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Math4Knitters, Crafty Living: Show 121

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Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
Darn that hole! Darn the whole thing!

Math4Knitters, Crafty Living: Show 121

This week, I share some notes on darning and chat with Margaret Radcliffe.

Darn It - A Few Quick Notes

Recently, I bought a cute little baby sweater at a thrift store. It was in pretty good shape, but had just a few small holes.

For those of you with a fear of moths, this kind of $5 investment could be frightening. There was no sign of moths or soil on the piece when I bought it, except for a little yellowing. If a multi-colored piece has damage on just one color, it is a sure sign of moths.

Even so, I've kept the sweater isolated, in a plastic bag, for a few weeks. Moth eggs hatch above 70 degrees, according to Judith MacKenzie McCuin in The Intentional Spinner. For a lot more info about precautions and solutions to infestation, get a copy of that book.

Anyway, when I was fairly sure those holes were probably caused by split stitches or snags, I was ready to darn the piece. I plan to wash, block and give it away as a gift.

For most darning jobs, I like to use sock yarn in a color that contrasts with the piece I'm darning. This is because I don't believe that an absolute match is possible, and I might as well leave the darns visible, since I like the way they look. I use sock yarn because I have a lot of it, I know how it can be washed, and it is durable.

If you are interested in an exact color match, you could always unravel and reknit part of the work. Or, use several strands of embroidery floss held together.

Darning could also be a starting point for adding embellishment to a knit. Over the darned spot, a flower or other adornment could be added or embroidered.

If you are at all worried about your darning thread (or yarn) bleeding onto the piece you are repairing, work just a few stitches of darning onto a part of the garment you think will be the least conspicuous, then wash and block in the manner you plan to launder the knit. When I am very worried about bleeding, I use undyed or white yarn for darning.

To fix a hole, you have to find it. Sometimes they aren't large enough to attract notice. I like to hold a knit up to the light and look at it from the back. The first photo on this document is the sweater in question, photographed on a light table (something photographers use to look at negatives).

Seen this way, holes and even thin areas are very easy to spot. If a garment has more than four areas that would need attention, I pass it up. In this case, there were exactly four.

I start by threading my darning yarn onto a blunt needle, and inserting it at the foot of the stitch a at least one full stitch to the right of the first snapped thread.

I usually support a flat piece like this on the back of my left hand. This time, I used my fingertip to open things up a bit so that I could see.

Through this entire process, I work very hard to make sure that I am not splitting any of the yarns. This would only weaken the area further. For a very large hole or a very delicate fabric, I would knit a patch and gently join it in at least three stitches and three rows away from the edges of the hole, using whatever sewing stitch and thread I thought would look the best.

I had more than one row of knitting involved in this hole, so as I duplicate-stitched across the bottom row, I eventually hit one stitch that didn't have a corresponding stitch above it. I created that stitch as a large loop, which I left rather loose.

As a matter of fact, you might notice, when you look at the photos, that the whole thing is rather loose.

After I finished the first row, I turned the whole thing over and worked back in the other direction, leaving the two ends of the darning yarn as long tails. I left them loose because I had one more step.

Using the tip of my darning needle, I pulled on the darning threads until they were the tightness I liked.

I then brought the tails to the back and darned them in, as normal.

I quite like it. Now the little sweater just needs a good wash and a very thorough blocking. These first holes were on the back. There were also two weakened/breaking areas on each front raglan seam, which I darned in the same way.

A bunch of photos are included in this week's pdf, which might make the technique more clear.


Margaret Radcliffe, of Maggie's Rags, chatted with me about learning to knit, the TKGA, and a whole bunch of other things. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.