Life with Fiber and Fiber Arts

Fixing Things: Part 2 (Holes in Socks) January 21, 2010

Filed under: fixing,how to — Hannah Cuviello @ 10:26 am
Tags: , , , ,

Dear Sock Knitters,

As long as I have been knitting socks and giving them to others, I have felt that the best compliment I can receive in return is to see big old holes in the bottom of those socks. While I appreciate the sentiment that leads to handknit socks being hidden away in drawers with sprigs of lavender and cedar, only taken out on special occasions, I personally really knit socks to be worn. I live in the right household for that.

1. Much Loved Socks

These are clearly well-loved socks; pilled and threadbare from months of near constant wear. Now, I didn’t knit these socks, but I think that the dear friend who did would be very gratified to see this:

2. Very Much Loved

Especially knowing that these lovely, warm house socks were the only reason that my husband got out of bed and walked around on our cold hardwood floors this winter. At one point, one of the socks got lost in the laundry; I didn’t see my husband for days.

Now, in the interest of continuing to spend time with my husband during the day, I must make them wearable again. I invite you all to come along for the ride.

First, a note on the socks themselves.  As you can see, they are knit out of a heavy wool, Cascade Eco+. While this wool generally felts very well, we have somehow managed to wash these socks numerous times without any measurable shrinkage.  In the very early washings, there were signs that the socks would like to shrink, however much stretching quickly brought them back in line. Now they don’t even think about it.

I am hopeful that, since the socks are knit out of such a thick wool, the steps in the mending process will be easier to see over the internet. Note that these exact steps may or may not translate to other mending projects. My goal is to share the concepts behind the mending process.   Another disclaimer: This is just how I mend socks. Like almost everything in knitting, there are as many ways to do it as there are knitters and they probably all have their merits.

Now for my mending. Let’s take a closer look.

3. Closer Look

Yep. It’s a hole.  I recognise that red is not the easiest color to discern in detail over the internet, but hopefully, we will manage. The first thing I do when preparing to mend socks is get my bearings: determine how many rows and how many stitches I am dealing with. This might make that a little clearer:

4. Getting my bearings

Above, you see that the top and bottom rows (purple and green) are more or less intact, while the three middle rows have worn away, creating the hole. Along the bottom, are three green “stitches” (represented here by what looks likes previously used green staples). This tells us that about three stitches on each row have come unknit.  My preferred method is to go row by row, recreating the stitches that have come undone. Beginning with the bottom row, I anchor the mending yarn by duplicate stitching in the last two intact stitches of the first row. (What? For clarification of the duplicate stitch, see the previous post.)

4. Start with Duplicate Stitch

Here I have traced two of the intact stitches with the yarn I will use for mending (conveniently, a different color- my husband good-naturedly did not object to having periwinkle patches on his feet).  This is called Duplicate stitch.

Before continuing, I will need to pick up the three stitches from the last fully intact row (the green row in picture 3).

5. Pick up intact stitches.

I like using short, double pointed needles for mending; they don’t get in the way and I can knit in either direction.

The next step is easy. Just knit those three stitches. We all know how to do that!

6. Knit 3 stitches

7. 1st row almost done.

The first row of the hole is not pretty much mended. All we have to do now is anchor the other end, connecting it with the stitches on the other side of the hole.

As with the beginning of the row, we will be using duplicate stitch. Now, the basic rule of duplicate stitch is that the yarn will always come out of a stitch, go up or down diagonally, go behind two legs of the stitch directly above or below, then go back into the same stitch. The key thing to remember is that before the yarn can come out of any stitch, it has to go behind two legs. (People who have read my post on duplicate stitch say “Wait, it took 3 pages and 20 pictures to say that?!”)

8. End of row 1: Duplicate stitch

I think I should have more colors here to aid in explanation.

8b: Duplicate with colors

Look at the third Blue stitch from the right. The yarn comes out of a green stitch (a Balloon, using the terminology of the previous post), over the needle (it would go behind the legs of another stitch if this were intact knitting) then back into the same green stitch, which you can’t see, because it is behind the needle. Now, remember, before the yarn can come out of a stitch, it has to go behind two legs. When the yarn goes back into the green stitch, it goes behind one of the legs (see picture 8b).  I have to use a darning needle to bring the yarn behind the second leg and out through the center of the third green stitch. The stitch on the far left, outlined in blue, is the one I will be duplicating with the mending yarn. When I’m done, it looks like this:

9. Row 1 complete

A quick overview of my intentions for row 2. I will be mending row 2 from left to right (row 1, remember, was right to left). After Duplicate stitching the two intact stitches to the left of the hole, I will knit the three stitches from the needle and then connect them to the fabric on the right side of the hole using duplicate stitch.

