How to darn socks

Darning is as old as clothes itself. When you’ve spent weeks and months carding, spinning, weaving, sewing, it makes sense that you wouldn’t throw a garment away at the first tear.

Mending and darning always gain popularity during lean times, such as WW2 and the great depression. But who is to say that we can’t make do and mend at other times too? Making our clothes last longer is the perfect accompaniment to a clothes shopping ban, as well as teaching mastery and self-reliance.

I would advise that you start with medium-thick or thick socks. Small holes are easier to start with and can be done without a darning mushroom. Big holes are naturally more work, and easier to mess up. If you make a habit of putting something in the mending pile when you spot a small hole, you save yourself the extra work of letting it turn into a bigger problem.

Thin socks are absolutely darn-able, but they do take more patience. If you have natural fiber socks such as wool or cotton, those are easier to darn. Synthetics tend to cling to the needle and can be, pardon the pun, a drag.

For this project, you will need:

  • A sock you would like to mend
  • Scissors
  • Needle
  • Thread, same fiber as the sock, similar thickness

The sock

Exhibit A: A hole in my sock.

Above you see a hole in my beloved, 100 % wool, medium-thick socks. Because they have no nylon for reinforcement, they get holes relatively often, but I have two pairs, and can always alternate.

Step 1

Find a thread of similar fiber and thickness (or a little thicker). Start about 1/2″ or about 1 cm away from the hole with a running stitch (up, down, up, down, up down, without going back). At the end of the first row of stitches. Do a single backstitch (you run the needle through the last stitch twice), securing your thread.

Do not pull tight, but just until your thread is laying flat against the sock. The trick with darning is to match the thread tightness to the material being darned. This is why thick socks are easier to start with.

Step 2

Continue filling the hole and 1/2″ (or 1 cm) outside the hole with running stitches side by side. Try to space the thread rather tightly. You are in essence weaving a tiny new piece of cloth in place of the ruined one.

Try to alternate when the thread is up/down between the stitches. This is impossible over the hole, so here you just lay the thread over and continue on the other side.

Keeping the threads spaced evenly and at the same tightness is where a darning mushroom comes in handy. Personally I’ve gotten used to using a hand inside the sock to stretch the fabric for the same purpose. Use it if you have it, but know that it isn’t essential if you are careful.

Continue placing running stitches side by side until you are at least 1/2″ past the hole on the other side. The threads close to the hole are typically worn thin too. So if you stop too soon you will just end up with a hole right next to it a few weeks later.

Step 3

I bet you can’t guess what step 3 is.

Yup, we are turning 90 degrees and doing the exact same thing the other way! Try to go over and under the previous row of stitches to get a neat result.

It can take some practice to get a good looking result. Or you may not have a thread of exactly the right color. If you have many colorful socks, you might resist the idea of buying a ball of yarn for every kind of sock in your closet.

I agree!

As you can see, I do not worry about matching the thread exactly to the fabric. Luckily for us, socks are typically contained in shoes when we are out and about at work or other functions. So even a beginner darn wouldn’t really be visible.

Step 4

Success! The sock is back in service.

A note on the feel of darning

Whenever I post about stuff I am darning, especially socks, some people ask if you can feel the darn.

The answer is yes. In the beginning, you do feel the thread of the new darning. But with time, you will step on it and squish the new yarn in such a way that this goes away over time.

This will be less noticeable in thicker socks, so if you live in a climate where thick socks or woolen slippers are a must, they are excellent practice material.

Good luck!

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2 thoughts on “How to darn socks

  1. Don’t limit your darning to socks!
    Things I have darned this year: sweaters (so many sweaters), jeans, wool slacks, tote bag, mitten, glove finger, other glove (all over), more gloves at thumb crotch.
    I have a few sweaters sitting in my mending pile waiting for me to get to them. Sometimes the holes in a sweaters are not going to be invisible mends because they’re too big or in an obvious spot or the color is too hard to match but that’s when you embrace the artistic element of #visiblemending. I’ve currently using bright pink yard to mend a teal/white striped sweater. A new hole opened up after the last wash so it’s back in the pile.

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