Mend-It Monday #28

After the departure into needle felting last week, this time I’m afraid we’re returning to darning. I guess having so many garments that I have knitted or crocheted, it’s inevitable that lots of my mending will involve this technique.

I have quite a few pairs of fingerless mittens to wear for dog walking – you’d think one pair would be enough, but they get wet and they get dirty and often there’s a pair or two hanging up to dry. Because of holding a dog lead, they also wear in particular places and thus need mending. The subject of this week’s mend did have one of the pair repaired with a speedweve darn in November, but the repaired one needed some more work in a different place and the other had also worn through. So, two thumb holes have been reinforced and one area at the base of the index finger has been repaired and reinforced. Unlike the last time, I decided to make these mends visible and found an oddment of heather-coloured wool, which I think looks rather nice.

Mend-It Monday #27

As you know, one of my favourite raw materials to work with is wool, and usually I knit it or crochet it, but I sometimes do a bit of felting too, which can be very useful for making substantial objects. So, when I got a new phone last year, I got out my felting supplies and made a case, to protect it when I’m out and about. I used lots of layers of wool and wet felted them to achieve the desired thickness. Looking back through my posts, I realise that I didn’t write about it at the time, and looking back through my photographs I don’t even seem to have taken any pictures of either the process or the finished object.

Anyway, this post isn’t about making the case, it’s about repairing it. Because it turns out that Sammy is rather fond of woolly things… balls of wool, sheepskin rugs, Woolcool insulation and – you guessed it – felted mobile phone cases. Now we know, we are teaching him to leave them alone and trying to avoid temptation, but for a couple of weeks after he arrived we weren’t so careful and one day he pinched my pone case (sans phone) and was happily nibbling it when Mr Snail discovered the naughtiness in progress. The result was a piece removed (which I photographed) from the top and a little nibbled hole on one side (which I failed to photograph).

One of the joyous things about felt, however, is that it’s relatively easy to repair. Admittedly, it does require the use of a barbed felting needle and I do always managed to stab myself at least once, but as long as you have some wool tops in an appropriate colour or colours, holes can be filled, pieces reattached and mends achieved without any sewing or sticking. Simply needle felt the hole full of wool or reattach the separated piece using a little extra wool for reinforcement.

I’m pleased to say, that I did only stab myself once and that the resulting mends are pretty sturdy, so now I just need to keep it away from the hound and all should be well. In fact, If I hadn’t told you about the hole in the side (its location indicated by the arrow) I bet you wouldn’t have guessed it had been there.

Mend-It Monday #26

I’m afraid that we are back to darning this week, but not socks for a change. Some years ago we came across some excellent oven gloves – glove shaped and made of some magic, knitted insulated stuff, the name of which completely escapes me. Anyway, over the years we have had several pairs and eventually they stop being so well insulated and have to be retired. However, the latest pair, which is constructed of two layers, started to wear out. There were holes in the thin outer fabric of two fingers and one thumb and this reduced the insulating capacity noticeably, although it’s the inner layer that provides most of the insulation.

I think the original outer is cotton with silicone grips, but I decided that wool would be a better fibre for the mend. I found some left-over pure wool in a natural grey colour – I think it might be Jacob wool – that was sufficiently thick for the job. Wool burns at 570-600°C, so there’s no chance of igniting it with the temperature a domestic oven reaches. I darned the holes with quite a dense weave, being careful not to stich into the inner layer, which could potentially provide a route to conduct heat.

Time will tell how long this particular mend will last, but I am quite hopeful that it will significantly extend the life of these very useful gloves.

Mend-It Monday #25

A few days of cold winds last week encouraged me to mend my hat with ear flaps. Mr Snail bought this hat for me about 20 years ago, before I had rediscovered the joy of knitting and ages before I learned to crochet. Since then it has served me well – it must have accompanied me on many hundreds of miles of dog walks each winter. One day a few weeks ago, however, one of the cords started to come unravelled. I managed to catch it before it was completely undone, but wasn’t sure how to mend it. Happily, once I came to examine it, I realised that it was simply a crocheted chain made from several strands of wool. The red strand had broken and somehow that had started the whole thing coming apart. I decided that it would be stronger if I used cotton yarn to mend it, so I simply crocheted a new chain, adding the cotton to the mix. In addition, in order to make all the cords stronger, and reduce the risk of them coming undone at a later date, I threaded a couple of strands of the red yarn along the length of each of them, and anchored the tassels more firmly.