Have you detected a problem with this plan? Because I am working from left to right, it seems to necessitate knitting backwards, that is, knitting the three stitches on the needle from left to right, rather than from right to left.  While I have had occasion in my knitting life to become proficient in knitting backwards, I don’t expect everyone out there to be as excited about it as I am. Here is an alternative:

Do the duplicate stitch on the left side of the hole, leave 3 stitches worth of yarn, and do the duplicate stitch on the right side of the hole. Now, using the extra yarn you left, knit the three stitches from right to left. How much yarn does it take to knit three stitches? Well, since I have not actually moved on to the second row yet, I can check on that.

10. Three stitches worth

This is how much yarn you should save.

Now, to continue with the mending,the first thing I have to do is get up to the next row. I have already stated that I intend to work row 2 from left to right, the other option being to cut the yarn and go back to the right hand side of the hole, where I started row one. That, however, would mean two extra ends to weave in and I’m not cool with that. Here is my preference:

11: Up a row

Bring the yarn diagonally up and through the center of the stitch immediately to its right. I am now ready to duplicate the two intact stitches of Row 2 that are on the left side of the hole. Once that is done, I will leave enough yarn loose to knit the three stitches and duplicate the two stitches on the right side of the hole.

12. Leave enough yarn.

In picture 12, I have left enough yarn to go back and knit the three stitches.  Also note that I have begun the duplicate stitch by going under the leg of the left most stitch from the beginning of row one. Once the yarn is secure on the far side of the hole, I knit the three stitches in the center.

13: Row 2 done

With two duplicate stitches done on the right side of row 2, I am ready to begin row 3.

14. Begin row three

In picture 14, I have moved up to row 3 and made two duplicate stitches, just as I did on row 2. Now, it would be lovely if I could just knit the next three stitches and be done with it, but remember from picture 4 that there were only three rows of mending that needed to be done. This being the third row, I have to find a way to connect it to the row above, which remained intact (the purple row in picture 4).

You can see in picture that the yarn of row three goes into the middle of the left most stitch of row 2 and comes out from behind one leg. This means that the next thing I have to do is bring the yarn behind a second leg and out through the center of the next stitch (which happens to be on the needle).

15. Behind the second leg

The next thing to do, according to our duplicate stitch instructions, is: “come out of a stitch, go up diagonally, go behind two legs of the stitch directly above…”

16. Hidden stitch

To find “the stitch directly above”, we have to see where the yarn came from before going behind the legs it just came out of. In other words, we have to backtrack. Now, this is not very fair, given the picture above, since the stitch in question is almost impossible to see.

16b. Found stitch

Focussing on the “teardrops” (for clarification, see previous post), notice that the third teardrop has only one line of yarn coming out of it. We know (from our duplicate stitch rules) that each stitch must have a line coming out and a line going in. This means that our next move has to be a line going into that third stitch.

17. Line out, line in

Next step in the duplicate stitch rules? Go behind two legs.  One leg is shown in the picture above, the second leg is part of the next stitch on the needle.

18. Second leg

Remember the next step? We’ve just gone behind two legs, now we move diagonally downwards and go into the last stitch that the yarn came out of.

19. Downward Diagonally

21. Into the center and under two

Still with me?

I have just gone under two legs of a lower stitch. Now I have to go back up diagonally, into the center of an upper stitch and under two legs.

22. Under two upper legs

Again, I highlighted the upper legs in question, since they can be extra hard to see. The second leg belongs to the stitch on the needle.

23. Under two upper legs

Now into a lower stitch and under two legs there.

24. Two lower legs

Next, you guessed it, up and under two upper legs.

25. Last two upper legs

And now for the last two lower legs.

26. Last two lower legs

Note that the leg on the left belongs to one of the initial duplicate stitches from the beginning of row 2! We’re home free.

27. All done

There we have it. There may be a pop quiz later.

Before I (finally) end this post, I would like to say a word or two about prevention. Of course, well-loved socks are going to wear out eventually, but the lovely people in the yarn industry have given us some tools to help fend off that day a little longer. One of these tools is darning yarn. This is generally a very thin wool/nylon blend thread that can be held together with the actual yarn while knitting the heel and the toe (the two parts of the sock that most commonly develop holes). The darning yarn is thin enough that it won’t change your gauge or create uncomfortable bulk in the sock.  It can also be used to shore up thin patches on elbows or other threadbare places on sweaters, if you don’t have access to the original yarn. In many cases, the darning yarn is thin enough it be used for mending holes in machine knit or store-bought garments.

What if your socks don’t wear just at the toe or heel? The socks above, for example, wore out more on the ball of the foot. If you don’t necessarily want darning yarn knit together with the regular yarn all the way around the foot, you can duplicate stitch the darning yarn over just the areas that tend to wear (seeing as you are all now experts in duplicate stitch).

OK. I think that I may have actually run out of words. I know, you thought it was never going to happen. Well, here is proof. Go now and wear your handknit socks without fear!


