Jeane Hutchins, editor of Piecework Magazine, asked me to knit a historic sock for the upcoming Knitting Traditions special issue. She showed me a pattern for a sock in an old issue of Weldon's Practical Needlework, a Victorian ladies' magazine from the late 1880s to the early 1900s, and asked if I could replicate it.
The interesting thing about this particular pattern is that the sock is knitted in four pieces that are sewn together so that the heel and toe sections can be removed and replaced when they become too worn for darning. When the socks are knitted, an extra heel and toe are knitted so that they will be on hand when the time arises. I suppose Victorian knitters had ways to prevent themselves from losing these unattached parts.
Here are the four segments, knitted out of Brown Sheep NatureSpun Sport on size 4 needles at a gauge of 7 sts/inch. I used contrasting yarn for the heel and toe for emphasis.
I still have to sew the pieces together and knit another heel and toe. And that's just for the first sock.
Hmm. I think that by the time I do that, I could have knitted another complete sock. But the purpose here isn't efficiency of time, but conservation of yarn. Yes, the yarn will go farther if the heels and toes are replaced.
But I wonder about the comfort factor? If yarn becomes so scarce that I have to use and reuse the legs and feet of my socks, I think I'll use an afterthought or short-row heel and toe that can also be replaced without seams!