DIY: Darn it!
March is National Craft Month and though we love DIY projects with old socks, sometimes you want to keep wearing the sock as a sock! That's when darning comes in. It is surprisingly simple and becomes easier with practice. It's one of the easier mending skills because all you need is a blunt needle, some yarn that matches your socks and something to work as a darning egg.
The yarn and the needle
Embroidery floss works for most darning applications, you want to use something that matches the weight of the yarn used in your sock, since embroidery floss is made up of separate strands it is very easy to add or take away however much you need to get the weight to match. Because embroidery floss is cheap and comes in a million shades it's also easy to match the colour of your sock for stealth mending.
If you knit or have a friend who does, then you can use sock weight yarn scraps instead, what you're looking for is nice thin yarn so the darn isn't too bulky.
A blunt tapestry style needle is the best for darning, its smooth end works through the sock easily. Darning is mostly weaving new fabric, not sewing, so a larger and easier to handle and guide tapestry needle is ideal. They've also got a more spacious eye, so it is less of a hassle to thread your yarn.
The darning egg
A darning egg sort of looks like a maraca. The smooth surface gives you something to work against and keeps the shape of the sock. Not everybody has a darning egg (I don't, the one pictured below is borrowed from a friend) and there are a handful of equally good options to work with. I prefer a large plastic Easter egg, some folks use a doorknob and a lightbulb is another favourite substitute.
Okay, you're all set up. Add a holey sock to the mix (in my case, a well-loved B Chevron) and join me after the jump for a walkthrough of the whole darn process! ;)
Turn the sock inside out and insert whatever you're using for a darning egg, situating it under the hole.
First, you'll want to work some foundation stitches. I'm using a contrasting yarn so you can see what I'm doing. Where there's a hole there's thinning fabric, so you want to reinforce the area around the hole so you have something to stitch to. Keeping your stitches loose, so you don't lose stretch, work a running stitch framing the hole. If the sock really needs reinforcement, you might want to do more than one line of stitches.
Now, darning is just weaving new fabric, so the next step is to lay the warp. Try to keep the threads spaced comparatively to the gauge of the sock's knit. Work a couple stitches in at each end to further reinforce your work.
Okay, now for the fun part, the weft! Work your needle and thread over and under the warp you just made, keeping your rows nice and close (or looser, depending on how open-knit your sock is). Remember, go over the rows you went under the pass before, just plain ol' weaving. Every couple of rows, gently push the weft you've made together, to increase the density of the patch. Just like with the warp, work a couple of stitches at the end of each row to increase strength.
Keep going until you've filled the hole. When you reach the end, knot it off and work the loose end into your weaving. Washing and wearing will shrink and compact the darn.
And you're done! I'm pretty messy about darning, but if you catch a hole early and use matching thread, it's much more subtle. And it's strong! The sock is now better than new, because you considered it awesome enough to mend. Though what sock isn't?
There are a lot of great darning tutorials out there, this one at Craft:Zine has good photos and some supplementary links and I love the illustrations for this one at Knitting Daily. There's also a bunch of great videos out there too, but I haven't found a favourite.
Do you darn? How long have you kept a sock going (I finally had to get rid of a pair that was nothing but darns in the toes)?