TBT: My Mother’s Darning Eggs

Darning Eggs

My mother is a retired seamstress (in that she no longer takes customers, but will still help me with projects) and was often offered sewing-related items by her customers. She’s also the only daughter of a seamstress, who is the daughter of a seamstress, who is … well, you get the idea, and all the old tools and fabric stash end up with her. She also loves to sift through a good antique shop now and then. This is her collection of darning eggs, which she passed on to me a few years ago. Two of the eggs, the lighter ones, are of a more recent vintage; I think a customer gave them to her. The two painted ones are my favorites.

Darning Egg 1

This one is my second favorite darning egg. The worn painted design lends itself to the imagination in trying to reconstruct what it once looked like. The design somehow looks Dutch to me, or perhaps like something from the Arts & Crafts period. I also love that this one is shaped differently, a little more like a foot than a traditional darning egg.
Darning Egg 1
The back of it certainly shows some wear and use – yes, those look like darning needle marks to me, where the needle slipped along and scraped up the paint.

Darning Egg 2
This one is my favorite; it’s the one I remember my Mom having when I was a kid. Perhaps it was my great grandmother’s? In any case, I love it because it shows the most wear and is obviously a well-used and (if one believes such an object can be imbued with love) the most loved object. The paint is worn away in layers down to the wood both on the egg and on the handle, and the wood itself is even worn down to only the strongest fibers in place. I can’t help but think of all the socks this one darning egg saved, the nights someone spent at their last chore of the day, darning socks. It harkens back to a time when even socks were valued, saved, and worn as much as possible instead of discarded at the first sign of a hole – it’s such a contrast with our current consumer culture and sped up fashion cycle, it’s the original slow fashion.

I have these darning eggs, but I have to admit that I’m terrible at darning socks. I asked my mother for one of her darning eggs when my first pair of hand knit socks developed a hole in the heel end of the sole. It’s something I expected to be good at right away because I’ve imagined myself in the place of that person darning socks at night (while listening to a program on the radio?) after all the other chores were done. I mean, how hard could it be? I really just need more practice at it; what I would really love is an afternoon with my great grandmother Ada to have a patient and steady presence help me learn.

6 thoughts on “TBT: My Mother’s Darning Eggs

  1. Such lovely darning eggs. I like the painted ones too–such stories there. The women in my family were not very crafty, but my mom quilted for a while and my great-grandmother was excellent at crochet. It’s always fun to hear other folks’ stories about the crafty women in their lives! It’s so cool that she helps you with projects still 🙂

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    1. She’s pretty awesome; I just wish we lived closer together – she’s in NH, close to Dartmouth, and I’m all the way down here in VA, close to DC. Maybe someday the distance will close …

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  2. These are such beautiful things! It’s always so interesting to see items like these that clearly been much used and loved… And it’s great to see they’re still going strong, even in this age of disposable fashion. Thanks for sharing them, Mandy!

    Liked by 1 person

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