Handspun socks in use 1 & 2 PLUS Knitting in a patch

I thought one thing I could do to complete the feedback loop on the toughness or otherwise of my sock spinning would be to ask people I’ve given handspun socks to whether they could return them for inspection.  One of the hard things about the fact that I–gasp–can no longer wear handknit socks, is that I don’t have the capacity to see and feel for myself how my handspinning fares in daily wear inside a shoe or boot.  In return for people showing me how their socks have worn, I’m offering to mend socks that come back to me to close the feedback loop.  So if you happen to be reading this and you think you have a pair of handspun, handknit socks I gave you, bring them in and if they need darning, I’ll do the honours!


I think it is worth considering the question of wear.   It is a striking feature of most conversations I have with people about how hand knit items are wearing, that they feel they need to apologise if something I knit has worn out or worn through.  I don’t think so.  Sometimes it is obvious enough that the fault was with the spinning or knitting or fibre choice (so if anyone should apologise it should be me; or perhaps there could be shared acknowledgement of how wonderful the alpaca socks felt, but that they were never destined to last decades).  On the whole, though, I tend to think that it is rather flattering that people like things I made enough to wear them until they fall apart.  And unless I know what happened to them, sometimes I am not in a position to learn what might make me a better sock spinner (for example).  Nylon is permanent, it will never biodegrade, and therefore we should think seriously before we use it.  But the flip side of this recognition is awareness that socks without nylon will not wear as well as those with nylon.  There is a reason it came into use in the context of socks.  And–now that I have lived long enough to understand how a plastic bag will “degrade” into squillions of little bits of plastic, I think it may be time for a thoroughgoing recognition that when your #tuffsocksnaturally wear out they will biodegrade, so the compost or the worms can take them, especially if you dyed thoughtfully too.

But I digress.  This sock came home recently with only one hole!  I made these socks a little over a year ago (follow the link for details),  so they have not had a huge amount of wear.  But the hole was quite big, and clearly resulted from the fabric wearing right through in a large area. Given the fact that the other sock had not worn through in the same place, I’d say there was a weak patch in the fabric, likely caused in this case by the blending of the fibres (Suffolk, mohair and silk) being uneven, or by the spinning being on the thin side, or underplied.  I decided on a knit-in patch rather than a darn.  So I picked up stitches at the base of the heel flap (above) and began to knit, joining on by picking up a stitch on each side of the patch each row, and knitting it together with the edge stitch of the patched section.  The under-heel section will be thicker than the surrounding fabric, and the patch is generous, but I think under the heel is about the least sensitive place to put a patch and clearly reinforcement is needed!


To finish the patch, I picked up the same number of stitches , knit right up to them, and grafted them together (kitchener stitch, if you prefer).  If you’d like to see that mending strategy again, I’ve blogged it before here and here (on cardigans) and here (another pair of socks!)

Another pair of handspun and handknit socks came home the same day.  These had two tiny, neat darns in red thread, a lovely application of visible mending (and I think I found the remainder of the skein in my stash subsequently, which may explain the yarn choice another way).  One darn was up by the cuff, where it may have been a breach in the spinning or perhaps a munch from a m*th.  The other is here on the toe, where wear is to be expected, in my view.  All our feet (and shoes) are different, of course!


I found the post about knitting these socks here.  They were knit in 2014 and have gone from son to mother in their lifetimes thus far.  And yest so little obvious wear??

I spun them from… Superwash Merino/Bamboo/Nylon blend.  I bought it at a spinning workshop as the recommended blend for sock spinning, and did a class on spinning for socks.  the other thing I note with interest is that I knit them on 2.75 mm needles.  I think that was partly because the yarn was finer than I anticipated, but it dies also suggest a  finer gauge than my usual, and that is another long-wearing-sock-strategy handed down through the ages. So–the combination of nylon content, tight gauge, machine prepared fibre and handspinning produced a higher wear sock–but not a nylon-free sock, and let’s not pretend that industrially produced bamboo fibre is kind to the environment–though I do assume it would biodegrade at least.  So there you have it!  My first two worked examples of handspun handknit socks in wear for review.  What are you learning from reviewing your spinning and knitting?




