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How to do it: Darn Socks

February 26, 2009

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!

72 Comments leave one →
  1. carpoolknitter permalink
    February 26, 2009 4:51 pm

    you’re much better at avoiding the darn puns than I am. great tutorial. xoxox

  2. February 26, 2009 6:14 pm

    Cool technique! You are a much better knitter than me since you work so hard to keep the knits in use!

  3. February 26, 2009 7:41 pm

    Well done tutorial! Thank you very much.

  4. February 26, 2009 7:56 pm

    Nice! And this technique I hadn’t seen before. Thanks for this!

  5. February 27, 2009 12:09 am

    wow, thanks for sharing this with us, mandy! it seems so simple and intuitive but i’ve never even thought to do this.

  6. February 27, 2009 9:02 am

    Excellent post! I darn but not quite as neatly as you do, my weaving is more…free form. I kind of like the contrasting look.

    • Anita Calph permalink
      January 27, 2012 11:00 pm

      i like the contrast as well

  7. February 28, 2009 2:04 am

    Thanks! I always wondered.

  8. February 28, 2009 10:32 pm

    Well done tute!

  9. Laura Ingram permalink
    March 18, 2009 8:26 pm

    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.

    • Audrey permalink
      December 3, 2011 10:36 pm

      If you look close in the picture she did tie in the ends. Also, instead of knots many people just “back weave”- this insures your work from coming undone even without any actual knots being used.

      • December 4, 2011 7:19 am

        There are no knots, I promise! The reason I don’t use knots is because my mother in law is very sensitive about how things feel on her feet, and she would definitely feel any knots!

        Thank you, Mandy

  10. Jeanne permalink
    August 4, 2009 10:15 pm

    Thanks so much for this tutorial. My mom used to darn socks with a light bulb. I won’t bother for my husband’s socks but since I wear cute ones (prints, patterns) I’d rather preserve mine than buy new ones. Thanks!!!!

  11. June permalink
    October 23, 2009 5:19 pm

    Excellent tutorial. Very thorough. I tried darning my husband’s work sox before I saw this, and he saw my frustration and said, “never mind.” But I was determined to try again…I love socks, I guess, and feel so bad relegating them to the rag bag. I know it isn’t the coolest thing to do, but I’m going to keep mending my family’s socks, thanks to you and your fabulous contrasting yarns. That made all the difference for me

    • Anita Calph permalink
      January 27, 2012 11:03 pm

      I disagree with something you said. I think it is very COOL to darn your socks and not contribute further to the landfill. You know what, I also think darning socks is a political action. Call me crazy – and my husband often does for all of the things I keep and reuse – but I hate being part of this throw-away society we’ve created.

      Okay – enough ranting. Keep darning 😉 !

  12. Margo permalink
    October 26, 2009 10:15 pm

    WOW. I’ve always read about darned socks and just didn’t think anybody did that anymore!! Now I cringe to think of all the socks I. have. thrown. away. I used to feel virtuous if I used them as rags first. NO MORE!! I am determined to darn, thanks to your tutorial.

  13. madonnaearth permalink
    December 24, 2009 3:21 pm

    Thank you; this is awesome! I’ve referred quite a few people here.

  14. January 7, 2010 4:01 pm

    I’ve always wondered what exactly darning was. Now that I see it, I feel really stupid – your explanation and step by step pictures make it look so easy. I will be doing this very soon to fix a lot of my husbands socks! 🙂

  15. Wendy permalink
    February 21, 2010 1:42 pm

    Thank you! I read a few other descriptions until I found this site, then I said, ‘Oh, okay, I get it now,’ and sat down and darned four socks while watching the Olympics. I am very happy to get them back. I thought it was quite funny that my husband had never heard the word “darn” in this context–he must not have read as much Louisa May Alcott as I did as a child.

  16. romona depinna permalink
    February 21, 2010 5:11 pm

    Help: for medical support socks that are expensive and its not green to throw away, has anyone tried to mend the toes maybe by stretching them on an embroidery hoop and sewing on a sewing machine? I found a Mess of holey socks in the back of the drawer at my new bf’s house. And if I find I can do this, what kind of thread?

  17. Julie permalink
    March 2, 2010 1:15 pm

    Thanks for the great instruction and especially the photos! I’m planning to try this out!!

