Darning Stitch – Repairs & Embroidery

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Darning stitch, is it a forgotten art?  In our disposable world, it could well be something of the past, but darning is something to consider to lengthen the life of quality clothing.  The simple act of darning saves clothes and saves money too. Darning stitch can also be used as a decorative stitch in embroidery sewing.

Darning StitchPinDarning Stitch


Darning StitchHand Darning StitchStep 1 – SuppliesStep 2 – ReinforceStep 3 – Threads DirectionStep 4 – Hole StitchStep 5 – WeavingMachine Darning StitchStraight Tear DarningDiagonal DarningDarning Stitch – In ConclusionRelated Articles

Darning Stitch

Darning is a simple way to repair a hole or tear in clothing just using straight forward running stitches.  Armed with a needle and thread and the hole to darn, you are well equipped for the job.

The other use of darning stitch is an attractive filling stitch for embroidery designs. The small up and down running stitches can be sewn in close rows as a quick and easy method for filling larger areas.

The most common darning method is by hand. Three other ways of darning are a possible choice depending on the time you have available and the nature of the repair.  Besides hand-stitched darning, there is machine darning, straight tear darning and diagonal darning.

Types of DarningTypes of DarningPinTypes of Darning

Hand Darning Stitch

Step 1 – Supplies

Prepare the materials you need. 

THREAD – A matching thread is best as it will become invisible when you have finished. Thicker threads are usually used and embroidery floss does a great job and comes in endless colors. NEEDLE – A needle to suit the thread and fabric weight. For thicker threads, try and embroidery needle which as a larger eye and is easier to thread. STABILIZER – Larger holes may need some net or stabilizer at the bach. SUPPORT – A ‘mushroom’ rounded support will fit under the hole and is commonly used for darning socks. While the photo below looks a little like a piece of fruit, it is actually a wooden device used for darning. For clothing, an embroidery hoop may be used and will hold the fabric taught will you sew the darning stitch. Darning SupportDarning SupportPinDarning Support

Step 2 – Reinforce

Stitch around the area to be darned with a running stitch approximately ½ inch (12mm) away from the edge of the tear. 

A running stitch is a simple up and down stitch. Make the stitches as small as you can to give stability to the area.

Darning Stitch - ReinforcementDarning Stitch - ReinforcementPinDarning Stitch – Reinforcement

Step 3 – Threads Direction

The actual darning of the hole is about recreating the fabric threads, the warp and the weft of the fabric. 

The weft runs vertically and the warp runs horizontally on the straight grain of the fabric.  The warp and the weft interlock to create the fabric. 

Choose the thread to match your fabric and work on the wrong side of the fabric. 

Step 4 – Hole Stitch

Start with some running stitches up to the edge of the hole and then cross the hole with the needle and thread. 

Use a double back stitch to start and not a knot. 

Continue with some more running stitches to reach the outlining running stitches.  Do not pull the thread tight or the tear will pucker and lose its shape. 

Continue with the straight stitches until the whole area is darned.  This is the first stage of the darning and secures the hole.

Darning Stitch - Horizontal Darning Stitch - Horizontal PinDarning Stitch – Horizontal

Step 5 – Weaving

Start at the edge next to the initial running stitches to create the horizontal threads.  Start with running stitches until you reach the vertical threads.  Once again do not start with a knot. 

PinDarning Stitch

Now weave the needle and thread through the hole threads and as you go in and out the threads like the fabric will be recreated.  Keep your tension loose and as close as possible to the original fabric.

PinDarning Stitch

Darning can be timeconsuming but extremely successful if done carefully. Look how beautifully the darning stitches on this sock interlock.

darning stitchdarning stitchPin

Machine Darning Stitch

Choose the correct thread and machine needle to suit the fabric you will be repairing. 

Add in a stabilizing net or interfacing to attach at the back of the darned hole.  This helps to keep the fabric from pulling and ads control while stitching. 

Use a darning foot and a zig-zag stitch or a 3-step zig-zag stitch. 

Use the same direction tips for the machine stitches and a free motion embroidery style of machine stitching.  Cover the vertical space and then the horizontal space.  Cut away the stabilizer at the back when all the darning is complete.


Straight Tear Darning

Some of your repair work may just require a straight tear to be fixed.  Get the edges of the tear together and put a stabilizer net at the back to keep the area together and ensure the tear does not gape. 

Stitch the tear with machine zig-zag or straight stitches as in hand sewing.  This is a simple repair and probably most suited to a machine stitch.


Diagonal Darning

The diagonal repair is especially suited to stretch fabrics because the diagonal stitch has more elasticity and give. 

Prepare the hole in the same way as before.  Stitch the straight vertical stitches first.  Take the diagonal stitches on a diagonal line across the horizontal line.  Follow the first line you make in a diagonal direction. 

Finish the tear and fill in any parts you did not complete the first time.  Try to get the right color cotton so the repair is as invisible as possible.

Darning Stitch – In Conclusion

Next time one of your vintage favorites needs repairing consider darning stitch for the hole. The old proverb of ‘A stitch in time saves nine,’ rings true with darning stitch.  Get the hole repaired sooner rather than later and the repair will need but a few stitches to save the garment and give it a place in your wardrobe for another season.

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