What a wonderful inspiring morning I have just had. I have been to a Swiss Darning workshop that was organised by Green Hill Arts in Mortenhampstead, hosted by Yuli Somme’s at Bellacouche, her wool felt studio . Just being in the old Unitarian chapel with the light streaming through the windows drinking a coffee from a handmade mug was inspiring, let alone with all the intriguing felt supplies in the background to peer at (amongst other things she makes felt shrouds as an alternative to coffins for burials and cremations). And I must go back to Mortenhampstead to see Green Hill Arts Darn Good Yarn exhibition as I didn’t have time today.
The workshop itself was run by Stephanie Wooster and she started by sharing some of her own knitwear, both handmade and shop bought, that she has mended, reinfored and embellished with this technique, and her work was delicate and gorgeous.
Then it was our turn. We started with small pieces of knitting that Stephanie had made on a knitting machine for us to practice on. It had a contrast stripe across the middle to use as a guide to keep us in a straight line. Note that the yarn she used is pale, this makes things a lot easier for beginners. We were sewing over the existing stitches, mimicking them, for an invisible stitch (although in contrast colour). For right handed people like me, it’s apparently probably easiest to start on the right hand edge and work to the left. The needle is always pointing in the direction you’re headed. Start by bringing it up in the hole at the bottom of one of the v shaped stitches. First you move backwards and up, to the next hole up one and to the right, putting your needle in, this will cover the right hand stick of the v with your yarn. Bring your needle out two holes over, to the top of the left stick of the v. Then the next stitch covers the left hand stick of the v, so put your needle in the hole at the bottom again. Move like this from right to left, covering a stitch at a time and you’ll soon have a row of duplicate stitches. If you want a diagram, try here, otherwise I’m sure you’ll find a more comprehensive tutorial if you search.
When you get to the end of the row, you can just move up and then head back in the opposite direction. (Always go backwards first, so when moving left to right along a row, the first stitch goes from the point of the v, up and back to cover the left hand stick of the v, then you go down from top of the right hand stick of the v back to the point and then on to the next stitch).
After covering 3 rows, I experimented with a couple of rows doing every other stitch, to get a checkerboard effect, then one stitch in four (if you want to leave a stitch half way in between this rows stitches on the next row, then you need to make sure that you leave an odd number of stitches in between, in this case stitch one, leave 3. Stephanie calls this combination seed stitch). Then I petered out my stitches (it got a bit random at this point as the further apart the duplicate stitches are the harder it is to stay on the same row). My idea was that the reinforcement/darn was dissipating away and melding into the garment. Stephanie had done similar ideas working in zig zags, diamonds and seed stitch as you can see on her website.
So, I tried zig zag’s too. The pale green doesn’t show up so well, so I have also written out a chart for zig zags, with the V’s being duplicate stitches and the O’s being skipped stitches. I sketched a little diamond underneath.
If you want inspiration for using swiss darning as an embellishment I found a Pinterest page. It is easier to use this method to reinforce a thin area before it wears through completely rather than to patch a hole. However, I want to be able to mend things. I did start a couple of mends at the class, watch this space for how I got on.