I recently made a post on repurposing an old incandescent light bulb for darning socks. In a matter of days, a new crop of holes showed up in my husband’s socks which has kept me quite busy. Wanting to post a video tutorial for those who are unfamiliar with darning, I took a minute to look for one online. I’m sure there are some nice ones out there somewhere, but after searching for almost an hour on a v e r y S………… L………… O………… W………… internet connection, I came up with nothing satisfying and gave up.
In my search I found some that addressed repairing hand-knit socks… of which we have none. I found some that showed how to sew up a sock… but that’s not darning (and in my opinion, unless it’s an emergency situation, it’s a good way to ruin a sock rather than repair it). And I found a bunch of tutorials that probably had very good advice, but the filming and/or editing was terrible, with hangups such as missing tools, blurry closeups (or even worse, none at all), and poorly chosen materials (white thread on a white sock using a white bulb with a white background surface and poor lighting). My inability to quickly find a good tutorial made me want to make one of my own. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or the filming skill to do so. And to be quite honest, an official “tutorial” makes me think the creator should have some serious skill on the topic, and I am no expert- just a darning hobbyist. Nevertheless, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to snap a few pictures while repairing a couple socks and post them so that those who are inexperienced with darning can at least get a basic feel for what’s involved. I’ve also included a few tips at the end that I’ve picked up along the way.
This hole is relatively small compared to some of the ones he ends up putting in his socks. In fact, two or three will crop up in one sock seemingly overnight!
To start, I typically tie off on the bottom left side and then work my way up, zigzagging back and forth from side to side. With every pass, I always make sure to weave my thread into the edge of the fabric by at least 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch, depending on the condition of the fabric (the more worn, the further into the fabric I work the stitch to ensure proper anchoring of the thread, preventing the weave from pulling away from the edges of the garment).
Once I have finished the zigzag from bottom to top, I turn the sock by 90º and start weaving. This step is simply another zigzag from side to side. As you cross the threads of the initial zigzag that are now running perpendicular to your current stitch direction, you need to weave your needle through the threads, above the first, below the second, above the third, and so forth, until you reach the other side. Again, as you weave this second zigzag, be sure to anchor your thread at least 1/4 inch into the existing fabric when you reach the edge of the hole.
After you have successfully made your first weaving pass, work your way back toward the direction from which you started. This time, alternate your weave, going under the thread you went above on the previous pass, and vice versa.
Continue working your way down to the bottom, filling the hole in with thread, pass by pass.
The Finished Weave
The finished weave pattern will look something like this. It probably won’t be a very tight weave. In fact, in some places you may be able to see little spots where the bulb is visible underneath, but don’t worry- that’s normal, and we’re not done yet!
The Reinforced Weave
Once the weave has been completed, I always reinforce it. To do so, I run my thread back and forth through the weave from top to bottom and then side to side, effectively creating a second weave pattern. When doing so, I do not anchor the thread into the sides of the sock. I simply work within the area of the hole on the framework of the previous stitches. This prevents the fabric around the hole from being so tightly packed with stitches which would consequently result in unwanted hardening and thickening of the fabric. This step also helps thicken and strengthen the thinner weave created by the darning thread.
- I like to thread the needle with cotton darning thread that has been doubled over, so that there are a total of four strands of thread attached to the end of the needle. This way, I don’t have to make as many passes and the hole is filled in more quickly.
- I’ve found that it helps to inspect our socks regularly, looking not only for holes but spots that are thinning. When I find a thin spot, I go ahead and reinforce it before a hole develops. It is much easier to reinforce a portion that is thin but still intact rather than trying to piece together a hole that has already developed.
- This tip is self evident, but a reminder won’t hurt: if using a light bulb in place of a darning egg, be careful! The last thing you want is a foot or tush full of broken glass! Be especially careful not to put the sock down with the bulb inside, as the sock conceals the glass inside, making it possible for someone to unknowingly crush the bulb.
- Remember that this is only one way of darning a sock- there are plenty of alternate ways to get the job done, and if your method looks different, that’s fine. The goal is to produce a comfortable, functional repair, and if that’s what you end up with, it doesn’t matter how you got there!