Mend me, baby, one more time

29-05-19 socks
Old striped socks with new plain grey ‘toe’ added

Okay, well, a Britney Spears reference may not be quite what we were expecting today, but she’ll do.

After posting last week about the whole sock-mending option not working for me, I took a second look at the four pairs that that I had set aside to do some repair work on. I gave the whole structure of each sock a more thorough check to see whether there was enough potential to make the repairs. It was encouraging to find that three pairs probably are still in good condition and should be repairable, although one pair definitely isn’t.

I worked on the pair which had the least wear and was therefore in a state where it would be relatively simple to knit a replacement toe. I have finished the work now and I am very pleased to say that it was a success – these socks should be good for another couple of years. For the time being I have put them away as they are an autumn/winter/spring weight and I won’t be wearing them through the summer months. Over the summer I will try to mend the other two pairs in a similar fashion.

When I had finished mending this pair of socks and composed my scheme for mending the other two pairs, I was feeling pleased with myself. Then yesterday I felt an ominous twang at the back of my neck, so I took off my cardigan and this had happened. Yikes!

29-05-19 cardi
It’s a broken neck! Not that I want to over-dramatise anything,

This is an old cardigan which I have been wearing since 2012 – the pattern is Laccaria by Norah Gaughan and I knitted it in J C Rennie Shetland wool holding two strands together to get a DK/Worstead gauge. (I find it quite odd that I don’t have any finished object photos of this project at all.)

Now, if this problem had cropped up in May last year I would have cut the buttons off and thrown the cardigan in the bin, which may sound extreme, but at that point I had marked it down as no longer wearable. I had become too plump for it – the sleeves would spot-weld themselves to my arms when I wore it; one of the buttonholes had grown to the point where the button simply would not stay shut; the whole cardigan was shabby. However, as I have lost weight this cardigan has regained favour with me to the point where I am not ready to let it go. So, more mending is in order – I’m pretty sure I still have a ball of this wool and can just unpick the cast-off edge of the neckband and re-do it. I want to knit a new garment in this type of colour and when I do that, it will be time to retire this one.

Do you find there are times when everything seems to need mending, or is it just a steady trickle in your life?


 

Call the sock police

24-05-19 socks

This week I made my second attempt at sock resurrection and I came to the same conclusion as I did on my first attempt, namely, when socks get to the pont where one bit needs mending they are probably telling you that they have come to the end of their life.

I would quite like to be the type of person who mends clothes or re-fashions them so they can go on being useful, but in my heart I feel that life is just too short for such endeavours. I will return to this point later, but first, let’s examine what I learned from my attempt to mend these socks.

I finished this particular pair of socks in September 2015, so I got a good four winters out of them. To provide some context, I have worn my hand-knit socks exclusively – by which I mean no shop-bought socks and no tights or stockings – for at least the past five years. It’s either been hand-knit socks or bare feet, and in England bare feet only happen in a minority of months. There are two reasons for using my hand-knit socks so consistently: firstly, although my feet are unexceptional, I have never found a pair of shop-bought socks that fitted me and, secondly, until this past winter I’ve been dressing in a strict uniform of leggings or trousers paired with tunic tops/short dresses so socks have been my default foot covering. This has changed somewhat over the past nine months as my weight has reduced and I’ve become more confident about wearing skirts or dresses with tights some of the time. Even so, I still wear trousers and socks a lot.

I think in all the time I’ve been wearing hand-knit socks, I have had one pair which sprang a hole in the heel and one pair that wore through on the ball of the foot; apart from that the point where all my socks wear out is at the toe. This year, with make do and mend becoming ever more popular, I started to think that I could just re-knit the toe of socks when it starts to wear and I made an attempt at repairing one pair, only to find the wool was so felted together that it was impossible to unpick the original toe and knit a new one. “Life is too short,” I thought.

Yesterday I was packing away some of my socks until the autumn, and I put several pairs to one side which are getting perilously worn on the toe. I picked the pair shown above and cut off the toes then proceeded to pick back to a suitable point to knit a new toe. Once again, the wool was felted, but I managed to get the first one done with a new grey toe and it went quite well. However, when I turned to the second sock, I realised that I would have to get rid of almost all of the foot area and re-knit it because there were several patches where the fabric was wearing thin. And so it struck me all over again that these socks probably aren’t worth the trouble of repairing – they have served me well and now they are ready to retire. “Nothing,” my mum would say, “lasts for ever.”

In a situation where we have no alternative but to eke out our clothing for as long as we possibly can, such endeavours are well worth doing. Ecologically, wearing old is many times better than producing new. Yet we have to balance this out with how we can best use all of our resources and that includes our time. I do not feel my time is well-used repairing socks, or re-fashioning clothes that are too large for me so that they fit again. I would rather knit a new pair of socks from scratch, which keeps manufacturers in business and employing people who need jobs. I’d rather donate the over-sized clothes to charity and replace them with more appropriately sized clothes that someone else didn’t want. I am not championing profligate shopping, and I have never been one to wear clothes once, or even for one season – the clothing industry has never got rich from my shopping tendencies. However, I think I will continue with my long-held system of wearing it until it threatens to fall apart then accepting the inevitable. To salve my conscience, I am going to investigate the textile banks which take items too worn to donate so they can be recycled into something else of use.

I’ll just finish up with a quick photo of the pens I am currently using. One YouTube channel I enjoy is Waski the Squirrel who does a weekly video series called “Pens In Use”. My own pen habit is much less extreme, but every so often things have moved on sufficiently to make an update worthwhile. So here is my current set:

24-05-19 this week's pens

I’ve got one more cartridge of the Graf von Faber-Castell Midnight Blue ink, then I will be using my bottle of their Cobalt Blue as my main blue ink. The rather old bottle of MontBlanc blue/black or Midnight Blue (I can’t recall which they called it) still has plenty of fills in it. I’m not sure about this ink in the gushy Parker 51, but basically I am going to try this pen with all the inks I can lay my hands on until I find a combination that I think works really well. My second Waterman Hemisphere is uninked at the moment, as are my Lamy Safari and Lamy LX. The Safari may sit on the bench for some time, but I think the other two will be back in action fairly soon.

I will finish up by wishing you all a lovely weekend, and sending commiserations if you have to work. See you again on Monday.