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Michelle Edwards Explores Darning

July 27th, 2011

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One of the best things about the yarncrafting community is the stories crafters share. This story comes from author and crafter extraordinaire Michelle Edwards. She relates how while watching her friend Monica (pictured at left with puppets of the Owl Glass Puppetry Center) deftly mend a sock, she learned more about her friend and about the care and keeping of well worn socks. She even includes a list of her tips for darning at the end of her story.

Look out for a new story by Michelle Edwards each month in our popular newsletter, The Weekly Stitch. Click here to subscribe.

Michelle writes:

Sometimes darning is about routine sock maintenance. Sometimes it’s about preserving and respecting gifts. Other times, it may be more than the socks that get mended; a bond may be repaired by engaging together in a worthwhile companionable activity.

Click here to read Michelle’s full story.

Do you darn? Who taught you? Do you have any darning hints for the newbies?

Leave a comment below and share your darning story.

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  • Kbavouset

    I darn.  Both of my Grandmothers taught me how to darn using a light bulb; especially for socks.  They were both very thrifty women.  I grew up in a time when money was tight and everything was saved for tomorrow.  Now I can truly appreciate what I learned from both of them and my Mother when I was a child. 

  • Fran

    My mother taught me to darn, also using a light bulb as a darning egg. With a full house of eight children, she was as thrifty as could be. When knitting socks, she liked to carry heavy-duty buttonhole thread along with the yarn on the heels and toes to make those areas more sturdy. She also shared wonderful, garment and money-saving ideas in addition to darning, like turning the collars on my Dad’s shirts when they showed signs of wear. 

  • Fran

    My mother taught me to darn, also using a light bulb as a darning egg. With a full house of eight children, she was as thrifty as could be. When knitting socks, she liked to carry heavy-duty buttonhole thread along with the yarn on the heels and toes to make those areas more sturdy. She also shared wonderful, garment and money-saving ideas in addition to darning, like turning the collars on my Dad’s shirts when they showed signs of wear. 

  • Maureenworland

    haven’t darned in years, but just found my mom’s old darning egg, shaped like a mushroom, must be and least 80 some years old as mom died five years ago at the age of 98, and she had been daring from very young

  • LynnD

    Hi I have a pair waiting to be darned. Did see a webpage on darning handknit socks but tried it and then lost the
    sock.
     Wish there had been a drawing of the description of how yarn went from Michelle, OR
    vid Monica darning or describing.
    Thanks

    Lynn D

  • Alan

    I used to darn my socks, t-shirts, etc. but I found out that by the time they had a hole in them I had worn them so often that the fabric was just waiting to fall apart. After darning one hole there was another one after the next wash. So I gave up because it didn’t seem worth the effort.

  • fatgladys

    Whenever I think of darning, it takes me back to my days in the “Brownies” nearly 60 years ago.  I had to demonstrate my skills by darning an old sock.  I borrowed my mother’s darning mushroom and my dear old dad sacrificed one of his old socks.  It didn’t have a hole in it but I can see him now rubbing it against the brick wall of our house until there was a big enough hole for me to darn.  And all to help me gain my “thrift badge”. That’s a father’s love for you! 

  • Sally Braun-Jackson

    I don’t darn, but only because I didn’t know how until reading Michelle’s blog just now.  As I have a couple of sock needing repair, I think I’ll give it a try.  Thanks!

  • Janine

    It was 1967 and I was newly married–my husband in school, a tight budget, and hole-y socks.  I went to Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company for a darning egg. I couldn’t find one and an older clerk with a Scot’s burr asked if she could help me.  When I asked for a darning egg, she said that no young women today bothered to darn socks. I told her that I did–it was a necessity.  It took her about 20 minutes, but she found one for me deep “in the back room”. I still have it today along with one that was my grandmother’s.  And I still darn socks,

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rebecca-Parry/626765802 Rebecca Parry

      Hi Where do you find the darning thread or cotton?  These days when buying socks the cotton is so thin, they don’t last long.  So I am trying darning on my older socks in hopes of keeping them going for a long time. 

      • knittinggram

        Buy embroidery thread in the color needed and separate the floss threads to the size needed for the socks.  I learned this at Hobby Lobby the other day.

  • Gloria Dennen

    I was in 7th grade in 1941 and sewing was required.  We learned to darn as an art form and a necessary skill for ladies.  My mother was a dressmaker and used darning for more than repairs.  I continue to use it as another stitch in needlepoint and in finishing handworked garments.  The weaving pattern works well for sewing on worked buttons as it won’t leave a bump or pull the yarn, yet holds fast.  Young women might be more ready to try it once they realized that it’s simply a weaving of threads over and under.  The thread has to fit the needle eye, whatever weight it is.  So few items need darning now with synthetic fabrics, but the skill is still valuable.  Just try making your own sampler!

  • Mona

    No one”taught” me, I just watched Mom. Actually, I think that’s how she taught most things. I am the youngest of nine and grew up thinking that was the way everyone lived…I still have Mom’s darning egg. And, on another “how to” front, I have the stubby screwdriver that Daddy carried in the side pocket of his bib overalls. Thrift and figure it out were facts of life.

  • Susan Carroll

    I learned to darn socks in junior high sewing class, but never did another one.  My mom had darned my dad’s socks when they were first married, but they always gave him blisters, so she stopped. At a women’s meeting at church, they taught us how to darn socks. Hold the holey sock over the trash can, and say, “Darn, this sock has a hole in it!” Then drop it in the can.

