Mending

A couple of years ago I made a pair of socks in nalbinding. I made them striped in two colours and fulled them for extra strength and durability. I have loved them and worn them a lot during the years, which has resulted in holes. Today it is mending time.

Mending to reinforce

Yesterday I had a whole day of zoom lectures in a university course I’m taking in my day job. I decided to use the screen time for mending socks. Use in sort of a reciprocal way – I use the lecture to mend socks and the sock mending to reinforce (literally!) what I hear. It is like the lecture sets itself in the yarn and is woven into the socks, stitch by stitch.

I actually had a whole different blog post planned, but this one just bubbled up as I was sitting at the morning lectures and now I suddenly have mended socks. Sometimes a blog post just jumps at you and makes some extra blogging and crafting sense. This was such a time.

Old socks with new holes

Nalbinding is a very old technique where you basically sew, or rather knot, the yarn around the thumb and in different ways over and under the thumb thread. The resulting fabric becomes very strong since A: the threads go over and under each other and B: you can’t pick a thread and unravel it. Oh, well, I’ll show you instead:

Nalbinding the Dalby stitch.

When I nalbind I always full it to make it even stronger, and I did for these socks too. But sooner or later there will be holes from wearing. If I remember correctly, I think I have mended these socks once before, under the heels, which would be the most logical place for the first holes in socks. I think I did that mending by adding more nalbinding.

The mending scene

The white yarn in the socks is a rya/finull cross which is quite strong. Originally I spun it as a warp yarn for a blanket. It is 2-plied and a sport weight-ish yarn. The dark grey yarn is superfine Shetland wool I think – a fingering weight 2-ply yarn that I spun for something else, I don’t remember what. So the fibers in the dark grey are finer and the yarn thinner than the white yarn. And neither of the yarns was originally spun for socks.

As I decided today was mending day I found some of the original white yarn. I decided to use it for all the holes, both grey and white. This resulted in some sort of semi-visual mending. If you count the soles of the feet as visual, that is.

Looking at where these new holes are gives me some clues to how my feet work and how the yarns in the socks work. On both feet the holes are on the inner side of the heels. This is an area with lots of abrasion and despite the strong white yarn and the strong technique plus fulling the holes are a fact. I had made the previous (nalbinding) mending on the bottom of the heels.

Close-up of a nalbinding socks with two holes under the ball of the foot. A laptop in the background.
Holes in socks and a whole day with zoom lectures. What are you gonna do?

There were also holes on the dark grey stripes on the inner sides of the balls of the feet. This tells me that the dark yarn is weaker than the white yarn (which I knew of course) and that there is a lot of abrasion on that part of my feet. I have high arches. On the quite slim areas of the soles of my feet that do touch the ground, the pressure is quite high. This is something I make mental notes of for future sock projects.

I mend

I decided to weave a new fabric over the holes. I’m sure there is a fancy name for this kind of mending, I just haven’t learned it yet. Or is it just called darning?

Close-up of a sock in mid-mending.
After I have sewn a running stitch around the hole I sew long stitches across it as a “warp” and then weave the weft up-down up-down in a simple tabby weave to make a new fabric over the hole.

Anyway, I started by sewing a running stitch around the hole or worn part. The running stitch works as a strengthener of the edges of the darning and as a marker of where the hole is. In the next step I made long stitches across the hole, the warp if you will. I started and finished the warp threads on the outside of the running stitch border. In the final step I wove a tabby weave through the warp with a darning needle and fastened the thread.

I sew a running stitch (blue) around the hole (black) and sew long “warp” threads across the hole (horizontal red) and then weave the weft (vertical red) with the darning needle up-down up-down through the warp into a tabby weave.

I was very happy with the result. It just feels like such a pity that my pretty mending is on the soles of the feet where no one can see them!

Symmetric wear on my socks has been mended with tabby weave darning.

Extra reinforcement

In one of the socks I found a flat piece of felted wool that must have been pulled out of the fabric by my sweaty feet (sorry for the perhaps too illustrative explanation, but I do have a point). I decided to take advantage of the felted patch and place it on the inside of the heel mending as an extra strengthener for a spot on the socks with lots of abrasion. After all, that is probably where the wool on the loose came from in the first place!

Pretty woven squares on my previously naked heels.

A happy mending

I have done this kind of mending before, but never this organized and geometrical. It must have been because I saw the experience as blog worthy and made an effort to do it properly for you. So thank you for helping me make a pretty mending!

Suddenly I feel the urge to flaunt my mended socks. Have you ever found yourself wanting to flaunt your mending? I’m sure you have. A mending is a sign of love and tribute to something you hold dear, an opportunity to give back to the sock that has kept your feet protected and warm for so long. An anthem for cherished socks.

As you can see from the shape of my feet I have impressive bunions on the insides of my feet. I can see that the dark grey stripes are thinning on these parts, so they will be my next area to mend. I will keep my mending radar turned on for the next lecture.

The soles of two feet dressed in mended socks.
My socks are mended and my feet are ready for new and wooly adventures.

By lunch I had finished my sock mending. Lucky for me I had prepared a spindle for the afternoon lectures! For more mending adventures, read my portrait of a sweater post. And oh, for an excellent book on mending, get Mend and patch by Kerstin Neumüller. It is available in several languages.

Happy spinning!


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2 Replies to “Mending”

  1. This was a very interesting and informative post Josephin, thank you for sharing. I have never seen Nalbinding before that is fascinating- would this mainly for garment construction? The illustration and photos were very helpful. I can envision it might be good for heavy wear fabric. Being a fairly new sock knitter my socks do not have holes yet but I almost look forward to the mending process!

    1. Thank you Cheryl!

      Nalbinding has been known since at least the Viking age. The technique today is mostly used for mittens, wrist warmers and socks, although I have seen sleeves and whole sweaters too. It is a slow technique (which I enjoy) and you end up with a very sturdy and strong fabric, especially of you full it afterwards.

      Happy mending!

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