red white and blues

born in the USA

After much consideration (and math), I have decided to make the I Heart You sweater for child sizes only.  I apologize if I told you otherwise, but the design would have needed to be altered so much to be flattering for women. Thank you, Anne, for helping me see the light. I would have been writing two separate patterns.

The sizes will range from age 2 to 16.  Or, since kids vary so much, for a chest circumference of 20″ to 32″.

I’m working on an alternate version with some Lanaloft Sports Weight (sleeves first).  The red white & blue (tempered a bit with some Carolina Blue – Go Heels!) is so very patriotic and I so love it.  Lanaloft and Nature Spun are both awesome sport weight yarns from Brown Sheep.  Have you tried them yet?  I’m in the middle of deep infatuation with them both – even more so because they are made right here in the USA.  Lanaloft is a singles and the Nature Spun is plied.  Both knit up wonderfully.

You’d think I work for Brown Sheep.  But in fact, I do not.

How to do it: Darn Socks

When I posted the poll about sock darning, 37% of respondents said they keep their holey socks stuffed at the back of the drawer because they don’t know how to darn.  I used to do the same with my handknit socks. But now I’m a darning maniac. You can be one, too.  It’ll be awesome.

large hole in handknit sock

The socks I am mending today are an odd choice.  They are EZ’s Moccasin Socks; it would be ideal to re-sole them completely instead of repairing the hole.  But because I am a darning maniac these are the last of my holey socks.  Besides, a hole is a hole is a hole.

Gather your supplies.

  • Holey sock.
  • Matching leftover sock yarn.  If you no longer have any leftovers, choose a close match.
  • Long darning needle, blunt tip if possible.
  • Scissors.
  • Darning egg or mushroom. As you can see, I do not own a tool specifically for darning.  I have used a softball but this plastic football is my current favorite.  You could also try a lightbulb, or a baseball, or anything round with a hard surface.

tools for darning

Before you begin darning, turn the sock inside out and pull off any fuzz balls that are in the sock.

inside out - get out the fuzzies

Begin now.

Turn the sock right side out again.  We’re going to darn from the right side.  With 3 or 4 yards of matching yarn (I’m using contrasting yarn so you can see what I’m doing), thread your darning needle.  The thread should be double — the needle is at the center, and the ends of the threads meet.

oops, missed one

A very long thread is used because the darn will be stronger if you have fewer breaks in the yarn.  Ideally, you would mend the entire hole with one length of yarn.

Insert your darning football, er, mushroom.

insert your "darning football"

Pull the sock tight, and center the hole over your darning tool.  Hold it with your non-sewing hand at the back.

how to hold while you darn

And here we are ready to begin.

darning football

The patch of darning will go beyond the edges of the hole, and it will be square (my personal preference – round is good, too).  Begin by sewing the needle through the knitted fabric in a running stitch.

how to put the needle in

Pull the thread through, leaving just 1/2″ – 1″ of a tail.  This will be trimmed later.  Insert the needle again, parallel and close to the first line of stitches, and work back down over the hole.

just the beginning

Continue in this manner, working up and down over the hole.

back and forth...

At the edges of the hole, the knitted fabric is very thin.  Keep this flap of fabric on the outside of the work by keeping the sewing needle under it as you prepare to cover the distance of the hole.  Like this:

keep the edge of the hole to the outside

Continue until these parallel running stitches completely cover the hole.

step one complete

Now sew the running stitches perpendicular to the first stitches.  I have changed my thread, but that is only for demonstration.  You will continue on with the same length of thread.

ready to weave

Continue back and forth, weaving the running stitch up and down through the fabric.

starting the perpendicular weaving

When you come to the hole, with no knitted fabric to sew through, weave the yarn over and under the threads that cover the hole.

beginning to weave over the hole

I never knew it, but when you darn a sock, you’re creating a woven patch to cover the hole.  Simple, really.

darning is weaving

When you’ve covered the hole with weaving, you’re done!  Well, almost.

darning complete!

