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.