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What is Darning?

A.E. Freeman
Updated Feb 08, 2024
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Darning is the process of repairing a hole in a garment or other textile. The term also refers to a particular stitch that can be used to repair holes or for decorative purposes in embroidery. Stitches used in darning are usually long, running stitches. When repairing a garment, a person may need to use a round object, called a darning egg or mushroom, to support the fabric. This process can extend the life of garments and other textiles or add a decorative touch to fabric if a contrasting thread is used.

Most stitchers darn knit or woven fabrics to close holes that form, either from wear or from moths. It's best to darn a hole when it is still small rather than wait until it becomes larger. When a person darns, she is attempting to repair the hole by creating a new weave or knit where the hole is. She's not simply sewing together two raw edges, but filling in the gap with yarn.

The mender starts about half an inch away from the hole and makes a series of vertical running stitches. When she gets to the hole, she stitches directly across it, forming several vertical stitch lines. Once she stitches to the other side of the hole, she makes another vertical row of running stitches.

After stitching vertically across the hole on a woven garment, the stitcher should turn the garment and stitch horizontally across the hole, weaving the yarn through the vertical stitches she just made. The darning will fill in the hole and should resemble the weave of the original fabric. If she is darning a knit garment, she should fill in the hole using diagonal stitches, not horizontal ones.

While a person can darn a blanket or hole in the middle of a shirt by laying the fabric on a flat surface, she will need a special tool to help her darn holes on rounded garments, such as the heel of a sock or the shoulder of a sweater. A darning egg is usually made of wood or plastic and slides underneath the rounded area of the fabric to provide shape and support while the stitcher works. As its name implies, it is shaped like an egg. A stitcher may also choose to use a tool shaped like a mushroom. Both eggs and mushrooms ensure that the mender will have the right amount of tension to properly repair the hole.

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A.E. Freeman
By A.E. Freeman
Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and retention. With a background in the arts, she combines her writing prowess with best practices to deliver compelling content across various domains and effectively connect with target audiences.
Discussion Comments
By SarahSon — On Aug 27, 2011

The closest I've ever come to darning was when I was learning how to embroider. I remember learning how to the darning stitch, but couldn't tell you how to do it anymore.

I quickly found out that I didn't have the patience for such detailed work, and lost interest after a few months.

I do think that knowing how to darn would be very helpful. When people had to darn their clothes to extend the life of them, they were reusing and recycling.

For many people today, including myself, it is usually easier to go buy something new than it is to darn it and keep wearing it.

By julies — On Aug 26, 2011

I remember when my grandmother would sit down with her basket of mending and this always included doing some darning. If she was able to close up the hole in a garment, this would enable them to wear it for a much longer time.

She probably darned more socks than anything, but there were other items of clothing that she would darn if needed.

Today I don't think anybody thinks about doing any sock darning. If I get a hole in a sock, I just throw it away. I figure it is easier to buy a new pair of socks than to spend my time fixing the hole.

By animegal — On Aug 26, 2011

@manykitties2 - I think that most home economics classes these days are either voluntary or just don't bother with the complete basics. You would be surprised how many people can't thread a needle to save their lives. Darning may be a lost art if things don't improve.

Luckily, there seems to be a new trend of younger people taking up sewing and knitting as a hobby. I was actually surprised to wander into school one day and see a few girls knitting between classes. I guess it is pretty relaxing. Our teachers even let them knit during class as long as it doesn't bother anybody. I suppose the teachers are just happy they aren't text messaging their friends under the desk like most people do.

By manykitties2 — On Aug 25, 2011

Learning darning is a really important skill that I think more kids should be taught. Whatever happened to quality home economics classes?

When I was in school we were taught to sew with or without a sewing machine. Darning is really quite easy if you have a needle and some thread. Too many of my friends just toss clothing out these days when they have a little hole in them. I really wonder why they don't bother just to fix it.

I have been fixing my own clothing since I was in grade school and my mother was always around to help me if I needed it. I really hope that we don't lose more of these traditional skills around the house.

By JessicaLynn — On Aug 24, 2011

@ceilingcat - I knit sock also. I've found that if you reinforce the heel with some nylon thread it cuts down on the need for darning.

But, if you have to darn, it's really not too difficult. There are a lot of free video tutorials available online to help you. Just don't forget to save the leftover yarn when you get done knitting your socks.

By ceilingcat — On Aug 24, 2011

I knit, and I'm attempting to learn how to darn my own socks. I've made a bunch of hand knit socks, and they are way comfier than the store bought ones. Unfortunately, they tend to get holes in the heels.

Since I put a lot of hard work into those socks, I want to make sure they last as long as possible! I'm sure darning is much faster than knitting myself a new pair.

By Mor — On Aug 23, 2011

Darning always makes me think of books like "Little Women" where characters used to sit around the fireplace at night, talking and doing needlework and darning their socks with darning needles and thread. I suppose it also brings to mind soldiers way back when, who also had to learn how to darn their own socks, simply because there was no other way to replace them.

Sometimes I think it's sad that we have so little time to stop and do things the traditional ways. If I had socks that I had darned myself, I would probably appreciate them more. Although I don't think it would actually save much money these days.

By bythewell — On Aug 23, 2011

It's difficult to darn socks when they aren't made of wool. I thought about doing it with my expensive socks. They were special ones I bought for running, that wick away sweat and stop bacteria from forming.

They lasted a long time as well, but eventually began to form holes. But, I can see that the fabric is very thin almost all over the sock now, especially in places like the toes and the heels. I think if I started darning them, I would end up replacing the whole sock!

But, if it was made from a woven material, I think it would be more likely that a hole would develop but the rest of the sock remain sound and in that case darning would make more sense.

A.E. Freeman
A.E. Freeman
Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and...
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