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Have you ever noticed that, when you’re a crafty person, people seem to think that you’re capable of doing and fixing anything with your hands? A couple of months ago a friend of mine gave me a bag with a couple of sweaters that she’d just gotten at the thrift shop and hadn’t had the chance to wear before her cats ruined them. She begged me to fix them somehow, in any way that I could.
When I got home and finally took the sweaters out of the bag, boy was I surprised to see numerous big gaping holes! Ouch! I’d been expecting to see some badly pulled threads, but not whole chunks of sweater completely missing.
But seeing as my friend had given me full creative liberty to use any technique I wanted to fix the holes, I decided to finally try my hand at some mending techniques that I’d been wanting to try for quite a few months with yarn that I already had in my stash.
I was inspired by the book Mend It Better* and by an article on textile repair on Sew Mama Sew written by my friend Allison from Sweater Doll (the designer of the “Perfectly Imperfect” doll pattern I recently reviewed). I’ve read both of these sources multiple times and have frequently longingly sighed at the gorgeous mending that not only repaired garments, but added beauty to them.
This was my first experience repairing holes in sweaters, and it took me a little while to get the hang of it. I know that it is not perfect, but it serves the purpose and, in my opinion, adds a lot of extra visual interest to otherwise dull garments. So let me show you some of my colorful and whimsical mending!
The pink sweater had only one hole on an arm. The yarn was pretty thick, so I decided to try swiss darning. This technique basically recreates the knit stitches with a needle. However my sources only showed how to do this technique over other knit stitches, as a way to reinforce worn yarn and stitches. But there were no indications as to how to create the stitches over an outright hole.
After quite a bit of searching online, I found this sock darning tutorial, which I adapted to darning on a flat surface. The tutorial shows how to create a series of horizontal rows with the darning yarn and then how to recreate the stitches on those rows. I obviously didn’t have the same yarn of the sweater, so I tried to use the closest color that I had, the white and fuschia fuzzy yarn in the picture above.
I used it to work a running stitch in a square around the hole and work the horizontal rows, but alas, it turned out to be too thick to do the actual swiss darning. I didn’t feel like buying a new skein of yarn that would never perfectly match the original yarn anyway, so I decided to go for a totally different color, the blue and white melange, figuring that at least the melange aspect of it matched the original sweater. This proved much easier to work with, although I wasn’t always able to work perfectly evenly over the horizontal rows of the thicker irregular yarn.
In the picture above you can see the final result on the outside (left) and on the inside (right).
It’s not perfect, but I always think that, if you can’t make a repair blend in perfectly, it looks better if it stands out. It sort of reminds me of a regular fabric patch, even though it’s worked into the sweater structure, not just applied on top. Part of this effect is because the darning is worked in stockinette stitch while the sweater is in rib stitch. No prob… my friend and I were both happy with it anyway!
The second sweater had five holes, two of which were along the ribbed edges. I didn’t think it would be possible to swiss darn along those edges, so I decided not to mix up styles and use just crochet mending on this sweater.
I used the instructions from Mend It Better* as a basis, but just kind of winged it most of the time. I started by working a slip stitch around the hole and then filling it up with rounds of single cochet. I worked rows of single crochet in the holes along the edges, increasing and decreasing as necessary.
I experimented with changing colors and adding slip stitch embroidery on top or around the edges.
I had fun experimenting with different types of yarn, such as cotton, angora, chenille and novelty “hairy” yarn. In the end, I think that the only rule is to use a pretty thin yarn on a machine-knit sweater like this one.
I wish I’d had a yarn the same color of the sweater to make those first irregular slip stitches less noticeable. But despite this, I was really happy with how this sweater repair came out.
This visual style is definitely not to everyone’s liking, but it is to mine. I love mixing up bright colors and geometric designs in my clothing and accessories and, while I know that a large majority of people wouldn’t be caught dead in the outfits that I wear or sweaters repaired in this way, I feel most myself when dressed in this way!
I love having unique clothing, and this type of mending shows the garment’s history, instead of trying to hide it. And in this day and age of anonymous, mass-produced fast fashion, it feels great to have clothing unlike anyone else’s!
What do you think? Do you prefer your mending to blend in and be as close to invisible as possible, or stand out as a decorative element? Let me know in the comments below!
Did you enjoy this article on repairing holes in sweaters? Then you might also like my tutorial on sewing creative patches on jeans!
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