Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mending 101: How to Darn a Sock

And ode to my days at therapy where I darned a million socks!

Okay, so as lines of poetry go, that was kind of crappy.  But, seriously, it seems like all I do at therapy anymore is darn socks.

I'm not sure why, probably from being on his feet all day and having a history of not taking care of his feet very well, but my husband has heels that resemble cheese graters.  And his socks have always suffered for it.

This last year, we haven't had the money to buy him new socks every two months like we have had to do in the past, so I have learned the lost art of darning instead in desperation as I stared at piles and piles of holey socks.

Once you have darning down it can save you a lot of money, actually.  I've repaired dish towels, sweaters with holes that had tears in them from the washer and other things.  But, I want to start out with the most useful of darning techniques (at least to me) and one of the easiest to learn.  Darning socks.

I am new to the idea of teaching anything sewing related, so bear with me here as I try to walk you through this as easily as possible.

First, you are going to need a few things.  One:  Proper needles.  There are such things as darning needles.  If you do not have these and don't have the money to buy them, don't despair.  Just use whatever needle you have with the largest eye (as you're going to have to fit some pretty beefy thread through it).

Next up you are going to need some round object that you can fit into your sock to help you work on the hole without you pulling the fabric too tight, thus puckering the sock and making it uncomfortable as all get out to wear (I actually started by darning a few of my husband's socks that were beyond hope of repair to get this process down before starting on socks he'd actually wear).  A lot of older books suggest a lightbulb or actually a Darning Egg or Ball.  Me?  I use a play ball from my son's ball pit.  You can use anything round and relatively smooth.  An incandescent light bulb would work fine...personally I just can't stand the idea of something really breakable transporting back and forth to therapies and such in my knitting bag, so I stick with the play ball *laugh*.

One last thing you are going to need is the proper thread to do this.  Embroidery thread would work alright if you are pretty easy on your socks overall.  My husband quickly destroyed it with his cheese grater feet when I tried it on his socks, though, so I switched to this...

Twisted embroidery thread (much tougher stuff).  This stuff goes for about 2.00 per thing of thread at JoAnn Fabrics, but if you sign up for coupons you can use your 40 and 50% off a regular priced item coupons on these, or wait for them to go on sale (which is what I tend to do).  Either way one 2.00 thing of thread does quite a few socks, so it really is still pretty cost effective.

Okay and now the procedure.

1.  Take the ball you are going to darn with and work it down into your sock so that the hole is nice and centered on the curved surface.  Like above.

2.  Load your needle with thread (I go for a decently long amount) and start well beyond the hole in the sock.  Weave your thread in and out of the sock and working in straight lines (once again be sure to start well beyond the hole in the sock and then keep weaving your lines around and get closer to the hole).  Once you hit the hole do NOT sew the hole shut, but instead make lines of thread where the original sock was.  This is the first step to weaving a new piece into the sock.  See figure one for more detail...

3.  Once you are well beyond the hole in the opposite direction, weave your thread around the other way and create a cross hatch pattern to the sock.  When you reach your hole and the lines of thread, weave the thread in and out of the lines of thread you put down previously, creating a new woven piece to the sock.  See figure 2.

4.  Once the hole is woven shut and you are well beyond where the original tear was you can clip your thread, admire your handwork and realize you've now darned your first sock!

I realize this looks difficult, but it really isn't once you get the hang of it.  Yes, once you have a pile of things to darn this does get to be time consuming as you find yourself fixing all the holes you once thought unable to be fixed.  But, it actually is a kind of relaxing way to spend your evening as you sit watching a movie.  And it gives you great practice with your straight stitch in hand sewing *laugh*.

Hope this tutorial is found useful by some.  Good luck with your darning endeavors!

Note:  The graphs above were originally printed in the British pamphlets "Make Do and Mend" series for use during WWII.  I do not claim to be the artist who originally made them :).


  1. Hi, I found your tutorial last weekend, used a 50% off coupon at Michael's to get some twisted embroidery thread like you suggested and tried my hand at darning my husband's woolen socks this afternoon. I wasn't sure I was doing it right at first because the holes were so big, but with some perseverance, I got it done and it feels so good! I sure hope the repair job lasts. The pictorial was invaluable to me since I'm a visual person so thanks for sharing them!

  2. I can't wait to try this! Had to laugh though, because my husband has "cheese grater" feet as well. Maybe that's why he goes through so many socks. ;)