Bea Johnson lives waste-free with her family since 2008 and is the author of the bestseller Zero Waste Home (Zéro Déchet en francais)
"Since embarking on the Zero Waste lifestyle, our lives have changed for the better: We feel happier and lead more meaningful lives, based on experiences instead of stuff. My goal is to share its incredible health, financial and time saving benefits!"

How-To: Darning

Darning was, with canning, one of those old fashioned techniques that intimidated me; it just sounded hard. It's only after our family evolved into a Zero Waste household and our toes started peeking through socks that I decided to give it a go. I was amazed to find out how straightforward and forgiving darning really is.  If you've never tried it, follow this simple tutorial, and you won't need to collect worn-out socks for dusting again (how many do you really need anyways?), but keep them where they belong: On your feet!

What you need: A garment with a hole, a large needle threaded with a yarn color to match your garment, and an object with a rounded side (e.g., when I repair a sock, I use a cup).


Place the object under the hole

Run horizontal stitches over the hole, making sure that they cover an extra 1/2" on all sides 

Weave rows of stitches perpendicular to the previous ones.

End your last stitch inside your garment and cut the yarn. When fixing socks, do not make a knot (comfort).

Pat yourself on the back! You've saved a piece of clothing and your budget!


  1. Darning really seems so simple! Today I washed a small load of laundry by hand and I was stunned that it was so straightforward. It took some time, certainly, but was very satisfying work.

    1. Anonymous2/18/2013

      I bought an old non electric wringer washer at a yard sale for $5. I used to do my laundry on my deck and hang it up on a little line. The neighbors would ask if my washer had broken, but also, it had not, it was just so much fun to stand in the sun and do laundry! We sold it when scap prices rocketed (it was aluminum, and solid)... I always regret having gotten rid of it.

  2. Anonymous2/18/2013

    I have been doing this all my adult (and my teen) life - a small tip: if you start by threading your yarn through the stitches where they are "free", before you start weaving, then the "ladder" can't run any further.
    Good luck with your repairs.

  3. Anonymous2/18/2013

    Bea, the cup is genius! I had been a bit intimated by darning and thought I needed a darning egg. Thanks for the tip!

    1. A lightbulb works great too.

  4. Anonymous2/18/2013

    Fantastic! I've been wanting to ask you about Zero Waste clothing. Most items will eventually wear out, whether with their owner, or when passed on to another person. Do you ever think about having your family wear natural fibres only, so that the clothes will be compostable at the end of their life? Our family is great at buying used clothing and we're part of a wide circle of friends who share hand-me-downs, but we still have clothes that wear out or get too stained/ripped (even with multiple repairs) that we can't pass them on. What are your thoughts? Thank you!

  5. Is there special yard one needs to darn, or is it just the plain yarn you see at "non-yarn" stores?

    Thank you, Bea, for this post; you must have read my mind.

    1. Plain yarn from non-yarn stores is fine. But you can also unravel and use that of an old/wornout sweater. I prefer wool because it felts in the wash and becomes uniform.

  6. I was also wondering about the type of yarn. Great and useful information!

  7. Bea : thank you for this post !

    I have so many dishtowels and bed linen from my grand-mother with this very special art of darning !
    I cherish them so much ! It reminds me of her and the time and patience she put on those pieces.
    We do it too on socks.
    On sweaters, I sometimes use an other trick :: felted wool to fill the hole and give a different look to the old sweater !

    PS : love the cup trick : save fingers !

  8. This is great! I have wondered, but never looked into what exactly "darning" meant. Love the idea of using the cup to make the stitching more uniform. Something new to try :)

  9. I always use wool thread (embroidery type) as the yarn will felt itself after a few washes.


  10. Darn!!! I've always wanted to know how it was properly done!!! I would usually just swear at it and say "DARN SOCK GOT A HOLE IN THE TOE" :)

    Do you know how to fix holes in the inseam of trousers that get thread bare?

  11. Thanks for the tutorial, I was wondering how to do that.

  12. Anonymous2/18/2013

    My mom always used darning thread. When I asked at the Mega-sewing shop...they said they hadn't seen that in years. So I was wondering what to use, since regular thread is too thin.

  13. Chevanne2/18/2013

    My husband has a lot of great wool socks that have gotten holes over the years. I need to try this.

  14. I've been making sock monkeys and other animals out of old socks, but I think I'll give darning another try. I think the trick is to catch the holes when they are still small. I seem to find them only after my husband has half his foot sticking out of the hole.

  15. When I darn clothes, mines or child's, I sometimes like to darn with vibrant colors or even draw simple designs: earts, stars, smiles, flowers. It's also a way of customizing with humor!

  16. Anonymous2/19/2013

    My mom always used a burnt-out incandescent light bulb to darn socks. The roundness of the bulb was perfect for this.


  17. Grace, my mom uses a light bulb, too! :)

  18. Anonymous2/20/2013

    Lucky me: my husband darns his own socks!
    I only sew the small holes. I just learned how is done in this tutorial!
    I guess getting married at an adult age (20 something) has its own perks!