Find all your DIY electronics in the MakerShed. 3D Printing, Kits, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Books & more!

March Mending Month
darnit1.JPG
Now, let me just start out by saying that I am no darning expert. My grandmother taught me how to darn when I was a kid, but to be honest, I seem to lose socks before they ever have a chance to get holes in them! It is, however, a really useful skill, whether you use it to repair holes in socks, sweaters (keep those little baggies of matching yarn that come with the sweater!), blankets, or to strengthen weakened fabric on a pair of pants or a sheet.
When you darn, you are essentially reweaving the textile; with modern knit items, it’s a little bit trickier because you need a similar stretch as the base material, but still doable. The old adage “a stitch in time saves nine” is something everyone should pay more than lip service to: it’s a lot easier to repair a small hole or threadbare fabric than a gaping vent! Repair your moth holes or tears right away and you’ll thank yourself later. (Or curse yourself if you don’t; trust me on this one.)
I’m first going to show you the basic technique on a wool blanket, because it’s a little easier to see the weaving concept; then I’ll show you a couple of socks that I’ve repaired. Next week, I’ll include some darning techniques in a Patch 101 I’m working on.



Darning a Blanket
darnit2.JPG
Spread your work on an even surface. Choose a thread or yarn that is similar in weight to the yarn in the piece you want to repair. I chose a contrasting lace-weight yarn to darn this wool blanket, partly because it makes the instructions really easy to see and partly because I like the look of darning, but if you want your repair to be more invisible, pick a color that matches. Starting about ½" before and ½" below the hole, make a simple running stitch. Turn your work, and head back in the opposite direction, keeping the stitches even with each other.

darnit3.JPG
When you get to the hole itself, run the the yarn over the hole and make a few more stitches on the other side before turning around. Make sure not to pull your yarn too tightly, as it may shrink in the wash later; leaving small loops at the end of each row is a good idea.

darnit4.JPG
When you have covered the hole plus ½" on all sides, turn your work 90° and begin weaving through the warp you have just created, under one thread and over the next. When you get to the end of your row, head back in the opposite direction, weaving under the threads you ran over before and vice versa, as seen in the photo. Stitch tightly or loosely depending on the weave of the original textile. For this blanket, I darned fairly spaciously because the original weave is pretty open.

darnit5.JPG
Here’s a look at the other side; you could trim the broken ends of the original yarn and stitch them down, but since this is just a throw that doesn’t get washed very often, I left them as is.

darnit6.JPG
I used to fold this blanket to hide the hole, but now I leave the darn front and center!

Darning a Sock
darnit7.JPG
For cheap cotton socks, a patch (made from an old T-shirt or another sock) may work best, but for nice wool or handmade cotton socks, darning is a great way to keep a favorite pair in rotation longer! This is a (very old) cashmere sock that my mom gave me when I went to college on the East Coast years ago. I wore them constantly, and they’ve thinned at the heels. I finally put them aside when a small hole started in one of them; this darn takes care of the hole, and strengthens the worn part as well.
For a sock, make sure to turn it inside out first (unless you want the darn to be really obvious). It’s also really helpful to use a darning egg or mushroom (a round wooden tool) or even just a light bulb if you’re making a repair in the heel, or a block of some sort if the repair is somewhere else in the sock. Having a hard, smooth surface under your work helps you run your needle under and over the warp in the second stage of darning.
As with the blanket, I ran a series of parallel running stitches over the worn part of the sock and the hole in the middle.

darnit8.JPG
I went quite a bit beyond the hole to strengthen the threadbare part of the sock to prevent another hole from forming.

darnit9.JPG
Here’s the completed darn; the hole is completely woven over and the rest of the worn part is strengthened.

darnit10.JPG
And here’s the sock turned right side out. If I had used brown yarn, you’d hardly be able to see the repair!

darnit11.JPG
darnit12.JPG
These last two images show another sock darned with embroidery floss (again, no hole, but I wanted to strengthen a threadbare patch to avoid a hole) and a darned glove.

Additional Resources
Green Fibres has a great video on how to darn if you want to watch darning in action. It’s a little long, and the repair is on a thick wool sock, which is the easiest darning to do, but it’s still gives you a great sense of how it all comes together.
The Vintage Sewing Reference Library has reprinted a great sewing lesson book from 1893. Scroll down the page, and you’ll find details on darning all sorts of things.
I also like this post on the blog Skona Life — the author sort of figured out how to darn instinctively! If you have socks that are a blend with some sort of elastic (many socks are), you could just weave in new fiber using the original threads as your warp, but your repair will be a lot stronger if you stitch in your own warp first.


Related

Comments

  1. miss shelby says:

    this is so awesome! i love how they used different colors to up the funk.
    totally awesome!

  2. Pepper says:

    OH. MY. GOD.
    I had no idea you could do this! Have I been living under a rock?! Why wasn’t I taught this as a kid?!
    I’m off to call my Mother and Grandmother. They have some explaining to do. And someone owes me for a lot of perfectly good thrown out items.

