Life is indeed a stitch!
Berryhill Heirlooms and Susie Gay present techniques, heirloom sewing, hand embroidery and other musings that you will enjoy and appreciate. Come and join in the fun with Susie, a Home Economist, and savor a little rest from your hectic day...and yes, it's a Degree she uses every day!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Interesting Artifacts: Darners

 Long before industrial mass production ladies (and probably some men) darned their socks and gloves to repair any holes. Let's face it: someone probably hand knit those socks and gloves, and maybe a sweater or two, too, so after all that effort it was worthwhile to mend them!! After the industrial revolution folks were still darning, especially during the war years when commodities were scarce. Use and re-use those clothing items were the by-words. Darners come in many shapes and sizes to accommodate whatever needed to be darned. The most ubiquitous of those is the so-called "darning egg". Here are a few examples, the most noteworthy is the one on the bottom that is metal with a little girl etched in it.

The other very interesting one is the red egg on the right above which is a sewing kit, shown below. Some darners did come apart that held needles, thimbles and sewing kits. Very handy!

A very typical shape was the egg-on-a-stick type. They come in different sizes, some painted, some not. These are probably from 1900-1930. 

I can't imagine buying a beautifully painted mushroom-shaped and then using it, scraping off the design as one worked. These are all pretty, probably made The one on the left below was made in Hungary. Could this one have been purchased on a trip to Europe as a souvenir? I also love the marbleized painting on the one second from right. The colors are so pretty.
Then there are the glass blown and molded ones, which were very popular, and still are as collectibles. They were also called "whimsies". They can be a single color or the "end of day" multicolor ones where glass blowers used up the odds and ends of glass at the end of the day and produced spectacular ones!
Then there are ones made from wood: basic and the workhorse of the sewing basket. Many different shapes and sizes for different darning jobs. The elongated egg is made from three pieces of wood. The one next to it is a dome-topped darner. The elongated one was probably used as a glove darner. And the bottom clumsy looking one was probably used to teach young children to darn.
Necessity is the mother of invention: even dried gourds were used in a pinch as a darner. 

Glove darners, anyone? The painted ones date from 1900-1920. Note the different sized ends of the black darner at the top. The darling little one at the bottom is unusual: I've never seen one like it. I guess you just dropped it into your glove finger and somehow fished it out when done.

This is probably more than you ever wanted to know about the lost art of darning. Nowadays I can darn on my sewing machine, or touch up sweater holes by hand with a needle and thread. We no longer need these items of repair but they make very interesting collectibles as a reminder of what women and children used to do years ago to keep their, and their families, looking neat and tidy.

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