Your Tools of the Trade of Darning

Hey do you remember when it was common practice to have your socks darned? A hole in a sock cannot just be sewed together with a needle and thread, this would cause a lump, when darning is used to cover the hole, no lump is made.
Some people would say why would you want to darn a sock, when you can just throw away socks with holes, and buy new ones? Have you ever had a pair of socks that fit so well and felt so right, not too tight, stays up and very comfortable? This would be one of those times to darn. How about a “security” sock, the ones your child just loves, or just a challenge, to see if you can do it? No matter what the reasons, you save bucks by repairing.

Darning socks is like trying to solve a puzzle. One must decide where to start and from there, the weaving begins, in and out until the patch is complete. Choose the wool that matches your sock in thickness and color. Use a round hard object (a round hard ball) to place inside the sock to hold the sock in place and maintain the hole in one position, while you work on it. The round hard object also helps guide the needle end to slip smoothly across the hole. Start by turning the sock INSIDE-OUT and work in good light. When darning a hole in a sock, the hole is slowly filled by weaving yarn in and out, from one side of the hole, to the other side of the hole, creating a network of yarn stitches which cross to fill the hole.

Darning Socks Images

In-side-out sock with ball inside, and first stitches placed across

Secondary stitches placed, and sock turned inside-out again

Thread a Darning Needle

To thread the needle, fold the wool in half, about an inch from the end of the wool. Pinch the wool between your fingers, and press it against the eye of the needle. The wool will easily slip through the eyelet of the needle.

Darning, Placing the Stitches

Trim off any ragged edges around the hole.
Start, by choosing a blunt needle with a large eye, and a length of yarn that is comfortable for you to handle. Do not make a knot at the end of the yarn.
Whether you darn a cotton sock, or a wool sock, the repair is the same, match the yarn to the sock.

Darning Egg – Can Use a Light Bulb
Use double yarn strand for heavy duty work socks and single strand for dress socks. Single strand yarn will do for light duty socks.
Acrylic yarn is the most available yarn, and can be used on every type of sock.
Start three stitches away from the hole, and leave about half an inch of yarn sticking out of the sock. From here on do an over the sock hole edge and then a under, on the other side of the hole.
Alternate the over and under of the hole edge, on each new row. This helps provide a smoothness, so you will not feel a lump in the sock.

Each row will be stitched the opposite of the preceding row. This helps blend the stitching to the sock. On the far side of the hole, stitch a couple of stitches into the sock before coming the other way (back towards you). Always go a couple of stitches past the hole on both sides. If the sock is badly worn around the hole, make a couple extra stitches past the hole. When you run out of yarn, just finish with a couple of stitches into the sock, and cut off the yarn, leaving about a half inch sticking out of the sock, do not knot the end. Add new yarn into the needle and start with two or three stitches into the sock and carry on, just like when you first started.
Completely cover the hole in one direction with yarn, you should have spaces between each row the thickness of the yarn.
Start the secondary stitches, keeping the yarn as close together as possible, to obtain a tight weave. It is under and over stitching until the hole is completed. Keep the wool tension moderate while darning. Use the end of the needle as you darn, to position the stitches for a uniform look.
Turn the sock inside out again for a finished look. For very large holes, because of the circumference of the darning ball, darn to the center of the hole, pull all the yarn through and then continue finishing the stitch across the hole

There is One – Let’s Get Started

How to Reinforce a Worn Sock

If you catch it early enough, before an actual hole develops, you can reinforce the area in question. Just start darning the area, using the worn, bare threads of the sock and weave in and out of them. You do not have to add the secondary stitches, just go back and forth until the weak area is completely covered.

You can even stitch in reinforcement on a new sock (preventive maintenance), reinforce the area that will be the first spot to wear. This will extend the wear time for the sock. You can use a entirely different color to add some flair

Darning Socks, Extra Tips

When first learning to darn, start with a shorter pieces of yarn, this lessens the wool from bunching into knots while drawing the yarn through the strands.
Later you will learn how to let the yarn “lay”, off to the side to prevent bunching, you can then lengthen the yarn as you master this technique.
At times, while darning, use the end of the needle to position the darned wool for consistency, this helps make a professional looking job.

