The idea of recycling stockings certainly isn't new, but
here are several unique projects that may help you actually
enjoy the otherwise "darn" dull job of dealing with
Suppose a friend called to inform you of a surprise baby
shower . . . or your mate suggested an impromptu visit to
your sister's family . . . or the youngsters came in from
playing in the snow, rummaged through their bureaus, and
informed you that there wasn't a dry mitten in the house.
Would you worry because you're too short on fends to buy a
gift for the shower . . . or to purchase a small token of
affection for your nieces and nephews? Do you perhaps lack
the knitting skill necessary to keep your family supplied
with low-cost mittens?
Well, I used to feel a pang of panic in such situations,
but now I just confidently head for my darning basket and
retrieve all the old socks I can find. Then, an hour or two
later, I'll have a passel of newly stitched clothing . . .
to offer as gifts or to supplement my own children's
To stitch up a pair of infant foot-warmers (which would be
a welcome gift at just about any baby shower), you'll need
a pair of adult-sized crew-neck socks, a scrap of material,
and a bit of ribbon or yarn. Begin (keeping in mind that
you'll need to perform each step twice to make a pair of
bootees) by cutting a sock just below the ribbing, forming
a curved toe (see Fig. 1).
Next, cut a strip of fabric that's 1" wide and long enough
to form a border around the top of the ribbing (be sure to
allow for some overlap when you measure it). Then fold
under the raw edges of the material, and stitch the strip
to the inside of the sock . . . overlapping the
fabric where its ends meet. The resulting band folds down
to form a cuff (as shown in Fig. 2).
With that done, trace the outline of the bootee's toe, add
a seam allowance to this curve, and cut a half-circle of
fabric to match. With the right side of the scrap
facing out, stitch the half-round (folding its raw edges
under as you go) to the upper layer of sock
Now, cut another 1"-wide strip of fabric that's long enough
to encase the toe of the bootee, and secure it in place,
being sure to stitch through all the thicknesses
of the cloth and the sock. (This forms a "bumper" at the
tip of the shoe.)
Finally, weave a length of ribbon or braided yarn through
the ribbed portion of the sock, just above the baby's
ankle, to form a tie.
These bootees will not only be warm, but also have the
capability of "growing" with the child . . . because as the
tot's foot gets larger, Mom or Dad can simply move the tie
MITTENS IN MINUTES
If warm hands are what your youngsters are clamoring for,
you can easily stitch up enough mittens so there'll always
be a dry pair to replace those that soak through (in the
process of winning snowball fights and such). To tackle
this project, you'll need one crew-neck sock for each
mitten (wool is best), some elastic thread, and a few
strands of colorful yarn (if you'd like to embroider the
Start by making a curved cut across the sock below the neck
(the distance will depend on the size of your child's hand)
as you did when making the bootees. Be sure to save the
excess material . . . you'll use some of it later on. (If
it's necessary to shorten the glove, do that now.) Next,
make a slit — to accommodate the thumb —
starting from the cut end of the sock, as shown in Fig. 3.
Once that's taken care of, I generally spend a few moments
embroidering designs on the main part of the mitten (you
could add the decoration after the glove is completed if
you'd prefer), making sure, as I do so, that the thumb
incision faces right on one and left on
the other of a pair. A simple, bright design adds an
attractive — and durable — trim.
The next step will be to fabricate the thumb. To do so, cut
a hooklike section, of the appropriate length and width,
from the leftover sock material (I told you it'd come in
handy!), as shown in Fig. 4. Then open the thumb up and pin
its base to the top of the mitten slit, making certain that
the right sides of the fabric are facing each other. Stitch
these pieces together, overcast the seam edges to prevent
the knitted material from unraveling, and turn the mitten
wrong side out to complete the stitching and overcasting.
Finally, while the mitt is still inside out, weave in an
elastic thread at the wrist (see Fig. 5) and knot it.
Now, repeat the whole process with the second sock . . .
turn the cozy warmers right side out . . . and let your
child wear them with pride!
