Visible Mend for the Win

Take one smart, shop bought cardigan.

Give it to your child to wear.

Get cardigan returned with large hole now in it. (caught on branch whilst tree climbing or some other such commendable activity).

Ponder how to fix it without loosing it’s smartness.  (Fine knitted fabric, too big a hole to darn, patch would look scruffy).

Decide to embrace the hole.

Neaten edges of hole.

Find multicouloured thread that you inherited from your grandmother in law.

Go around hole with blanket stitch.

Add petals, freehand with chain stitch.

Host impromptu workshop when camping with friends curious as to what you’re doing how.

Bring now mended cardy back from folk festival.

Leave for several weeks lost in a pile of your husbands clothes over the end of the bed.

Find cardigan, reunite with daughter, blog.

Et Voila.


Take one tired projectstarter, feeling two urgh to start a new project right now and reduced to surfing the web instead.

Add the inspirational Kelly Hogaboom to invite me to a Kickin Jeans sew a long.

Hide the jeans I have that I’m half way through fixing.

Find some outgrown purple jeans on the mending pile instead with a hole in the knee.

Unpick side seam (the side that isn’t flat felled so no stitching is visible from the outside).

Add some Twill tape to cover up the hole in a decorative manner.

Sew up side seam and finish raw edges.

And what do you have


#menditmoday (ok, techincally it was Sunday, but you’ll give me some lee way on that right)


Major Surgery

On my to do list for Mend it May was Fix Growl (formerly known as Ted), my son’s bear (once my husbands) who threadbare fabric (long since devoid of any fur) was simple wearing through in places. I didn’t do it. I was too scared. I have darned him a little before, put a little improvised extra stuffing in him (cut up knit fabric scraps) and replaced his pupils and nose, but this was somehow too big a job. Growl has therefore been on the side in The Boy’s bedroom for months, only hugged in emergencies as he’s too ill ill for everyday use. Bad Mummy.

I finally plucked up the courage recently. It was a complicated operation that involved cutting him open (eek), taking out the horrid assortment of stuff that was inside his tummy, restuffing him with lovely new toy stuffing and then giving him a skin graft on his entire stomach that was the fleecy reverse side of some scraps of sweatshirting (I really couldn’t see how to darn such threadbare fabric). I fixed his slightly lose ear at the same time, put his shirt back on him and hoped for the best.

The boy was not overly impressed with my efforts at first, but didn’t actually get cross and has now seemed to accept it and Growl is back in bed with him.


And now he’s pointed out that his snout is going. Eek…


Swiss Darning, part 3

My third and probably final post on this subject where I actually get around to mending a hole directly with Swiss darning.


So, onto the really useful bit, where you have a hole, rather than just some knitting that you want to reinforce or embellish, and it’s not so big that you use the patch method.

This lovely pic by the way is not my handiwork. The white knitting is a jumper the woman sitting next to me brought to the course to mend. You can see there are fine white threads zig zagging up and down across the hole. These are scaffolding threads to darn around and were expertly stitched by our tutor Stephanie.  She used normal sewing thread so that the darn doesn’t get too thick.  You can see that my fellow student has started swiss darning onto existing stitches under the hole in a contrast thread.


By contrast, this was my attempt at mending a hole on a pair of tights. I was really struggling with the small guage of stitches, the dark fabric and generally wasn’t confident I was doing it right (my scaffolding threads would only come out parallel, despite ripping out and trying again 5 times, when using the woven darn method I can never get my threads parallel, typical). The result is pretty messy too.

So, with the help of the lovely diagrams in this blog post I set about trying again at home. I actually cut a hole in the small piece of knitting we were given to practice on at the class so that I had a largish gauge pale thing to practice on.

First off the scaffolding thread. I’m using green darning yarn here, which is thinner than the yarn the piece is knitted from. The key for me was to realise those zig zags are not random, but actually done in the same way as a normal Swiss darn, albeit an elongated one. So, I start with my needle through a hole in a stitch underneath the gap. Then I go up and backwards as usual, put my needle in, take it out the next hole and then go back into the hole below that I started from. Then I come out the next stitch over and repeat the process until there is scaffolding across the whole of the hole. I had to concentrate to get the tension right and not pull the edges of the hole together.  If there is the loop end of a stitch at the edge of the hole, put your thread through that to save it unravelling further, you can see some at the top of the hole in the last photo above.

