Learn all about the darning foot! Darning...you may want to throw your arms in the air and say ‘darn it, grandma used to do that!’ Yes, you are right it used to be a very skilled art of repairing knitted items, in particular socks. The darning was done with the help of a mushroom, a round firm piece of wood inserted into the sock. This mushroom pushed out the hole in the sock while the darner recreated the warp threads to then darn in a woven fashion the weft threads. The action followed the knitted weave as closely as possible and saved many a pair of socks.
Darning Foot - For Sewing Machines
Now with modern technology, and sewing machine attachments, darning can be done by machine. The darning, machine embroidery, or pogo foot, does the trick of sewing perfect machine darning. This versatile foot can be used for free-motion sewing and machine quilting, embroidery, monograms, and even the creative art of thread painting. The special feature of this foot is that it lifts up and down as the needle goes up and down. This spring-loaded design gives the fabric free passage under the foot.
Using a Darning Foot
- When using the darning foot, it is important to either cover or lower your feed dogs. Refer to your sewing machine manual for instructions.
- The long bar on the darning foot hooks on top of your needle bar. This up and down motion will move the foot.
- The foot is generally attached with a side screw but may vary from machine to machine.
Let's take a closer look at those three techniques using the darning/embroidery/pogo foot.
Free Motion Embroidery
Many embroidery projects using simple machine stitches are easily handled with the darning foot. Draw on your design with a washable marker. Attach the darning foot and then follow the pattern you have drawn. Start with a few straight anchor stitches and then away you go.
Free Motion Quilting
The darning foot acts in the same way as the free motion quilting foot. The art of meandering over the quilt with its sandwich of backing, wadding, and the quilted fabric is made much easier with a darning foot. The darning foot is a good substitute for the free motion quilting foot.
Monogramming can be added to an item using the darning foot because the darning foot allows the machine to go over the same area several times. This technique needs some practice to get the stitching even. Use up some scraps of fabric to get it right especially as the stitch length is determined by the speed of the machine. Use a zig-zag stitch with a 0-0.5 length.
This is a very creative and fascinating sewing technique. Painting with thread as the medium to create designs and pictures on fabric is very rewarding. Use a marking pen to outline the design and fill it in with different colors of thread. Different threads can add variety and style to the composition. Variegated thread is a winner for creativity because every design will be different.
Darning and Repairs
This foot was made for exactly this job. Mending can be done with strength and is as invisible as possible.
How to Use a Darning Foot for Tears
Here are the steps to follow to mend a tear with the darning foot.
Step 1 - Backing Fabric
Cut a piece of backing fabric to place behind the tear. Neaten the tear as much as possible without making it bigger. Choose a backing fabric of the same fabric or one as close as possible in color to the original fabric. Pin or baste the backing fabric onto the reverse side of the tear.
Step 2 - Sewing Vertical
Thread the needle and the bobbin in a color as close to the fabric as possible. Start by sewing back and forth over the tear in a vertical fashion.
Step 3 - Sewing Horizontal
Sew over the tear in a horizontal direction to cover the area needing repair. Have a look at your handiwork to be sure you have covered the tear with sufficient stitches to make it repaired.
Step 4 - Finishing
Finish off by tying the threads at the beginning and the end. Turn the garment over and trim away any excess fabric around the tear. Press the tear and admire your handiwork. It may be noticeable, but it will not tear further.
Disguising a Tear Further
If you think your tear sticks out and ruins the look of your garment then here are a few cover-up ideas to try at the end of the repair job.
You could make a pocket to go over it or sew on a decorative patch. You could add a motif or even a button or some interesting embroidery. A nasty tear does not have to ruin one of your favorite garments.
Darning Foot Types
The darning foot comes in different styles. Here are some of the variations.
- Open Toe or Closed Toe - This means the part of the foot the needle moves in may be completely closed like an oval or it may be open at the front. The opening at the front makes it easier to thread.
- Sprung or not Sprung - You would be right in thinking this would put a spring in your sewing steps. The foot that is sprung has the ability to walk over a thicker piece of fabric or quilting. However, some embroidery projects may be better off with a foot that does not spring so much.
- Big or Small - Yes just like shoes your darning foot can be big or small. The bigger foot will be more stable and may even have markings for guidance. The disadvantage of a bigger foot is it may have difficulty getting into smaller areas.
- Plastic or Metal - The choice may not be up to you because the foot that best attaches to your machine make could be either of these materials. The bigger darning feet are usually plastic and the smaller ones made of metal.
- Low Shank or High Shank - The darning foot comes in different shank heights to suit your machine.
Darning Foot - In Conclusion
Take some time for some freedom of expression with your darning foot. Double threads through the needle to add variety. Embroider with ribbon and write pretty names or add some appliqué. The whole idea of darning has taken on a new mantra. Gone are the old-fashioned mushroom and thread days. Instead, darning has become a fabric art form and even if you have a tear in your favorite blouse, the daring foot will see it mended, monogrammed, and embroidered.