toss in the washing machine. Another tip... wear them on a Sunday to church, as they are your 'holy' socks. ;) Ha.

Joy said...

P.S. I also patch holes in shirts, jeans, gloves, sew on buttons, hem pants, all sorts of thrifty things. I recall hearing when I was young of folks who would remove a worn shirt collar, flip it over and reattach to the shirt with the worn part underneath, not showing. You know, things were of a better quality in the 'olden days' and it paid to repair and mend. Now the idea of hand me down clothing has come to mind... I loved wearing my 3 older brother's hand me downs.

Renee Nefe said...

I haven't repaired any socks yet, but I have repaired my crocheted slippers. I also do a lot of mending of my neighbor's clothes. She tends to buy fast fashion items and brings them to me to fix when they fall apart. I've fixed the smocking on one of her tops twice so far. I've also replaced the pockets in her husband's coat because he puts pencils in them... I replaced the pockets with duck fabric so that they would hold up to his pencils longer.
I wonder if hubby would notice if I mended his socks. lol probably not. He tends to wear them until I have to put them in the rag bag.

Tewshooz said...

When I was little, 75 years ago, my mother taught me how to darn my dad's socks. It was an introduction to using needle and thread. My dad wore dress socks to work and endured the bumpy patches his little girl toiled over. I still have that darning egg, painted with scenes from the homeland. Your post brought back memories that I had thought about in many years. My mother said that these skills, along with knitting and crocheting were taught in grade school in those days when she was young. Times sure have changed.

wyomingheart said...

Yep! Mend all the time, and I usually do it immediately. If I let things sit, seems like it piles up, and that just doesn’t work! Since moving to the ridge, I do have some wool socks, but they are new, and don’t show signs of wear yet. I will definitely revisit your post when needed. About the stains... when you find something that works, please post it. I have a terrible time with shirts. I swear sometimes it looks like I wollered in a pig sty, and I couldn’t for the life of me, tell you how that happens! I use the never coming clean shirts for work only, but it would be nice to not be afraid to talk to the neighbor at the fence looking the way I do... lol !

Rosalea said...

Yes, I mend clothes, replace zippers, darn socks....Not much I won't tackle. Anything un-fixable ends up in the rag bag in Hubby's shop. Things appear on the chair in my sewing room, which is my 'mending basket'! It feels good to repair stuff and continue to use it. We both wear hand-knit wool socks almost all year, and I have a wooden darning egg I inherited from a Great-Aunt, a prized possession. Very nice darning job, Leigh. Interesting 'fix' on the cotton socks. Are they comfortable to wear?

Nancy @ Little Homestead In Boise said...

My grandmother taught me to do that as well!

Goatldi said...

There is a great ad free publication called Taproot. Recently (in the last year) they have published numerous articles on mending. Including both socks and those infamous knee holes in blue jeans. I am anxious to try the blue jean repair. Although considering the current trend of ripped jeans has made me want to find a button that says “I worked for these to get the holes you bought yours.”

But through it all I never bought or inherited a darning egg. I think they are super cool!😊

Leigh said...

Sue, so far so good! Interesting you don't wear out socks. You must have a very even walk!

Joy, you've darned socks while wearing them?!?!? That's brave, lol. Your comment about flipping collars to reattach reminds me of one of the Little House on the Prairie books. Laura describes taking dresses apart, turning them inside out, and resewing them with the not-faded inside of the fabric. Can't even imagine doing that nowadays.

Renee, sounds like your neighbor keeps you busy! I have to add that it's easier to darn socks before they wear out too much. :)

Tewshooz, good to hear from you! It's truly a shame that these skills are no longer taught. I took home ec in junior high, which was very useful, but I also wished they'd given the girls shop classes. It would have been so helpful to learn how to use tools, simple woodworking, and basic auto repair. And the boys should sewing and cooking. Everyone needs to know these basic life skills.

Wyomingheart, immediately is really the best policy! Makes the mend so much easier. That goes for darning socks too, actually better to catch it before the holes commence!

Stains are a sad fact of life, aren't they? That's usually when something becomes an outdoor work item!

Rosalea, good for you! And thank you for your compliment on my darning. It's appreciated!

Yes, the patched heel socks are comfortable to wear, in fact, they feel the same as regular, unpatched socks. It's nice to get that added life out of them. :)

Nancy, used to be a standard, household skill!

Goatldi, I've not heard of Taproot. Thank you for mentioning it; I'm going to have to track it down. I love your knee hole button idea!!! It's crazy how much a pair of new trashed jeans costs!

Kathy said...

Leigh, I too like the frugal option of buying packs of socks. But I only add 1/3 or 1/2 the pack to my current use drawer and save the rest of the pack for later. That way they don't all wear out at the same time and I also have a new WHITE pair if needed. Thanks for the pics of mending. This was one of the early things I learned how to do in childhood and my grandmother and mother called it "darning".

Goatldi said...

I know. We could all be wealthy right? LOL!

Leigh said...

Kathy, that's a good idea.

Goatldi, oh well. :)

Annie in Ocala said...

