First published January 2021
Happy new year eco-warriors! There are plenty of challenges out there at the moment… it’s cold, corona continues and we can’t go outside… but I am hoping you all had a nice break and are feeling as well as you can despite all these factors.
Given that it is chilly and there isn’t much to do, I’ve finally found the time to teach myself to do something I’ve been meaning to do for years - namely, darning socks. I am a self-confessed sock lover. After all, nothing is worse than unhappy feet. (Apart from the continuing ecological and climate emergency of course!) I particularly favour long socks which I can pull up under my thick trousers, for that extra layer of warmth. However, I’m also happy with short, colourful socks, or even a trainer sock when summer comes round again.
Photo by Nick Page on Unsplash
Whichever socks one prefers, all are vulnerable to holes. Holes which means your toes poke out the ends in an uncomfortable fashion. Holes which mean your feet are that much colder. Holes which, all too often, mean the entire pair get chucked in the bin; and thus all that unbroken material goes to waste. This is a particular shame for knee socks, which contain quite a lot of fabric.
Back when I was a nipper, darning socks was a fairly common activity. However, in our single-use world, it’s something which has sadly fallen out of fashion. So I decided to re-teach myself how to darn socks so that I could save several pairs of particularly fetching socks from the rubbish.
As it turns out, there are already lots of handy articles out there which show you all the steps for darning socks, so I won’t go through all the steps again.
This piece is a great starting point; this one has handy pictures for each step; this page demonstrates how to fix a really big sock-hole; this link includes a handy video. Finally, if you’re clever enough to be knitting your socks in the first place, this is the darning blog for you.
Some general tips…
* You don’t need a darning mushroom - a tennis ball, a lightbulb, or the end of a baseball bat or rolling pin will do the job.
* You also don’t need a darning needle - just a long needle will do.
* Ensure your thread matches the thickness and colour of your socks; thicker thread for thicker socks and so on.
Having read the above blogs and bought myself a needle and thread, I sat down the sorry looking sock specimen you can see to the right.
I was a little unsure about how well I'd do, but it turns out that mending small toe holes like this one is fairly simple.
I used a round massage ball as a darning mushroom, which worked just fine. A few stitches later, and the sock was returned to its former glory.
Where to recycle socks
Of course, some socks are beyond repair. If you’re darning upon darning upon darning, or if the elastic has gone and they keep falling down, you can recycle your socks at one of Bristol’s Reuse and Recycling Centres (although note there are new restrictions about when you can visit these centres due to Covid-19). The St Peter’s Hospice shop on Bond Street in Bristol also takes rags and unsellable clothes.
You could consider using your beyond-saving socks to stuff draught excluders - which, as we learnt in a previous blog - can help keep your house warm without having to turn up the heating.
Note that you can also recycle usable or wearable fabrics (so NOT your holey old socks) in your black recycling box in Bristol, although you will need to put these fabrics into a plastic bag and label them, as wet fabrics won’t be accepted.
Where to buy eco-friendly socks
If you’ve darned all the socks you can darn and recycled all the ones that are broken and you still genuinely need some new socks, consider buying a pair or two from Stand4Socks who provide a pair of socks for a homeless person for every pair bought. In addition, their fabrics are sustainably sourced, free from harmful chemicals and made according to ethical work conditions. They also ship their socks out in 100% home compostable mailing bags. Sock on!