Not just a mend, but reinforcement to avoid future mends too.

Start as you mend to go on

Whilst I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, I do have a “theme” in mind for 2022: Mending.

I’m going to try and write more Mend It Monday posts, and I’m going to try and be more creative with my mends… I promise it won’t all be about darning! In addition, of course, in the new shop we will be selling mending supplies and equipment and we’ll be teaching courses on mending (once the upstairs is not divided by a very unhelpful partition wall!), so I should have lots to share to inspire you.

However, my first mend this year is a simple bit of patching. I have some lovely soft, organic cotton nightshirts, but the oldest of these has started to wear, and the side seams at the bottom edge had begun to deteriorate. The seam on one side just needed restitching, but on the the other, the fabric had torn and so a patch was needed. Since this is a garment that only gets worn in bed, I was only interested in a functional mend, so I couldn’t be bothered re-threading my overlocker with a more appropriate colour.

I found a scrap of cotton jersey, cut out a patch and secured it in place with a zigzag stitch. Then, I anchored the ragged edges of the original fabric with more zigzag stitching, before finishing the bottom edge with my overlocker.

It’s not the most attractive mend ever, but I am hoping that it will keep this garment useable for another year or two.

Do you have any creative plans for the New Year? Is mending on your list of things to do?

Mend-It Monday #23

There seem to have been rather a lot of things with holes in recently. So far I’ve managed to repair three of them. First, a fingerless mitten worn through by so many walks holding on to a dog lead. Second, yet another couple of repairs to a slipper that may be one of my most-mended possessions. And, finally, a repair of some tiny holes in a jersey fabric fitted sheet.

The mitten was mended using a Speedweve, but the slipper darns were done by hand and I think they are pretty neat. I’m hoping that the roughness of the stitching on the sheet doesn’t make it too uncomfortable, but if there is a problem, I will consider how to use a soft, thin and stretchy patch.

I still have several socks to darn too, but that’s enough for now.

Mend-It Monday #21

Today I thought I’d show off a couple of mends using my Speedweve – the heel of one sock and the ball of the foot of another. In both cases the sock was not completely worn through, but it’s always better to catch a garment before the hole has appeared than after.

For the under-foot mend I just used plain grey sock yarn, but the one on the heel has plain grey warp and patterned sock yarn weft. Next time I mend something in a more visible area I’m going to have a go at using more colours and trying to achieve a tartan effect, but there didn’t seem much point for mends that are not going to be visible.

I like the fact that the Speedweve gives a very even and smooth mend, a feature particularly important with socks, as you don’t want them to rub. As with all skills, it’s getting easier (and more even) with practice, but to be honest the Speedweve is a very well-designed gadget that is pretty simple to use one you understand the technique.

Mend-It Monday #20

In a fit of exuberance yesterday, I managed to pull one of the freezer drawers out onto the floor. Fortunately I narrowly missed my toes, as its contents were rather heavy. Unfortunately, the weight resulted in the front cracking. Since it didn’t completely fall to pieces, I decided that a very simple mend was possible – duct tape to the rescue.

I was so efficient with my mend that I forgot to photograph it broken, but you can see the cracks from the inside even after the mend. If necessary, I will glue some rigid plastic inside to provide extra strength, but I am hopeful that what I have done so far will be sufficient.

It’s a quick way to mend something, but does highlight what’s possible with strong tape.

Mend-It Monday #19

I know those of you who read last week’s Mend-It Monday post will be desperate to see some actual mending with those lovely tools that I showed you, just as I was really keen to have a go with them. But first I needed something to mend… and what better than the most mended garment that I own? My favourite ancient cardigan. For this repair, I decided to give the Speedweve its first outing. I assembled my tools (including the obligatory cup of tea) and settled down to learn the technique.

I decided to use some cotton yarn from my scrap collection: cream for the warp and grey for the weft. Of course you can use the same colour for both directions, or make fancy tartan patterns if you wish, but as a beginner, I thought that two clearly different colours would make it easier for me to see what I was doing.

