Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Darning Stitch

When you look at the two extant sleeve ruffles below, the bows (top ruffle) and the leaves (bottom) are good examples of the darning stitch and the effect you get when you employ it on sheer fabric. It's a pretty basic stitch, almost like a running stitch, that adds density to an area, making the design pop, so it's not an endless parade of chain stitch.

LACMA (M.84.63.1a-b)
Linen embroidery (chainstitch) and pulled threadwork
on muslin with linen bobbin lace edging,
2 1/4 x 7 1/2 x 35 in.

LACMA, c.1760 (M.82.26.2a-b)
Linen embroidery (darning stitch and pulled fabric work)
on cotton, 3 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 38 in.

Most often you see this stitch used to darn socks, or other mending where a seam would be uncomfortable. It also reinforces the fabric since you are adding extra warp or weft to the area.

But my my, it's not easy. Especially on such fine work. The stitches are sooo small! I actually borrowed (stole really, because I'm not giving it back) my husband's lighted magnifying glass lamp thing that screws onto the table. It's amazing! It helps so much. Not only is everything big enough to see, but it's also nice and bright. Really bright.

Left, skipping two threads, catching one.
Right, catching every thread.
This is macro, btw... It's soooo small in person!
Each of those darned patches are actually 1/8 of an inch square.  

The bow before being filled in.

Halfway there! Left side is done.

The bow is now fully filled in. See the difference?


  1. Thanks for posting this in such a clear way! The engageantes are coming along beautifully.

  2. Thanks for posting this! I've been trying to figure out that filling was done. I never thought of a darning stitch.

    1. You're very welcome! I kept seeing museum pieces labeled with "darning stitch" so I looked into it and there you go! Love learning how things were done.

  3. Looks gorgeous! I am just about to start on a pair of lawn ruffles and I am trying to figure out how to embroider them with whitework.

    1. Do you have the book, "embroidered with white"? Lots of beautiful designs to investigate.