Darning: Delightful, Durable Damage Control

Learn how this simple mending technique gives new life and a new look to any torn garment, and try your hand at a couple different versions.

| May/June 2019

Photo by Adobe Stock/uckyo.

When I was learning to read, my mom gave me a copy of Little House on the Prairie, which I credit as the beginning of my fascination with all things homesteading. The Ingalls family made their own soap, and stuffed their attic or cellar with produce, salt pork, and grain for winter. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s descriptions of the seasonal foods they enjoyed and the clever ways Ma stretched their money to clothe and feed everyone engrossed me. Even as a child, I was deeply fascinated by the handwork involved in making clothes; Farmer Boy, which is about Laura’s husband Almanzo Wilder’s childhood, specifically mentions his mother weaving cloth from handspun wool, inch by inch. With cloth made so painstakingly, darning also features often in the books, especially as a winter activity.

Darning is a particular type of cloth mending where you use a needle to weave a little patch of new fabric directly onto the torn garment. You can make a nearly invisible darn if you happen to have the same yarn or thread the cloth was made from, or if you can find something that matches.

Photo by Caitlin Wilson.

Historically, invisible darns were preferred around the world; in India and Kashmir, professional darners made repairs to treasured garments with threads carefully pulled from the seam allowances and hems. When heavy taxation threatened to put Kashmir weavers out of business, they began weaving half-sized shawls, which merited lower taxes. Kashmiri darners would then join the halves into a single, full-sized shawl, often making the join so perfectly that it couldn’t be seen with the naked eye. Nowadays, visible mending is becoming more popular, and some textile artists use bright colors and flashy patterns to draw attention to their darns.

Darning Tools

As with many mending techniques, neither the tools nor the skills you’ll need are difficult to acquire. A needle, thread or yarn, and scissors are the only essential tools, and if you can work a running stitch, you can darn. A few other tools will make your job easier too.



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