Welcome to Frugal Friday, a weekly instalment where we try to provide small, bite-sized frugal tips from the school of Professor Roar Frugasaurus’ Fantastic Frugality Fair! So, come along, grab a chair, and join us as we try to present some bite-sized chunks of frugal living. Not unlikely, several of these might be food oriented, just because we love food.
At least in these parts of the world, we are coming up to the time where autumn is firmly leaving its mark on the land. Some trees still cling to their leaves, but many are starting to shed them like old coats. It is the time where we move inside more, and don’t even have the decency to feel bad about it. A time for tea, cocoa, blankets, thick sweaters and… mending!
While I usually have some craft or another to occupy my time, autumn and winter is the time where I really get to it. It is perfect snuggle-up-in-the-couch weather, either with friends and tea (and crafts) or a movie/audiobook/radio/podcast. In the hectic warm months of summer, mending has a tendency to fall by the wayside, which is why there are always a pile of things waiting for my attention once the wind starts picking up.
This might just be my natural frugal weirdo poking its head out, but I just plain like mending my clothes. Well, a caveat to that, I do not like mending poor quality clothes that will require mending again in a week. But I do get satisfaction out of mending garments that will last. That’s why I always look for natural fibres if I am looking for something in a charity shop. As a perpetual mender, I just find natural fibres much easier to repair, plus they breathe and don’t release thousands of microplastic beads when I wash them. That is not to say I don’t have any synthetic clothes, I surely do, but they are either really old or were given to me.
The bonus to this is that, even in a charity shop, the clothes I find that I actually like are usually few to none. I’m not sure when I last bought a garment while we lived overseas, but I have not bought a single piece since moving back to Norway. 6 months and counting.
The way I see it, mending is an investment. The first part of the is, of course, why throw out a garment that is 95% fine and only 5% broken? There is so much use still to get out of that! The second part is that I like having projects to occupy my hands while relaxing in the couch. Mending things is a cheap way to fill my time.
But on to the current topic of darning socks. If you’ve ever woven anything on a cardboard frame like we did in primary school, or studied how weaving goes up and down, this is easy. You simply identify the part that needs darning, turn it inside out, and then you put something roundish inside that is small enough to fit. If you have a darning mushroom, you can use that, but I’ve come to the point where I simply stretch the fabric by hand to avoid puckering. Yup, I’m lazy!
Now you take a thread slightly thicker than the thread of your sock and start stitching an area that is about a centimetre larger than the hole in all directions. These are simple, even basting stitches for those familiar with terminology. Up and down, up and down. The first couple of rounds you do on a piece of unbroken sock. This is both to fasten the thread and to make sure you don’t have a new hole poking out at the seams of your darning, just a few days after you finished!
Once you reach your hole, you will notice that there is nothing for your darning stitch to hold onto. Just pull the tread and continue on the other side. Make sure you pull things tight over your darning ‘shroom or equal substitute, you do not want your sock to pucker up and become unwearable!
As you can see in the above picture, my socks didn’t actually have holes, only very worn patches where the cotton had worn off and the synthetics were the only part still keeping it together (see, I told you I had synthetic fibres in my closet too). In this case, you just keep on basting all the way through to the end. And, since I had something to fasten it too, I could feel satisfied with only the first pass of stitches.
If, however, you have a proper hole, then you will now have a row of loose threads. Loose threads get stuck in anything and are a general nuisance, so we need to turn our stitching 90 degrees and start basting the other way. Over under, over under. Until all the loose threads have been woven into a simple net. A charming video or the process for those more visually inclined can be found here.
Now, if you darning is reasonably even, you will feel the repaired spot in the beginning, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable. Over time, you stepping on the sock will flatten out the stitches until they should become not very noticeable at all. This might take some practice. I suggest starting with a pair of reasonably thick socks, and work your way to thinner socks as you improve.