A note from wrenbirdarts: As a first for my blog, I am welcoming a guest blogger! I'm excited to introduce Lily, and hope you enjoy her sock darning tutorial! And make sure to check out her book, Wear Repair, Repurpose! It's filled with practical, helpful tutorials and upcycling projects!
Lily Fulop is the author of Wear, Repair, Repurpose: A Maker’s Guide to Mending and Upcycling Clothes, and creator of the Instagram account @mindful_mending, which is home to sustainable fashion inspiration.
How to Darn: A tutorial from Lily Fulop
Learning to darn is an important skill that will allow you to extend the life of your clothes, which in turn will reduce textile waste and reduce your need to consume new clothes. It’s a great way to practice sustainability, and the process is really satisfying (not to mention the beautiful end result!).
So, how does it work? Darning is a method of mending holes (in knitwear and socks especially) by recreating a new woven textile where a hole is. It’s different from regular patching because the new fibers aren’t just on top of (or behind) the existing textile-- they actually get integrated with it. This is great for socks, because it means there aren’t a bunch of layers of fabrics rubbing between your foot and your shoe, so it’s comfortable. You can darn chunky knits (like sweaters) using a thick yarn that matches the density of the original fibers. For thinner materials, embroidery floss works really well. I’ve done a few “mini darns” with sewing thread, too, but that requires quite a bit of precision.
For this tutorial, I’ll be darning a sock with embroidery floss. In this case, the heel of the sock is thin, but hasn’t become a hole yet. So, this darn is preventative! The process is the same as if there were a hole.
You will need:
A sock with a hole (or thin area)
A large, dull needle (sharper needles may snag the embroidery floss)
Embroidery floss (I use two colors)
A jar, bottle, or glass (or darning egg/mushroom, if you have it!) to keep the sock taut and give you a surface to work against
Step 1: Prep
Pull your sock over your jar/bottle/glass, to keep it stretched while you’re working. Most socks stretch when you put them on your feet, but the darn itself won’t be stretchy-- so, darning them while stretched will ensure a good fit. Putting something inside your sock also means you have something to hold onto, and it's helpful to sew against.
Step 2: Vertical Columns
- Draw the embroidery floss through the sock from the inside to the outside, a short distance away from the bottom left of the hole/thin area (the orientation you choose is pretty arbitrary). You’ll be sewing in vertical, parallel lines, from left to right across the hole.
So, you’ll next insert your needle directly above your first stitch (the top left of the hole/thin area), moving from left to right. Pull the embroidery floss through.
Insert your needle directly below, next to the first stitch. Again, move left to right, and pull through.
Continue in this way until you cover the hole completely, and go a little beyond!
Step 3: Horizontal Rows
- Next, you’ll weave horizontally, back and forth, over and under the vertical stitches. So, pull a new thread through the sock, from inside to outside, at the bottom left corner of your stitches. With the tip of your needle, pick up every other thread, weaving the needle across all the stitches. Then, pull the thread through once.
- At the end of every row, stitch in the sock itself to anchor the darn. You can stitch a little bit beyond the darn, to further anchor it, if you want.
- The next row will be in the opposite direction, from right to left. (You might find that moving your needle in one direction is easier than the other due to your dominant hand, and if this is the case, you can flip the sock over with each row, so the direction your needle moves in doesn’t change because the sock does). With the second row, you’ll alternate weaving over and under the vertical stitches, like you did before. This time, you’ll start with the opposite stitch (over or under) that the last row ended in. That is, if in the previous row you went under a column, in this row you’ll go over that column, and vice versa.
- Continue in this way, making alternating rows back and forth that weave over and under the vertical thread columns, and stitching into the sock at the end of every row.
- When you reach the end, pull the thread through to the inside of the sock.
Step 4: Finishing
Take your sock off of the jar (or whatever you’re using) and turn it inside out. On the inside you should have 4 loose embroidery floss ends. Using your needle, weave the ends close to each other, so you can tie them together. It’s best if you create two knots, with two threads each, so the knots will be smaller and less noticeable when you wear the sock. Some people don’t knot at all, they just weave the ends really tightly, and let tension do all the work! Finish it however feels most secure and comfortable to you, and then trim any excess thread.
The shape of your darn can vary! Some people prefer to make neat squares, with columns and rows that all have uniform length. You can also create a more organic shape that follows the shape of the hole. In this case, the lengths of the threads will vary, and some rows and columns will have more stitches than others. (shapes like circles and hearts are also possible, though they may take more practice!)
You can experiment using different thread colors-- one color for vertical and one for horizontal creates a nice checkerboard effect. You can of course, keep it simpler and use one color. Or, add even more colors for an interesting plaid effect!