Darn those socks!

I’ve knitted hundreds of socks and I’ve usually been of the opinion that life is just to short and busy to darn them. I told myself that making more was a pleasure and that if they wore through, this was love in a very definite sense: the recipients loved to wear them so often that holes appeared.

I had read a few posts by Tom of Holland about the joys of visible mending and darning and thought, how brilliant but, nope, not for me.

But December rolled around as it does, and here I am in the thick of seasonal knitting and I noticed that quite a few socks belonging to my significant others were showing wear and tear, and were not on the socking list (at the moment. Normal service will be resumed after Christmas). When closing down the shop, I had come across a box of darning yarn. I thought about adding them to the sale but, well, lost them if I’m honest. So when they were rediscovered, they came home with my shop yarn stash. So I had a go at darning some of my dear ones socks and actually it was ok.  It took about an hour to darn a couple of socks but compared to about 7-8 hours to make a pair of socks that’s a time saving. Of sorts.

I’m a lot quicker now and I understand the process better, so I can darn a pair in about 45 minutes and they look better too. Here’s the latest pair from my younger son’s collection. I didn’t bother with a before  – you know what socks with holes look like.

I darned one with a classic weaving using a mushroom, the other was too far gone and needed a patch – simply a square of stocking stitch whip-stitched in place. Now they look very obvious and a bit messy when just done, but the magic of washing the sock makes the darn nice and flat and barely visible (and crucially unfeel-able) to the wearer. The patch isn’t quite as subtle but again feels comfy on the foot. This is down to the natural felting of the woollen darning yarn in the wash. Here’s the darned sock after a wash. Good eh?



Now I know you’ve got busy lives and busy knitting duties so I’m not gonna say darn every single sock, but if it’s one you love, a yarn that was a favourite and the sock ‘body’ is still going strong, why not give it a try?

You’ll need an appropriate darning yarn (now available in John Lewis or online here, a tapestry needle appropriate to the size and if possible a darning  “mushroom” or “egg”. If you plan to patch, you’ll probably need to use 2.25mm needles to knit your square/rectangle of  stocking stitch.

I won’t give you instructions here (it would take so long to describe it and others have done it much better already) but try Tom of Holland or this video.

If you really get into darning, it helps to tell your family to get the socks to you while they are still thin, but not holed, as you’ve a better chance of repair. Good luck.

Travels with Vanda

Maybe you’re thinking that as winter is now upon us, Vanda (the motor-home) is safely tucked up for the winter (wrapped in blankets with a her wheels snug in great big knitted socks?) but we have continued to take her out and about …whatever the weather.

We had a weekend in Coniston in the Lake District, a couple of days in Clitheroe and were up in Grange over Sands last weekend: we worried (or I did) that cool, dark nights and wet days might reduce her charms a little – but no such thing, its been a pleasure to be out and about the lovelier bits of Northern England, no matter what the climate chucks at you. Apparently the Norwegians maintain that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes: we have changed our Vandering a little to suit the conditions but with a knitter/crocheter in your tribe, you’re never going to be short of warm woolly things.

blankets now in regular use!

Rain has been a bit trying: we got soaked to our knickers in Clitheroe walking back from the town to the camp site. My coat held out until we were five minutes from Vanda, but then I could feel the cold rain insinuating itself down my back…yuck. But hot tea, a blankie and Vanda’s warm embrace (and a little electric fan heater) were enough to get us smiling again.  Last weekend in Grange it was very cold overnight (around -1 centigrade) but we have brushed cotton duvet covers, woollens galore (and one – or two – tots of good whisky) to keep us cosy. We’ve been keener to carb heavy, spicy food in Vanda’s little kitchen, and breakfasts outdoors in the sun are a distant memory. But when you can enjoy some of the UK’s most beautiful places at a moments notice without having to compete with scads of tourists, it’s all worth it!

Moroccan Pilaff a la Vanda….


Four ‘Moroccan’ style sausages (or something similarly spicy)

1 onion, chopped.

1 medium aubergine, cut into small cubes.

1 red pepper, de-seeded and chopped.

1/2 cup of basmati rice

1 stock cube – chicken is fine, made up to a pint of liquid with boiling water.

*a pinch of cumin, oregano, chilli flakes.

*chopped flat leaf parsley

oil for frying.

  1. Using your sharp knife, split the skin of the sausages and gently remove it.
  2. Form the sausage meat into pieces about the size of the top of your thumb. Roll them gently between dampened hands to shape into rough ‘balls’.
  3. Fry the balls gently in your pan with just a small splash of oil – they will give out their own oil as they cook so don’t overdo the oil.
  4. When they’re brown, remove them from the pan and put them on one side.
  5. Add the vegetables to the oil and gently fry them for a few minutes. NB the aubergine will soak up the remaining oil in the pan, but don’t be tempted to add more. Just keep the veg moving.
  6. Add the rice, and give everything a good stir, cook gently for a minute or so and then add half the stock.
  7. Season with salt and pepper and, if you have them, add the spices too.
  8. Cook very gently for about ten minutes, add more stock as the rice soaks it up.
  9. Add the balls back to the pan, and cook for a further 3 minutes adding more stock as necessary.
  10. Check the rice – if its as soft as you prefer, serve, if not cook for another minute or two.
  11. Add the parsley if you have it and serve in deep bowls with flat breads and greek-style yogurt.