How to do it: Darn Socks

When I posted the poll about sock darning, 37% of respondents said they keep their holey socks stuffed at the back of the drawer because they don’t know how to darn.  I used to do the same with my handknit socks. But now I’m a darning maniac. You can be one, too.  It’ll be awesome.

large hole in handknit sock

The socks I am mending today are an odd choice.  They are EZ’s Moccasin Socks; it would be ideal to re-sole them completely instead of repairing the hole.  But because I am a darning maniac these are the last of my holey socks.  Besides, a hole is a hole is a hole.

Gather your supplies.

  • Holey sock.
  • Matching leftover sock yarn.  If you no longer have any leftovers, choose a close match.
  • Long darning needle, blunt tip if possible.
  • Scissors.
  • Darning egg or mushroom. As you can see, I do not own a tool specifically for darning.  I have used a softball but this plastic football is my current favorite.  You could also try a lightbulb, or a baseball, or anything round with a hard surface.

tools for darning

Before you begin darning, turn the sock inside out and pull off any fuzz balls that are in the sock.

inside out - get out the fuzzies

Begin now.

Turn the sock right side out again.  We’re going to darn from the right side.  With 3 or 4 yards of matching yarn (I’m using contrasting yarn so you can see what I’m doing), thread your darning needle.  The thread should be double — the needle is at the center, and the ends of the threads meet.

oops, missed one

A very long thread is used because the darn will be stronger if you have fewer breaks in the yarn.  Ideally, you would mend the entire hole with one length of yarn.

Insert your darning football, er, mushroom.

insert your "darning football"

Pull the sock tight, and center the hole over your darning tool.  Hold it with your non-sewing hand at the back.

how to hold while you darn

And here we are ready to begin.

darning football

The patch of darning will go beyond the edges of the hole, and it will be square (my personal preference – round is good, too).  Begin by sewing the needle through the knitted fabric in a running stitch.

how to put the needle in

Pull the thread through, leaving just 1/2″ – 1″ of a tail.  This will be trimmed later.  Insert the needle again, parallel and close to the first line of stitches, and work back down over the hole.

just the beginning

Continue in this manner, working up and down over the hole.

back and forth...

At the edges of the hole, the knitted fabric is very thin.  Keep this flap of fabric on the outside of the work by keeping the sewing needle under it as you prepare to cover the distance of the hole.  Like this:

keep the edge of the hole to the outside

Continue until these parallel running stitches completely cover the hole.

step one complete

Now sew the running stitches perpendicular to the first stitches.  I have changed my thread, but that is only for demonstration.  You will continue on with the same length of thread.

ready to weave

Continue back and forth, weaving the running stitch up and down through the fabric.

starting the perpendicular weaving

When you come to the hole, with no knitted fabric to sew through, weave the yarn over and under the threads that cover the hole.

beginning to weave over the hole

I never knew it, but when you darn a sock, you’re creating a woven patch to cover the hole.  Simple, really.

darning is weaving

When you’ve covered the hole with weaving, you’re done!  Well, almost.

darning complete!

All that’s left to do is neaten things up.  With scissors, trim the flap of fabric close to the work.

trimming the flap

Also trim the ends of thread close to the work.

trimming the extra yarn

Now you really are done!

darning complete - outside view

Admittedly, a darn is not the prettiest thing, especially in my garish colors here.  But the point is that a sock on the foot is a hundred times better than a sock at the back of your drawer.

A few thoughts.

  • Using a doubled thread is optional.  I prefer it because the repair is Very Strong.  Stronger than the original sock, in fact.
  • Darning a big hole takes about 30 minutes.  A smaller hole will take less time to mend.
  • You can use this same method to reinforce a weak spot even before a hole appears.
  • After wearing your mended socks the patch will begin to felt together.  It will even out and look pretty.  I promise.

RS or WS?

When you darn from the right side, the wrong of the sock is very, very neat and tidy.  Much prettier than the right side.

darning complete - inside view

Then why do we darn from the right side?  Wouldn’t we rather have the lovely, smooth surface on the outside?  No.  The smoothness of the inside is perfect for next-to-skin wear, and the outside will soon mat down with wear.

On the other hand, if a few bumps on the inside of the sock don’t bother you, then by all means, darn from the WS.


Big shout out to my mother-in-law, Noreen, for teaching me how to do this.  Also, I should thank Cindy for bringing up the whole darning issue in the first place.

