Thursday, May 14, 2020

How not to embroider your socks

I've complained in earlier posts about the way non-sewists in the news media often write or talk about sewing and fabric in the most laughably ignorant way.  I saw it when non-sewists were trying to show us how to sew masks -- I even wrote the New York Times about their mask pattern, in which a 3/4-inch wide strip of fabric was supposed to be folded three times to make a tie -- heck, might as well use a piece of string, because that's what you would come up with if you were even able to sew the damn thing together.  The corrections desk thanked me for my letter but printed the directions again without change.

This ignorance is not new with the pandemic, but I'm seeing more of it lately as people turn to craft projects to while away the quarantined hours.  The Times has been running a weekly feature called Designer D.I.Y. in which famous fashion types tell us how to do something questionably useful.  Last week's feature, for instance, was how to cut a slit halfway up into the middle of a blanket to make a coat/cape/ruana -- very timely as we head into a globally-warmed summer.

Today's feature is how to fancy up your socks, courtesy of Simone Rocha, a young Irish designer whose work has been described as "often toeing the line between pretty and perverse."  And here's how to personalize those toes, illustrated with yummy watercolored sketches instead of boring old photos.

First, you get your stuff together.  I wonder what kind of "embroidery thread" comes on a spool?  Are people supposed to use plain old sewing thread?

Maybe they will google "embroidery thread" and zip past those first four offerings of embroidery floss, heading for the machine embroidery thread at right because it's the only one that remotely looks like the picture in the newspaper.  That will make great sock decoration, folks.  (By the way, you, as a knowledgeable sewist, might be tempted by the third offering on this screen, 450 skeins of DMC floss for $25, from 

Now that you have your thread, start sewing!!  After you write your name on the sock as a stitching guide, you may find it easier to put it in an embroidery hoop, as in the helpful drawing.

Hmmm.  That's all the directions say.  I wonder how many people will proudly taken their embroidered sock out of the hoop and discover they have sewed the back to the front.

Thank you, Designer D.I.Y.!


  1. Al my life, I've wanted to volunteer with various newspapers as an editor, in response to all the mistakes they publish. Maybe you could be the needlework/craft editor for the NY Times.

  2. I can't stop laughing!

    This spate of amateur DIY guides reminds me a little bit of the many people jumping on the no-sew mask bandwagon with their own how-to videos. Everyone raving about Matthew McConaughey's while I cringed as I watched it. NOOOO, that is NOT how you do it, leaving that single layer in the middle where your mouth will be. Sigh. I still stand by the first one I saw, demonstrated by a Japanese lady. After all, the Japanese are masters of the fold.

    As for bad regular mask instructions, I'm guessing most of them are sized too small, if the number of too small and ill fitting masks I'm seeing on TV interviews is any indication. Everyone well meaning of course but few truly knowledgeable enough to be instructing others.

  3. I know just what you mean! I decided to make The Olson mask after making a bunch of pleated ones. They were too easy and I hated having to tuck the elastic inside before sewing all around etc , Well I have been sewing since i was five, by hand, and then by machine when i lied to my babysitting grandmother and told her of course i was allowed to use Mom's machine. I made a skirt and a top, no pattern and went on from there to wear my new outfit to school. I was off to the races and sewed everything for years, until one day i discovered "Stretch Sewing" and then you really couldn't stop me. I made T-shirts, T-dresses for everyone and then graduated to the rest of the patterns and made bras, panties, bathing suits etc. I loved it so much that I opened a fabric store and taught how to sew with knits. On the side i taught, needlepoint, crocheting, knitting and then i found the new love of my life quilting. Had the store for 5 years but decided I was needed at home for my children. Continued to teach quilting for years at all places to all ages and loved and then i decided to help a friend who had developed some quilting patterns and i thought i would go out of my mind. A sewer she was not and nobody would have been able to assemble any pattern she wrote. Fast forward or backward to the Olson mask which is the easiest mask to make but the instructions were impossible. Right sides together were words that were not in the writers vocabulary. Try back and front instead. And the pictures also told me nothing because they were not taken in any sequence that would correspond to the directions. Boy I am glad I got that off my chest and I am glad someone else understands my frustration. Love your blog and look forward to your newsletter.

  4. I had a good laugh over the sock instructions! I am imagining the cursing that will occur when the sock becomes unwearable...

  5. Hilarious, I was so much in need of a good laugh!

  6. What a hoot!!!! You can make us laugh!