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“I wish I knew how to knit socks,” “I’d love to be able to knit my own socks,” “wow, did you really knit those socks yourself?” “do you teach sock knitting?” are comments and questions I frequently hear whenever I run one of my darning classes or workshops.

KnitSocks

I’m happy to announce that in April, I will start my first sock-knitting short course!

This sock knitting course is aimed at the intermediate knitter, who already knows how to cast on, knit, purl, increase, decrease, and cast off. You may have knitted a sweater, but haven’t tried knitting in the round yet. I will teach you how to knit basic, well-fitting socks on double-pointed needles from the cuff down.

During the first session (Sunday, 14 April, 11am-1pm), you will learn how to knit in the round on double-pointed needles (also known as DPNs); a suitable cast-on technique for socks; and taking the right measurements. Then, when you get home, you can be confident to cast on the right number of stitches to knit the cuff and the leg.

During the second session (Sunday, 21 April, 11am-1pm), you will learn how to turn the heel. Although I’ve knitted many socks, I still find turning the heel a small miracle. I will also show you how to decrease for the toe. Again, I’d expect you to do some home work, and knit all the way to the toe.

During the third session (Sunday, 28 April, 11am-1pm), you will learn how to graft the toe closed. This technique is sometimes known as Kitchener stitch. We’ll discuss some common sock knitting pitfalls and you’ll leave with the confidence and knowledge to knit sock number two, three, four, and more!

Sock wool and a set of double-pointed needles are included in the price, as is a handy cheat sheet to refer back to techniques and to help record all the necessary numbers to continue your sock knitting adventures. All this for a mere £65! the classes are held at Super+Super HQ, Brighton.

You can sign up by following this link.

Sanquhar Socks

Socks with a Sanquhar-inspired design.

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The first of February is approaching fast, which means I need to get ready for my first darning class of the year, taking place at Super+Super HQ in Brighton. There are still a few places available, so don’t hesitate to sign up! I’ll be teaching two classic darning techniques: Swiss darning, and stocking darning.

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Stocking darn on sock

And what with the cold weather, I’ve been wearing out my warm woollen socks like there’s no tomorrow. This, of course, is a no reason to have cold toes when you know how to darn; and indeed, is cause for a darn good celebration! My mending basket was stuffed to the brim with holes, and not one to sit idle, I took darning wool and mushroom to the holes:

FDPile

A collection of mended socks

For the sharp-eyed amongst you, you will have noticed these darns look different from the stocking darn above. Here’s a close-up:

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A darn old and a darn new

I have recently discovered a new darning technique! It was brought to my attention by the inimitable Dr Felicity Ford, who sent me a picture from a Finnish book on knitting and mending:

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Finnish darning diagram

I don’t speak Finnish, but I think the diagram speaks for itself. Once you start working it, you’ll see that it’s the good old-fashioned blanket stitch employed in a new way. It is closely related to Scottish darning, although with this Finnish darning technique you lay one foundation thread and then blanket stitch over it, whereas with Scottish darning you first lay down all foundation threads before filling it up with blanket stitch. I find the end result of the Finnish darn a bit neater, and it must be my favourite new darning stitch.

As I have only recently started using this stitch, I’m not sure yet how it will wear. The darn itself seems sturdier than a stocking darn, as there are more layers of thread. However, the area covered around the hole is not as big as with a traditional stocking darn. This may result in new holes developing around the darned area, as that usually has started to wear thin, too. I shall report back in due course, but I have made sure to extend the darned area beyond the hole .

To clarify the diagram, here’s how to do it:

You need a needle, darning wool, and a hole. I have used both sharp and blunt needles, without appreciable differences.

