ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Collecting Mania: Darners

Updated on March 20, 2011

There was a time when no proper household would be without at least one. As common as sadirons and buttonhooks, they were regularly used by women, often by children, occasionally by men. And, although they came in a seemingly infinite number of shapes, sizes, and materials, every one had the same function - to hold fabric taut while being darned.

They are stocking darners (or darning eggs, balls, bells, spools, mushrooms), once highly esteemed in the days of the "use it up, wear it out - make do, or do without" society that has been shunted aside in today's disposable one. Yet this humble tool is emerging again as a fascinating, attractive, and highly sought after collectible.

Apparently almost everyone who used a darner had his or her own idea of what the perfect darner should look like. The U.S. Patent Office, for example, issued more than 100 patents for this humble tool between 1865 and 1956. The 1920's marked the height of patented darners, when 17 distinct models were recognized. The resulting diversity makes this a rich field for collectors.

While some glass darners were commercially produced, many of them were intended not to actually be used but to showcase glassblowers' artistic talents.  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was taught to darn by her nurse at the age of six. According to a placard at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, in Hyde Park, N.Y., "If she made a mistake, the nurse would cut out the yarn, thus making the hole larger, and have her start again."

Darners were made from nearly every conceivable material, most commonly wood, as well as champlevé, stag horn, mother-of-pearl, porcelain, ceramic, celluloid, plastic, Bakelite, papier-mâché, ivory, brass, aluminum, and tin. Darners ranged in size from 1/4-inch miniatures to nine-inch-long mushrooms with 4 1/2-inch-wide caps.

One design goal was to make darners out of substances that would not dull needles, which were relatively expensive instruments. So some darners were created out of wax, soap, and rubber, while others had long-pile fabric faces. Another objective was to keep the stocking from slipping as it was mended, resulting in the addition of metal bands, spiral springs, elastic or rubber bands, and sometimes plastic or wire bristles. A further consideration was to avoid stretching or misshaping the stocking. Rows of pins were consequently applied to the darner, to impale the fabric as one worked. Darner designers also tried to make it easier to work by using contrasting and bright colors. Eventually the ultimate in visual darning aids: illuminated darners, both battery- and electric-powered were developed.

By and large, the practice of darning has fallen by the wayside. Fortunately, reminders can readily be found. Common wooden darners often appear at flea markets for less than $10. And some of the more unique pieces now command much higher prices: An art-glass piece, for example, recently sold at auction for around $1,000. Thousands of darners have found their way to contemporary collections. Since millions were manufactured, there are undoubtedly thousands more tucked away in sewing boxes and trunks, just waiting to be discovered. So why not check around your house and start your own collection? Darners don't take up much room, are relatively inexpensive, make for interesting conversation, and add a unique and colorful touch to your home.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)