Fixing Things: Part 1 1/2 (Meet Duplicate Stitch)

Filed under: how to — Hannah Cuviello @ 8:24 am
Tags: , , , ,

Well, I know I promised that my next post would be a “tutorial” on mending holes in socks, but it turns out that I lied. Actually, I was about halfway through constructing said tutorial, when it occurred to me that not everyone out there is working from the same basis of knowledge.  When I say things like “Anchor your yarn by duplicate stitching in the last two complete stitches of the row”, there are those out there who will go “Huh?!”.  And that’s OK; I’ve got you covered.  Here is a quick, but hopefully thorough enough lesson in Duplicate stitch.

First: A Definition.

Duplicate stitch is the process of recreating or tracing the line of a stitch on top of an existing stitch, usually using a different color of yarn. It is an extremely handy technique for any of the following:

1. Creating designs on finished knitting by “drawing on” stitches of a different color.

2. Reinforcing threadbare stitches to prevent the formation of holes (usually done in the same color).

3. Weaving in ends.  This is a totally invisible, very secure (if somewhat fussy) way to weave in ends, and I know many brilliant knitters who use it to great advantage.

4. Closing up holes that occurred due to dropped stitches (once the stitches have been picked up, of course), unintentionally made stitches, stretched out stitches, etc.

On a more abstract level, practicing duplicate stitch is a wonderful way (it’s in italics because I feel very strongly about it) to learn more about the structure of your knitting. The path that your yarn takes as it travels through the row, the way it interacts with stitches from other rows, the relationship between a single stitch and the stitches around it; these can all be better understood by learning about duplicate stitch.

This is my goal in today’s lesson. I want to help you better understand just what your yarn is doing (and establish some shared terminology that I can use later on). I promise that it will make the following tutorial on sock mending much easier to follow.

OK. Let’s start with some knitting.

Often, when I am talking to people about their stitches, I will refer to columns and rows of  “V’s”. Do you see the “V’s”?

Does that help? Now, it turns out that, when trying to think of a row as an interconnected unit (which we are trying to do), the idea of “V’s” can be a little misleading. Stitches are not separate entities.  Anyone who has tried to pick up an entire row of stitches that has fallen off the needle knows that what you do to one stitch has a very real effect on the stitch next to it.  Let’s see how these V’s are connected.

(Sorry about the crudeness of the pictures. Someday I will learn how to use InDesign and Photoshop, and then everything I do will be pretty!)

The yellow above shows the path that the yarn takes on any given row. It’s very squiggly. For the sake of this and the next tutorial, I am going to come up with cutesy names for the different, salient parts of the row.

The part of the stitch that curves up and interlocks with the row above is now called a “Balloon”, and the part that curves down and interlocks with the row below is now called a “Teardrop” (Is that too sad? Oh well. They’re happy tears.) I call the sides of the Balloons and Teardrops “legs”. Have a look at how the Balloons and Teardrops from one row interact with those from another.

Note that the yellow Balloons are wrapping around the bottom of the White Balloons and the yellow Teardrops are coming through the middle of the white Teardrops.

Alternately, white Balloons are coming through the top of the yellow Balloons and the white Teardrops are wrapping around top of the yellow Teardrops.

Looking at just the “V’s” now, see if you can trace the path of each row.

Ok. Now for a step by step virtual duplicate stitch.

Here are two rows of knitting, Green and Blue. We are going to create a row of duplicate stitch between them.

Step 1

Step 1: With a threaded needle (played here by a thick yellow line), go behind the legs of the first Blue stitch.  Note, you will always go behind the legs of a stitch at its narrowest point; the bottom of a balloon or the top of a teardrop.

Step 2

Step 2: Coming out from behind the legs of the balloon, bring the yarn down diagonally into the center of the Balloon one stitch below the Balloon you just went behind.

Step 3:

Step 3: Go behind the legs of the Teardrop immediately to the left.

Step 4

Step 4: Go up diagonally into the center of the teardrop you came out of in step 2. Note: on the top, you will always be going behind balloons and coming out of teardrops, while on the bottom, you will be going behind teardrops and coming out of balloons. (What a very bizarre sentence.)

Now, we repeat the process.

Step 5

Step 5: Go behind the legs of the next balloon.

Step 6

Step 6: Go down diagonally into the center of the balloon one stitch below the balloon you went behind in step 5.

To begin the process again, go back to step 3.

Note: Whenever your thread comes out of a stitch (balloon or teardrop) it will eventually go back in that same stitch, after going behind the legs of the stitch directly above or below it.

In other words, you will always 1. Come out of a stitch, 2. go behind the two legs of the stitch directly (or rather one row) above or below that stitch, then 3. go back into the same stitch.

The tricky thing is that your point of view (whether you are focussing on the Balloons or the Teardrops) can change without warning. It is important to notice that, while you are going behind the legs of a Teardrop, you are also coming out of the center of a Balloon.

In know, sometimes labelling things does not make them simpler. The best thing is just to follow along with the steps until your eyes and hands start to recognize the movement.

Once you have a handle on the shape of the stitches and the path the yarn takes through the row, feel free to move on to the sock mending post.

I hope this helped.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 52 other followers