Darning is such a handy skill to have. It can be used to fix up holes on most fabrics which is fabulous. It’s also one of the wonderful techniques that can be almost invisible if you want it to be, or it can be completely conspicuous.
It’s so frustrating when socks (or other items of clothing, but let’s be honest, socks are notorious for it) get worn out patches or holes in them when the rest of the fabric is perfectly good. Thanks to darning you can mend the offending areas and save the socks (or other garments)!
I haven’t been home to take photos during daylight. As an alternative I present images of people darning that I found online.
There aren’t many things you need for darning. Just a needle, some thread, and something rounded to work on.
Darning mushrooms or eggs are the best things to use as a work surface. Fear not if you don’t have one though! I’ve heard of people using lightbulbs, oranges, a tennis ball, teacups, and even the base of a remote control! As long as it’s a solid surface, you’ll be fine.
The telly remote may or may not have been me.
There are a few main thread types used in darning; sewing thread, embroidery thread, darning (or mending) thread, and darning (or mending) wool. The best thread to use comes down to the thickness of the fabric you’re darning. Recently I darned a pair of knit fabric socks with some contrasting embroidery thread which worked beautifully. The same thread used to mend a hole in a finely woven shirt, or a pair of thick woolly socks would have been a disaster.
As far as a needle goes, any longish needle with an eye that’s big enough for you to thread your chosen thread through will work perfectly.
This type of darning is fairly simple. It’s basically a running stich and some weaving used to create a new patch of fabric right over the hole. Here’s how it’s done:
If it’s a hole you’re mending, clean up the raggedy edges with a pair of sharp scissors. If it’s a particularly big hole it might be worth stabilising it by sewing large stitches or some interfacing.
If you’re mending a worn area that’s not quite a hole yet, skip straight to step two.
Starting in a sturdy part of the fabric sew a vertical running stitch towards, over, and beyond the hole. Make sure the stitching extends to sturdy fabric around the whole area you’re mending.
Work horizontally by weaving through the threads you stitched down in step one. That’s it!
The rows in these illustrations are spaced quite far apart. I’m assuming that’s for clarity’s sake. In real darning they should be a thread width or so away from each other.
I’m not really sure why the illustrations have the loops at the end. At a guess it’s to help indicate the direction. I feel like if you had loops like that hanging about they’d easily get pulled.
If they do have a purpose and you know it please let me know!
When I darned my sock I only stitched out a few millimetres away from the hole. That was because the sock doesn’t fray or unravel, so I didn’t need to worry as much about the threads pulling out the fabric. If you’re darning a hole in a woven fabric, or a knit that was more likely to run I would definitely suggest that you sew the reinforcing stitches further away from the hole.
There are a few variations on darning which I haven’t gone into here. For example, there are different styles of stitching that either help blend the area into the surrounding fabric (although if you’re darning a woven fabric the style I’ve written about will blend in nicely), or decorate the mending with patterns.
Darning is also used to help strengthen areas prone to wear. For example, ballet dancers darn the block of their pointe shoes to help them last longer.
Darning is such a brilliant technique. If you’ve never tried it, I hope you give it a go. If you’re old hat at it, I hope you’ve been inspired to sift through your to-mend pile and get darning!
Next up, How to Sew on Buttons & Other Fasteners.
Until then! xx
I'm Beth the human behind Little Grassbird. Welcome!