The Darning Mushroom
This darning tool was an essential item in 19th and early 20th century household as self-reliant women often had to make and repair all their clothing.
Darning would have been considered a necessary skill for girls and young women, part of their education as future wives and mothers. The darning mushroom would have been an essential tool in an era when women were constantly repairing worn socks. Before the common use of synthetic materials, socks, bed linen and items of clothing were in constant need of repair. The mushroom was used to make these repairs.
There always used to be a steady supply of darning in the family mending bag. A woman sitting darning was a common sight, and so was a darning mushroom, inside a stocking or sock with a hole in it. The “mushroom” or darner made it easier to stitch a neat repair: not too tight, not too slack.
To repair socks (or jumpers) the darning mushroom is slipped under the hole, with the sock stretched smoothly, but not tightly, over it and gathered tightly around the stalk to hold it in place for darning. Tensioning the fabric stops the darning from pulling the fabric together.
Hand darning employs the darning stitch, a simple running stitch in which the thread is “woven” in rows along the grain of the fabric, with the stitcher reversing direction at the end of each row, and then filling in the framework thus created, as if weaving. A small loop is left at each end of the line of stichest to allow for the darning thread to shrink when first washed.
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.