Irregular and Pattern Darning - Reproduction of a William Morris Design - Origin of Pattern

Darning - Some Examples and How to Work Them

Every woman knows, or is supposed to know, how to darn a stocking, but it may be a new idea to some that darning can be used for purposes of embroidery. But in fact it has been so used since very early times, for there are examples in the Victoria and Albert Museum, at South Kensington, of Coptic darned work of the sixth century.

There are two rather different ways of darning, which may be distinguished as : (a) irregular darning; and (b) pattern darning. The former is very effective when used for large, bold, conventional patterns, worked in a coarse twisted silk. It has been much used by the firm of Morris & Co., which was originally started by William Morris, the poet-artist-craftsman. Most of the designs still used there are William Morris's own, and their silks are dyed according to old Eastern methods, rediscovered by him as the result of much patient investigation.

Through the kindness of one of the directors, a piece of work, after a Morris design, is reproduced to illustrate this article. Being unfinished, it gives a good idea of how to start the work.

A choice Morris design in darned work. The apples in shades of red with leaves of bronze and pale green, with the rich brown shadings of the stems and touches of orange form a colour scheme of much beauty and charm

A choice Morris design in darned work. The apples in shades of red with leaves of bronze and pale green, with the rich brown shadings of the stems and touches of orange form a colour scheme of much beauty and charm

The most suitable material is a loose make of linen, so that the threads can bo easily picked up by the needle. The silk is run in and out, much as a thin place would be darned in a stocking. One thread only of the linen is taken up by the needle. The background, as a rule, is filled in by horizontal or vertical lines of darning, while in the leaves, flowers, etc., the darning follows the several shapes of each. The principle of this kind of darning is that eventually the whole surface of the material is covered, and a rich effect produced.

The design given is a circle, filled by an apple-tree, with tulips and other flowers growing at the roots. Round it is a circular band of floral ornament, while the corners are filled by scrolls representing tulips in bud. As to colouring, a beautiful blue-grey has been chosen for the background in this example; the apples are in shades of red, the leaves in bronze-green, and a pale blue-green. The stems are in cream, outlined with rich brown, and shades of orange are introduced into some of the smaller flowers clustered round the trunk, while the reds and pinks of the apples appear again in the tulips.

Pattern darning probably had its origin in the elaborate work needed to repair fine old damask. Beautiful samplers, dating from the middle eighteenth century, are in existence, showing all kinds of intricate patterns. But to attempt simpler forms of this kind of work only needs patience and good eyesight.

The linen chosen should be finer in texture than that needed for irregular darning. The variety known as Old Bleach, or that sold by Messrs. Harris, is very suitable.

The method used is to count the stitches carefully, either vertically or horizontally, taking advantage of the texture of the material, and with the needle to pick up, and leave out, one or more threads in some regular sequence, until the required space is covered. The rows of darning should be run close together, and fine silk, either filoselle or filo-floss, of which the strands can be easily split, should be used. The thick twisted silk so effective for irregular darning would not show the patterns sufficiently.

Darning sampler (date 1765) showing patterns suitable for mending

Darning sampler (date 1765) showing patterns suitable for mending

Damask

A set of these patterns is given as a suggestion, and their number can be added to indefinitely, according to the ingenuity of the worker. In ' the first, a chevron pattern, the method to be used is as follows : A row of stitches, taking up two stitches, and leaving five, is darned along one edge of the material. In the next row the first long stitch is moved on a step in advance, and so on all along the row. This is repeated for three more rows, when the process is reversed. Each stitch is now taken up behind the preceding one, so that a slanting effect in the opposite direction is pioduced, and the rows of darning are so worked in zigzags, until the entire surface is covered.

The next, a series of chequers, giving rather the effect of a minute chessboard, is simpler to work out. A series of stitches covering four threads of linen, and leaving four, alternately, is run along one edge of the space to be covered. This is repeated for three more rows, until a set of squares alternately plain, and covered with silk, have been produced. The pattern must now be reversed, leaving the first stitch plain, and covering the succeeding plain square with silk, repeating the process for three rows in succession. After this the work becomes simple, for it is only a question of picking up and leaving out squares alternately till the whole surface is covered. The chequers can be enlarged by taking up more threads in the first instance, and then adding extra rows in proportion.

The third pattern makes a diagonal figure, and is formed by taking a long stitch followed by two short ones alternately along one row, and then repeating the darned pattern, taking each stitch one step in advance of the preceding row, and so on till the space is covered. This pattern would be very effective for an embroidered waistcoat on canvas or huckaback.

A set of designs for pattern darning, showing how the switches should be taken in regular sequence

A set of designs for pattern darning, showing how the switches should be taken in regular sequence

Pattern darning is pretty and interesting work. It makes good backgrounds for many kinds of designs, especially where the design itself is left almost plain, as in the example - intended for a needle-case - given as an illustration, and which thus stands out in relief against the darned silk. The background should, however, be of sufficient space to show the pattern, otherwise irregular darning would be quite as effective and take much less time to carry out. It is best suited to small, dainty work, such as strips for dress embroidery, borders for bags, etc.

A carnation design, outlined in two shades, pink for the flowers, and black for the stalks and stems. The background is in a soft blue green

A carnation design, outlined in two shades, pink for the flowers, and black for the stalks and stems. The background is in a soft blue-green

The design given, a c o n v e n tionalised carnation, is outlined in two shades, pink for the flowers, black for the stalks and leaves. The border lines are in black with a row of pink worked close up against them inside, and the background is darned in one of soft shades of blue-green.