I completed the restoration of this pair of socks yesterday. The back of the heel – the heel flap – was intact (often there’s a lot of wear along that part of the heel but in this pair that wasn’t the case). The problem was with the bottom of the heel and the wear into the instep. Replacing just the heel wasn’t an option because I had nothing to graft onto in the instep. So I decided to redo just the bottom of the heel and to reinforce the weakened area of the instep so I could attach the heel to something solid.
The restoration has turned out rather well. I had matching yarn so the reknitting of the heel bottom blends into the heel flap. I probably should have looked for scraps of yarn that blended with the instep a bit better but it’s under the foot and won’t show when the socks are being worn.
Worn heel bottom and instep
Here you can see the problem – the heel flap is solid (the sock in behind and below the needle) but the heel turning and the instep are both weakened and worn through. I could cut out the entire heel and reknit the instep but that’s more work than the restoration warrants so I’ll do what I did with the previous pair: I’ll reinforce the weakened spots in the instep by oversewing the existing instep stitches, then salvage the heel flap and reknit the heel turning. Otherwise these socks are in good shape; worth refurbishing and keeping in a sock drawer.
I have a basket of socks beside my chair all in need of repair – the heels are worn (some worn through, hopefully the holes are still small enough that a heel replacement will do). The pair below, however, is a left over from the previous batch of repairs – put aside because they needed more than a heel replaced – the back of the leg was also worn through to the point that I knew I’d have to cut it off and reknit part of the leg – a rebuild, not a repair.
I decided to work on them after I’d calculated the time it would take to rebuild the socks – about 7-8 hours compared to 25 hours to knit a new pair.
Before / After
This is the before and after – the before sock has already been set up with stitches picked up on the leg and across the instep. Next steps are to cut close to the carrying thread, pick away the extra rows to get to the stitches on the thread, pick up stitches on the leg, extend the leg, create a heel, and then the difficult/tedious part – grafting back the foot. It’s worth saving the foot beyond the instep because it still has lots of body.
It took me about 4 hours yesterday to do the prep work and rebuild the sock on the right. It’s now a wearable sock for a couple of more seasons.
New Again – Sept 2017
5-6 hours later and here’s a new pair of socks – restored with new heels (Click here for the socks before I reknit the heels). If you’re a dedicated knitter and want to know how I do it check out my instructions.
Knitting a heel itself doesn’t take long – each heel takes about an hour – it’s all the preparation, picking up stitches on a carrier thread, carefully pulling out excess knitting (from the cut edge), and then finally grafting the instep onto the new heel (this last step requires slow careful stitching – done loose and then tightened just enough for an even finish, stitch by stitch).
Obviously replacing heels goes a lot faster than reknitting an entire foot – but I can only get away with this easier repair if the holes aren’t too big. If the worn heel includes some of the instep, I have to cut off everything, retaining just the legs and building a new sock from there.
Here’s a pair of socks I made in 2008. The heels were repaired once in the interim. I got them back again for repairs a couple of weeks ago – heels for sure, but when I went to work on the socks I thought the ball of the foot was too worn to keep, so full feet were needed. The socks are still worth salvaging – the legs are fine, and that’s half the work! Nine years of wear is pretty good.
Remake September 2017
For the remakes I use whatever yarn I have on hand that might sort of blend. I could always use a solid, but where’s the fun in that. I’m not into boring – what makes the sock knitting work for me is a constantly changing pattern which the variegated yarn offers. I decided on bright heels to offset the darker yarn I used for the foot. These socks will serve for another 5-7 years!
The reality is when these socks come back to me, they look like this – holes and full of nubbies:
After & Before! (Worn heels removed)
These socks are well used – they’re slept in on flannel sheets! You can see what they look like before I begin working on them. The first step in the restoration is to shave them – this morning, I used my electric clothes shaver to clean up the nubbies so I have a clean sock to work with. This pair has an intact foot, so all I need to replace are the heels. This is the pair I will work on next.
Here’s the original pair from 2010:
When I’m done with the repairs these socks will look almost like the original socks. Seven years of wear before a heel replacement – pretty good!
I still have a couple of pairs of socks in my sock drawer from 2004/2005 (I began sock making in October 2003)! These socks live a long time when they’re cared for. That’s why I still find making them so satisfying. I know my sister Barb has some that are that old (her’s also get repaired when needed) Gotta keep these socks alive.
You’d never guess that two weeks ago these socks had holes in the heels the size of loonies ($1 CDN coin). I don’t do this for everybody – if I did I’d never get to knit new socks but it was a shame to throw these socks in the garbage with salvageable legs. The holes were too big to darn and the surrounding heel was weakened too much to just replace the heel so I cut off the feet at the blue line and reknit new feet! I figure I’ve saved myself half the work of a complete pair of socks!