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Monday, October 27, 2008

Oh Darn! Mending Socks (or Gloves)

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm

I've been quite busy, getting the harvest put up and the garden put to bed, so I hope you won't mind if I just adapt another old post from my blog. Since the socks I put on this morning were the same ones in this post, I thought I'd use it:

I went to put on my socks, and noticed a small hole in the toe of one. The saying, "a stitch in time saves nine" is so very true when it comes to mending socks. A small hole is easy to fix, but once it gets bigger than a thumbnail, almost impossible. To mend a sock, you wouldn't want to just sew it, because that would leave a ridge that could later cause a blister or sore spot. Mending a sock uses a method called darning, weaving a patch over the hole. So I went to get my darning kit.

I inherited my mother-in-law's darning kit. She kept it in a marbled bakelite box. The box has a broken hinge, but it's the perfect size and I really love it. Looking at some of the things in there, I might be the third or even fourth generation to use it. There are big cardboard spools of cotton darning thread in normal sock colors, and smaller ones with some very bright and odd colors. Some of the threads are on wooden spools, and others are wrapped around rolled paper, labeled 10 yards for 5¢. There's writing inside the rolls, but I haven't wanted to take the thread off to see what it says. An assortment of wool yarns and nylon thread are wrapped around cards, 30 yards for 10¢. The darning egg is a wooden oval mounted on a spindle, the varnish worn away on the end and the tip scarred with gouges and scrapes. I've added a plastic cigar case, perfect for mending holes in the fingers of gloves, and a better pair of scissors (and now that I'm looking at the photo, the handle end of my egg would work for mending gloves too).

But you certainly don't need all this to mend socks - just some embroidery floss or yarn, a needle, and an "egg". For a darning egg, you want something rounded you can stretch the material over, with a smooth surface the tip of the needle will glide over. A light bulb or plastic Easter egg are good options. To start, put your "egg" inside at the location of the hole. Thread your needle with yarn, darning thread, or embroidery floss that matches the type of material (and color, if you want - my sister likes to use a contrasting color so she can admire her work, but when I use a different color, I see it and think "not sock", and think I've got another hole). If at all possible, use wool yarn for wool socks, cotton floss for cotton socks, polyester . . . you get the idea. Double the yarn for heavier material - you want to match the weight of the material too.

Stretch the material slightly over your egg. Start below the hole where the material is in good shape. You don't want to knot the thread - that would create a lump - so anchor your thread by making a running stitch (dipping the needle in and out of the material) to 1/2 inch away from the hole, and then making another running stitch back towards the hole. Don't pull the thread tight enough to pucker the material. You want it to just lie smoothly in the slightly stretched material.

Make a boundary around, outside the hole, with running stitches. That helps anchor the darning and reinforces the edges. Then, working back and forth over the hole from top to bottom, lay down parallel lines of thread. When the hole is covered over, start parallel lines side to side, perpendicular to the first set, dipping the needle up and down to create a woven pattern that fills in the hole. Finish with a running stitch away from the hole, and one more back, trim the ends, and you're done!

19 comments:

Eilleen said...

Thank you sooo much for this! I have been wanting to learn darning (even have the embroidery thread ready!) but didn't really know where to start - including how I could get the thread to sit flat.

I can't wait to get home from work now and darn some socks!

kelly said...

great information-thanks!

liz said...

I love it! My grandma had one of these kits, too. I must admit I have never in my life darned a sock. Now that I am learning to knit them, though, I think I'd prefer darning to seeing my hard work go to waste!

Sadge said...

Good idea, Liz. Since you're knitting your own socks, you can get a start on your own mending kit by saving a bit of the yarn after you're done. You just know you'll have a perfect match later on when you need it.

Green Bean said...

Thank you! I've always wondered how exactly to do it. I've made some valiant efforts but, darn it, know I can do it right. ;-)

Elizabeth said...

good info!

Catz said...

This has brought back some wonderful memories of my Mum teaching me to darn! I don't remember using a darning egg, think it was just my fist and I had to be really careful where the needle went! lol Love the box!

KPiep said...

I handknit most of our socks, so darning is a neccessity at our house! I loved seeing your sock darning kit!

EJ said...

The darning egg is nice, but if you don't have one any hard, smooth object can be used. Think ball, small bowl, etc. No need to put darning off until more stuff is acquired.

rhonda jean said...

Hello Sadge. This is an excellent post and exactly the type of practical down to earth information I wanted to collect in this blog. Thank you!

Kim said...

Hi Sadge,
When I darn, I use a pony tail band or elastic band to hold the sock on the darning egg when it's stretched. This helps as I have arthritis in my hands & can't hold the sock to keep it stretched whilst I'm darning. Hope this helps some body

Kim
Hereford UK

Sadge said...

Kim, that's a wonderful suggestion. Thanks! Everybody: take note.

Bovey Belle said...

Darning is not something I learned at school, but it is a skill which improves with practice. I am currently restoring the most beautiful (but tragically holey) Victorian enbroidered tablecloth. It will take weeks, a little bit each evening, and the mends are by no means invisible, but it is so satisfying.

Darlene said...

I needed to darn some holes in some of my son's clothing. I didn't have anything to use, but....an egg. Yup, just a real egg. Used it and put it back in the fridge with the rest of the eggs. Worked like a charm!

Thanks for the post. I tried to teach myself how to darn and didn't know to do the running stitches to hold the edges. Now I know!
Darlene

Hana said...

I'm using a ladel as my darning egg. It's almost perfect. And I'm using the rubber bands as well, especially if I'm using a ladle, because the handle of the ladle is thin and uncomfortable to hold firmly all the time.

frogtailrae said...

I like to darn my socks using contrasting colors of thread... that way I can better enjoy my handiwork!

John said...

One thing to use for an egg (that's not quite as delicate as the real thing!) is a lightbulb. Every household's got one, and they do the trick.

Thanks for the tutorial!

Bob said...

Where can I purchase darning thread

Sadge said...

I haven't tried to buy darning cotton for quite some time - I inherited a lot of it, and can usually find a color somewhat close to what I need. But I often use embroidery floss. DMC makes cotton embroidery floss, available in lots of colors. I don't knit, but I think sock-weight yarn is available in cotton, wool, and acrylic versions - try to match what the socks are made of. Try your local fabric store: Joanne's, Hancocks, whatever is nearby where you live, the yarn section at Michaels, or even the crafts section at Target. You should be able to find something suitable even if it's not specifically labeled darning cotton.