  18. Amy permalink
    July 28, 2010 7:22 pm

    Does this also work for socks that are not made out of yarn? Like a cotton sock or a (don’t know exactly what its made of) a stretchy sock? I like wearing cute little cotton socks and in the winter I wear boot length socks that are made of a polyester type material. Would I use thread of the same material as my socks or would I still use yarn? Sorry. Thats a lot of questions but I hate having to throw away a pair of sock just because of a little whole, but I cant stand wearing socks with holes in them.

    • Virginia reel permalink
      March 22, 2012 10:43 pm

      Amy, you’ve probably given up on an answer, but I darn with sewing thread because I don’t knit much and don’t have any fine yarns. My daughter loves her socks and brings them to me when she visits from Germany. If I’m lucky, it’s worn thin spots, but often it’s large gaping holes. I was pleased to read this post because it’s basically the way I “invented” to darn her socks. No grandmas in my life to teach me! I love the idea that a darn made with wool yarn will felt over time, so will try that on her next visit.

  19. kelly trumble permalink
    December 24, 2010 8:46 am

    Thank you so much for posting these instructions–they are so clear and simple to follow. I’m darning my husband’s socks as a Christmas gift this year, and you’ve made it so easy for me!

  20. Cherie permalink
    January 6, 2011 12:37 pm

    Thanks for the instructions one of my NYE resolutions is to darn all my knitted socks!!

  21. MetteL permalink
    January 12, 2011 6:50 am

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. I´ve just darned my first pair of socks using this and I was amazed at how easy it was.

  22. Cindy Beckerman permalink
    February 12, 2011 6:38 pm

    Great tutorial! The pictures and contrasting yarn were a big help. I was able to darn my daughter’s black athletic socks. They are expensive to replace. I will darn all of my socks now. Thank you for helping me save money!

  23. Evie permalink
    March 5, 2011 2:12 pm

    I’m SO EXCITED!!! Wonderful pics, I can’t wait to start 🙂

  24. Bekii Kisamore permalink
    May 24, 2011 5:32 pm

    Thanks for posting this!
    One quick question: Do you knot off the ends of the thread? Or, because of the weaving, will the thread stay put and not pull through?
    Thanks so much!

    • May 24, 2011 5:57 pm

      Hi! I do not knot the threads. When you wear them the first time after darning them the threads will begin to felt together, so no knot is necessary. You could certainly use a knot if you felt like it, but it might be uncomfortable while you’re wearing them.

      Good luck! Mandy

      • Bekii Kisamore permalink
        May 24, 2011 8:00 pm

        Thanks so much! Have a friend who’s lending me her darning needle, and i’m going to use a hard bottle until I get ahold of a darning egg.
        Very good instructions! :o)

  25. enilnoicats permalink
    July 24, 2011 1:01 pm

    omg – i think you’re wunnerful 🙂 thank you for showing me how to repair the *cough* 21 pairs of husband’s socks in my basket. i can’t wait to start today!

  26. Jen Lead permalink
    August 13, 2011 8:25 pm

    Nothing like a good darning stone! Look for a smooth, round, river tumbled rock about fist size. I had an “ok” one but my kids knew I needed a really good one. They gave me one for Mother’s day about ten years ago & it has a place of honor in my sewing kit!

  27. September 5, 2011 8:43 pm

    Thanks fo rthe great tutorial. I took it to heart and managed to darn a few of my own socks (though they weren’t knit). If you don’t mind, I posted photos on my blog at

    • September 6, 2011 6:27 am

      How awesome! Thanks for letting me know!


  28. michael mckinney permalink
    November 8, 2011 4:32 pm

    Hey, thank you for the informative and easy to follow blog post!

  29. Nicole Ottjes permalink
    November 10, 2011 12:39 pm

    Thanks for this! I am going to attempt to darn my SmartWool socks. They are too expensive to replace!

  30. Philip permalink
    November 16, 2011 12:16 am

    Thank you so much!
    I have a beautiful pair of cashmere socks that were starting to wear thin. I have used this technique to reinforce the weak spots, and they feel wonderful to wear again! Thank you so much!

    • November 16, 2011 7:13 am

      Yay! So glad to have helped save your socks!


  31. adele permalink
    December 23, 2011 12:46 am

    hey mandy, my boyfriend needed his mitten darn’d in the thumb and i think i ave succeeded in filling the hole but I am curious about this (back weave) ow do I do it and why does it not come undone?

