At my mother’s knee, or how to darn

I don’t remember the first thing I ever darned. I do remember the person who taught me and the house we lived in at the time, so I know how old I was roughly. It wasn’t the accomplishment of darning the hole that was so important to me, it was the time spent with my mother learning a new skill.

I vaguely remember that I learnt the skill to gain another Girl Guide badge. I don’t suppose I spent evenings mending holes, but that lesson from my mother has never left me. As someone who loves to knit beautiful woolly socks, it has turned out to be an important skill to have.

It’s one of those skills that’s not always passed on. Maybe another sign of our disposable society. Maybe, after hours knitting a sock, I value them more. I plan to teach all my children. It really is easy. To begin with, I prepare the hole. I know that not everyone does a starter ring around the hole. I think it makes it stronger.

I like to take each of the weft and the warp outside that starter ring, to secure the repair to the good part of the sock. I don’t cut away any part of the fraying sock, preferring to incorporate the edges into the repair. Then it’s a question of weaving the needle backwards and forwards over the hole.

Each time I knit a pair of socks, I put aside a little of the yarn. It helps the repair to blend into the sock. A darn is never going to make the sock look as good as new. How could it? A weave cannot replace a knit, but it’s a lot better than a hole. There is the option to reknit the foot of the sock if the hole is too bad. One of the reasons I prefer knitting top down socks.

It’s not glamorous, but I like darning. Especially when I sit by the fire in the winter evenings. I’m glad my mother took the time to teach me. It means that I’m able to repair a favourite jumper or a handmade sock, if I want to. One day I hope to teach my children. I wonder if they will look back fondly to the time spent learning too.

(Testing whether I’m better at darning with the sock inside out or not? Inside out I think works best. Snowing again, so I’ll be happy for an excuse to sit by the fire this evening. Our thaw froze again so no sign of grass yet.)

Anyone else dabbling in darning? How about you other sock knitters? Do you darn and who taught you?

8 thoughts on “At my mother’s knee, or how to darn

  • Friday 25 January, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    i haven’t ever darned – but i need to learn!
    i have two socks with holes in them.
    i have my grandmother’s darning egg, but she never passed the knowledge down to me… thank you for the photos and instructions!

    • Friday 25 January, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      Glad to help. How lovely to have that link to your grandmother. I have my grandmother’s sewing box, who taught me so much about sewing and embroidery. Everytime I open a drawer, I think of her. I hope your grandmother’s darning egg is a lovely experience too.

  • Friday 25 January, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    I remember my Mum darning my Dad’s socks, he would only wear pure wool grey colour socks that my Mum had knitted so she always had a pair on the go. She would have a fit if she could come back and see the price of wool now. lol

    • Friday 25 January, 2013 at 10:00 pm

      Wow! I take my knitted hat off to your mother. To knit all the socks is amazing. I’m not surprised she opted for darning the inevitable holes. Probably best she doesn’t see the price of wool now. 😮

  • Friday 25 January, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    I asked my mother to teach me to darn socks several times as a teenager/young adult – she was taught by her grandmother, who was taught by her mother etc etc – but she couldn’t understand why I wanted to learn and just told me to buy some more. So I taught myself using the “Make do and mend” booklet issued by the UK government during World War Two! Sadly, I don’t yet have a darning mushroom, but I can usually adapt something lying around to the purpose when necessary.

    • Friday 25 January, 2013 at 10:17 pm

      Good for you, teaching yourself. It really is a good skill to have. You are right that you don’t need a darning mushroom. Anything that fits in the sock with a smooth and hard will work. I’ve seen people using tennis balls, but I’m sure the needle will get caught on the fluffy surface. Happy darning!

  • Thursday 31 January, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Brilliant Mum could darn but I only learned a little by watching so the refresher was great and the girls are fascinated!

    • Friday 1 February, 2013 at 12:01 am

      I don’t darn everything. I just hate to see handmade socks sitting on the side with a hole in them. Not being used. Thin, shop-bought socks are unlikely to be mended. Life is too busy.

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