Saving the socks: a proactive approach

During a visit to Purl Soho Mark saw these socks and wanted a pair (or two). As I’ve previously mentioned, I rarely refuse one of his requests, so the pattern and wool was duly bought.


The wool is a beautiful 100% wool worsted twist, but the 100% wool made me a little anxious. I like a bit of nylon in the socks I knit as I feel this reduces the need for darning. I even knit some extra woolly nylon into the heels and toes as an extra precaution, but obviously didn’t have any on me whilst on holidays. I queried the sales girl about all this and she claimed that the wool was really robust and long lasting, and no, they didn’t have any nylon I could knit through.

I finished them on a train trip to Beacon, upstate New York, and Mark immediately put them on, with the words “who needs blocking anyway”!


I have to say that I would have liked fancier socks but he loves these plain ones and they are a breeze to knit.

However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – or is that the proof of the wearability is in the wearing? Because after two wears this began to happen, mass pilling in the heel area.


I had visions of endless darning sessions and decided that preemptive action was in order. I had in my travel arsenal some finer sock yarn that had a 25% nylon content. I had brought it intending to knit Mark some thin socks. I dug it out, together with some fine knitting needles and proceeded to pick up stitches along the heel and knit a patch over the top of the heel, the idea being that the patch would wear through, be removed and replaced with a new patch, with no darning required on the original sock.  I thought I was being terribly clever.

The wool isn’t a wonderful match, but that’s an advantage for these photos. IMG_2228

I integrated the stitches with the original sock every couple of rows, at the sides and in a couple of places in the middle, and finished up with a sock that looks like this.


I felt a twinge of anxiety about the comfort of this heel, so for this sock’s mate and all further socks, I have simply knitted a patch and sewn it on all the way round, not bothering to anchor it in the middle. It appears that both methods are equally as comfortable, so I have stuck to the sewing-the-patch-on method. A note here that the toes don’t seem to be a problem at all, so I haven’t made them patches. I did have a moment where I thought I was going to have to make a complete second sock to save the darning, but I managed to restrain myself.

His next pair were black and I happened to also have some black sock wool with me, so these patches are virtually undetectable.



Has this worked? Well, none of the socks now has pilling on the heels, and as they’ve been washed the patches have embedded themselves a little bit into the sock. Not too much I hope as I will have to remove them if and when they wear out. I made the patches roughly the same size as the area they need to cover and stretched them slightly as I sewed them on. The patches are knitted in the same broken rib as the heel as that seems to give the best wearability.


I decided to blog this process as others might long to make socks from gorgeous thick wool and decide not to because of the wear issues. Mark claims that the patches don’t detract from the comfort of the socks, and we paid another visit to Purl Soho to buy more of the yarn, so he’s gone from getting two pairs to four pairs. Perhaps five if I cobble together all the leftovers into a striped pair!



18 thoughts on “Saving the socks: a proactive approach

  1. I had to smile when reading this! What a funny and effective fix! (It remembers me a children book by Michael Ende where a woman puts a button on the little boy‘s jeans butt because he always gets a hole there so she already has buttoned it up.) I always would knit a mending yarn together with the yarn when knitting the toes and heel. This way, I don‘t get holes in my socks for years. But with this 100% wool yarn you have made te fix!

  2. What a clever solution – your creative mind is clearly not on vacation! I hope you tagged #purlsohobusyhands for this post might be useful for their clients.

  3. Thank you for sharing your idea Sue! I would not have thought of this myself, I think the idea is genius! I have been knitting socks from handspub yarn and have been thinking about his to make the heel last longer.

    1. Knitting some woolly nylon into the original is probably a good way, but I might always add this patch as well as my husband is very hard on the heels of his socks. This would definitely work on your handspun socks.

  4. My mother used to knit socks for my father and she also had a technique to make the heels more durable. I’m going to show her this post and ask if she did the same as the one you’ve been describing.

Leave a Reply