When I was growing up, my mother showed me how to darn socks. She had a gourd, about the size and shape of a pear, that she put inside the sock to hold the shape while she darned. I was fascinated by the gourd, which was extremely lightweight but very durable. It must have had seeds or something inside, because it rattled lightly when I shook it.
I had no interest in the actual task of darning, however. After all, my socks didn’t get holes in them. I outgrew my socks before I could wear them out. And why would I want socks with such odd colored patches? (Since the holes were always in places covered by the shoe, my mother didn’t worry about matching thread to sock color. I remember burgundy, navy blue, and yellow thread, though I suppose she may have also used white. Her socks were always white, though, as she did not want to expose her skin to dyes.)
As an adult, I just went on wearing socks with holes until the holes got too big to deal with – or the socks got too small from going through the dryer so many times (my mother hung everything to dry and didn’t have that problem). Then I just threw them out. New socks didn’t cost that much, really, and anyway, who darns socks anymore?
With the current financial situation, however, we’re having to find new ways to save money. For instance, a couple months ago I received a batch of “friendship bread” starter, and now I bake two loaves of quick bread every Sunday. I like fruit and nut bread, but the rest of the family prefers my chocolate bread. I may start having to bake more often, as one loaf is generally gone by Wednesday.
So when my husband asked me to darn some of his socks, I decided I was finally going to have to learn how. First I had to get the right size needle and thread. I looked at the wide assortment of needles in the sewing department at Wal-Mart, but found nothing labeled “darning needles.” Finally I selected a set of “tapestry needles,” which had the largest eyes, and blunt points. Then I needed some thread – or maybe it would be called yarn?
I looked through the yarn selections and finally selected some crocheting yarn (thread?) that seemed to match my memory of what my mother used for darning. I suppose I could have asked a store associate for help, but I could only imagine her asking, “You want to do what?” I’m sure there must still be people out there who darn socks, but I’ve never met one. Or at least not one who ever mentioned it…
Tonight I picked through the clean laundry to find socks with holes – not a difficult task. Then I got an old light bulb from my craft drawer (I forget why I saved it but I remember there was a reason), put it in the sock, and set about darning. It didn’t take me long to realize that – like many things – knowing what to do is one thing, actually doing it is much harder. I can fill the hole with a decent weave, but it kind of sticks up around the edges. I’ll have to find out from my husband and son (the older one, whose feet have stopped growing long enough for him to wear holes in socks) whether the fix feels better or worse than the holes.
I also quickly realized that small holes are much easier to darn than large ones. Once I fix all the big holes, I need to keep an eye out for small holes and fix them before they get big. Maybe with enough practice, my darning will start looking more like my mother’s. Except for the color – I fix white socks with white yarn.