Then I took some red yarn (a little on the thick side truth be told) and swiss darned a couple of rows under the hole (and slightly wider) to get me started. So far so normal, but then on my next row I was soon at the point of having to darn into a gaping hole…


Once I’d taken the leap of faith into the void it was surprisingly easy. The stitch is the same as usual. You start at the bottom coming up through the hole at the top of a darn on the row below, so you’re all safely anchored. The top part of the stitch has no knitting to go in and out of, but instead goes around the V of scaffolding threads coming out of the stitch you started from. Then you go back into that stitch you started from and on to the next one.

Here I am going back the other way. The trick is not to pull the stitch too tight and to trust the stitches will stay up, seemingly unsupported as they are at the top. As you make a row of darning each stitch is unattached from the ones either side and looks a little odd, but when you come back along on the next row, the new stitches that you make hold the ones below together. I also thought it was quite neat that as you make a new stich it pulls the scaffolding together, so it’s always a V shape.


I kept going until I found myself darning the stitches at the top of the patch to the row above the hole. If this had been a real mend then I would have done an extra couple of rows at the top. The main issue I had was on the left hand side, where the stitches at the edge of the hole unravelled as I was trying to darn them and then I didn’t have a scaffolding thread to darn into. I think the result would’ve been neater in a slightly thinner yarn.

There’s been a real interest in this on the Mend It May Group. I’m no expert, (rather I’m practicing the adage that the best way to learn something is to show someone else), but I hope this inspires a few people to give it a go or find out more.

Why not check out these funky elbow patches (with excellent diagrams on Swiss Darning, I love me a good clear diagram), sweater darning inspiration and this pinterest board of mending techniques.




Swiss Darning – Part 2


So, after I’d practiced my invisible stitches on a friendly piece of fairly large gauge, pale knitting at the Swiss Darning Workshop, I thought it was time to try some actual mending. Stephanie had already shown the person I was sat next to how to put in support stitches across the hole in the jumper she’d bought, so I got out the jumper I’d bought. The hole was about as big as the darning mushroom. Hmm. (As Stephanie only had 2 darning mushrooms she’d brought some table tennis balls to use as spares, what a great idea). I asked her advice on getting started and she suggested an alternative to straight swiss darning in cases where the hole is this big (presumably that would be relative to the stitch size, these stitches are pretty small (2mm across maybe) as this is a mass produced garment, I think if it was hand knit in a chunkier yarn this size hole would be fine).


First up a row of swiss darning underneath the gap a smidge wider than the hole at it’s widest point. Gosh, the change from a friendly gauge size piece of knitting in a pale colour, to a really fine knit in a dark colour was a shock to the system. Luckily my (black) stitches don’t show up too well in the photo (on the right as the knitting is on it’s side here) as I was pretty much working blind it was so hard to see what I was doing.

Next up, pick up the stitches onto a knitting needle. I didn’t have access to any knitting needles there, so from this point onwards the mend was done after I got home, i.e. without access to any help or supervision, so any mistakes/misinterpretations of the method as explained to me by Stephanie are my own. The easiest way I know to pick up stitches is to use a crochet hook, so here I am, slipping it under the stitch I was going to pick up (both the darn and the original stitch together, not because I thought this was right necessarily, just because this was the only way I could manage it), pulling some darning yarn through, then transferring the loop onto my needle (double pointed in my case though it wouldn’t have to be).

Next knit up until the patch is covered, but leave a thread at the end of each row. This was the quick bit. You can see that despite using my finest needles and darning wool the patch gauge is much bigger than that of the original garment. As I was using double pointed needles, I snipped the yarn leaving a tail at the end of each row, then started knitting again from the right hand side without turning the work around – just because that seemed easiest for me.

Next up, swiss darn the top of the patch to the garment. I was told it was easiest to do this whilst the stitches were still on the needles. So, I treated each stitch on the needle like the bottom of the point of a V in a Swiss Darn, bringing the darning needle up through the garment, then through the loop of the stitch on the needle, then up and backwards, into the garment and out (probably more than one stitch wide as my garment was a different gauge to my patch), back through the stitch on the needle, into the garment, and then out and through the next stitch to repeat the process again. When I ‘d finished I had the scary, remove knitting needle step, but nothing seemed to unravel, phew.

Then I decided to go back and forth a little with my yarn in continuing to swiss darn my yarn end in and help to secure my patch. I found a small bit above the patch where the garment was wearing thin (probably I should’ve made my patch a little wider), and swiss darned over that (again, not that neatly or consistently as the stitches are so tiny).  That’s the pic on the left, the one on the right is a small hole I found elsewhere and swiss darned immediately before I have to do this for that! (A stitch in time saves 9 after all).


