Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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I no longer blog on this site. You can now find me, my general blogs, and the work I am doing researching my forthcoming book on imagination, on my new blog.

23 Apr 2008

The Joy of Socks

A while ago in Totnes we ran a course on sock darning. It felt to us like a very important skill to start retraining people in, and one of the many useful things the older generation could pass on to the younger. Although some people thought it a great idea, I did get a lot of ribbing about it (if you’ll excuse the knitting pun). However, in the subsequent months, sock darning has started to catch on. It’s the new salsa.

Our local wonderful organic clothing company, Greenfibres, recently put a great film about sock darning on YouTube (see below), which demystifies this most basic of arts so rapidly being consigned to the dustbin of history.

My wife did the sock darning course and took one of my holey woollen socks along, and returned with it darned. She did very well for a beginner, but I suspect that sock darning is one of those skills that takes an hour to learn and a lifetime to master. I hobbled about with what felt like a lump of blutack stuck to the back of my foot for a couple of days before it was consigned back to the sock drawer.

Of course, learning to darn socks is one thing, but the reality is that less and less of us actually wear darnable socks nowadays. We prefer the lycra enhanced, stretchy numbers being produced in China by the squillions, which don’t take too kindly to being darned. It is at this point that we turn to one of the most fascinating websites I have recently come across, the bizarre yet rather wonderful NetGranny.

socksThe idea is simple. A number of highly skilled sock knitting old ladies in Germany are shown online, each of which will knit personalised socks for you. All you have to do is pick your granny, click on her, and her knitting services are listed. You then send in your payment, and a couple of weeks later, a pair of handmade woollen socks pop through the letterbox. Wonderful.

It is using the web to support what resilient skills we have left. There is, however, something rather disturbing about the poor English translation on the site, which could lead to one thinking, on initial glance at least, that one has stumbled across an altogether more seedy website…

Come into the living rooms of our NetGrannys. Order your socks by clicking on the photo of your granny of desire. The Grannies marked with a star knit now also muffs!

socksI am inclined to trust, however, that it is all very much above board, and that this is a service we should look to support, indeed to expand, engaging our own local elderly knitters. At first glance, the socks produced by our elderly Bavarian knitting friends appear somewhat pricey. However, they are the sock equivalent of a handmade table, a handthrown pot, a bespoke piece of jewellery. What price can one put on such artistry, such craftsmanship? I love the idea, in the same way that supermarkets now try and put faces to their produce, so you can see who grew your potatoes or reared your lamb, that you can know which elderly knitter made your socks.

Hopefully, having read this, when you take your socks off at the end of today, you might pause to reflect on the potential role that these essential undergarments have in your life, and how you might plan, as it were, to Transition your socks. You won’t be in it alone. Agnes, Doris and Ingrid are at the ready, needles in hand, poised to enlighten and enliven your regaining control of this most essential of garments.

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[…] Transition Culture via Off the Beaten Track) redstategreen posted this entry on Friday, April 25th, 2008 at 9:28 […]

25 Apr 6:16pm

you could also make your own socks of course! although i have never knitted a sock, i have made a viking sock using a technique called ‘naalbinding’ (also spelt ‘nalbinding’ sometimes if you’re googling it).

the joy is that although these take an age to make, the technique involves making many tiny knots so your socks can’t run when they start to get a hole. they might actually wear away but then you have a very strong fabric around them to darn into. the satisfaction is immense, i must say!

i am currently saving all my chinese socks when too holey to fix any more (and they don’t take kindly to it in the first place, as you say) so that i can make a glorious rug with them.

hopefully i will by then wearing woolly ones, maybe home-made, and the rug will be a reminder of the insane profligacy of the oil years, being made from the stuff and having come all the way from china in the process as they are…

27 Apr 4:58am

Oh this article was so exciting for me! Darning is a tradition not to be forgotten.

For the past 4 years in Portland, Oregon my partner and I have celebrated ‘International Darning Day’ in January or February. I made up this holiday on a whim when I was talking about all these holidays that come around that no one every really knew about ‘Secretary’s Day’, Granparent’s day etc. I decided to make up my own.

We determine the exact date and send out invitations (our first year we did not, we called and left messages. no one showed! They thought we were joking so it was just the 2 of us).

We have friends over to darn their socks, sew on their buttons, on hem their pants to make them last just a little longer. This year there were about 12 of us and of course there is lots of food and fun beverages.

I would love to see this tradition adopted by others as we will celebrate the 5th year next year! So please set your own date after the year-end and New Years Holidays have come to an end to bring friends together for a fun simple holiday to darn socks and make them last another year!