18 November 2008

Some of the little things

We do the best we can to live according to our conscience, here on our homestead. And living within limited means dictates some of our less-than-ideal choices. We are always making choices, and usually making small sacrifices, to find a way to live conscientiously: to responsibly manage our time, our physical and mental energy, the natural resources on our homestead and in our community, and of course, our limited cashflow. We set priorities for the necessities, and make long term plans to meet wider goals. Most everything our society takes for granted is largely destructive at it's root: our electric grid, food system, transportation, and production/consumption cycle. We have made those large lifestyle changes to address the bulwark of our concerns, reducing our power consumption to a level we could affordably produce with renewable energy, growing most of our food, living car-free out in the country by sharing rides and organizing monthly town trips, and for the rest either going without or buying responsibly.

For most things, we prefer to buy second hand, for small appliances often times older models have higher quality manufacturing. I picked up this table top sewing machine for $5, in great condition. All of our clothes are second hand, there's just too much used clothing out there, in perfect condition, and with a sewing machine just about anything can be made to fit. I also love to knit, and am a novice spinner, so our hats, gloves, scarves, and even undergarments, are homemade. And will one day, be made from homegrown fiber.
But I don't knit socks anymore. It's not that I don't like to, it is just that they ware out too fast for the amount of time I put into knitting them, and the cost of the wool. A hand-knit pair of socks costs $3 and about 3 hours, and usually only last a month. But store bought socks, or the pitiful collection of thin cotton socks in the second hand bin, just don't cut it for our winters. And my dear husband certainly deserves good winter socks, he is the one usually doing any unpleasant work outside in cold weather, while I am inside the warm house baking and well, knitting. So I would knit socks regardless, if we hadn't come up with an acceptable alternative.

Our local second hand clothing shop has an under-utilized abundant resource of out-of-fashion wool ski sweaters. These sweaters are tightly knit and make a very durable and warm fabric, perfect for socks. One large man's sweater will make about three pairs of knee-high socks, costing maybe 25 cents and 10 minutes a pair, and lasting about six months. Use the waist and wrist edges as the top of the sock, depending on the particular sweater, either cut out two strips between 5-6 inches wide, the full length of the sweater, or one 10-12 inch block. With the fabric inside out, sew up the seam or seams on the sides of the sock, rounding the toe. The sleeves usually make a shorter pair of socks.

Make your seams thin, and go over it twice with a small stitch to reinforce the seam, or if you have a machine that reinforces edges, use the appropriate stitch.

And voila! Great winter socks.


MeadowLark said...

Be a sport... post a longer tutorial on this. I am having a tough time picturing it. I mean, I see it, but I just don't GET it. Thanks!

Susy said...

How fantastic. I'll have to try this. I also love to sew and it seems that I have run out of things to sew, except for the reuseable shopping bags I'm making for friends and family for Christmas (which I'm making out of some old curtains that were falling apart). I'll have to head down the second hand store to look for an old sweater. I've been thinking about buying a bunch to make a felted wool quilt out of. That would be a toasty winter project for sure.

I used to knit when I was young, I always made scarves & hats for my guinea pigs, but I've never kitted socks. I'd love to make hat someday, my mom's a very talented kitter, she makes wonderfully beautiful things!

Anonymous said...

I agree a longer tutorial would be good, I need help visualizing too. It's such a simple solution and yet I never thought of it. Thanks for the idea.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Great idea, I've made hats too out of old sweaters. Lately though, they seem to never make it to the rack at the second hand store. But this will make me be more diligent in searching. I dread darning and patching the socks. Looks like you now have to post a longer tutorial! :)

Anonymous said...

I'm with the rest. I don't sew, hate to sew (but I do do repair work, it's just never pretty.) but Eric does, he even has an old hand-me-down machine. If you give a larger tutorial, I may be able to put him to work making socks! ;) And I'm with you on the secondhand clothes. My kids wardrobe is 95% hand me down or secondhand. They sometimes get new stuff for gifts, but that's it.

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Well you got it folks. I will take some more pics of the whole process. Part two of sweater socks coming early next week. Keep your toes warm until then.

Tammy said...

I love this idea! Were you able to get to the longer tutorial this past winter?

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Tammy, the very next post gives a tutorial on my sock making process. I am working on some sprin/summer socks out of sweatshirts and knit t-shirts that I will be posting in a couple of weeks. I'd be curious to hear how other folks have found these tube socks. I'll give more tips next blog about optimal lengths too, I've found that the longer, calf-high socks stay up better.
Here's the link to the tutorial: http://growthechange.blogspot.com/2008/11/sweater-socks-part-2.html