Sock Surgery Part 1: Vezina Socks

Back in 2009, my friend and fellow Habs fan, Brigit, started the Les Tricotlores line of hand-dyed sock yarns as a fundraiser for the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation. Obviously I bought three skeins. My favourite by far (and the only one that I successfully made into socks) was the Vezina Trophy colourway of the Les Tricotlores Basic Sock, a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind tonal.

After a false start with a different yarn, I paired this yarn with Froot Loop (by Kristi Geraci) from Knitty Spring 2008. It was a perfect match and by February 2010 I had my first real lightweight hand knit socks.

Five years is a good long run, but it’s time to give these some love before they wear through completely. Things I am going to try on these socks:

  1. Using a reinforcing stitch on the toe;
  2. Knitting the toe at a tighter gauge; and,
  3. Duplicate stitching where the bottom of the foot is wearing thin.

Here we go!

Step 1: Rip back

Materials required: Sock that needs a new toe, needles necessary to get gauge, scissors (*gulp*)

The bottoms of knitted socks have a tendency to felt with wear, so ripping back well-worn socks can be a pain. What I do is essentially cut most of the toe off and then frog just the last few rows so I can get the stitches safely back onto the needles. I used a 2.75 mm needle instead of the 3.00 mm I used originally because I figured a tighter gauge could only help with wear.

STEP 2: Re-knit the toes

Materials required: Sock ready to start the toe, spare yarn.

Once I got the stitches back onto the needles, I re-knit the toes of the socks.  I didn’t realize just how worn and faded my socks were until I started knitting with fresh yarn. What a difference!

Sock Surgery by Allison O'Mahony at http://kniterations.ca

I shaped the toe as per the pattern, but I didn’t just knit all the stitches plain. In an effort to make a sturdier fabric, on the non-decrease rows, I used slipped stitches. Because I was decreasing every other row, in order to keep the slipped stitches in the same “columns” like on heel flaps, I had to alternate whether I started with a “slip 1” or a “knit 1” on the slipped stitch rows. It ended up looking like this:

Row 1: *(sl1, k1), repeat from * to end of row
Row 2: *(k1, ssk, k to 3 sts before marker/end of needle, k2tog, k1), repeat from * once more
Row 3: *{k1, sl1), repeat from * to end of row
Row 4: Repeat row 2

Repeat rows 1-4 until 16 sts remain.

The finished product was a little funny looking because of the way the slipped stitches behave, and because the fresh yarn was so much brighter than my faded, machine-washed, 5-year-old socks, but I’m sure they will look fine on my feet.

STEP 3: Reinforce weak areas at the bottom of the foot

Materials required: Finished sock, spare yarn, darning needle, stitch markers, darning egg.

Sock Surgery by Allison O'Mahony at http://kniterations.ca
Previously when I’ve fixed my socks, I’ve just ripped back as far as I needed to in order to get rid of any weak areas at the bottom of the foot, and re-knit as much foot as I needed to before starting the toe decreases.

With these socks, where the yarn is so unique and the socks so faded from wear, I didn’t want an abrupt colour difference to disrupt the lace pattern on the top of the foot. So I re-knit only the toes, and then reinforced the bottom of the socks using duplicate stitch.

Duplicate stitch is exactly what the name suggests – you literally duplicate the existing stitches using a length of yarn and a darning needle.

I started by using stitch markers to mark the boundaries of where I thought the yarn needed to be reinforced.

Sock Surgery by Allison O'Mahony at http://kniterations.ca

I started duplicate stitching the first row of “old” knitting. When duplicate stitching, you are weaving the yarn into the rows above and below the one you are reinforcing.

Sock Surgery by Allison O'Mahony at http://kniterations.ca

Sock Surgery by Allison O'Mahony at http://kniterations.ca

Then when I got the the end of the first row I was duplicating, I went down one row and  started going back the other way.

Sock Surgery by Allison O'Mahony at http://kniterations.ca

And that’s pretty much it. Luckily this is the part that will be facing the floor – look how funny it looks!

Sock Surgery by Allison O'Mahony at http://kniterations.ca

Next up: My Brick Red socks.

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