Monday, 24 February 2014
If you've got a favourite pair of socks or sweater that have tragically acquired a hole or two, you may want to acquire the homely accomplishment of darning. I've gotten extra years out of a beloved sweater this way, and was once even able to save a sweater I'd made for my father that had had an unfortunate encounter with a table saw. If you made the sweater or socks yourself, you'll be at an advantage because you're very likely to have at least a small amount of the same yarn left over.
This image and the one above are from government-issued pamphlets that probably date from World War II, when the populace was being encouraged to "make do and mend" in order to conserve resources for the war effort. If you'd like a more modern tutorial on how to darn, Twist Collective has a good one.
If you're the sort of learner who likes to have something demonstrated for you, this video clearly demonstrates the process of darning.
Darning is definitely a low-cost option. Besides the matching or near matching yarn that you need and may well already have on hand, you will need only a needle with a sharp point and an eye big enough for whatever fibre you are using, and a darning egg. A plain wooden egg or mushroom such as those above will do.
Though there's no reason the wooden egg has to be plain. The eggs above were made by my father. As you can see, that sweater of his did not meet that table saw in vain.
You might also treat yourself to a covetable antique darning egg such as the Victorian-era sterling silver-handled and hand-painted darning eggs above.
If you find you really love darning, it's possible to take the technique to a higher level, as has been done in the case of this 1841 sampler, which features silk, wool and cotton threads embroidered in running and cross stitches on a plain weave foundation. A hole in a prominent place can become an opportunity to really break out your imagination and fancy stitchwork so that the darn becomes an adornment.
Researching this post led me down a rabbit hole of truly fascinating information on and examples of how to take mending and making do to a whole new level, to the point where it's an art and a source of pleasure rather than drearily frugal. I have a passion for salvage and thrifting and hate waste, so the topic is as catnip to me. I especially loved blogger Susannah's account of her year's experience in shopping and sewing within the limits of the British wartime clothing ration of 1941 on her blog Cargo Craft Cult. She tells us that before this experiment, her wardrobe consisted of vintage costume-type outfits that she had lovingly made but had little chance to wear, and the boring nondescript clothes that she actually wore. The discipline of shopping and sewing according to strict guidelines forced her to make vintage clothes she could actually wear every day, and to make her purchases more carefully as she would need to wear them often. The result was a wardrobe that was not only more practical but more interesting and attractive, and that she got much more real enjoyment from. And I'm not surprised to hear it.
Working within restrictions is actually good for creativity. If you gave me limited materials and set me a specific task to achieve with them, I would do better and more creative work more quickly than I would if you were to turn me loose in a large room full of varied craft materials and just told me to make something. The human psyche seems to need limits to kick against.
And then too, getting the most out of your belongings by mending and making do has a number of other rewards and benefits. It's environmentally responsible. It'll save you money, and possibly also time, since you might be able to mend or alter something faster than you could go to the store and shop for a replacement. And it's so satisfying. Anyone can slap down a credit card and buy something new; it takes skill, creativity and intelligence to figure out how to turn an item that seems bound for a landfill into a useable, attractive piece.
Researching and writing this post generated lots of ideas for future mending and making do posts, so look for more posts on how to get the most out of your knitwear.
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Has your favourite wool sweater developed holes? One way to mend the hole, or to embellish a plain sweater, is to needle felt patches over the holes with a small amount of roving and a felting needle. Erica at the blog Honestly WTF has written a tutorial explaining how to make heart-shaped patches for your sweater elbows.
If you want to see a video of the felting patch technique, the one above demonstrates it well. You'll have the option of making the patches in different simple shapes, such as those found in cookie cutters (stars, hearts, trees, Easter chicks or eggs), or if you're feeling really artistic, in more complex creations of your own design: birds, insects, flowers, text, or whatever you like. If you wish to simply mend your sweater unobtrusively, you can try to find roving in a very similar colour, or if that's not possible, mend the sweater with the closest colour of roving you can find and then dye the whole item a new colour.
There are considerations to keep in mind. Felting won't work with synthetic fibres or with superwash wool. To be a candidate for felt patches, your sweater must be natural, non-superwash woolly fibres such as sheep's wool, alpaca, angora, or cashmere. The felt patch, while it may look unobtrusive, will have a very different texture from the rest of the sweater, so you'll have to ask yourself if you'll be okay with that or if you'll be constantly fingering that stiff, lumpy little patch. Needle felting involves fast, forceful stabbing motions within inches of your fingers, and you're bound to stick yourself with the barbed needle at some point in the process, and it will hurt a lot. Felting isn't a quick process, either — darning is faster. The video above, as you can see, isn't real time.
I've never used felt patches to mend my sweaters. I do mend my clothes whenever I can, but I mend knitted items by darning them with the same, or a very similar, colour. And generally my rule is that mending has to be invisible, or at least unobtrusive, or the item goes out. I'm really not into the grunge/Dickensian urchin look. I must admit though that those heart-shaped elbow patches would be adorable on a little kid's sweater, so there might just be some felt patching in my future.