All that’s left to do is neaten things up.  With scissors, trim the flap of fabric close to the work.

trimming the flap

Also trim the ends of thread close to the work.

trimming the extra yarn

Now you really are done!

darning complete - outside view

Admittedly, a darn is not the prettiest thing, especially in my garish colors here.  But the point is that a sock on the foot is a hundred times better than a sock at the back of your drawer.

A few thoughts.

  • Using a doubled thread is optional.  I prefer it because the repair is Very Strong.  Stronger than the original sock, in fact.
  • Darning a big hole takes about 30 minutes.  A smaller hole will take less time to mend.
  • You can use this same method to reinforce a weak spot even before a hole appears.
  • After wearing your mended socks the patch will begin to felt together.  It will even out and look pretty.  I promise.

RS or WS?

When you darn from the right side, the wrong of the sock is very, very neat and tidy.  Much prettier than the right side.

darning complete - inside view

Then why do we darn from the right side?  Wouldn’t we rather have the lovely, smooth surface on the outside?  No.  The smoothness of the inside is perfect for next-to-skin wear, and the outside will soon mat down with wear.

On the other hand, if a few bumps on the inside of the sock don’t bother you, then by all means, darn from the WS.

Thanks

Big shout out to my mother-in-law, Noreen, for teaching me how to do this.  Also, I should thank Cindy for bringing up the whole darning issue in the first place.

And dudes, in the poll I mentioned at the beginning,  33% of respondents answered the question “Do you darn socks” with , “Yes, of course I darn.  Doesn’t everybody?”  That made me pretty happy.  If you are an experienced darner, I’d love your input!

Phew, a whole post about mending socks with not a single “darn” pun.  Score!

on gauge (free pattern, too)

My favorite chapter of any knitting book is Chapter 2 of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Without Tears.  The chapter is called “Gauge: Required Reading” and it’s short and to the point.

I pulled the book off the shelf yesterday specifically to read just that chapter.  I’m teaching a Learn to Knit class at my LYS and will be talking about gauge during Sunday’s class.  The class is the second in a series of three.  The first class we cast-on, knit and purled.  When they come to class on Sunday the students will have a square piece of stockinette fabric.  Hopefully.

Since I want to get the newbies to understand Gauge,  I pulled out my bag of swatches to bring to class.  I found this:

First Knitting

This is the first knitting I ever produced.  I borrowed my friend’s Stitch & Bitch book and sat down with some heather gray Red Heart and size 8 needles that my sister gave me.  I’m amazed that I still have this bit of knitting.  But when Debbie Stoller tells you to hold onto it for posterity, you pretty much do what she says.

During my first two years of knitting, I never knit a gauge swatch.  Or if I did it was a half-assed one.  I knit them now because I like to; I collect them.  Sometimes my gauge swatches are the beginning and end of a project.  Sometimes they evolve into something more.  And to be honest, I still don’t always knit a swatch.  Really!

swatches

Here is a picture from May ’08.  If you click on it you can see notes on each swatch.  Since I took that picture, I have made many more swatches and found older ones, too.

So, back to knitting class on Sunday.  I am struggling with how to approach the gauge issue with newbies.  I agree with EZ when she says, “GAUGE is the most important principle in knitting.”  I will teach the new knitters how to measure it, tell them what it means, and illustrate what might happen if they ignore the swatching process.

But I think the gauge part of knitting is something that you have to learn over time.  You need one gloriously effed up project – hours and hours of knitting – to teach you that swatching is a step not to be ignored.

That’s about enough gauge talk, right?  How about a free hat pattern?

how to knit a hat

I was going to call this pattern, written for the newbies, “How to Knit a Hat” but that was taken.  So instead I named it Elementary.  Knit in the round with worsted weight yarn, garter stitch brim, spiral-y decreases at the top.

how to knit a hat

You can get this one-page download for free on Ravelry.  CLICK HERE!

P.S. Don’t forget to check your gauge before you begin: 20 sts = 4″ measured over stockinette stitch.  :)