Are there holes in your socks? Do you have beautiful, hand-knitted socks and want to know how to make them last longer Or are you just here because you’re curious about what darning a sock really involves?
Then this post is for you.
We’re living in a world that’s gradually starting to wake up to the damage being done by our disposable lifestyle.
Fast fashion and throwaway clothing are a big part of that damage.
It’s normal to throw away a sock once it’s got a hole in it.
Why would you try to mend something that costs such a tiny amount to replace?
The truth is that while it’s a tiny monetary cost to you, the routine discarding of clothing comes at a huge cost to our planet.
Socks get damaged easily.
They take a lot of wear and tear.
Stretched over sweaty feet with sharp toenails, and wedged into unforgiving shoes. Worn to ‘just nip outside’ to put something in the compost.
Honestly, even if you’re a careful sock custodian, you’ve probably made holes in more than a few pairs over the course of your life.
That’s why we’re starting here.
Whether your socks are fancy, handmade things of beauty, or from a bog-standard supermarket multipack, I think you should know how to sew a hole in them.
‘Darning a sock’ sounds difficult. It sounds old-fashioned. Honestly, it sounds like something that probably disappeared from the common vernacular around the time women stopped painting their legs with gravy browning and pencilling fake stocking seams up the back.
I’m probably not going to help dispel that idea by showing you a picture of my darning mushrooms, but never mind, here they are.
One of these belonged to my husband’s maternal grandmother, and one to his paternal grandmother. I’m certain that both of my own grandmothers owned darning mushrooms, or maybe a darning egg, but they haven’t ended up in my possession.
I love them, they make all kinds of darning jobs much easier, and there’s also a pleasure in owning and using something with a bit of history. So often the things we inherit are dust catchers, things that look beautiful but have no real use.
These are beautiful to me because of their use, and because of their history.
Clothing repair was a fact of life for previous generations, and it still is in cultures where resources are more highly valued. I’d love us to move back in that direction again.
Anyway, you’re here to learning how to mend a sock, so let’s get on with that.
Supplies For Darning A Sock.
- A darning mushroom.
If you don’t have one of these, try a tennis ball, the base of a jam jar, a plastic cup, or something similar instead.
The purpose of a darning mushroom is to hold the hole gently stretched open so that you can stitch over it. You just need something that will help you do that.
- Yarn or thread to match the sock.
If you knitted the sock yourself, maybe you have some of the actual yarn knocking about in your stash? If so, use that.
Otherwise, thin yarn works, or embroidery thread.
Basically you want something not too thick and not too thin, in a similar colour to the sock you’re mending.
Something like this, if you’re trying to match a relatively boring sock colour.
(Or, be like me, and just darn socks with whatever colour of sock yarn comes to hand, and embrace the visible mending trend).
- A darning needle.
Truthfully, if this is the only time you ever plan to darn a sock, just use whatever kind of needle you can get your thread through. It’s not mission-critical.
A proper darning needle works best though.
Darning needles have large eyes, making them easy to thread, even when you’re using thicker yarn to repair a sock.
They’re also nice and long, meaning that you can load up several stitches at once, and then pull the yarn through all at once. This makes the work go faster.
They’re pretty inexpensive and well worth the outlay if you’re going to use them more than once.
I have these ones and I love them far more than anyone should love a pair of scissors. (Yes, they’re technically pruning scissors, but they’re perfect for all kinds of thread-snipping tasks).
- A Holey Sock.
Hopefully, you’ve got one of these already, otherwise, why are you reading this?
How To Mend A Hole In A Sock.
The Short Version:
You’re going to use your darning mushroom to stretch the hole out a bit.
Then you’ll make rows of parallel running stitches across the damaged area in one direction (going left to right).
After that, you’ll make more rows of parallel running stitches in the opposite direction (going up and down).
When you’re working over the hole itself, you’ll be weaving over and under the first set of stitches, thus creating new fabric to cover the hole.
Maybe that’s enough to get you going. If so, knock yourself out.
If you need a bit more detail, though, I’ve got you covered.
Darning A Sock – Detailed Instructions.
Cut a length of thread and thread your needle.
I recommend making your thread the same length as your fully-outstretched arms.
Cut it too long, and it gets tangled easily. Make it too short, and you waste time having to start fresh lengths of thread.
If you’re struggling with threading your needle, this video shows you how.
Decide whether you want to darn from the outside or the inside and turn the sock that way.
If your goal is an almost-invisible darn, then it’s best to turn it inside out.
I prefer to do my sock darning with the sock right-side-out, and I don’t mind how it looks really.
Put your darning mushroom (or jar, tennis ball, whatever) inside the sock and centre the hole over it.
The goal here is to have the fabric slightly stretched so that the hole is nicely open.
Bunch up the fabric around the stem of the mushroom so that you can hold it easily in your non-dominant hand.
Visualise the area you’ll be working on.
Take a good look at the area around the hole and decide how far out the damaged area stretches.
You’ve probably heard the proverb, A stitch in time saves nine. Well, it applies here.
You could just sew up the hole itself, and it would be okay. But, next week, or next month, do you want to be darning the same area on the same sock over again?
When you’re darning a sock, take the time to repair the whole damaged area, extending about 1 cm into the solid fabric on all sides.
Insert needle about 1cm from one corner of the area to be darned and anchor the thread.
If you want to tie a small knot, you can, but I prefer to just take two or three stitches on top of one another, and leave a short tail.
Work a running stitch straight across one side of the area you’re going to darn.
A running stitch is just a short straight stitch.
