Tagged: Swiss darn

Feb 02

Golden mending

 

 

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Cardigan with golden mending

 

This is an experiment in golden joinery, a style of visible mending which I think I first heard about via Morwhenna Woolcock in Bristol – her film about it is over here on Vimeo. It’s a textile nod to the Japanese art of kintsugi, a repair technique practised on precious Chinese porcelain from the late 15th century. In kintsugi, the damaged object bears conspicuous repair seams of gold-coated lacquer. There is absolutely no attempt to hide the damage, and in the process of repair the artefact becomes not as-good-as-new but even better than. The golden scars are integral to the aesthetic, and repair becomes an alchemical process. What’s not to love? You can hear more about kintsugi in this wonderful BBC Radio 4 programme, Something Understood, which aired last September.

My mission here was to repair a couple of moth holes on the upper sleeve of a Hobbs cardigan. It’s a common place to find moth holes on a woollen garment. Maybe it’s the way we tend to store our knitwear? Tucking arms inside as we fold, thus making an irresistibly snug spot for the average egg-laying moth. I didn’t spot any damage when I bought this cardigan second-hand, but washing revealed the two holes. Damn and blast. On with the mending.

So here’s what I did:

  • I stabilised the area first, tacking a small piece of pre-washed cotton tape to the reverse of the repair – this was to stop the area puckering or distorting during the mending process
  • Then I created a matrix of vertical threads with regular sewing cotton, securing each unattached run-threatening loop and also creating a framework for my darning
  • Next I reworked the stitches with Swiss darning (a.k.a. replica stitch) in gold thread

 

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One down, one to go

 

My verdict: this is a rather fine knit, making Swiss darning it quite eye-watering, and the gold thread I used wasn’t entirely co-operative: it wasn’t really flexible enough for the task. But I persisted. Here’s the thread I used, top right. It’s unfortunately lost its label but looks like pretty standard metallic thread designed for machine-embroidery use.

 

Golden threads

Golden threads

 

This isn’t the most accomplished repair I’ve ever worked, but it’s effective.  The area certainly didn’t pucker (which tends to make a repair look amateurish), and I love the impact of the gold – it reminds me of a square of gold leaf shimmering there. What do you think? And no, I don’t always wear orange knitwear, though I do like orange a lot; it reminds me of marmalade and warm afternoon sun, both much appreciated in dull old February.

 

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Golden mend, complete

 

I hope you’ll feel inspired to have a go at some kind of golden mending of your own. You might want to try a modern version on your broken ceramics. Let me know how you get on by dropping me a line in the comments – it’s always good to know that someone is keeping me company here! Thanks.

And if you happen to be in the Bath area and you have something textile you’d like to try to repair using this technique, please bring it along to the next meet-up of the Big Mend on Wednesday 26th February 7-9pm at the Museum of Bath at Work. More details about the Big Mend over here. I also include Swiss darning in my bespoke Strictly Come Darning! workshop.

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Feb 11

Swiss darning

 

I have to confess a new addiction. Without a couple of lines a day I start to feel cranky.

Don’t worry. It’s only Swiss darning! Yes, this mending technique is very more-ish indeed. It’s perfect for thinning areas that haven’t become properly holey yet: the sole of a sock or the elbow of a sweater. It can also be used to reinforce areas in anticipation of heavy wear. There are really wonderful decorative possibilities (Tom is the master!) but I am currently plodding along with the very basic version.

First, a few practicalities. Unlike regular darning, this can be worked from the front of the garment, which I really like as you can see exactly what you’re doing and it feels much more controlled. A darning mushroom is useful to keep your work well supported, though don’t over-stretch it. The yarn you choose should be the same weight and type of fibre as the rest of the garment; if wool, you want to aim for roughly 15-25% nylon content for improved wear. Bespoke darning yarns are ideal as they tend to have that proportion of nylon, but it’s also fun to experiment with odds and ends so it’s worth testing whatever leftover yarn you happen to have lying around  (tapestry, for example). Make sure you’re using about an arm’s length of yarn: more and it will be prone to tangle, less and you’ll be forever finishing off and restarting. Use a yarn-darning needle, meaning a blunt one; a pointed one will tend to split the fibres.

I invested in three pairs of John Arbon Textiles‘ Shetland wool socks a couple of years ago, and they were so comfy I wore them to death. They all became very thin across the ball of my foot; I think this indicates the high wool (or low nylon) content of the body of the sock; the contrast toe caps and heels appear to be made of something more robust. This pattern of wear might also indicate my lack of slippers, a situation which has now been rectified.

Swiss darning completed

You can see the thinning here.

Swiss darning in progress

The method for Swiss darning is to follow the line of the knitted stitches. With stocking stitch this means going in and out two holes above, in and out two holes below. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. You quickly get into a rhythm and learn to identify the right holes. Keeping the tension even takes a little getting used to.

Swiss darning

Shh! Darning in progress.

Swiss darning in progress

I was using up odds and ends of darning yarn, so repaired the other sock in navy blue (and it didn’t look quite so good).

And here’s my second pair, one sock down. I’ve experimented with different ways of working in the ends, and I think I’m getting generally better at it.

By the way, that green stuff is a vintage skein of Botany mending yarn. As Swiss darning consumes a lot of yarn, you do need quite a bit to complete two socks. These skeins are ideal for the job, but I haven’t found any new darning yarn available in any quantity. Just smallish cards. If you happen to know where to buy the stuff in bulk, please let me know.

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Next I plan to unpick the inferior darning job I did on my blue socks and rework those, still in a similarly bright colour. And then I’m looking forward to reinforcing some elbow patches. I find this such a soothing, satisfying way of mending a knitted garment; it really does feel like an authentic, robust way of rebuilding a fabric. Here’s a page from the vintage needlework book I was following: Dressmaking and Needlework by Catherine A. Place, published in 1953. I hope you’ll have a go too.

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