Friday, January 13, 2012

Darn. Or, On Fixing Things.

Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without.

Good advice, yes? Being on a budget that's less than what I was accustomed to is an adjustment. I'm sure you know how this feels. While we're in this place, and really, throughout our lives, it just makes sense to practice things like Using All the Leftovers, Not Buying Ridiculous Numbers of Sweaters, Dealing With Imperfect Furniture, and Living Without "Essentials" Like T.V. You're probably also couponing, meal planning, freezing, canning, green-cleaning, and creatively stretching your funds in ways I haven't thought of! Do share, by the way!

This is one reason I enjoy looking to the past, embracing my vintage Pyrex collection, appreciating the excellent craftsmanship of vintage fabrics, and picking up other various useful household items that once had a life somewhere else, in another Time. They're often better made, have ingenious uses, and are just plain lovely.

In that same spirit, I want to share with you today How to Darn.

Yes, that's a legitimate use of the word. Darn! It's a verb.

When our great-grandmothers spent long hours knitting socks, sweaters, and other clothing items, throwing away wasn't an option. Instead of getting rid of a sock or sweater or hat or whatever that had a hole, they would fix it and keep using it, not unlike how we patch a pair of beloved jeans. This technique also works on jeans and woven fabrics. Just be sure to have a heavy needle and thread ready!

I have a pair of light lavender/pink cashmere gloves, and the thumbs have worn really thin, to the point of creating holes. I also have a beautiful pair of gray wool cabled mittens from my Grandma, which are so loved that their thumbs have holes, too. Sad day:
Here's how I fixed them, and how you can fix (almost) any other holey knit item.

1. Find a long length of a similar color thread or thin yarn, and thread a needle.

2. Observe the pattern of the fabric. See the little V's all stacked on each other like a chevron pattern? Excellent. In between each half of a V is a horizontal thread. If you stretch the fabric, you'll be able to see these horizontal threads making a ladder-like pattern.

3. Starting about 2" away from the hole, begin to weave your thread over-under-over-under the horizontal ladder threads, hiding it between the halves of the V's. Like this:

If you're working with something small, like a glove or sock, it's helpful to put something inside - your hand in the glove, or an old incandescent light bulb in the sock - to be sure you're not picking up fabric on the opposite side of the garment. Women of old actually had a wooden darning tool shaped much like a light bulb...

4. As you approach the hole or weak area in the fabric, draw the thread straight across to the other side of the hole, being careful not to pull it too tightly. You want the fabric to continue to lie flat, without rippling it.

5. Change directions, working so that you have many vertical lines of thread crossing the weak area or hole. Like this:

6. Now, begin to work horizontally, weaving the thread over-under-over-under the new threads you've added and the existing threads (if there are any). Like this:
Continue working until the entire hole is covered, or until the weak area is strengthened.
7. Halfway there!
8. Rather than tying a knot in the thread (which can add unnecessary bulk to the fabric), find another column of V's and weave it in and out of the horizontal ladder threads for about 2". Cut the tail of the thread close to the work, being Very Careful not to cut the fabric.

Done darning, darling!

9. Admire your work and continue to use your favorite gloves, hat, mittens, scarf, sweater, whatever - in the knowledge that you not only saved some money, but that you have a connection to your history, and to people of all times.

On the gray mittens, I used yarn on one thumb, and thread on the other. Both blend in well - you decide what you like best for each project!
On the lavender pink gloves, you'll notice that the left thumb is puckering a little. This is not because it's extra flirty, but because I pulled the threads too tight: a word of caution. It still fits just fine, but isn't perfect. Just like me. :o)
Well, what are you waiting for? Go fix your favorite knits!

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