Darn it (and other things to do with socks)!
My son came up to me the other day and asked why someone in a book he was reading said "darn it." He's into word derivations these days, and we're learning all sorts of things, but this one I didn't have to look up -- I liked that, as it made me feel smarter than a nine year old for once! We did talk a little about how "darn it" can be used to replace a more offensive term, but then we concentrated on the concept of mending or darning clothing and socks.
(keep reading; there's lots more)
Darning's one of those skills that most people have pretty much abandoned over the last half-century or so (and yes, I definitely count myself among those people). Clothing and socks have become so cheap, and time so precious, that it simply hasn't seemed worth it for most people to learn the intricate details of darning. Heck, I've amazed my friends with my ability to apply a patch or a button -- fixing a hole in a sock or a mitten is so far beyond their scope of imagination that they wouldn't even ever contemplate it. But several factors are leading to a resurgence of the traditional skill of darning.
First is the fact that so many people have rediscovered the joys of hand knitting -- and when you spend so much time making a masterpiece, you're not going to want to throw it away if it gets worn out (or, heaven forbid, moth eaten). Instead, you'll want to learn how to fix that hole!
Secondly is the realization that everything has an inherent cost -- and not just the money you pay to buy or make it, but the cost to the environment, the people who produce it, the resources used in its production and distribution, etc. Along with that realization comes an acknowledgment that things simply cannot be "disposable", that we have a responsibility to extend their useful life as long as possible.
Third is making the most of what you have -- and in a world where I endeavor to only purchase fairly produced, sustainable items, I don't necessarily have as much as I would if I bought the $3 shirts you can find everywhere when you don't care about the ethics and environmental aspects. If you pay a fair price for a gorgeous pair of handknit alpaca socks (like the ones keeping my tootsies warm today), you can't necessarily easily replace them should your toe get a snag. You can, however, fairly quickly repair them ... and keep wearing them for another year or ten!
And fourth, of course, is simple economics -- regardless of how much money or time you've spent on anything, regardless of how much money or time you may have, it only makes sense to save both money and time whenever possible.
The old expression "a stitch in time saves nine" exists for a reason -- it's a lot easier to fix a small snag or worn spot than a big one, so I encourage you to start now! Here are some very good tutorials about darning socks and other knit items (and you can, of course, find all sorts of information about patching and other mending online should you want to do that too, which I highly recommend):
As you've seen, darning doesn't require socks -- it's useful for any sort of knit. Mittens, sweaters, scarves, blankets, and the like. Socks, mittens, and anything curved will definitely benefit from a darning egg, a darning mushroom, an old incandescent lightbulb (though I'd always be afraid of breaking one), or something similarly shaped to work on. It'll help the stitches sit right, and the end results feel right. It's also invaluable for closing sock toes using the Kitchener Stitch. Should you decide you want a darning egg of your very own, they're easy enough to find with an internet search.
Okay, so even with all my enthusiasm, you're still not convinced you want to start darning socks (though I can't imagine how that could be), yet you have mismatched, holey, and otherwise undesirable socks sitting around that you just can't throw out. What to do with them? Fear not, for it's Tara and the Amazing Internet (Wikihow and Instructables) to the rescue. (In my spare time, I think I'll start a band called Tara and the Amazing Internet. How could I let a name like that go to waste?) Here are some ideas: