A New Me-Made Upcycled Sweater

 

blue upcycled sweater looking side

 

Hello all!  I’ve been making and mending just about as much as physically possible around here (in between making hundreds of these little fuzzy hats) ever since I got back to my studio a few weeks ago.  Not much has made it up to the blog yet, and I decided to just start with the thing I’m most excited about: my new sweater!  I really, really need some more sweater layers for this winter, and I’ve had a plan to make a couple of upcycled ones from various bits and pieces since the spring.

So, here’s the first one!  The main part of it came from a deep navy blue, super soft, slightly felted, merino sweater that some friends gave me (on the right below).  The fabric is lovely, but the shape was classic sweater that doesn’t work for me—baggy on the sides, gathered in at the bottom—in other words the least flattering possible design for a small pear-shaped girl such as myself.  I also have this knit top which I love the shape of, it has princess lines (flattering—yay!) and interesting side panels, it fits me well and since it seems to be on its way out (the problem with thrift store finds) I had already traced a pattern from it.  So . . .

 

sweaters on line

 

piecing sleeveThe biggest lesson I have learned so far when recycling/refashioning something old into something new, is to treat the something old as fabric.  Unless the alterations you want to make are super duper simple, take the whole thing apart and press it flat and see what you’ve got, and it will be so much less frustrating.  You do end up with some odd shaped pieces of fabric, which can lead to interesting piecing and seams.  I folded the pattern for the new sleeve to accommodate the fabric from the old sleeve, leaving me two parts to cut from another fabric. I just have to remember to allow for seams when I cut the pieces to add on.  I had allowed 1/4″ seam allowances, so I cut the top and bottom sleeve pieces 1/2″ longer than the lines where I cut the middle piece, so there would effectively be a seam allowance on both sides.  Make sense?  I have screwed up the math on that before . . . but not this time.

It probably won’t surprise you if I point out that I have a lot of scraps of cashmere lying around here, plus old sweaters friends have given me, etc.  I chose a dusky purple for the extra sleeve pieces and extra at the back, which also didn’t quite fit on its corresponding piece of ex-sweater.

flat sockI chose the purple because it matched my material for the sides: socks!  My mom was nice enough to buy me these super soft alpaca socks at a fiber festival.  I loved the knitted pattern, I love knee socks, I carefully followed the instructions, which were to machine wash and line dry.  That’s my default washing mode anyway, so I thought I was good to go . . . but by the second wash they had shrunk to the point where fitting over my calves was no longer an option.  (Short strange tangent: this opened up sock reminds me of those animal pelts you see in museums, as if socks ran wild and were hunted for their fur.)  Once pressed flat, there was just enough material in each sock leg (including the ribbing) for one side panel of my sweater!

I experimented with sewing the seams flat, and I really like how it came out.  I overlapped the two pieces I was sewing together by 1/2″ (the same seam allowance as if I had sewed the seam 1/4″ from each edge, see what I mean?), feeling with my fingers for the edge of the layer underneath, and pinning in place.  I sewed a narrow zigzag close to the edge of the top layer, and then again about 1/4″ away, using parts of my machine foot against the edge as guides.  I used a walking foot, which I nearly always do for knits.

This method turned out to be only just slightly trickier for the curved seams connecting the sides to the front and back, so I did it there too.  I really like the slightly deconstructed look this gives it.

 

flat knit seams

 

I didn’t do the flat overlapped seams running down the sleeves, it would have been too much scrunching the sleeve up under the machine.  I did do it to attach the sleeves to the body though, and because of the raglan construction (not having to put in the whole sleeve in the round) it was pretty easy.

For the neckline, I kept the “v” of the original blue sweater, although in future I might add in some there just to make it a little cozier.  I knew that a section of scrap cashmere ribbing wouldn’t do anything much to keep the neckline from stretching all over the place, so I attached 1/4″ clear elastic first, stretching it to ease in the extra fabric and get the neck to lie flat, especially across the top of the shoulders.

 

sweater neckline

 

blue upcycled sweater back(By the way, I think the colors are truest in the two pictures above.  I’ve had trouble getting my white balance and purples to get along.)

So, I zigzaged on the ribbing at the hems and bottom of the sleeves as well, and there you have it.  I actually cut pieces for another purple section around the bottom, but I decided that I really liked the sock ribbing as the hem, and I liked the length when I tried it on, it allows another layer to peek out below.  And winter is coming, so I’m going to be wearing lots of layers!

I think the saddle shoulders may be my favorite part.  I’ve got plans for another franken-sweater using something I knit years ago.  I’m really pleased with how this came out, and looking forward to a DIY cozy winter!

 

blue upcycled sweater front

 

 

 

Repairing a Backpack

 

mending backpack 1

 

This spring, when I fixed this jacket for my dad, I got an unexpected bonus.  Every time I saw him wearing it (which was quite often, it’s his favorite for cool windy days) my heart would warm with a soft fuzzy glow.  Here was my dad, who I love dearly, so pleased with his jacket and so obviously getting good use out of it, both of those all the more so since I had fixed the zipper and the tearing pockets.  It’s hard to describe actually— it seems at the same time obvious and silly— but I’m telling you, every single time I saw him in the jacket I would get a moment of happiness.

 

mending backpack 2

 

So, the obvious thing to do was to mend something else of his, and the standout candidate was this backpack.  He’s had it since, I don’t know, around the time I was born maybe?  And he still takes it out into the field on weekly basis.  (Maybe I should explain that Dad is a fairly recently retired wildlife biologist, who now gets to spend more time outside with his pet projects than he did while he was working.  Objects, which are part of his field gear and/or live in his pickup truck, do not lead an easy life.)  And I have a serious soft spot for things that have far outlasted their expected usefulness—this clearly qualified.

 

Another (non-sentimental) reason I was all up for fixing rather than replacing this pack is that the zippers still work!  I asked Dad if they did, and he said “kind of,” which turned out to mean that the only thing holding them back was the amount of frayed nylon threads stuck in the teeth.  Amazing.  The first thing I did was to turn under and sew down the raw edge of the flap covering the zipper, which had pulled out of its original stitching long ago and was the main source of the zipper-clogging threads.  I pulled the threads from the zipper using my fingers, a tweezers, and a scissors for stubborn parts, alternately zipping and unzipping it until they were just about all gone.  I also went kind of nuts zigzagging over any and all seam allowances and raw edges I could reach inside the pack with my machine, trying to keep future fraying and loose threads to an absolute minimum, since after all, this backpack has to be ready for another 30-odd years of use.

 

mending backpack 4

 

The bigger holes I patched inside and out, to reinforce them, and again to keep all raw edges inside so they wouldn’t unravel any further.  The worst hole was where one strap had pulled out of the body of the pack.  That one had allowed Dad’s not-so-small camera to fall out of the pack—that was the last straw for him to hand it over so I could fix it.  After patching that hole on both sides, I sewed a big X through the strap webbing and the new fabric, which ought to hold it.  I also reinforced the other strap with similar stitching.

 

The only part I have a doubt about, is where one strap had pulled off at the point where it’s anchored to the top of the pack.  I added new fabric on both sides of the whole area where the straps attach (the one you see on the outside is black faux suede), and stitched around the whole thing as best I could.  But, there is an old rivet in there that had pulled out.  I couldn’t stitch as close to it as I would like, and I thought pulling it off completely would weaken the strap too much.  At least I will be around to see how it holds up, and make future repairs if necessary!

 

mending backpack 3

 

Hopefully you don’t need any more encouragement than the above story to get out there and fix something for someone you love.  It doesn’t have to be sewing, use whatever skills you have.  And if you have any questions about needle-and-thread mending, let me know, I’ll be happy to help if I can.

 

 

Making Drawstring Bags—Another Option for the Top

 

Hello!  There’s been just a little more radio silence around here lately than normal, but hey, that’s what retreats are for, right?  Today let’s jump back in with some thoughts about drawstring casings on bags.  In the second part of Hello Sewing Machine, I guide you though making a drawstring bag and leaving a “buttonhole”—a gap in the side seam for the drawstring to pull through.  That’s probably my favorite way to finish the casing, and one that helps you think about how a piece of fabric becomes a finished project, which is why I chose it for my beginner e-book.  There are lots of other options though, basically any method that encloses the raw edges and leaves a place for the drawstring will work.  One of my proofreaders asked about making a little hem on the sides of the bag instead, and I wanted to present that option here.  In my example, I’m altering a commercially made bag which doesn’t have much in the way of seam finishing, and is not going to stand the test of time.  You can also easily use this technique on DIY bags.  Click on any of the pictures to enlarge for a closer look.

 

drawstring bag 1

 

On this bag, there’s nothing to keep the raw edges from unraveling.  I’m especially concerned about the area where the drawstring emerges from the bag, because it’s likely to get a lot of wear and tear, which will cause the fabric to unravel faster.

My first step was to take apart the seam stitching, down to where I wanted the seam to stop for the new finish.  I stitched up to that point and back down (with red thread) to hold all the stitching in place.  Then I took apart enough of the seam holding the casing down to let me make a narrow hem on the edges.

 

drawstring bag 3

 

If you are making your own bag, just stop sewing the side seam a little ways from the top, and back tack over the seam end.  To figure out where to stop, think about the parts of the casing you need to leave room for at the top of the bag.