I've done mending of clothing off an on over the years. 25 years ago I broke a leg and ended up cutting off the leg of a couple pairs of jeans and longjohns then sewed it back on when the cast came off. I still have and wear the longjohns. Last month I had sx on a foot an had cut off the toe of some socks.... An saved the cut off an will probably be sewing it back on soon... Lately I've been mending leashes the snap has broken on. Dog and goat leashes. The stitching awl is a great tool to have for heavier materials. "The Awl for All" it says on the box.

SmartAlex said...

I almost never wear through a pair of socks, but my husband goes through socks like crazy. I'm still not very good at darning but I do try. I think the patches are more uncomfortable than they're worth. I usually just sit there and mutter "darn socks anyway" under my breath

Boud said...

If I waited on mending till there was enough for a basket, I'd have nothing left to wear. I stitch as I go, usually. I've repaired heels if handknit socks by unpicking and reknitting. And where socks are too far gone I've restitched them into fingerless mitts. I just handsewed a long sleeve t-shirt from an old jersey sheet which had shrunk. My cat had punctured holes in it so I embroidered around them and made them pretty fancy.

Leigh said...

Annie, mending dog and goat leashes? What a great idea! I actually got Dan one of those awls for Christmas. He used it to repair boots. The soles always come off and the glues just have limitations. I'll have to remember this for leashes and other things.

Alex, fortunately, it's not a beauty contest, lol.

Boud, that's really the best way to do it; mend immediately and don't let the mending pile accumulate. Seems like most of my creative energy has gone to writing for the past several years, so it feels good to get a needle and thread back in my hands.

The fingerless mitts are a brilliant idea! The t-shirt is an excellent idea too. Do you have pictures?

Amanda said...

I've been keeping a set or socks going more than 10 years with mending. Not pretty, but it pleases me to keep them going. If you're still knitting socks, you may want to dredge around and look for Victorian-era sock patterns. When I was working at a historic site, we found a working man's sock. Took a while to sort it out - it was rather comical, we were having an event and had a half-a-dozen very experienced knitters sorting out those old instructions - but we realized that they were doing a double layer of stitches on the heel and toe. We knitted up the socks in handspun wool, and while on the outside they just looked like basic socks, they would have given great padding to the heels and toes, and worn like iron.

Boud said...

Leigh, you asked if there was a picture of the shirt I made from an old knitted sheet. If you go here
https://beautifulmetaphor.blogspot.com/2020/10/back-to-plain.html
sorry, you need to cut and paste, Blogger doesn't allow live links in comments. Anyway, there you'll see one of the posts, and you can go to a later one to see the finished product modeled. It's one of my favorite tops now.

Leigh said...

Amanda, I will definitely have to do that. Double layered toes and heels sound like an excellent idea. Thanks!

Boud, thank you! So, so simple, but really turned out well. I love repurposing fabrics.

Ed said...

Sadly no, it just isn't a skill in my or my spouse's wheelhouse. But I recycle old clothing in other ways in my shop when using them on projects.

Helen said...

Probably 99% of the socks I own I knit and yes with such an investment of time, I'm going to invest a little more and darn them. And I'm not going to 'hide' the darn...after all it is work also. I liken it to the Japanese repair of broken cups that they mend (not sure how) with gold and it becomes part of the design of the cup.

Helen said...

Joy, my father did the collar thing with some of his old shirts. He cut it off and flipped it, but he hot glued it into place, lol. It worked for him and why not.

Leigh said...

Ed, mending, especially sock darning, takes time. When life is busy, it's hard to find that time! I figure that's what winter's for; getting things done there isn't time for the rest of the year. :)

Leigh said...

Helen, especially those handknit socks! Actually, I've just been discovering Japanese mending, such as sashiko and boro techniques. So creative! After I'm done with my socks, I'm going to try some of these techniques on other clothing items with rips and tears.

Hot gluing a collar back in place is pretty clever for a non-sewer! Hopefully, it wasn't scratchy around the neck!

J.L. Murphey said...

I absolutely have a mending pile (I outgrew a basket years ago. Darning is a lost art. Thanks for showing the step by step.

Mx. Ó Néill said...

This was great to read. I have a mending pile too and always try to repair as much as possible. It doesn't feel right to throw away anything I know I can repair or at the very least repurpose.

Leigh said...

Jo, thanks! Not really much of a tutorial, though. It's true darning is pretty much a lost art. In poking around YouTube, I found it very interesting that mending has become a new darling of the green movement. For many of us, it's just common sense.

Mx., I agree, if it's beyond mending, repurpose it. We have some really good ideas in the comments to this post!

Chris said...

Great work on the socks. I can't bring myself to discard great fabric in shirts, skirts and jeans. In fact, I think I have a hording problem in this regard, lol. Especially with denim jeans. The fabric is so durable, I want to make patchwork out of it, to turn into a sofa cover or cushion covers.

In fact, I have some cushions I want to re-stuff and recover, rather than throw away. It's probably cheaper and easier to buy new, ready-made ones - but I can't see the point in throwing out the old ones. They're just flat, and need some more stuffing.

I don't know, am I obsessive at this point, lol?

Leigh said...

I don't think you have a problem! In fact, that's a great idea for old denim jeans. I was recently looking at some patterns for making aprons out of old jeans. I think that's a great idea. I wonder if the fabric could be shredded and fluffed somehow, and then be used as pillow stuffing(???)