Put the needle down through the fabric, and bring it back up again a little way further along.
If you’ve got a hand-knitted sock, it’s easy to see the individual threads that make up the stitch. You can usually go over and under two threads at a time to make your running stitch.
With a factory-made sock the threads are usually much finer, so just go with a stitch length that looks good to you.
Don’t pull too tightly. You want the stitching to lay nice and flat. It’s important to avoid bunching up the fabric by pulling your stitches too tight.
If you’re not sure how to make a running stitch, take a look here for instructions:
Turn the sock and make a parallel row of stitching nice and close to the first.
Keeping your rows of stitches close to one another helps to make a strong repair. Don’t worry too much about it though, because we’ll be going back to fill in any gaps later.
When you reach the thin areas around the hole, just do the best you can.
Here’s where you abandon your beautifully neat, even stitches, and just take stitches wherever the fabric seems solid enough to support them.
Just keep working in a straight line until you get to the end.
Over the hole itself, just take a long stitch, taking care not to pull it too tightly.
Check that your fabric is still nicely stretched over the darning mushroom, and then pick up the running stitch on the other side of the hole.
Keep going back and forth until you’ve darned the entire damaged area and 1 cm beyond it on all sides.
You should end up with lots of rows of running stitch across the whole damaged area.
It doesn’t matter if your darn isn’t a perfect square, circle, or whatever. The important thing is to extend your stitching well into the solid fabric on all sides.
Anchor your thread by taking 2-3 stitches on top of one another, and then trim it, leaving a short tail.
You’re about half-way there now.
This is a good time for a tea-break.
Go back to step 5 and repeat the process in the other direction with a new length of thread. (Shown by the orange stitching in the photos).
If you went from side-to-side before, this next batch of stitching needs to go up and down.
Turn the sock so that you can work comfortably.
This is exactly the same process as before, except that you’re working across your original stitching rather than parallel to it.
When you come to those longer stitches over the hole itself, use your needle to weave over and under the strands.
Darning a sock requires you to create new fabric over the hole, and you do that with this weaving process.
Go over one thread and under the next, right across the hole.
Then continue with the running stitches when you reach the other side.
On the next row, go under and then over, creating the woven pattern.
Darn to 1cm beyond the damaged area, and then fasten off as before.
Now’s a good time to take the sock off the darning mushroom and admire your handiwork.
Check for thin or gappy areas.
Put your hand inside the sock and give it a good stretch around.
Maybe even try it on your foot and do contortions to see how it looks.
What you want to see is a nice, densely-woven area of new fabric where there used to be a hole.
Particularly when you’re still learning to darn, you might find that there are some large gaps between strands, or areas where the yarn hasn’t quite filled things in properly.
That’s okay because we’re going to deal with that next.
Start a new length of thread close to the gappy area, and work rows of running stitch in between your existing stitching.
You probably guessed that, didn’t you?
Darning is all about making row upon row of stitching, really close together.
Keep making more and more rows of stitching, basically until you’re fed up, or until you can’t squeeze any more in.
You can see in the photo above that I’m pushing the needle in between my previous stitching.
It’s good to go more by feel than by appearance here. When the darned fabric starts to feel similar in density to the rest of the sock, then you’re probably done. If it feels loose and floppy, then you probably need to keep going.
Fasten off as before, and decide whether you need to repeat the process in the other direction.
You know what to do by now. A couple of stitches on top of one another to anchor the thread, and then running stitches up and down until you’re done.
Decide what to do with your yarn tails.
This is a personal preference.
As I said wayyyy back at the beginning of this epic sock-darning post, I prefer to darn on the outside of my socks.
I also prefer to leave my yarn tails lurking on the outside of the sock too, and I usually don’t trim them, at least to start with.
With a little bit of wear, those tails will stick themselves to the rest of the sock (especially if there’s some wool content to your darning yarn). I feel like that’s as good a way as any to finish things off.
If they bother you, though, you can deal with them a couple of different ways.
Snip them straight off.
Yes, really. You’ve got hundreds of stitches in there at this point, it really won’t unravel.
Thread them through to the wrong side of the sock.
To do this, poke the eye of your needle from the inside of your sock so that it pops out right next to the offending yarn tail.
Thread the yarn tail through the eye, and then pull it down inside the sock.
Wear your sock with pride, and feel smug because you now know all about darning socks and you’ve saved a pair from landfill.
If, like me, you knit your own socks, then it’s probably a good idea to save the scraps of sock yarn so that you can have perfectly-matching darns.
If you do this, you’ll be able to carry out a nearly-invisible repair.
But, if you do that, no-one will know you’ve mended your socks, and you don’t get to show off your awesome darning skills.
I save my scraps of sock yarn in a big bag and am s-l-o-w-l-y making a scrappy Ten-Stitch Twist blanket with them.
Confession time: I never match my darning yarn to the sock. I quite like my much-mended socks-of-many-colours.
Go Forth And Darn!
So, now you know how to go about darning a sock.
(And you also know how to darn a sweater or anything else made out of knitted fabric).
What’s even better than mending a hole in a sock, though? Darning an area before it has the chance to turn into a hole.
Seriously. If you’ve got hand-knitted socks in your possession, go and look now to see if there are any that are starting to wear out. It’s much easier to learn this technique before there’s a gaping hole to deal with.
My challenge to you now is to go and teach someone else how to darn a sock.
The best way to cement a new skill is to teach it to someone else. Also, the more people who know how to darn socks, the fewer socks will end up in landfill.
(Or, you could pin it so that the rest of the world can learn how to darn socks too.)