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!