How to Darn Those Darn Socks!

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retrochick.JPGMichele says:

The decision to mend vs. replace an item is often surprisingly difficult.  While being wasteful is rarely a good thing, there comes a point in every object’s lifetime where you must do a little cost benefit analysis or CBA.  (I know this is Home Ec 101 and not Business 101, but bear with me here.)  While a consulting firm’s CBA may be complex and tedious, yours need not be.  All you have to do is ask yourself three simple questions before you begin any repair: What is this item worth (either monetarily or sentimentally)?  How long will it take to fix?  And, is this repair worth my time?

Take, for example, a pair of my husband’s socks with a hole in the heel.  What are they worth?  Less than $2 new.  How long will it take me to fix the hole?  About 15 minutes.  Is this repair worth my time?  Nope!  That means that holey socks are always destined for the trash or rag bag in my household.  Due to the fact that these questions are fairly personal, however, your answers probably won’t be the same as mine—as evidenced by the fact that some of you have told me that you want to learn how to darn socks.

I’ll admit that I was initially baffled at your requests, but I reminded myself that your CBA is not my CBA.  Begrudgingly, I’m not telling you to get new socks.  I am, however, encouraging you to live a little and spoil yourself with a nice multi-pack of socks from a big box store.  Even if you heed my advice, though, the threadbare socks you have now are going to have to last at least until you get your tootsies to the store.  So, today we’re going to learn how to fix those aged socks, darn it.  (Pun totally intended.)


Before You Get Started:

Make sure you have read the Home Ec 101 posts “How to Repair an Unraveled Seam” and “Meet Frankenseam AKA The Whip Stitch“.  You also need to be comfortable with the whip- and the straight stitches.

Remember, you’ll be using thread to close the hole in your formerly seamless sock.  The end result may be itchy, lumpy, and/or uncomfortable.  Since you’re working on the right side of the fabric, your repaired sock will probably be unsightly; using a coordinating thread will make the repair much less visible.

What You’ll Need:

  • socks with holes in them
  • 1 ½-2 inch long needle
  • matching thread
  • darning egg (or tennis ball)
  • sharp sewing scissors

Step One: Insert the darning egg/tennis ball into your sock, making sure that it is positioned under the hole.  Trim any loose threads or scraggly edges from the hole, but don’t over trim!

Step Two: Sew a loose whip stitch along the length of the hole (plus a quarter inch extra at the top and bottom).  This is where having a long needle really comes in handy!

Step Three: Once you reach the bottom of the hole, gently pull both ends of the thread in order to tighten your stitches.  Don’t over-tighten or your repair will be lumpy.

Step Four: Whip stitch your way back up the hole, using the empty spaces between your first set of stitches as a guide of sorts.  Remember that your end result should look like the rungs of a ladder, rather than the X’s of a Frankenseam.


Step Five: Use your hands to flatten out the whip stitch.  Reinforce your work by sewing three columns of straight stitches over the row of whip stitches.  The end result will look kind of like a grid or, if we’re still going with the ladder analogy, the sides of the ladder… if a ladder had three sides.

Step Six: Tie off your thread.  Here’s the not-so-pretty end result, made even less pretty by the contrasting thread.

The inside looks much neater, but that doesn’t mean you should do your repair on the wrong side of the sock.  Remember, you want the inside of your repair to be neat and smooth so that your feet are as happy as possible.

So, there you have it Home Eccers: you know how to darn a sock. As an added bonus, you’ve just made grandmothers everywhere proud. Darn on!

Michele Newell is a housewife turned blogger turned Home Ec 101 contributor.  You can read her near daily ramblings at Dreams Unreal.

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9 thoughts on “How to Darn Those Darn Socks!”

  1. Wow – this looks a lot easier than I expected. I always assumed that darning was some kind of re-knitting of the sock. Now, while I can’t say I’m any more likely to repair socks after reading this, it certainly seems more do-able and less mysterious.

    • I have heard that some people do re-knit the sock using yarn instead of thread, but I figure if you’re capable of knitting a hole shut why not just knit yourself a shiny new pair of socks? 😉

      • Socks take a significant amount of time to knit so ripping out a heel or toe and re-knitting that portion is often well worth the time to do so rather than toss and re-knit the entire pair (loads of tiny stitches).

        If darning is an option, though, I’d rather darn a handmade sock than re-knit even just the toe/heel (just my personal preference). This is how I would darn, though:

        It’s much less messy, lumpy, unsightly, and uncomfortable than whip stitching the hole. When the hole is whip stitched, it’s being pulled closed so the finished product is smaller than the original by the width of the hole. When you darn socks properly, this is not a problem, plus as a bonus it looks better 😉

        • That’s how I do it too. I live in Minnesota so my good wool socks see a lot of use and would get expensive if I didn’t darn them.

        • I was trying to make a joke, but I guess it didn’t go over too well. I definitely know that knitting a sock takes longer than fixing one. (Ironically, I was crocheting a hat just a few minutes before responding to the comment in question.) Sorry if I offended any serious knitters out there!

          I don’t wear the sort of socks that would benefit from the method you linked to, but I’m sure others will find your comment helpful. It seems a little more Home Ec 201 than Home Ec 101 to me, though! (Heather, can that be a thing?!)

          By the way, my quick-but-less-than-proper repair only looks lumpy. Just make sure you don’t pull the whip stitch too tightly; the straight stitches force the whip stitch to lay flat and help prevent bunching. The repair lays completely flat and my husband can’t even feel it–even though I ripped the originally tiny hole to make it bigger. 😉

  2. Sport socks I’ll always toss if they have holes but nice thick wool socks or handmade socks… Certainly worth the 15 minutes to repair!!

    • You’ve made me realize why I’m so baffled by the concept of darning! The wool socks in my house get so little use that they last years; at that point I’m game to toss them.

      By the way, you’ve made me curious about trying to make a pair of my own socks. You may have created a monster (sockster?) My local yarn store thanks you.


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