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5 August 2014

Mending a woollen jumper

There was a time when, in my dim and distant past, I would throw out clothes that had a hole, a missing button or a broken zip. I feel real shame writing those words but it's my shocking truth and made worse by the fact that I knew how to repair all those problems, but I chose not to. I thank my lucky stars that I realised how wasteful I had been and started mending my ways, as well as my clothes.


Last week, one of Hanno's jumpers developed a small hole in the side, right near the side seam. Looks like it was caught on a nail or something. It was a shop bought, pure wool jumper and apart from the hole it was in perfect condition. I got my sewing kit out and started work. The hole was small, about the size of a thumb nail, and as it was at the side seam, it was simply a matter of taking off the messy wool ends and sewing the sides together.  Had the hole been any bigger, I would have used my darning mushroom and darned the hole.

This is my darning mushroom.

Darning is a method of sewing that will repair a large hole by using running stitch in and out of the hole. You can use a darning mushroom or egg behind the hole to provide a surface on which to work. Using the remnants of the threads left in the hole, and the edges of the hole, the running stitch from top to bottom and then at right angles, leaves you with a sturdy and clean repair.  There are many darning tutorials on You Tube but I like this static tutorial by Wool and Chocolate because of the neat finish she produces.


I used a darning needle for the operation. A darning needle is a steel or plastic needle with a blunt point and an eye large enough to thread through wool or a few strands of embroidery floss.  I also needed thread or wool exactly the same colour as the garment I was repairing. I used embroidery floss because I had the exact colour match in thread, but not in wool. 


To start off on a small hole repair, turn the garment inside out and carefully cut off any ripped and untidy edges. Anchor your thread or wool by slipping the needle through the knit and tying a knot so the thread is knotted onto the wool. This will give you a firm starting point with no chance of the thread slipping or unravelling later on.


I started the repair job by checking to see if the hole would run a ladder up the side of the jumper, just like a hole in tights would. In this case, yes, if I didn't do something to anchor the ladder, it would have created more problems later on. So working from the wrong side, I stitched the edge of the ladder so it couldn't run, causing a bigger problem. Then it was just a matter of pulling the edges together neatly, with no puckering or folds, to work my way through the hole.


When the hole looked like it was closed, I turned the jumper right side out again to check the repair. This time I didn't have to go back in but sometimes you can see a place where you'll have to go back and add a few more stitches.  It's worth doing because this repair took me less than 20 minutes and to work enough hours to buy a similar jumper would take me a few hours.

Have you been repairing clothes too?



28 comments:

  1. I darned a glove for my husband last winter--the first time I had ever attempted it. We don't get much cold weather here, and it didn't seem worth buying a new pair of gloves for him. I usually will fix garments with the holes in the seams, but don't bother if the holes are in the material itself.

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    1. This is very simple, but where do you buy darning wool any more? used t obe able to buy it in a plait of beige/brown or light/dark blue etc. for $2.00. Not any more. I have 3 jumpers with small holes. need to mend them.

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  2. Hi Rhonda...I love your mushroom. My mother taught me to us a old light bulb that doesn't work anymore for darning socks. I agree we should be mending more instead of throwing out. The other day I replaced the zipper in my jeans for $3.50 instead of buying a new pair.

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  3. Yes, buttons, hems, holes... clothes just aren't made well these days, but you can make them last longer with simple fixes...

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  4. Hi Rhonda,... I was reading your blog about mending Hannos jumper and noticed your thumb nail..
    Do you have Psoriasis? My nail beds look like that too and I have psoriasis. I've been living with it for 19 years now. I enjoy reading your blogs and have tried a lot of your recipes and I was wanting to make your homemade soap .
    Thank you so much for sharing your life in Australia with me .

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    1. What have you noticed in my thumb nail? Why does it look like psoriasis?

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  5. Timely article Rhonda! I made the switch to natural fibre clothing around two years ago, with predominately merino wool in my wardrobe, for its thermal properties, ability to be worn over and over without smell and its durability. It has been a gradual change, obviously the cost factor is high and I didn't need to replace everything at once, but the earlier pieces I bought are now in need of repair particularly on the seams near pockets where I pull and tug a fair bit, and have been sitting on the newly created mending pile, waiting for some advice from my Mum. Looks like I can go ahead and get started now!

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  6. A jumper of Tony's needs attention and I think I could do this. Auntie's wooden mushroom is in a sewing basket so I'll give it a go. Thanks Rhonda.

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  7. Hi Rhonda,
    I've recently repaired some woollen mittens and woollen socks. They are favourites, and I love that I will get another season or two out of them now :)

    Madeleine.x

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  8. Yes, I repair clothes all the time and sometimes I like to get creative. I've found an amazing set of less traditional mending suggestions and I am adding the link here in case you might like to take a peek. I am currently working on an old pair of jeans using some doily "samples" - little pieces, not completed works, that my grandmother kept as models for potential future work - she did them whenever she saw something she liked at a friend's or relative's house, or in a magazine she could not afford to buy. My mother kept a box full of them and now that she doesn't use them anymore, she gave them to me and I'm using them for different purposes. But here's the link (I cannot understand a word - it's in Russian) but the pictures speak for themselves, I hope you like it:
    http://minchanka.by/main_sections/vdokhnoveniya/2498/

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    1. Gosh, what a beautiful blog, Ana. Thank you for sharing the link. I'll have another look at it later and see if I can translate it.