Filed under Knitting, Spinning

14 responses to “Handspun socks in use 1 & 2 PLUS Knitting in a patch

  1. I always wonder how my handspun , handknit gifts fare. Usually they are beanies and i wonder if they have stretched or felted or pilled. So this is wonderful to read! Love mending and reusing. Your mending is so good!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! I don’t worry too much about beanies. Many of them have a quiet life I reckon, and fall victim to being lost rather than wearing out in many cases. I was going to say I never mended one, but then I remembered mending a purple and black favourite whose softness was clearly a winning feature, for a friend who had been wearing it for many, many winters.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Marg

    Not being able to wear handknit socks makes me sad for you.


    • Thank you. I have to say, it has been the cause of some self pity too! But in the end I’ve had to face it. Like all such things there comes a time when you have to accept that it isn’t a choice between enjoying wearing them and not wearing them, but between suffering consequences you can’t bear and not wearing them. Damn!


  3. Sabine

    Still following your lovely blog!
    I just thought to mention a pair of socks I once made from a handspun blend of romney and coopworth – very durable indeed. Coopworth alone is quite scratchy, but in a blend, it gives a lovely sheen and the long staple makes for a rather robust yarn, especially if you try for a tight twist (you’ll notice, I’m not really a spinner).
    I’m happy to send you a few locks to try if you like.


    • Thanks, Sabine! I have never had the chance to spin Coopworth, but I have been wondering about including lustre longwools (where I live the classic would be English Leicester). Romney, we certainly have here. Like you the scratch factor would concern me. Where are you, Sabine? Let’s not breach any quarantine restrictions designed to protect sheep through your generous offer.


      • Sabine

        Wow, didn’t think of quarantine…. Too eager to share the stash 🙂 I’m in NZ (still using that Eucalyptus DVD you once sent me)
        Anyway, love your mending endeavours!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I am so glad to hear that the database is still working! Fantastic! Well–sorry this share wouldn’t work, because otherwise I would gladly accept. I am tickled by the offer, in any case! Thanks, Sabine!


  4. some people have soft feet, and some just wear their soft woollies while sipping tea in the armchair of a cold evening.
    Though I regularly slather them with unguents I have feet like T-Rex. I average 16 km per day, wearing my beloved socks inside my (nicely lined) leather boots. Sometimes when I am travelling the socks go off at night and on again in the morning (because good wool socks are fine with just airing) and the holes can creep up over a period of time.
    So it isn’t your spinning that’s the challenge, it’s me.
    On the other hand, I don’t mind reinforcing my socks with bits of knit pillaged from other items, or slipping one worn sock inside another and stitching both together.
    so long as I don’t have to part with old friends.

    Liked by 3 people

    • T Rex? May I have feet capable of 16 km per day into my antiquity if I’m lucky enough to get there (I’ll take T Rex if that’s part of the bargain)! I don’t think I’m getting 16k into many days yet,and I hope you’ll continue to walk distances far into your antiquity also. I absolutely agree that socks get different amounts of wear in different lives. Some of my recipients save their socks for yachting or feeding the cows on chilly mornings and wear them in gumboots. Others, use them in slippers or sheets. And it is true that shoes are not created equal and bodies are glorious in all their diversity too. I’m always a bit fascinated by the wear patterns that different bodies and strides create in people’s socks, with some wearing through the heel and others the toe first. Really, it’s all about trying for socks that can go the distance without being a permanent legacy future generations have to contend with. And you’re right–in your case, my spinning is not involved (I’ve never given you a handspun sock). But I hope it soon will be, as I have you on my list for some Suffolk if it can work for you. I am wondering about a silk-and-merino leg where softness is essential and a Suffolk foot where robust might be in order… with the option to re-knit a foot that goes beyond mending. People who treat their hand knit socks as old friends are the ones I love to knit for!


  5. My experience mainly lies with my jumper which survived about 15 + years before extensive darning. It was, by this stage a garden jumper. It had a wonderful rejuvenation when I re-dyed it with onion skins, like the original dye bath. I only gave it up when it wore thin over the boobs – not a flattering sight.

    Liked by 1 person

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