STITCH A TURTLENECK SHIRT
My children always seem to be growing out of their
clothing, so I try to keep a step ahead by anticipating
their needs ... and (of course!) recycling socks in the
To whip up a turtleneck shirt, you'll need a pair of
crew-neck socks, about half a yard of stretchy knit fabric
(the amount will vary, depending on your child's size), and
a pattern. (You can purchase the last item, but I find that
it's just as simple — and far less expensive —
to trace my own from another shirt of the desired
After transferring the pattern to the cloth, cut the knit
material into four sections: the front, the back, and two
arms. That done, slice straight across each sock
just below the ribbing. Then measure 3 inches up the ribbed
section and cut again. This will give you two 3"-wide
pieces (to use as cuffs) and two larger, top-of-the-sock
sections (for the collar). Cut the latter pieces so that
each is in the form of a flat rectangle, rather than a
Then, with the right side of the shirt front and the
wrong side of the sock rectangle together, sew the
ribbing to the neck of the shirt, stretching the sock
material slightly as needed. Once that's done, repeat the
procedure — using the other rectangle — to form
the shirt back, and overcast all the seams to prevent
Next, with right sides facing, stitch the collar
together at the side seams to form the actual turtleneck.
Now,aurn the garment wrong side out and sew up the shoulder
seams (see Fig. 6).
If the shirt material has plenty of "give", you can skip
this paragraph and go on to the next step. But if you've
used a minimum-stretch fabric, you may want to add an
opening at the back of the pullover that will make it
easier for the child to put on and take off. To do so, slit
the turtleneck down the back and cut a couple of inches on
down into the shirt, as shown in Fig. 7. Then fold the
right sides of each collar half together, stitch the ragged
edges shut, and turn the right sides out. Next,
cut a piece of shirt fabric that's approximately 1" wide
and 4" long (a bias strip will work best). With the right
sides together, stitch this scrap down one side of the cut
and up the other. Turn the facing to the inside, tuck the
raw edge under, and sew again. Finish this portion of the
job by attaching loops and buttons to the collar opening.
Once the neck is completed, turn the garment inside out
and- — with right sides together — attach the
arms to the shirt. Then stitch the side seams and the
With that out of the way, go on to fold the 3" sock
sections (which you've reserved for the cuffs) in half, and
attach them to the arms (as in Fig. 6), making certain
— before you do so — that the right sides of
the fabric are together. Finally, machine-hem the shirt
bottom and overcast any raw edges.
A HANDMADE HEAD-WARMER
Hats are a wintertime must up here in Maine, and it's
always good to have a few extras on hand.
You'll need one pair of socks and some decorative yarn to
make a child-sized "stocking cap". Begin by cutting the
socks off just below the crew necks, as you did when making
the turtleneck shirt. Then slit each tube open and sew the
resulting rectangles — right sides together —
around the three cut edges, leaving about an inch open at
the bottom of the seam on each side. Now, overcast the seam
. . . turn the cap right side out . . . flip the 1" brim up
. . . and hand-stitch its seams closed.
Next, gather the top of the hat in an X-pattern (as shown
in Fig. 8) and fasten a yarn pom-pom in place. Use a few
more scraps of yarn to make a pair of braided ties, and
then set these fastenings aside for the moment.
Now, find the foot portions of the socks and cut a
half-circle, with its diameter on the fold , in
each one. These will serve as ear flaps (see the photo), so
adjust their size to the ears in question. Fold each flap
with its right side in . . . put one of the braided ties
between the halves so that just its tip protrudes at the
centerpoint of the curve . . . and stitch around the
semicircle, leaving a small opening at the end of the seam
so that you can turn the half-moon right side out. Attach
the earmuff to the inside of the hat, just above the fold
of the brim.
As a last step, embroider a design on the cap if you like,
then tie it to your tot's chilly head.
SCRAP TOGETHER A SCARF
By now you've probably completed quite a collection of
children's clothing, but you may be wondering what to do
with the unused sock feet that are beginning to
pile up. Well, ponder no longer . . . simply sew the extras
into a warm scarf.
To make a child-sized muffler, you'll need the arch
sections from at least five pairs of socks. They don't need
to match (in fact, a variety of colors makes for a more
Cut the heel and toe from each sock, leaving a tubular
section. Turn one of these arch portions wrong side out and
pull it over a right-side-out one (see Fig. 9). Stitch one
end closed (through all thicknesses), overcast the seam,
and turn the outer tube right side out again . . . thus
forming two joined scarf links. Repeat this process until
all the pieces are attached.
If decoration is desired, you can embroider the end squares
(see Fig. 9). Then fold the raw edges under . . .
hand-stitch the end seams shut . . . and add fringe to
complete the scarf.
DESIGN YOUR OWN
Once you've made a few of the projects described in this
article, you'll likely think of additional items that can
be made from old socks. Some of my other favorites include
drawstring bags, new feet for old pajamas, cuffs for worn
coats, a tube top for summer wear, a cold-weather face
mask, potholders, stuffed draft stoppers, an eyeglass case,
a shoe polisher, and a washcloth (filled with bits of
soap). In fact, recycled socks are in such demand at our
house that I'm tempted to give up darning for good!