The first of February is approaching fast, which means I need to get ready for my first darning class of the year, taking place at Super+Super HQ in Brighton. There are still a few places available, so don’t hesitate to sign up! I’ll be teaching two classic darning techniques: Swiss darning, and stocking darning.


Stocking darn on sock

And what with the cold weather, I’ve been wearing out my warm woollen socks like there’s no tomorrow. This, of course, is a no reason to have cold toes when you know how to darn; and indeed, is cause for a darn good celebration! My mending basket was stuffed to the brim with holes, and not one to sit idle, I took darning wool and mushroom to the holes:


A collection of mended socks

For the sharp-eyed amongst you, you will have noticed these darns look different from the stocking darn above. Here’s a close-up:


A darn old and a darn new

I have recently discovered a new darning technique! It was brought to my attention by the inimitable Dr Felicity Ford, who sent me a picture from a Finnish book on knitting and mending:


Finnish darning diagram

I don’t speak Finnish, but I think the diagram speaks for itself. Once you start working it, you’ll see that it’s the good old-fashioned blanket stitch employed in a new way. It is closely related to Scottish darning, although with this Finnish darning technique you lay one foundation thread and then blanket stitch over it, whereas with Scottish darning you first lay down all foundation threads before filling it up with blanket stitch. I find the end result of the Finnish darn a bit neater, and it must be my favourite new darning stitch.

As I have only recently started using this stitch, I’m not sure yet how it will wear. The darn itself seems sturdier than a stocking darn, as there are more layers of thread. However, the area covered around the hole is not as big as with a traditional stocking darn. This may result in new holes developing around the darned area, as that usually has started to wear thin, too. I shall report back in due course, but I have made sure to extend the darned area beyond the hole .

To clarify the diagram, here’s how to do it:

You need a needle, darning wool, and a hole. I have used both sharp and blunt needles, without appreciable differences.

You start with laying down the first foundation thread at the top of the hole. Simply pick up one leg of each knitted stitch:


Make sure to go well beyond the hole, as you need two or three knitted stitches worth to make the turn and simultaneously reinforcing the area around the hole. You need to pick up the other legs of the same knitted stitches:


Pull the thread through, but not too tight, or the darn will pucker and cause unnecessary stress on the fabric. The it’s time to start blanket stitching. Try to lay the as close together as possible:


When you have reached the other end of the hole, you need to start weaving in and out of the knitted stitches again:


Turn as before, lay down the second foundation thread, weaving in and out of the knitted stitches again. After the next turn, start blanket stitching again. Make sure to insert the needle inbetween the blanket stitches on the row below, and bring the needle up from behind the new foundation thread:


It’s important to work the blanket stitches close together. Extend the darn beyond the hole, and start weaving the foundation threads through the knitted stitches again.

Give this new technique a go, and let me know how you get on!


27 Replies to “Darning”

  1. Thanks for posting this. It looks very much like needle lace too. Unfortunately the moths have been having a ball in my sock drawer, so I have plenty of opportunity to try this out. Jolanda

  2. Thanks for this information about Finnish darning. I am 50 percent Finn, and shall give this a try. I love the blanket stitch and have used it before with multiple weights of thread – as a repetitive design element in my work.
    Thanks again Tom – I shall be back to be further inspired.

  3. Hi Tom, I love the feeling of darning- my relationship to my garment is enhanced by the care and there’s an “all is well” satisfaction in the job. Thanks for this new technique!
    Marilyn from Minneapolis

  4. Tom, I love your clear photos and explanation. I am not sure your technique for the Finnish one is quite as depicted in the diagram. You used your foundation stitch to push the needle under for the 1st loop, but they haven’t :they seem to do a loop in the knitted stitch and then pass another straight foundation row and another series of loops into this. And so on. Was there a reason you tweaked it?

    I have a dear friend in Italy who is an invisible mender using Swiss darning (and seeing thread for fine knits)and I wish I had her skill.

    1. The hole in the diagram was first “tidied up” so it ended up square with clear live loops. I didn’t do that as the hole was in an awkward spot, right at the heel turn, so it would never end up square. Also, by enmeshing more of the original fabric I think it’ll be a stronger darn.
      I don’t have the book the diagram is from (and I don’t speak Finnish anyway) so I don’t have any context and don’t know what it says in the explanation to go with it; it might not even be a mend suitable for socks. Time will tell!

  5. OOh, that does look interesting. And it also looks like Nalbinding (though of course it is one of the techniques used in stumpwork/needlelace too). I shall have to have a go, though I have currently filled in all my holey socks with the speedweve.

  6. Since I’ve started reading your tweets and blog, I’ve already darned two socks (as opposed to none ever, before) and I am definitely saving this blogpost for future reference.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing and including excellent photos for those of us who learn visually. Definitely going to try this!

  8. Great, great blog. Have you any experiences with the durability of a darn with cross-knit stitch?It is just a blanket stitch with another uptake, and can be made without foundation, nalbinding style. But as it is less stretchy than normal knit stitch it might not be suitable for socks.

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