Thrifty Whitties: Darn that hole!

Olivia Jones

It happens to everyone. Every day someone you care about finds a hole in a well-beloved item of clothing. The initial shock is too much for many of them, despair sets in and they lose hope of ever wearing that shirt again. Or, they continue wearing and washing the garment until the hole is so big that their mother tosses it in the rag pile when they are home for break. It does not have to happen this way; in fact, it is surprisingly easy to save that beloved shirt, skirt or pair of pants. If the garment is made from a knit fabric, a thrifty Whittie can repair any hole under the size of a quarter easily with a needle and thread. If the garment is woven, or your favorite pair of jeans, tune in for the next issue of Thrifty Whitties, which will cover patching. Darning is difficult to understand without a visual, so I recommend for the beginner to look at a picture of a darned garment on Google to understand the basic idea.

To begin, find a color thread that will match the garment you want to repair. By the time you have finished darning, a lot of thread will be concentrated in one small spot, so it is important to make sure the color of the thread is well-matched to the color of the garment. Some people like to decorate with a contrasting color, but be prepared for your stitch work to be a lot easier to inspect if you choose to do so. If you have the option, I prefer to work with a cotton-covered polyester thread, often labeled “dual duty.” This type of thread is usually the most easily manipulated, and it runs the smoothest through a sewing machine.

If you are a meticulous person, it might behoove you to wax the thread before you start. That will make the thread stay neater as you work with it. How to do this is to drag the thread tautly across a candle or ball of wax. If you have exerted enough pressure, the thread should leave a thin straight line in the wax. Then lay the waxed string on a paper towel and run a hot iron quickly over the length of it. This step is optional.

The first step of darning is to sew around the perimeter of the hole. Stay approximately a quarter of an inch away from the hole; simply stitch around it using a back or plain stitch. Once this is complete, sew loose parallel stitches across the hole from perimeter stitch to perimeter stitch. Try to keep each stitch as parallel to the previous as you can. It is very important not to pull the stitches taut or you will pucker the garment at the darned area.

If you have any experience weaving, the next step will be easy for you. Start at one end of the patch and run parallel stitches in the opposite direction, perpendicular to the previous stitches. Again make sure to start and end on the perimeter stitch. This time, however, you have to weave the thread between the threads running perpendicular. Over one, under the next and repeat until you are finished. When you have covered the entire area of the perimeter stitch, you can tie off the thread.

Your first attempt may not look perfect, but as soon as you understand the concept, it is easier to finesse. Make sure to read next week for an explanation on patching.