Wednesday, August 24, 2022



"Darning Socks" painting by Charles Spencelayh

Darning was one of those bygone tasks that I didn't think was done much anymore.  Au contraire mon ami!  There are lots of tutorials on darning and it seems the younger generation has found an interest in what women often considered a tiresome but necessary task of managing a household.

Patterns for various darning bags were always published in newspapers and women's magazines.  This one is particularly elaborate and dates from 1894:

In the early 1910, one women reporter who wrote that in her neighborhood, there were the Darning Bag Friends.  When the women came together to complete the somewhat tiresome--but portable--task of darning and exchanged views and tips to each other.

1910 Darning Bag

Actually, darning isn't that difficult of a task to do.  Mothers during the first half of the 20th century were encouraged to teach their daughters to darn at a very early age.  From 1915:

"Even the little girl of 6 can be taught to darn the tiny holes in her stockings.  For this purpose she should be supplied with a darning bag all her own...A darning bag, the right kind of darning bag, always contains a pocket on the outside.  The large bag is intended to hold the stockings, while the outside pocket, possibly 8 inches square, hold the spools of darning thread, darning egg, needles, etc.  Encourage the little one to make this bag herself, with assistance..."

Not all bags were made this way.  The bag was an important tool but so was the egg or mushroom that was used to hold the weaving.  Here are some examples being marketed at etsy here.

By the 1920s, another way to catch up on darning was done by women who listened to the radio.  This 1924 article summarizes the importance of doing something than the mundane task of darning:

"If my radio has done nothing more than empty my darning for me every week, it would have been worth the price."

It seems like most women didn't like darning and sometimes sock manufacturers capitalized on that:

Darning bags also began to express a sense of humor about the task through the 1920s to the 1950s:

1938 pattern

This one, also available at Etsy does include a large pocket on the outside with this quote:  "I darned and darned until my fingers are sore.  I'll be darned if I darn anymore."

I only have one darning bag in my collection but I love it!

Darning samplers were also completed to teach girls how to darn, mend, and patch in earlier centuries.  A great article on this with wonderful photos is here.

And lest you think that only women did the darning--men, particularly soldiers learned to darn socks pretty darn quickly when they were out in the field.

Even during the Civil War, soldiers carried a portable sewing kit called a "housewife" which included darning supplies.  Fresh socks were the number one request of soldiers.  Below is a well known photo from the Civil War.

I personally only know one person who has this skill.  Beth knows how to darn and even has an extension collection of darning eggs.  It was a skill that came in handy when she worked professionally as a quilt restoration/preservation expert.

Have you ever done darning?

Have a safe and happy day!


  1. I still have the basket that held The Mamma's darning supplies. When we got a hole in a sock, we'd throw it into the basket. Sometimes she got around to mending them ... PS: she also turned the collars on my dad's shirts!

  2. You know more than one person who darns. My mother made sure we girls knew how to do it and did it. Mostly our own and my dad's. Never saw any implement other than the egg shaped one. Interesting.

  3. I have darned, as recently as in the past several years. When I have a favorite pair of socks that they don't make anymore and there's a hole, I darn it. I have also darned small holes in knit shirts. (This post makes me wonder about the origin of the phrase, "Oh, darn it!).
    I don't think I've ever seen bags like these. My mom and my grandmother always had baskets. They used the same one for darning and any other repairs.
    Thanks for the fun and interesting post.