    • Terrybb

      love it!

  • Esther

    I learned to darn at a young age by watching my mother.  She had probably learned from her mother and had needed the skill during the Great Depression and World War II.  I remember asking a college roommate why she was throwing out a pair of socks because one of them had a small hole in it.  I told her I could darn it for her so she could continue to wear it.  I was really surprised that she had never heard of such a thing!  I no longer darn socks, but that’s mainly because I don’t wear them very often, preferring hose instead.

  • Lwycombe

    I have darned socks as a child and I still had my mom’s darning egg and threads till recently. Our home had burned down this last Dec. and I lost all of this. What I do is to go to the thrift stores and GoodWills to find discarded darning threads of all colors and hope to find another egg in good shape. The darning flosses are like little balls of DMC cotton embroidery threads, but they come in six ply (I believe) and you can use just 2, 3, 4 threads at a time depending on the socks thread size. You weave threads vertically up and down in one direction and then return, weaving horizontally (to fill in) over and under those threads to make a tight fabric in the open space. So many socks I buy are cotton fiber over a nylon core and they are apparently “wear-dated” and throw outs. What a waste!

  • hole in one

    When I was first married my mother inlaw darned my spouses socks.  I never watched her do it but I looked at them when they were finished.  I decieded I could do that too.  The next pair of socks that needed darning I did them.
    The hole was on the pad of the foot.   I figured I would to make sure they never needed darning again.  My husband  worked on construction and when he came home he was limping.  Took of his boot and had the largest blister I have ever seen.  That was the first and last sock I ever darned.  That was 53 years ago and we still laugh about it today.

  • Mt. Mom

    I use a technique based on duplicate stitch to “reconstruct” knitting, to span a hole and/or reinforce thin areas.  It works very well for me.

  • JennyB

    I must have been about 6 when I offered to help darn my grandfather’s socks.  When he put on his sock the next time there was something at the toe….I only knew how to sew on buttons at that stage, so that’s how I closed the hole.  I can still remembered how carefully I did it.  I was promptly taught the proper technique, but the family joke is still remembered.
    Knitting wool socks was a necessary past time during the World Wars in Australia.  American soldiers would barter for them, because they wouldnt stay wet in the tropics, as their cotton ones would. 

  • joyce

    I, too, darn socks. It’s mostly thrift learned long ago. Think of it as weaving. I loved Michelle’s story of learning how and even learned a new technique. I never thought of the diagonal weaving for strength. I’ll use that. I have two darning eggs, one dark and one light. Used a light bulb before I inherited these. I used to use several strands of embroidery thread because you could match colors if needed. Then I purchased some sewing notions at an auction and got a box full of darning cotton. Probably can’t even buy it any more but I won’t have to look for it for a long time!

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  • Jlaskeresq

    I learned to darn as a child.  My mother taught me.  I darned over a light bulb.  Judith

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  • http://dragondotr.blogspot.com/ Julie

    I darn hand-knit socks.  My mother taught me how.  I go to a needlepoint shop and buy a few strands of the matching color (needlepoint shops have every color in the world) for a dollar or so and darn away! I lost my “egg”, really a Japanese wooden doll, made so the back of he head is the right spot. I wonder if I can buy one in a Japanese 100-yen store  If you feather the edges of the darning by not lining up everything even and straight, but do some strands longer and some shorter, it does not make a ridge which would make a blister.

  • knittinggram.

    I have been mending my own knitting projects given as gifts.  The recipient asked me to fix them so they could keep them.  I began by mending small holes in their baby afghans, then the holes got bigger and I kept fixing them.  When you made the item to begin with it’s easy to fix.  Recently I’ve been mending small holes in hubby’s white sox, small holes, because I didn’t want to discard 5 socks.  I found Mom’s darning cotton and went to work.  Wish I could find her darning egg!  I learned that embroidery thread is made of cotton so can be used for darning as well.

  • Iaibear

    The question was “where can I buy darning cotton?”  To me darning cotton was a very “soft hand” four ply thread that came in a zillion colors wound on 2 inch cardboard cylinders.  Every dry goods store had a large display.  Now no one knows what I am asking for.  
    They suggest knitting yarn; on a Buster Brown cotton sock?  
    They suggest embroidery cotton.  Nothing soft about that.  No wonder they get blisters.
    I have gotten so desperate I have shopped on eBay and Amazon among the antiques and collectables.  This can come at $4 for a 25 cent ball, but at least it is the right stuff.

  • That Darn Cat

    My grandmother taught me how to weave, embroider, knit, and crochet when I was a little girl. My mother was part of the “throw away” culture and didn’t want to bother teaching me these things. When I was first married, I used to darn my husband’s socks. After we got divorced and I was on my own, I stopped bothering. Now, though, with the economy so bad and money so tight, I’ve decided to start again. I especially don’t want to throw out expensive wool socks because they’re wearing thin or have holes, and I’d also like to start darning my regular cotton/polyester socks. Finding darning supplies is difficult. It’s now “vintage,” in the same vein as buggy whips and typewriters.

  • Linda Mills Shriver

    I darn like Kbavouset. I feel like I am throwing away a best friend when they get holes in them. I really feel great after I have saved them…I learned in British school. They teach a lot younger than we do and they appreciate things more I think.

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