And dudes, in the poll I mentioned at the beginning,  33% of respondents answered the question “Do you darn socks” with , “Yes, of course I darn.  Doesn’t everybody?”  That made me pretty happy.  If you are an experienced darner, I’d love your input!

Phew, a whole post about mending socks with not a single “darn” pun.  Score!

42 thoughts on “How to do it: Darn Socks

  1. Umm, if you trim the end of the thread close when you’re done, won’t it just start coming out since it’s not knotted or secured in any fashion? I don’t understand.

  2. Pingback: Frugal Fashion: DIY Clothing Repairs « FRUGILLIONAIRE

  3. Thank you for this explanation of darning WITH pictures! I have given more pairs of hand-knitted socks to friends/family than I can remember and they are starting to come back to me with holes in them. The gift that keeps on giving!

  4. Pingback: yarn boy yarn blog » Oh, Darn!

  5. I’ll give darning ago I always have problems with holes in socks and clothes. Normally, use a oversewing stitch to mend holes or if it’s really bad sew a fabric patch. Darning reinforce the notion of make do and mend and saves money on socks.

  6. Thanks for the info. I have several pair in the back of the sock drawer. I thought the holes were so big it would be an impossible task and didn’t know how to start. Now I am ready to give it a try. Love the pictures, huge help.

  7. Thank you for the colorful pictures. I need then to follow directions correctly with anything involing a fixing anything. I have looked all over the place found lots of videos and your site is the best i have found. Thank You so very much. And my husbands feet thank you as well.

  8. Thanks so much, I have 5 pairs of handknitted socks at the back of my drawer, and did not have the heart to throw them away. You have solved this CRISIS!!! Now if you could do a tutorial of how to pick up the stitches for EZ’s moc socks, as I am at that point and cant get my brain around it, I would be forever in your debt, and will my first child to you!

  9. Thank you for this awesome tutorial! I saw your link on Kniterella’s blog and came over to check it out. My first pair of socks also have holes and now I can fix them!!!

  10. Wow! I’ve always known there was a way to darn socks, but really didn’t know where to begin. You have made it look very doable. Thanks!

  11. i love ur website. i esp love this darning tutorial. all those jerseys, i’m going to salvage one that’s in the throw-away pile right now. what’s really cool … i love the contrasting colours. much more interesting visually and i prefer to see the work of the hand of the maker always. why hide it? awesome stuff.

  12. Check out the KnitPicks video tutorial on swiss darning and darning holes. Turn out just like the original knitting. There is also a 20 page book called Flawless Knit Repair by Rena Crockett at Schoolhouse Press. Haven’t tried this yet but have used the KnitPicks tutorials. Just another idea on darning. It seems to be a forgotten art. I am 70+ and remember seeing darning done in some large department stores when I was a very young girl.

  13. I’ve been avoiding it, but thanks to your tutorial, I have put 2 pairs of darned (just finished) socks back into the rotation. Yipee!

  14. Hi! I love this Darning a Sock instruction. When I tried to “pin it”, I clicked your Pin Link and I could not Pin because a image was not uploaded with the link…..does that make sense? Maybe it is something you have blocked or not allowed? Thanks…..

  15. Hi! I just wanted to say thanks for this tutorial, it really helped me alot! I have a full basket of socks with holes in them from my boys and I decided to fix them instead of buying new ones this time :)

    I had no idea it would be this easy, the basket has been in the closet for weeks because I thought it would be so hard to fix them!

    Thanks all the way from Iceland!

  16. Pingback: How To Darn Socks AND Couches | One Good Thing by Jillee

  17. I’m a little confused and admittedly completely knit ignorant, but I didn’t see how you tie the beginning/finishing ends off to keep it all from unraveling… Also, thanks! Like the other commenters I also considered this an insurmountable task, but now it looks pretty doable :)

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  27. Thank you so much for such a thorough, yet simple to understand, tutorial. I’ve been doing needlework for over forty years, and bought a darning egg several years back, but to date I still have those holey-socks in the back of my sock drawer! Today I decided to just do a search for how to darn and yours was the first and best. I’m going to get out my darning egg and fix those socks. Wow! Thanks again. By the way, I’m 70, a retired screenwriter now writing books. But I still love working with a needle and brightly colored yarn.

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