As a followup of sorts to my blog a couple of weeks ago on the history of stockings, it only made sense to pass on a bit of information on a device invented to mend those delicate foot and leg coverings.
Socks and stockings have a bad tendency to wear through the heels and rip at the toes. That fact is true today same as it was hundreds of years ago. Add on the harsher soaps and hand scrubbing necessary to clean, socks from the past suffered worse than the modern variety. Dashing off to Walmart for a bargain-priced bag of Hanes to replace was not possible, so for the thrifty household, repairing the rip was the preferred option.
Darning a sock may seem easy enough, but the potential for stabbing fingers was not only highly probable and undesirable, blood stains definitely messed up the hope of salvaging the garment. Sock darners have been around since the 1700s in the forms seen above. Early varieties were round or oval shaped without a handle (see the wood example above top right). Obviously the handle made it much easier to grasp onto while stretching the fabric taut over the wide, firm bulb end.
Simplest sock darners were made of hardwoods (boxwood, maple, apple, and elm) polished and smoothed. Higher quality sock darners were made of glass, pottery, and porcelain, some with silver handles.
As a fun side note, darning was a part of most post cultures and in many ways a lost art. Ladies from a very young age were taught the best techniques of net darning, pattern darning, and needle weaving to repair a ripped or unraveled sock or stocking so that the darned seams could not be seen or felt when worn. Another reason to have a sock darner that was familiar and comfortable to use.
My grandma, born in Kansas in 1903, was a product of the Great Depression. She always darned stockings…and very poorly, I might add. But, the sock was usable again regardless of the bad stitching. My own mother, a seamstress, decreed that darning socks was not a good use of her time. So, I never learned how to do it.
“Not a good use of her time” … Amen to that! How cool you have a treasure from the family. I love hearing stuff like this!
We have a sick darner somewhere! They are funny things. I have never used one but it would be interesting to try.
My Mum used to have a wooden one shaped like a mushroom! I’m so glad that this is not necessary nowadays as I was hopeless at it. I always ended up with a lumpy mess which was more likely to cause blisters than the actual original hole! In fact it would probably have been quicker (and more comfortable for the wearer) for me to knit a new pair!
I really like the glass one above! The one below it looks more like an actual potato (maybe it belongs to Mr Collins:) )
One would have to be very good at sewing to mend a delicate sock, IMO, to avoid a rough patch. Definitely not a skill I possess. LOL!
And totally ROTFL at the Collins reference. You win the day, Glynis. 🙂
I have a sock darner! It was my father’s (he loved to darn socks). It must be close to 100 years old. I still use it.
Having a sock darner that old is outstanding! I wonder if it is worth anything, aside from the sentimental aspects of course. I didn’t research if really old ones are collectible. Thanks for sharing, Suzanne.
such a fun fact! I remember darning our socks when I was a child, my grandmother would put a small ball in the sock. Thanks for sharing
Great memory! Its funny because my mom was very “old school” in so many ways, like canning, making jelly, sewing and knitting, etc. yet I am quite sure she never darned a sock in her life. LOL!
lol so nice to have these memories!