Catch-Up Time: Mending

I am a staunch believer in the idea that knitted (and most handmade items, in fact) are meant to be used, not just observed from afar. I try to make it clear that I want people to wear their hats and socks and scarves and sweaters until they are hanging on by their last stitch.

However, since I have only been knitting for the past 20 years (only!), and I am typically a huge yarn snob that shells out for the good stuff, I have yet encounter a need for a repair.

(You can just feeeel the foreshadowing, right?)

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Cue the sad trombones.

Dan noticed two tiny holes in his beloved vest earlier this year, and after a few moments of heartbreak, I knew what I needed to do.

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These, for the untrained, are felting needles. They are the sharpest things you will ever meet, and they have teeny, tiny little barbs running up the edges of their star- and triangle-shaped stabby bits. These barbs catch onto the natural “shingles” of the wool hair follicles, and when you punch them up and down enough times, cause wool fibers to “felt” and bind together.

Now, usually people use these guys to make little felt sculptures or appliques, working with the unspun wool roving itself. However, since Dan’s vest was made out of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, a yarn made with a distinct “woolen spun” texture that leaves the fibers loose rather than tightly plied, I figured that I could use these bad boys to fix up the holes and reattach the yarn ends, rather than having to stitch up a repair.

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It’s kind of hard to see because of all the texture going on, but dead center in the button band, you can see a purl stitch that’s been separated right at the middle of the purl bump. Due to Shelter’s texture, the hole didn’t really unravel at all, which is really just one of the billion reasons why you need to make something out of it already.

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I snipped off a tiny piece of yarn from the leftover bit of skein, maybe 0.5cm long, and laid it across the broken purl stitch.

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And then I carefully stabbed it about a thousand times.

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There were two broken stitches here, and now all you can see is moss stitch and button holes! I was pretty damn pleased with myself.

However…(bum bum buuuuummmm)…that wasn’t the end of the mending needed this year.

For some reason, this is also the year that decided that a whole bunch of our handknit socks were all going to break stitches in almost the exact same place.

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You might be thinking, Jinger, do you have a terrible moth infestation? Or, do you have a horde of tiny mice with scissors who hate you?

But, I’m thinking that these were all about human error. Where is each hole? Right near the top, where you grab the sides to hike up your socks, of course. Turns out that Dan and I are just monsters with sharp, pointy hands, who like to destroy the things we love most.

Felting needles were definitely not an option here, with multiple broken stitches, a little bit of unraveling, and varying fiber types. How to repair these wounds?

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I choose to believe that it’s a testament to my knitting skill that I hadn’t had to buy a darning egg before, but I think it’s more likely that I knit mostly for people who live in warm climates and only wear their knitted socks once or twice a year.

Anyway, time to get down to business to save our precious lizard, helix, and complement socks.  I had never done this before, but I looked at the instructions on the back for an abnormally long amount of time, plus several different tutorials online. And then I shoved them all back in a drawer and waited another week until I could stomach it.

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Now, the technique I’m using here is the “grid” method of darning socks, helpfully explained in detail here by the Radical Homemaker. You spread the area that needs repair over the darning egg to flatten everything out and make sure that you can see the stitches clearly.

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Then you run your darning thread in vertical lines, catching each side of the hole with a little bit of allowance on each side so that they are firmly anchored in the stable areas.

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After that, you do the same thing running in horizontal lines, anchoring the stitches and weaving in-and-out of the grid lines exposed.

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When you’re done, you have a little patch that’s stable, frayed ends that are trapped in the grid and unable to unwind any further, and a pretty cool-looking scar to show the sock’s rightful battle wounds.

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Really, if you have a penchant for variegated yarns and stripes, you really can’t see much of anything at all. The area is no longer quite as stretchy as the rest of the sock, but our scars act the same way, right?

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Even when they aren’t visible, they serve as a reminder for the things we’ve been through and the harm we’ve survived. They remind us of our weak points and the parts of ourselves that we’ve built up to be stronger.

And in this case, they remind us that the things that we make for ourselves and others are meant to be incorporated into our daily lives. Used so aggressively and lovingly that they fall apart and need mending. Trusting that what made them strong in the first place is what will help them to come back to life.