The final thing to do is to swiss darn all your ends (!) in to hold the patch in place. Here I am half way up one side. In fact, I have at this point only finished one side, but I wanted to share it with you. When I was at the stage shown in the photo LSH commented that I appeared to be attaching a mustache to the elbow of his jumper! Now I just have to finish the other side, oh and then look at the hole in the other elbow which is nearly as big. And look at the place where there are holes forming in the join on the shoulder seam.

The darn is not invisible, but it blends in pretty well and darning the row tails in have helped with that, I can see if you had a good colour match on the thread and could get the gauge closer to the original this could be pretty hard to spot.

And so, my Mend It May continues. Hopefully I shall master a piece of “proper” swiss darning, across a hole with scaffolding threads and be able to share that with you too before the end of the month.

Swiss Darning – part 1

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.


Birthday Party Season

Another weekend, another birthday party. In fact the kids are each different birthday parties as I type, and LSH and I were playing/calling at a ceilidh for an old friend’s birthday yesterday evening.


This time round I made a sunhat for the Girl’s friend, reversible, with some summer uniform gingham on the other side that came with butterflies embroidered on (I may have more of that in my stash now).


I found this colouring book on sale locally and picked it up as The Boy previously had this one from the same range. The pictures amuse me as they have no heads and limbs, just the clothes are drawn, leaving you to add in the rest as well as colouring them in. I must admit I was a little disappointed when I got it home, the boy’s version is full of boys doing things (such as a climbing in a big treehouse) whereas the girls version seems to just be people standing still in pretty dresses. Hmm. Anyway, I made a fabric folder for it which has space to put some pencils in, inspired by these.  I like the idea of being able to pop it in a bag to get out when going for a family meal in a restaurant, or to use on a train journey. The rainbow stripe is a strip of elastic to help hold pens/pencils in place. The red elephant cord is left over from the Tsarina Cape, with a piece of interfacing on the back, and the denim is leftover from my jeans and I added pockets and the initial (also interfaced) from the left over fabric from making the hat. It’s all held together by an elastic loop.

Speaking of holding things together, I have “mended” 2 pairs of my jeans with this keyring on the zipper trick, to stop the zips falling down all the time. This feels like a cheating way to participate in Mend it May, but I’ve also darned some holes in a favourite scarf.

As for Me Made May, that’s pretty much business as usual, there’s only been one day when I had to stop and think about how to make sure my outfit included me made, when I was putting on a patterned skirt (charity shop find) and wanted a plain top to go with it. So a reminder of what I already knew, more plain fabric needed in my wardrobe. As for colours, this last week I have mainly be wearing blue, with a bit of gold/yellow and a dash of green.

Tsarina Cape


Arty shot of The Girl putting her finishing touches on a birthday card before this cape got wrapped and taken with the card to a party.


A less arty shot, but a better representation of the colour and you can’t see the fact I had to piece the back of this Forest Path Cape in this shot.

I was inspired to make this one after seeing her friend slyly feeling the pom poms on her Princess Anna Cape, the red elephant cord was lying around in my stash and I was in the mood for making. I found the rainbow stripe polyester shirting in my stash too and it thought it would make a great lining. This time I added a welt breast pocket in the lining because every Tsarina needs a pocket, right? Talking of Tsarina’s, that wasn’t the look I had in mind, I mean I knew it would have to have pom pom trim, but I didn’t expect the girl to choose such shiny gold buttons (which were a pig to sew on).

I drafted a mandarin collar the same way as last time and used this braid chosen to match the buttons. There was just enough left for a hanging loop. Anyway somehow the thick red stripes of the cord manage to combine with the trim and buttons to make a very regal, opulent looking cape, despite the fact it’s machine washable. Hopefully it’ll get a lot of wear.


Oh, and I nearly forgot, it’s the first of May today. Which for LSH meant getting up at 4.15am so that he could be morris dancing on top of a hill when the sun rose. (The rest of us caught up on some sleep prior to a day of visitors, birthday parties and cooking). Anyway, for me, the first of May means Me Made May of course. So I better sneak my Crafting a Rainbow pilfered inspired pledge in on the line.

“I, Prolificprojectstarter, do pledge to wear something I’ve made each day in May 2016, to keep a track of my colour palette and to mend at least one thing each week”.