On very large holes, darn to the center of the hole, pull all the yarn through, and continue on to the other side. The reason we do this is because of the circumference of the ball makes it difficult to weave all the way across, in one pass.

Darning Story

Way, way, back in elementary school, our teacher had everyone in the class, bring a darning needle, yarn and a sock with a hole in it. He was going to teach us how to darn a sock. In the first ten minutes, I had completed darning the hole in my sock and presented it to my teacher for inspection.  He took one look, took me aside, and wanted me to admit I had brought the completed darned sock from home and was pulling a “fast one”.
I quickly came up with a solution to clear my name, let the teacher cut a new hole in the sock, and I would darn the hole and clear my name. Done!  I was quickly delegated to help other crying students who were having a difficult time.


Darning cloth

In its simplest form, darning consists of anchoring the thread in the fabric on the edge of the hole and carrying it across the gap. It is then anchored on the other side, usually with a running stitch or two. If enough threads are criss-crossed over the hole, the hole will eventually be covered with a mass of thread.

Fine darning, sometimes known as Belgian darning, attempts to make the repair as invisible and neat as possible. Often the hole is cut into a square or darn blends into the fabric.

There are many varieties of fine darning. Simple over-and-under weaving of threads can be replaced by various fancy weaves, such as twills, chevrons, etc., achieved by skipping threads in regular patterns.

Invisible darning is the epitome of this attempt at restoring the fabric to its original integrity. Threads from the original weaving are unravelled from a hem or seam and used to effect the repair. Invisible darning is appropriate for extremely expensive fabrics and items of apparel.

In machine darning, lines of machine running stitch are run back and forth across the hole, then the fabric is rotated and more lines run at right angles. This is a fast way to darn, but it cannot match the effects of fine darning.

  • A darning egg is an egg-shaped ovoid of stone, porcelain, wood, or similar hard material, which is inserted into the toe or heel of the sock to hold it in the proper shape and provide a firm foundation for repairs. When the repairs are finished, the darning egg is removed. A shell of the tiger cowry Cypraea tigris, a popular ornament in Europe and elsewhere, was also sometimes used as a ready-made darning egg.
  • A darning mushroom is a mushroom-shaped tool usually made of wood. The sock is stretched over the curved top of the mushroom, and gathered tightly around the stalk to hold it in place for darning.
  • A darning gourd is a hollow dried gourd with a pronounced neck. The sock can be stretched over the full end of the gourd and held in place around the neck for

Pattern darning is a simple and ancient embroidery technique in which contrasting thread is woven in-and-out of the ground fabric using rows of running stitches which reverse direction at the end of each row. The length of the stitches may be varied to produce geometric designs. Traditional embroidery using pattern darning is found in Africa, Japan, Northern and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Mexico and Peru.

Good Job of Darning Socks

Nine Steps to Darning

  1. Pick a thread that is close to the colour and thickness of the existing sock yarn. You can also use a dark color for horizontal stitching and a lighter color for vertical stitching. It doesn’t have to match exactly – no one is going to see the bottom of your foot.
  2. Thread the darning needle with one or two strands of thread, depending on the weight of the sock. Don’t tie a knot in the thread; that will leave a lump in your sock.
  3. Pull the sock over the darning egg. (A light bulb will also work if you are gentle.)
  4. Trim away any ragged edges, but don’t make the hole any larger.
  5. Sew running stitch for a few rows above and to either side of the hole.
  6. Push the needle through one end of the hole and make a large running stitch to the other side of the hole.
  7. Repeat back and forth until the hole is blocked up with parallel stitches.
  8. Now do the same technique across the parallel stitches, weaving in and out of the previous stitches.
  9. Fill in any gaps with more weaving and running stitch, until the hole is completely healed.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bette (Ryan) Turnbull on March 11, 2011 at 22:28

    Do you remember also that your feet didn’t get cold in a good wool sock? It could be sopping wet and somehow keep your feet warm. The same goes for woolen mittens. The more they were washed, the more they milled up and the warmer they got.
    A great read George.


  2. You are bang on Bette and the fishermen used to have those very large woolen mitts for hauling trawls and they were warm as toast and could be “sopping” wet but comfortable. Your dear father would have known that. Havent heard “sopping wet” for awhile. lol


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