Darning Tips and Tricks

Most of us have likely experienced the wardrobe malfunction pictured below at one time or another. Maybe it was in the knee, the side seam, or the crotch. For me, it was right along the back pocket. The fact that I’ve put on a few extra pounds over the last few years had nothing to do with this tear! lol! It was the way I bent over to pick up something off the floor while already having my arms full, with my laptop bag over my shoulder no less. As well, these capri shorts are at least a decade old, so they’ve received lots of wear and tear over the years. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! lol!

Whatever the reason, it’s easy to mend a tear by covering it with a patch, or by using a zigzag or Darning stitch, which is offered on so many Janome sewing machines. You’ll often find this Darning stitch under the Buttonhole category as you’ll use the Automatic Buttonhole Foot (R) as recommended by the machine. Yes, who would have thought to use a Buttonhole Foot for something other than creating buttonholes?! Janome machines are sew versatile!

Janome Automatic Buttonhole Foot (R) with Stabilizer Plate

We can adjust the stitch width on many machines, so I changed the default 5.0mm to 9.0mm, which is the maximum stitch width of my fabulous Janome Continental M17.

Something every sewist should have stocked in their sewing room is Stabilizer, which will help make the repair more durable stitch more easily. The Madeira Stabilizer Starter Pack is a terrific resource, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the many kinds of stabilizers. In addition to the 12 different stabilizer samples, there’s a very useful book included which describes each stabilizer and when you’d use each. I use every scrap of stabilizer and a repair such as this is the perfect time to use them.

I used the Madeira Super Stable stabilizer, which is a cut-away iron-on stabilizer, which I pressed to the inside of the shorts to hold the tear together.

Right side of shorts after the iron-on stabilizer was pressed to the wrong side to hold the tear closed.

A sleeve board proved a very useful tool when pressing as the rest of the shorts dropped to each side so I could press the stabilizer across the tear without getting any overlap of excess fabric. I’ve had this sleeve board since my college days when I studied Fashion Design, so it was a wise investment. You can often pick these up at charity shops, second-hand stores and garage sales for a song.

A layer of Madeira Avalon Ultra water solvable stabilizer (my favourite!) is great to use on top of the fabric to help support the stitches and to keep them from sinking into the fabric. I also used it as an extra layer of protection against the forward and backward motion of the buttonhole foot, so it wasn’t going to cause the rip to open up. Since the fabric was pressed in place with a fusible stabilizer on the underneath side, that shouldn’t happen, but I wanted to make extra sure. I was using up scraps, anyway, so might as well put them to good use.

The Janome Automatic Buttonhole Foot (R) often comes with a Stabilizer Plate which helps move the fabric along with the foot by positioning the fabric in between with the Stabilizer Plate against the bed of the machine. With the location of the tear in the back of my shorts, I couldn’t use the Stabilizer Plate, however, but since I was only stitching through one layer of thin cotton fabric and stabilizer, it wasn’t a problem. The fabric didn’t get held up, at all.

Computerized machines have the ability to memorize the length of the Darning Stitch, so it stitches the same length each time throughout the repair. Each segment of mine finished at 1inch as I felt that was stronger and I could manipulate the angles of the tear as it wasn’t a straight line, of course. You can also choose to change the length by pressing the X and starting over. Consult your instruction manual for further details.

Overall, I was happy with the repair. It’s definitely a very visible repair, but I’m glad I chose to use the Darning Stitch instead of a patch. When I put on the shorts, it’s surprising how discreet the repair actually is as it’s no longer just a flat piece of fabric.

Using the Madeira Super Stable stabilizer was definitely a good choice as it really held the fabric around the tear in place and supported all that dense stitching. After stitching, you can pull up the stabilizer and trim the excess if you wish as the iron-on adhesive isn’t a permanent bond.

The Janome Mini-Duckling Scissors are ideal to use to trim off the excess water solvable stabilizer on the right side of the fabric as the duckbill prevents the lower layer of the fabric from being cut by mistake. I keep these next to my machine at all times as I can’t sew without them. They’re sew handy and versatile.

To help make sure I get rid of all the water solvable stabilizer from under and around the stitches, I gently rub the area with a soft toothbrush after spritzing the area with water.

These shorts later got tossed in the washer and dryer as usual and they came out with a new lease on life and ready for another decade of wear – if my waistline doesn’t get any bigger, lol!

Happy Sewing!

About janomeman

As Janome Canada's National Consumer Education Manager, I'm SEW excited to share my love of sewing, quilting and all things creative with everyone at our fabulous new Janome Sewing and Learning Centre in Oakville, ON. Have an idea for a class, or to be put onto our mailing list, E-mail me at classes@janome-canada.com
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10 Responses to Darning Tips and Tricks

  1. Noreen says:

    Would you recommend this stitch to repair torn bedsheets?


  2. CherylAnn says:

    Michael, I’ve been doing this for years, as soon as I discovered the darning stitch on my Memory Craft 6000 over 35 years ago. I have a husband that wears out the knees on his pants – those I patch. My son in law busts out the crotch on his jeans and waits until I’m not sure I can fix them – those get the darning treatment. I think I have him trained not to bring them as soon as he’s busted them out. Those are challenging because there is so much bias, but not impossible. I have ironed on interfacing, because I didn’t think stabilizer would be strong enough. Now that I know it will, I will go that route as I think it might be easier to manipulate and get where I need it to be.

    Thank you for this wonderful post. It makes me feel so much better about the repairs I’ve done for my family. I just mentioned 2 but there are about 5 or 6 more guys here that use my services – after all I have machines that THEY think sew by themselves.


    • janomeman says:

      Hi Cheryl! Thank you sew much for your feedback! Fusible interfacing would work wonderfully to support the darning stitches, as well. I didn’t have any on hand, so turned to my ever-growing Madeira stabilizer scraps. They’re always so handy! Thank you for sharing the Janome Love! Happy Sewing!


  3. Sonya Elliott says:


    I love this tip. My husband has often asked me to fix his “work” wear, that gets tears over the years. My fixes haven’t been as strong as yours, but they will be now.

    Thanks Sonya ________________________________


    • janomeman says:

      Thank you sew much, Sonya. This would be a great application for workwear, especially with the thicker, heavier fabrics. You could also “crosshatch” the darning stitches for even more strength. I just stitched vertically, but you could turn the project around afterwards to get rows of stitching horizontally across on top of the stitching so it’s even more extra secure and strong. Happy Sewing!


  4. torontomalesewist says:

    Great information, with pictures and video . Thank you!!!!


    • janomeman says:

      Thank you sew much! Pictures and videos especially are the route we’re following more and more as it’s so much easier to “see” exactly what’s going on instead of just writing about it. Thank you sew much for your feedback!


  5. Susan Keegan says:

    Great detailed explanation & your repair looks amazing!


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