I wasn’t sure how to up my ante from just wearing a thing I made each day like last year, without making it too difficult (I’m not up for a huge challenge right now), but keeping track of colours will be interesting and I’m also keen to tie in with Jen’s Mend It May.

So, for the record, today is brought to you by the colour blue, I’m wearing navy jeans a mainly blue (with a hint of yellow) drapey top, and a navy and green stripe top from Seasalt.

So, bright May Day greetings to you, and for those with an extra day off due to the Bank Holiday in these parts tomorrow (assuming you’re not having to work it), I hope you make the most of some extra free time tomorrow.

Scissor Saviour

A few days ago I was cutting through 4 layers of jersey with my scissors (trying to cut 2 identical skirt pieces on the fold simultaneously). Living on the edge? Maybe, but my scissors could take it.

What they couldn’t take was the pin inside the fold holding the jersey in place that I forgot about. At first I didn’t realise and persevered. I ended up with a huge ding in my scissors and could only cut fabric with the bottom part of the blade.

hard at work

hard at work

Luckily for me I number among my friends someone who sharpens knives and scissors (I feel at this point I should describe him but not sure I’m up to the task.. how about artist, woodworker, all round practical guy and complete nutcase to boot, it’s not a good enough description but it’s a start, if that sounds intriguing his current project is here) who arranged to meet me at school drop off this morning and sharpen my scissors! And when I stood him up (due to ignorance- I hadn’t read the text messages yet) he rang me and came round instead, sharpening my scissors and some knives in return for a cup of tea. Now that’s service!

Mending and Camping


The campsite

This week I am easing myself back into real life and sorting out all the camping stuff after spending a weeks holiday in Wales with Friends. While the weather was more what I expected than what I’d hoped for, we all had a great time. We took the bare minimum electronic equipment with us, one phone (as I mislaid mine when it was time to pack), hubby’s kindle and his camera. Which he took some great photo’s with.

I did take some hand sewing, but pretty much the only making I actually did was knitting. I finished the pair to my first ever sock, so now I have knitted a whole pair of socks! And I still think the Kitchener bind off thing is magic. No photo’s though (I haven’t unpacked them yet from the piles of stuff) so you’ll just have to take my word for it that the sock looks a lot like its brother (I even managed to start the yarn in almost exactly the same place in the colour pattern). I’m now half way down sock number three, in an interesting colourway that Regia seem to call snowflake, that is mainly grey and black. Hmm. This time I’m trying a variation I spied at a knitting group and I’m halfway from the cuff to the heeel.

defunct camping chair

defunct camping chair

I did manage some last minute sewing the day we left as one of my beloved Ergolife roll up chairs was well and truly broken.

all better

all better

Having seen some examples of Japanese visible mending on the Make do and Mend group I decided to do a modern take inspired by this (i.e. I was in a hurry and feeling lazy so I used a machine!). It held up pretty well, but now the chair has broken elsewhere and I need to find some heavy duty staples to fix it. (In case you’re wondering, I think the chairs are 8 years old, so whilst they’re not in constant use, I think this counts as wear and tear rather than poor quality construction).

Rivet gun action

Rivet gun action – “You’ll be wanting a photo of that for your make do group”

Finally, inspired by a conversation with a couple of other women about how we find camping tends to bring out gender stereotypes in our relationships, when our barbeque broke, I went out and bought a rivet gun and fixed it. OK, I confess, I had no idea rivet guns existed until I saw one in the shop and realised it was just what I needed. (Well done Twywn for having not one, but 2 shops selling useful hardware). I was also a bit gentle using it at first and had to be told to squeeze harder so that the rivets pop properly. But it did feel good to fix our old (10 years?) barbeque and the kids were certainly pleased at the opportunity for more chocolate bananas and marshmallows. And I think that counts as making do as even though I had to buy the rivet gun, it certainly has a lot less material in it than the barbeque it fixed. Now I have my eyes peeled for more things that could be fixed with rivets!

proof the sun shone one day

proof the sun shone one day

So now I’m trying to be good and pack some of the chaos away before making more mess by getting out my sewing. (It’s ok, I can go a day without it, I don’t need it, really, I don’t, look my hands aren’t even shaking). And I’ve added a simple bag for spikey BBQ tools to my to do list (as they keep breaking plastic bags) as well as a wood pole support that I saw in another friends Bell tent (I’ll show you if I manage it, but it would be very complicated to explain). (The friend is going to copy my trick of marking the one slightly longer side of the groundsheet with electrical tape so you know where to put the door when pitching).

What’s your proudest mend?