  3. Nigel says:

    I’ve always liked darning – I remember my Grandmother darning my Grandfather’s socks just like this – but my wife always insists old socks should be thrown away when they have holes, and she usually gets to them before I have a chance to get the needle out. THanks for reminding me that it’s good to darn :)

  4. marie says:

    My boyfriend is just about to go through the heels of a nice pair of wool socks. I haven’t had the heart to throw them out cause the rest of the sock is so nice. Thanks for the explanation.
    I used to read English books about girls in boarding school as a kid and they were FOREVER darning socks (that’s when all the gossip happened).

  5. Nora says:

    I just darned a sweater using these instructions, and the process awoke a memory in me of doing it before long ago- did my Grandma teach me this and then I forgot it? She taught me so many things that didn’t stick with me, like crochet. She died when I was young, and it’s nice to re-learn those skills now that I know how important they are.

  6. Sophie says:

    I’m very happy to read this tutorial. Over the years I have gotten rid of or relegated to rags a number of socks, sweaters and gloves because of a relatively small hole that I knew would only grow larger. Of course I knew darning existed, but I didn’t know how easy it would be. Thank you for the eye-opener!

  7. Arwen O'Reilly Griffith says:

    Wow–I can’t tell you happy I am that so many people are finding this useful! It’s such a great skill to have and can be applied to so many things. Viva la darning!

  8. Information Hotline says:

    Can you use this on jeans? I know you gave us a great tutorial but I don’t have a sewing machine and my boyfriend has asked me to repair his favorite pair of jeans.

  9. Jeni says:

    I have been darning all my life having been taught at school! I have just last month darned two pair of my own socks at the big toe as that seems to be where mine go first – maybe I should cut my toe nail a little shorted……….

  10. Arwen O'Reilly Griffith says:

    As a response to the question on darning jeans: I’d say it depends on the type of hole. If it’s a hole that started out as a tear in perfectly sturdy jeans, darning with strong cotton yarn would be a great way to repair them! But if the damage is either more like a gash or is a hole that has appeared in jeans worn thin, I think a patch makes more sense. You can still do a bit of darning to strengthen the thin part before you put on a patch, though, but a patch will be a lot less time-consuming than darning a huge worn spot!
    I’ll be posting up a Patch 101 as part of our March is Mending Month series in the next week or so if you have time to wait!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Can I add a comment from the weavers’ side of the street? One thing weavers know about making things with yarn is “it’s never finished til it’s wet-finished,” which means what it sounds like – swish the item gently in water, and leave it to dry. It helps the yarn settle into a stable twist and encourages any little fibers to lock into each other. If you did that gently with, say, that throw (love the contrasting color btw), then the darn might not look so lacey in comparison to the rest of the fabric. The warmer the water and the more you manipulate the yarn, the more you encourage it to felt (if it’s wool – doesn’t really work with the polished cotton in floss), so be careful – unless you want a felt patch. Not that that would not be cute, but yarn shrinks when it felts so your darn might pucker.

  12. ed hardy says:

    This post rocks. You took our conversation from that podcast and made it incredibly clear. I’m going to practice it so I can be much more eloquent.
    ed hardy men accessories

  13. Tamara @brooklyncraft.com says:

    A day after reading this tutorial a coworker came up to me and asked if i knew how to patch a hole in her sweater. I said “hell yea i know how to darn!” and so I did it and it was so fun and easy and the final patched hole looked great! Thanks so much!
    heart, t

  14. Jessica Marie says:

    I’ve had this in my bookmarks forever and have forgotten to thank you. So thank you!

  15. J says:

    I thought I was the only “crazy person” who loves the look of darning ;-)
    My British mother-in-law taught me the mechanics and art of darning 25 years ago when I was first married. Your tutorial is just lovely! Thank you!

  16. laurie says:

    I just spent quite a while looking for instructions on darning (which a friend recommended when I asked her how to fix a pair of pants), and this was BY FAR the best explanation I found, especially because of the photos. I, too, cannot believe that I never knew how to do this! The technique is very simple, and I can use it to save a bunch of my old, favorite clothes that I just have not been able to part with. Thank you so much.

  17. www.autocuiseur.org says:

    Hey, stupefying envisage !

  18. Leighann says:

    I have heard that needle felting is an effective way to darn, also. What are your thoughts on this?

  19. Em says:

    Thanks so much – my Grandmother taught me how to do this but I needed a refresher course! Found you pretty high up the Google search which is more than I can say for my blog. Will be visiting again…..

    Best wishes,

    Em

  20. No one taught me how to darn, so when my handknit socks started to wear, I tried to figure it out. I’ve done the weaving technique you show here, but I find it very satisfying to actually try to replicate the original knit stitch. (This stood me in good stead when a friend commissioned a repair on the cable-knit sleeve of her sweater.) Have you got any tips on that I could add to my toolbox?

  21. M. Carlson says:

    Wow, great article. Very clearly taught. THank! I inherited a Pendleton wool blanket from my grandmother and it has a few moth holes that need to be addressed. A darning I will go!

  22. […] op Makezine (waar je zo weer een uur verder bent, ik heb je gewaarschuwd) vond ik een foto-instructie uit hun March Mending […]