If you get a ladder in your pantyhose (tights) and stockings, or a hole in your socks do you throw them away?
There was a time when great care was taken to extend their life. Holes were mended quickly to avoid them spreading – “a stitch in time saves nine”. Darning (mending) was an important skill.
Back in the days where every woman wore stockings and had to make them last there were repair shops you could go to have them mended for you. This was actually a very skilled and intricate job and repairs could be made almost invisible. They even developed special machines which did all the hard work. With stockings being so expensive during war-time repair was absolutely essential.
This was an advertising promotion, give a way that would have been given only by a representative selling Real Silk hosiery. It’s cardboard, matchbook size and shape. Inside is a needle, different colors of silk thread, and “run arrestor wands”. Fun for a vintage fashion display or collection, or advertising promotions. It measures 1&1/2 by 2&1/4 inches when closed.
Women’s magazines and journals used to publish tips on how to mend hosiery and there are surviving items from different eras that show signs of mending. One of the punishments for female suffragette prisoners was to be given a pile of unclean socks to darn.
Darning is a traditional method for repairing fabric damage or holes that do not run along a seam, and where patching is impractical or would create discomfort for the wearer, such as on the heel of a sock. There are special tools for darning socks or stockings:
A darning egg is an egg-shaped tool, made of stone, porcelain, wood, or similar hard material, which is inserted into the toe or heel of the sock to hold it in the proper shape and provide a firm foundation for repairs. When the repairs are finished, the darning egg is removed.
A shell of the tiger cowry Cypraea tigris, a popular ornament in Europe and elsewhere, was also sometimes used as a ready-made darning egg.
A darning mushroom is a mushroom-shaped tool usually made of wood. The sock is stretched over the curved top of the mushroom, and gathered tightly around the stalk to hold it in place for darning.
Darning wool was not pre-shrunk. So it was crucial to remember that darns would shrink when washed. So darning was not merely a matter of criss-crossing and inter-weaving the wool. Little loops had to be left at each end of the to-ing and fro-ing, as shown in the sketch.
After the next wash, when the darning wool had shrunk, the loops would be entirely gone. If the loops were forgotten, the whole darn would shrink into a lump, puckering the sock around it, making the sock uncomfortable to wear and quickly damaging the rest of it.
On researching today’s blog post we came across this photograph and could not resist sharing it with you.
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