You start with laying down the first foundation thread at the top of the hole. Simply pick up one leg of each knitted stitch:

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Make sure to go well beyond the hole, as you need two or three knitted stitches worth to make the turn and simultaneously reinforcing the area around the hole. You need to pick up the other legs of the same knitted stitches:

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Pull the thread through, but not too tight, or the darn will pucker and cause unnecessary stress on the fabric. The it’s time to start blanket stitching. Try to lay the as close together as possible:

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When you have reached the other end of the hole, you need to start weaving in and out of the knitted stitches again:

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Turn as before, lay down the second foundation thread, weaving in and out of the knitted stitches again. After the next turn, start blanket stitching again. Make sure to insert the needle inbetween the blanket stitches on the row below, and bring the needle up from behind the new foundation thread:

FinDarn6

It’s important to work the blanket stitches close together. Extend the darn beyond the hole, and start weaving the foundation threads through the knitted stitches again.

Give this new technique a go, and let me know how you get on!

FDGreen1

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After all the glove knitting, carboot sale looting and Christmas decorations, it was time I returned to some Visible Mending. Here are three new items I entered for the Visible Mending Programme. May I present to you the classic darn: socks!

From left to right: my partner’s house socks, a shop-bought sock, my house socks.

First up are my partner’s house socks. I knitted this from left-overs of my Elizabeth Zimmermann Bog Jacket and I had only just enough left for making these. Hence the contrasting cuffs, heels and toes. For the lanaphiles amongst us: the brown yarn is Manx Loghtan wool, the grey is Jacob – I bought both from Garthenor Organic Pure Wool. The darns are made with Lang Jawoll sock wool.

As you can see, I employed two different methods of darning. On the left heel you see the classic stocking darn. This method is good for fixing holes. However, I noticed some thin patches too, so I decided to reinforce those with Swiss darning (also known as duplicate stitch), shown on the right heel and the sole top left. If you look closely, you can see I even managed to duplicate the decreases used for turning the heel.

The second sock I repaired, was a sock I bought before I knew how to knit socks myself – all those needles sticking out in all directions, I thought I’d never be able to cope with all that! They’re made by Hirsch Natur. I counted the gauge once, and I make socks of a similar weight myself now.

I used some mending wool I picked up in a sale somewhere. It turned out a bit thinner than anticipated once I got going, so I decided to add some extra warps and wefts. Some mending wools tend to felt a bit (despite their high nylon content), so I don’t think you will see this pretty ‘basket weave’ for long.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the last pair of socks. They’re Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Moccasin Socks. As ever with EZ, the design is out of the ordinary – here, she designed a sock pattern with a completely reknittable heel and sole. And therein lies the rub: however much I like the look of them, unusually, I did not enjoy knitting the heel and sole. At all. But I used 100% Shetland wool for the sole and that isn’t particularly hardwearing, so I needed to do something about those thin patches and the tiny hole that started developing. In the end I opted for Swiss darning. It makes good practice and I like the colour combination with the black and navy (which, incidentally, is warm and woolly lustrous Wensleydale longwool).

A parting note: the keen observer may have noticed something in herringbone-weave lurking in the background of some pictures. I hope this will lead soon to my very first INvisibly mended item!

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Almost two years ago I found out about the knitting tradition in a town in Scotland called Sanquhar. Having been developed in the 16th and 17th century, their style is very distinctive: two-colour stranded patterns, mainly for socks and gloves. You can find more information about them on the Future Museum website. I’m somewhat smitten by the gloves and I ordered all four available patterns from the SWRI (Scottish Women Rural Institutes). My first endeavour was going to be the midge-and-fly glove, but when I saw the fleur-de-lys on the aforementioned website, I couldn’t resist and I adapted the pattern thusly:

As you can see, I knitted in my initials, which is part of the traditional pattern. The next gloves I would like to make have a very different style. The fleur-de-lys is a tweed pattern, but the Duke pattern gloves is a so-called dambrod pattern and the squares fit in just so. Achieving stitch gauge isn’t that difficult, but achieving row gauge – crucial to get the right fit AND keeping the squares – requires finding the right yarn. So here’s a test knit, using Blacker Yarns 50/50 British Wool with Mohair 2-ply Sock Yarn. I used all different dambrod designs I could find:

Yes, the feet look ridiculously baggy, but these socks fit like, erm, a glove!

And I think I have found a suitable yarn to boot.

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