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Darn It! How to repair a hole in your sock

Have you ever noticed how whenever you realize you really like a piece of clothing or household object, it immediately wears out and you can’t, under any circumstances, find another one like it? Especially if the object is a sock. Who would think styles in socks were so fleeting?

Women’s socks no longer seem to come in colors—they’re all black, gray, or white. So when a favorite blue pair developed a couple of holes, I remembered a frugal way to extend their lives, something I learned when I was a little kid and pretty much forgot: darn ’em!

Darning is a crude form of reweaving, and it’s pretty easy. Simply create a “warp”—a structure on which to weave horizontal threads—by stringing thread or yarn across the hole. Then run your “weft” over and under the warp threads. The process is simplified by placing an “egg”—a wooden ovoid or globe—inside the sock to stabilize the fabric around the hole.

Well, naturally I didn’t happen to have a wooden egg sitting around the house. I used a rubber ball instead.

Turn the sock inside out, and then place the ball (or whatever you choose to use as an “egg”) inside the sock and smooth the fabric across it, like so:

It’s a good idea to stitch around the hole to create a sort of frame, although it’s not always necessary. Don’t tie a knot in the thread, because a knot will irritate your foot. Just make a running stitch to secure the thread.

Starting on one side of the hole, run thread back and forth across the hole to fill the space. The more threads you can fit across the hole, obviously, the finer and firmer your repair will be. This is a job that can require some patience. 😉

Here’s what I came up with:

Not great, but good enough for government work. The sock’s weave is kind of loose—not that loose, though. Oh well.

Anyway, whenever the basis of the weaving process is ready, the next step is to run thread through it at right angles to the “warp” threads. Basically what you’re trying to do is imitate or rebuild the original woven fabric by weaving new thread over the hole. After a while, you have something that looks like this (significantly better, with any luck…):

Not hardly gorgeous…but what the heck! Whoever’s looking at the bottom of your socks prob’ly deserves what he gets.

A finer, more careful weave probably would last longer, but this will hold for a while. It’s been a long while since I darned a piece of fabric, so I felt OK to get the thing more or less together.

With better skill, it’s possible to repair fabric with a stitch that looks very much like the original weave. Some reweavers can unstring pieces of the fabric’s thread from a hem or hidden spot and use it to make a truly invisible patch, restoring a torn or cigarette-burned piece so that you can’t see the fix at all. The Swiss darning at right imitates the original fabric’s twill-like texture. Really fine reweaving is called Belgian darning.

In my callow youth, I  had a Siamese cat that loved to eat wool. Leave a wool garment, any wool garment, laying around, and the cat would chew a hole in it before you could blink twice. One day I lent a beautiful and very expensive white wool sweater to my mother-in-law. When she was done with it, she tossed it on the bed. By the time I discovered it, the cat had eaten out a hole an inch across.

Luckily, the buttons were hand-made, rings with the sweater’s wool yarn woven around them, and a couple of extras were included. By unraveling the spare buttons, the reweaver was able to retrieve enough yarn to fill the hole. To this day—thirty-five or forty years later—I still have that sweater and still wear it every winter. I can’t even find where the hole was.

Darning: it’s a frugal way to extend the life of an expensive or a beloved piece of clothing.

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