Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Darning wool socks with felt

Winter! Cold artic blasts have dropped the thermometer to -25C here and we have had 2 ft. of snow in two days, last weekend with another foot expected in the next 24 hours. Average tempertures here for December are -8C. This is the 2nd week of cold.

No central heating here. Our log house is heated with a small woodstove in the studio. Can we say, "cold" floors, which mean cold feet. Time to find the wool socks that have been sitting in the mending basket since last winter. Mending is more eco-friendly than tossing, its also more economical. Mending used to be a standard life skill, but unfortunately the mending of clothing has gone out of fashion in our consumer based economy.

Great-Grandma used to keep her mending basket by the fire to work on at extra moments during the day. Since she spun her own wool, there was always materials at hand for the work. And the garments were sturdy, homespun, handwoven or hand knit fabrics and so were worth the time to patch. Today our reasons for taking the time to mend are different. The fabrics are no longer sturdy, but flimsy. They no longer represent hours of hand work and workmanship but are mass produced overseas, using cheap labour and machines. Made to wear out, to encourage consumption, they are made for the benefit of the manufacturer not the wearer. In fact, they don't even keep us warm and dry. Once worn out they are tossed in the landfill, increasing the burden on the environment. They don't break down -- as natural fibers do, but rather sit as a permanent deposit in the dump.

I am darning with a felting needle this year. Its quick and the socks are more comfortable since they have an even wool layer with no bumps.


Felted wool ball, about the size of a large orange
A bit of wool roving or carded wool -- it can match the colour of the sock or not
An Ashford student felting needle punch or other felting needle holder
3 felting needles (included with the needle punch)
Socks to be mended

Most of the socks I have to mend, have holes in the heel. I place the wool ball into the heel of the sock to be mended.

I take staple lengths of wool roving and place it in over the hole in the sock, being sure to overlap the good fabric in the sock. Just as in making other felt, I place at least three layers of wool over the hole, alternating directions with each layer.

I push the felting needles, held in the punch, through the carded wool and into the felted ball. (Be careful, the felting needles are sharp! They hurt if you get them into your hand instead of into the ball.) I continue felting with the felting needles until the wool is firmly felted. Periodically, I need to push my hand between the wool ball and the felt to ensure that they remain separated.

I check the felted patch for thin spots and apply more wool roving as necessary.

Total time to mend a small hole is less than 5 minutes. A large hole can be done in 15 min. A full basket of holey wool socks can be mended in this way, in an evening.

For larger holes or holes in the ball of the sock foot, proceed the same way, but use more wool and aim for 4 to 6 thicknesses of wool. When the wool is felted remove the ball from the sock. There will be a ball shaped bump in the foot of the sock. Work the sock to a flat shape and ease the wool patch with the felting needle by jabbing it at an angle into the wool. Since the felting needle has barbs on the first 1/4 inch of the needle tip, its not necessary to push the needle in too far to achieve a smooth, flat patch. Again check for thin spots and apply more wool roving as necessary.

I successfully patched several pair of wool socks with large holes by using this method and the sock owners report that the socks are more comforatable patched with felt than they are darned with thread. The patch is smoother.

Joybilee Farm has in stock, Felted wool balls, Ashford student felting needle punches and wool roving.

1 comment:

  1. That is too much hot for everyone. And also comfortable too.