I made some darning samples a few weeks ago, inspired by the darning samples created by Ellen Mahon in her sampler book

(left page) darning samples by Ellen Mahon, 1852-4

I’ve never done darning before. I have mended clothes, obviously, but have never done ‘proper’ traditional darning, which is basically weaving. I am not a weaver. I had to draw a diagram to stop me getting confused about all the unders and overs.

darning sample in progress

I used a single strand of DMC embroidery thread on hand-dyed evenweave (32 count, I think). You can see that my attempts are nowhere near as fine as Ellen’s.

darning sample with different colours

If you follow the instructions in nineteenth-century needlework manuals, you are supposed to leave a little loop at the end of each row to allow for shrinking in the wash. As these are only ever going to be decorative, I didn’t bother doing that. I tried a few different patterns, and made a few mistakes, but overall I think it will do. I was a bit concerned about the tension, as I didn’t use a hoop or frame, but a quick (careful) press with the iron seems to have sorted it out. The rather shoddy-looking example top right below was my first attempt.

five darning samples

This sample overall measures about 7″ square.

Author: Karen

Textile and mixed media artist

7 thoughts on “Darning”

    1. For a non-weaver like me, a learning curve. Ha, a learning curve with straight lines… but very satisfying when it works, yes. I may make a sample book of weaving some time just for the extra practice.

  1. Your samples look good. I tend to use darning for mending only, and it tends to be simple, rather than patterned. I might be brave and adventurous one of these days, inspired by what you’ve done!

    1. How lovely to see you here, Liz, thanks so much for visiting and for the connecting thread via your post 🙂 I’m sure our paths will have crossed at some point. I love your blog post and the wonderful fascinating catalogue of stitches and samples you created. I’m very much looking forward to continuing with mine, when my broken finger heals a little more. I’ve had a little setback but hopefully nothing too dramatic. My hands feel empty without a needle and thread in them.

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