Is Darning Dying Out?

By Bernie Bell

Many years ago in a junk shop I bought an old sewing basket made of wickerwork.  I’d say it dates from the Second World War, and it still had some things in it, such as cards of mending wool and a card of silk for mending  lingerie!

The ‘Clark’s Anchor Filosheen’ says it’s ‘For darning all kinds of hosiery etc.’ – darning hosiery?  And buttercup coloured hosiery at that!

There is also a strip of hooks & eyes….

….which says on the other side…. ‘By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen & Queen Mary’.

I don’t know what the little black things at the front are – maybe shoe buckles?

I haven’t had a use for the lingerie silk (!) – but I have been using the wool and yesterday, when darning a jumper, finished one of the cards.  It seems like a shame to throw it away – it says on it that it’s wartime. I’d find it hard to just put it in the re-cycling though it’s of no use to me, at all.

This got Mike and I talking about darning – and wondering if folk darn holes in things these days. The impression we get is that they don’t, as we find good things in charity shops which have little holes in them which take two minute to darn. My impression is that if something gets a hole in it or loses a button, a lot of people throw them away, or send them to charity shops – which means that the charity  shops gain by it, and so do thrifty souls such as ourselves!

I was taught to darn by my Mum, and then we realised that that’s a long time ago, about fifty years, and that the Mum’s who might be teaching their children to darn now, could be of an age and generation who weren’t taught to darn, themselves.

I wonder is it something which is dying out?  And, if so, it’s a shame to see one more of the old ways of managing and not wasting being lost.  ‘Make do and mend’ was a war-time booklet https://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item106365.html and, unfortunately, we’re back in hard times again when that approach can be very useful.

The darning I was doing was a big hole in the cuff of one of Mike’s jumpers  – one of those holes where you have to pretty much weave the thread, up and down, back and forth. I told him next time to let me know earlier – ‘A stitch in time, saves nine’.  Would younger ones today recognize that saying?

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5 replies »

  1. I used to darn, but can no longer—lost the use of one hand. But some of my friends still darn. Guess we’re Very Old?

    • Fact is…I realised that it’s more like 60 years ago than 50!

  2. That brought back memories. I was raised not far from the Anchor Mills in Paisley and my mother taught me to darn as a young boy 70 years ago. I’ll bet not many men nowadays possess the ability, although I must say, like everyone else, I rarely use the skill anymore.

    • You were raised near the Anchor Mills……a direct connection!

      Men used to knit too – it was a useful way to pass winter evenings – or bad weather. Some younger ones are taking it up now as part of the resurgence in crafting.

      I used to knit too, but now I get things from charity shops – and darn the holes!