I remember the first time I knit socks. I used Dream in Color Smooshy, in a fun colorway called Strange Harvest. I spent a lot of time on the socks, so I was really disappointed when almost 3 months later they had a hole in the heel. Holes in socks are nothing new to me -- I wear out holes in the heels of all my socks fairly quickly, and it's always the place that goes first. If I ignore the heel hole for long enough, sometimes I'll get one in the toe -- but that's rare.
When I saw the hole in those socks, it made me so frustrated, because I didn't know that I could darn socks. I threw them out, even though I think at the time I even had some extra yarn left over! To think -- I could have darned them and would possibly still be wearing them today!
Awhile afterwards , I knit some socks with some handspun merino. I was a much better knitter, the yarn was a bit sturdier (navajo ply, for anyone interested in spinning notes), and the socks held up for a whopping 3 years. So when I got a hole in the heel, I wasn't surprised, but I also wasn't disappointed -- because now I know how to darn socks.
The first step for me was to get a darning egg. Luckily, I have a great antique store right around the corner from my house, and was able to find a beautiful egg there for only $4! They also had a baby egg, which I suppose is for darning even smaller socks. I would love to someday get a darning mushroom as well. Mine is wooden and was probably hand-turned at some point. I really love finding knitting things at antique stores, don't you?
To use the darning egg, you put it inside the sock and fill out the hole with the smooth, round portion of the bottom of the egg. I have it pictured here on the inside, right-side out, but when you darn you'll turn the whole sock inside out to get going. You can see where the sock has come apart - lots of little holes and stringy bits might be in the way, so you'll want to clear some of those out. No worries -- we're going to make it all better.
Now, something that I've been in the habit of doing for my most recent socks is that before I start, I wind enough yarn to fill up an embroidery bobbin onto a plastic bobbin. I keep all these little bobbins in a pretty bumblebee bag that Annie sent me, for just the purpose of darning socks. I know that someday, my socks will have holes, and I would prefer the yarns to match. However, for this pair of socks, I didn't keep any of the yarn (I even had left overs! I'm not sure where they went.) So I decided to use a bit of yarn that was close in color to the area with the hole, by Holiday Yarns. They gave out little mini-skeins of some of their colorways and bases at TNNA last year, and I picked up a few. Their Flock Sock is sturdy, smooth, and great for darning! This colorway is called Andromeda's Big Sister. I wound some off onto a bobbin card and put the rest into the scrap bucket. I fully intend to use this bright, happy blue in some striped socks someday!
To get going, you will want a pair of scissors, your darning yarn, and a tapestry needle. This was my first time darning socks so please refer to the text and not just the pictures -- I made a little bit of a mistake, which may come back to haunt me in another year. But I'll live with it!
The first step is to create a base for what is essentially a woven darn. There are a few different methods for darning, but I decided to try the woven darning method this time around. Using a zig-zag pattern, weave above and to the sides of your hole to help stabilize it. Don't forget -- your darning egg is in there the whole time, helping keep this section round. This isn't like sewing, it's like weaving. We aren't shutting any holes just yet!
After you've got a good weaving base, start going the other way. This is where I made a mistake. I followed darning instructions for woven fabrics instead of knitted ones. In a knitted darn, you'll need to go diagonally against the woven base, to allow for extra stretch. I went horizontally, as you can see. I don't think it will be a horrible thing, in the long run, since my hole is fairly small.
When you've created a nice solid woven fabric, and you don't see through it at all, you're done! Weave in any of your ends securely since they could bug you if they're loose about in the sock. Then, turn the whole thing right-side out to view your darned patch.
It might not be the prettiest darning job in the world, but for a first time out, not too bad! And now I know that when I pull out a sock and it has a hole, I can darn it, not just say "Darn it!"