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  9. I enjoy mending and so I also mend the grand children's clothes and doll dresses. In their eyes I am "super Mum Mum". It is worth every second to see the joy in their eyes over a fixed item.
    Darlene

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  10. Today I mended some undergarments that in the past I would have just tossed in the trash. I too am ashamed of my wastefulness.

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  11. yes, i think most of us can relate to that, tossing away perfectly good clothes just because they need mending, though haven't tossed anything out lately, keep all my garments now & most go into the 'yarn making' pile, love those mushrooms & darning eggs, haven't found any myself yet; a lot of my clothes i simply wear out now before they go into my stash
    loved the post
    thanx
    selina from kilkivan qld

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  12. My gran and my mum both taught me darning skills. I too went through a time when binning things was the alternative l chose. Now, however, l wouldn't dream of it. I darn all sorts of things and sew patches on trousers, replace zips and buttons etc. Find it very satisfying and important. Wish l could get hold of a darning mushroom though, would make the job a lot easier. Pam in Norway

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    1. Pam, I bought my hundred year old mushroom on ebay au for five dollars. Keep an eye out, I'm sure one will come along. I think darning and mending is important too.

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  13. I will treat myself to a darning mushroom one day

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  14. Another mender here. I am trying to - invisibly - darn a very fine-wool 100 year old Welsh shawl at the moment. Smaller holes are easier than bigger ones and it's not helped by not having any wool fine enough/matching, so I'm having to use embroidery floss which has a sheen to it. Any suggestions?

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    1. The only thing I can think of is to take a photo of the wool you're trying to match and then putting it on your blog. I will link to it if you want me to. Maybe someone will have a few metres they can send you.

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  15. My mum always did the sewing and mending so we tended to just give it to her. But I have gotten used to mending the kids school clothes, knees and bums seem to go first! My 40 year old brother still hands over his mending to mum, she really enjoys doing it, a way of showing love and care I suppose.
    kate

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  16. On kids' clothes especially, you can get away with a lot of things. A decorative patch made from a cartoon or story character cut from a scrap or something really destroyed, will actually be seen as a big plus, or an embroidered patch from the fabric store if you can get it on sale and/or the garment and location of the repair warrant it. You can do the same thing, sometimes, if there is a stain you can't remove and can't ignore, depending on the location. Stains can sometimes be obfuscated by drawing new designs on with a fabric marker, sometimes redecorating the whole thing.

    When she was small, our daughter would sometimes turn out to be harder on the knees of her jeans than you would think. I found that iron on patches on the inside, gave the fashionably shredded knees more life. And especially for boys, if you put them on before there is any wear, and even stitch around them from the inside, you'd be ahead of the game since they really are more durable than the original fabric.

    Our daughter is quite short, and getting pants to fit her is a challenge, whether new, used or handed down. Just before she went back to college after winter break last year, I had hemmed two pairs of jeans for her, using my sewing machine and making it look like an original hem. (I absolutely can't stand the shredded too-long bottoms of jeans.) Apparently, she was sitting on the floor in a circle with some friends, and she commented that her mother had hemmed the jeans she was wearing, and this seemed to be a new concept. They couldn't believe that could be done and look like the original hem. There are lots of cheating ways to hem jeans, but I've gotten rather good at it, having done hers for years. It takes a bit more time, and the right thread, but it's worth it.

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  17. I mend clothes. I've even developed a reputation for it. My friends come to me with torn hems and sleeves, holes to patch, etc. I am always glad to help them out. Mending clothes has saved me so much money (not to mention the environmental resources) over the years it boggles the mind. And I love it.

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  18. I always remember my grandmother darning socks that she had also knitted for the family. She also used a darning mushroom for this work. I`d also love to have such a wooden mushroom. I`m sure that my mother still uses her mothers old darning mushroom, so I might aske her to keep it for me once she no longer uses it. Other than that, I might keep my eyes peeled for one on car boot sales and table top sales I might attend. I always buy second hand clothes for myself, so occasionally I need to do little repair jobs with the sewing machine. My bargain clothing usually lasts me for 6-10 years before I might cut them up for rags or take them back to charity shops, if I fancy a change of style. I`ve always been careful with my clothes and had learned to fix little repairs from my mum and grandmother. This has always been helpful in the past and I still repair my clothes to this day. Holes in jumpers are no obstacle as I had learned to darn at an early age. Now, all that I wish for is an old fashioned darning mushroom. If I`m a good girl Father Christmas might let me have one.

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  19. I had to Google men's jumper because I couldn't quite figure out what it was and I see it's a sweater..
    Thanks for darning tutorial, Rhonda.

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  20. My earliest recollection of mending and darning was as a child when the washing/laundry was folded up and socks turned the right way. We had to check if there were any holes by putting our hand in each sock and inspecting carefully. Any holes were marked by two pins to make a cross....that really shows how the time has flown as it was round 50 years ago...but I still feel young inside :)
    Probably because of the example my mother gave I have always mended and sewed a lot...yes, and my mother still had that mending mushroom which she brought from Germany with her.

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  21. Hello, How did you know this task was on my todo list this weekend.... heheheheI have a lovely jumper, which seems to have a few small wholes. I had planned some time this weekend to do some research on how best to go about mending. Thank you and can now get on with the task at hand.
    :0)

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  22. mending is absolutely my favorite sewing task! I never build up a mending pile because I usually can't wait to patch or darn whatever is needed. You have a lovely darning mushroom - I just have an egg and I really would like to get a larger one, too.

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