To begin with you place the wooden disk behind the area than needs mending. This is secured with an elastic band, then the metal part with the hooks is slipped into place on top of the fabric, against the disk and held firm with another elastic band. After that, the warp threads are created. You start by securing a thread at one corner of the area to be covered with the weaving and work your way up and down – stitching in place at the bottom and putting the thread round the hooks at the top.

Once that’s done, the weft thread is attached at the bottom corner and, using a long needle, threaded through the warp threads alongside the hooks. The needle is then pushed down to the bottom of the mend (away from the hooks) and the thread pulled through. Before inserting the needle back in the other direction, the orientation of the hooks is reversed by running your thumb along the metal loops. This moves the lower threads up and the upper threads down, just like a full-sized loom. Before each pass of the needle the hooks are moved using the metal loops, so that when the thread passes back the woven fabric is created.

You keep working back and forth, reversing the hooks after each pass and anchoring the thread on each side, until the warp threads are completely used. After that, you release the elastic band holding the metal piece in place, remove the warp threads from the hooks and stitch that edge in place. Once that’s done, the wooden disk is removed and you have a very tidy bit of darning.

I have to confess that it took me a couple of attempts to get it right. Because of the stretchy nature of my cardigan I realised after my first unsuccessful try that it would be best if I stabilised the area with a few running stitches around the edge of the hole before attaching the disk. Once I had done this, it all went fairly smoothly. I think that the stitches at the side to secure the weaving could have been neater and I could have done a better job with the warp threads to begin with, but otherwise I’m happy. The yarn I selected is right at the thickest end of what can be used with this particular Speedweve model (there is a version with the hooks further apart for thicker yarn), but it was just right for this particular mend. The wool that came in the kit is thinner and might have been easier to use for my first attempt, but it just wasn’t right for this job.

Now I’ve got the hang of it, I think some rather more interesting weaving patterns might be on the cards.

Mend-It Monday #18

OK, I know it’s not Monday, but I was really busy yesterday and didn’t have time to write, so today it’s Mend-It Monday on Tuesday. In recent months my mending has been ticking over, with objects repaired as necessary, but it’s a subject that I have been thinking about more and more. The culture of consumerism is so bad for the planet – the more we buy, the more we end up throwing away, or simply not using, and it can’t go on… our resources are not limitless. Every time any item is manufactured, it uses some sort of materials, and even if those are repurposed or recycled, there is still energy involved. And what about the hidden resources? How much water does it take to make an item? And what about the waste during manufacturing? And all this before we even start to think about the conditions of the workers, which can be abysmal, especially when it comes to the cheap goods we have come to expect to see in our shops.

Mending box

So, mending is a big step in the right direction – extend the useful life of an object and you buy new stuff less often, so there is an easing of demand for the world’s resources. But this does sound like a bit of a chore and I think that it is also important to see mending in a positive light rather than simply as something “worthy”. I particularly like mending items that I have made… this is how I have come round from my dislike of darning to loving it: because I can keep wearing all those socks that I put so many hours into making in the first place. Indeed, extending the life of something I really love wearing or using is a particular source of happiness for me. I know that eventually I will have to give up on certain much-loved garments, but it’s so good to be able to keep using them for long after “normal” people would have sent them to landfill.

A skillful invisible mend is an amazing thing and something that I do not excel at, but visible mends are great fun and also highlight to others the possibilities. Fortunately, visible mending is acceptable, and even trendy, these days. Over the years I’ve got good at darning socks and have had a bash at boro, but I’ve been looking to extend my range of skills and have, therefore recently invested in some new books and equipment. I’m particularly excited by the arrival just this morning of a “Speedweve”: a tiny loom to assist with mending all sorts of fabric, including (I hope) some of the things that I’ve struggled with in the past. I’ve also treated myself to a Japanese leather palm thimble, some sashiko needles, long darning needles and sashiko thread (which I want to compare to the embroidery thread I have been using for boro).

So, today I don’t have any completed mends to display, but hopefully I’ll soon be showing off the results of playing with my tiny loom and practising my Japanese stitching.

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