    • December 23, 2011 7:54 am

      Hi! If you’re using wool, then the fibers will stick together naturally, especially the more the gloves are worn. If you’re using a non-animal fiber, or a yarn that is very slippery, then the back weave may not be enough to keep it from coming apart. If you’re using a yarn that you’re afraid will unravel, try a small knot and hide it on the inside.

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have more questions. Mandy

  32. January 25, 2012 4:42 pm

    thank u, thank u, thank u… mum used 2 darn my socks way back when~i used 2 watch her…..she’s gone now n i have this pair of woolen sock that DO need darning but i forgot how. posting this now is like u read my mind. thank u so very much…….

  33. George Kaub permalink
    January 26, 2012 6:51 pm

    Greetings. I found your site by accident. I’m a man now 62; I’ve been darned my socks since I was 8 years old.. My grandmother taught me how because as a kid I’d go through socks seemingly once a week. As a teen I started wearing knee-length socks and have worn them ever since. I just couldn’t stand tossing them out because of a hole, when 99% of the sock was still good! I’ve always used “Coats & Clark’s” embroidery thread because of the color choices and it is easy to vary the thickness of the thread as needed. I use a couple of heirloom darning knobs mostly sometimes a light bulb or golf ball. You can still find darning knobs and eggs on Ebay or at garage sales. Anyway, that’s my two cents…
    Thanx and kudos on your site!!!

  34. rita braun permalink
    January 28, 2012 1:04 pm

    this is just what i’m looking for. thank you!

    several years ago i committed to buying only well-made socks, of the smartwool variety. now, some of them have holes, and i can’t bring my self to throw them away at a $16 replacement cost. like many mothers referenced here, mine also darned with a light bulb. i always that was so funny. not anymore!

  35. Donna Malik permalink
    February 3, 2012 1:02 am

    I love to knit socks for friends and family….all these years I have just cut the sock off behind the hole, picked up the stitches and reknit the foot….sigh…I will never have to do that again…many thanks.

  36. Dan permalink
    February 16, 2012 11:51 pm

    Thanks for posting this. While not socks for feet, I have some hockey socks which are sorely in need of repair and this should be just the ticket. Am I the only one who looked at the pics here and thought pot holder loom?

  37. Alan Mprrison permalink
    March 18, 2012 10:33 am

    When darning something where the patch is going to show, ( such as a ski mask or pull-down wool hat), would it be better to turn it inside out so the neater side of the patch is visible when finished?

    • March 18, 2012 1:27 pm

      I think that sounds like the correct way to do it!


  38. March 29, 2012 8:16 am

    I can’t knit a stitch, but I do intend to get more wear out of my expensive Merino wool socks!!! Thank you for a great tutorial! ~ Lynda

  39. Mel permalink
    April 24, 2012 9:05 am

    Yay! My husband only wears over-the-calf argyle socks (hard to find and usually expensive). His heels also “eat” his socks. I finally can restore his socks! Thank you for a very well done tutorial.

  40. Barb permalink
    September 18, 2012 8:07 am

    Thanks to your terrific tutorial, I was able to rescue my husband’s beloved Detroit Lions sock slippers (and win a few points with him too). Thanks so much, Mandy!

  41. Helen DuVernay permalink
    October 30, 2012 1:22 am

    I still have my mother’s and grandmother’s wooden darning eggs (their term) and darning yarns. Never got rid of them since I knew one of these days I would finally teach myself how to do this again. This article is how I was taught as a child, but too young to remember the whole technique clearly. Thanks!

  42. December 14, 2012 4:10 pm

    Hey, this is a great darning post. Really. I do all my own mending, hand-sewing, bread-baking, woodcutting and I would probably card yarn if I had a sheep. But darning, well, I never learned that and so this post–THIS one–completed my homesteading dance card. Muchas, muchas gracias.

  43. staci permalink
    January 14, 2013 1:11 am

    Excellent tutorial! Honestly, I began darning his socks last year (holy moly that guy goes through toes!) and had looked through dozens of instructions and tutorials and by gosh, yours is the clearest and best visual tutorial I’ve ever seen. Thank you so much for the pictures and especially the use of the contrasting thread – it’s genius! 😀

  44. Peggy permalink
    April 23, 2020 3:19 am

    I’ve darned in this way for 50 years. Just learned to knit socks so now appreciate the amount of work darning really saves. One suggestion for knit wool socks, use duplicate stitch to reinforce thin areas before they become a hole. You can also marry duplicate stitch with a loose darning mesh for an almost invisible mend. This takes more knowledge and skill though. Thanks for sharing.


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