 

drawstring bag 2

 

At the very top is a little extra fabric, usually turned under (or stitched over) so that it won’t unravel.  It serves the same purpose as a seam allowance.  Then you have the inside and outside of the casing (keep in mind we are looking at the bag from the inside), and you will also need a little more room (about 1-2″ or 3-5 cm) for the transition between the hemmed edges and the seam.   Once you figure out where the end of your seam will be, go ahead and overcast the seam edges, continuing a little bit past the point where your seam stops.  Then on each edge above the seam, fold over and press down 1/4″ (or .5 cm) with your iron, towards the inside of the casing.  Fold over the edge again in same direction, using your first fold as a guide, and press in place again.  Then stitch down your hemmed edges, sewing close to the edge with a straight stitch.   Sew across the seam as well, below the top where you stopped stitching, so that all the stress from opening the bag is not on just one point.

 

drawstring bag 4

 

Next, sew your drawstring casing in place.  Normally I would press a small fold at the top edge towards the inside, and then fold and press down the width of the casing.  Since the casing here is already sewn in place around the rest of the bag,  I opted to replace the original stitching, overlapping it with the red thread.  Make a small back tack at each edge, since those ends won’t be held down by any other stitching later.  Then I used a mock-serger stitch to go over the small raw edge below the casing, since I don’t want it to unravel and lead to my casing pulling loose.

 

drawstring bag 6

 

A quick note about ends: I like to bury them inside the casing or hem, or wherever there’s a double layer of fabric, so that enough thread remains to keep the stitching from pulling out, but it’s hidden.  I thread the ends on a hand-sewing needle, pull them between the fabric layers for one long stitch, and snip them off where they come out.

 

drawstring bag 5

 

Here’s an another example of a commercially-made drawstring bag using the same concept.  I think they hemmed the sides of the drawstring first, and then caught them in the side seam, and finished the seam allowances with a serger.  As I said, you have a lot of options!

 

drawstring bag 13

 

There’s lots more thorough and friendly beginner-oriented directions for sewing seams, overcasting, using your iron to make a casing, and everything else you need to know to plan and sew a drawstring bag in my e-book, Hello Sewing Machine!

If you have other beginning questions, feel free to let me know, I’m always curious about what’s on your mind.   You can also read my answers to others’ questions in this post on Sew,Mama,Sew!

 

How to Hem Your Own Jeans, and Keep the Original Hem

 

Jeans hem finished hems

 

Once you get started sewing, I’m guessing one thing you’ll want to tackle is to hem your jeans.  You can definitely do it yourself, and keep that distressed hem just as it is.  You’ll need just a few more pieces of equipment than for normal sewing.

(If you need to start with some basic instruction about how to use your sewing machine, check out my e-book for beginners!)

 

Jeans hem equipment

 

A zipper foot lets you stitch with the needle to one side of the foot, right next to the original hem.

Jeans needles for your sewing machine have a sharper point and a longer eye, for sewing through layers of denim.  For the most part, you won’t have to stitch through too many layers with this method, but it still helps.  If you don’t have jeans needles, use a sharp rather than a universal needle.

It really helps to have a spacer, something you can prop up part of the presser foot with as you sew over thick seams (you’ll see why below).  This one came with my sewing machine, but you could also use something not too wide and about 1/8 to 1/4” (3 to 6 mm) thick, like maybe a popsicle stick.

A sturdy hand-sewing needle, and a thimble to push it with, is essential for the finishing of this method (I’ll go over that in the next post).

You’ll also need pins and thread.  The ones you use for regular sewing are fine.  I didn’t happen to have matching thread, so I used black.  It doesn’t show at all on the finished jeans.  Darker thread colors usually blend in easier than lighter ones.

Once you gather your equipment, try on your jeans, and fold up the hem to figure out where you would like it to fall.

 

Jeans hem measuring

 

You can get someone to help measure how much you want to hem your jeans up, while you try them on.  Or pin, try them on, and adjust until you get the hem where you would like it.

Figure out how much in total you want to take out of the length.  Make a fold that measures half that much, starting at the inside edge of the original hem.  You’re going to stitch right next to that original hem, effectively removing the fold of fabric from the length of the jeans.  Whether you’re using cm or inches, the principle is the same, your fold should be half the amount you want to take out, since both sides of the fold are removed from the length.

Make sure your fold is on the inside of the jeans, so it won’t show when you’re done.

Pin the fold in place every couple of inches.  Put the pins in perpendicular to the fold, or at an angle as shown, to make them easy to pull out as you sew.

Pay special attention at the seams, making sure that the original seam lines and topstitching match on both sides of the fold.

 

Jeans hem zipper foot

 

Set up to sew right next to the original hem, using a straight stitch (width 0), length about 2.5 mm.  Use your zipper foot so that the foot can sit flat on just the fold of fabric.  Move the needle position all the way over to your left, towards the original hem, so that you can stitch right next to it (and not hit the foot with the needle).  Let the edge of the foot touch the edge of the hem as you sew.

When you get to the leg seams of the jeans, you’re suddenly sewing through a whole bunch of denim layers, instead of just two.  When this happens, the presser foot ends up at a steep angle, which makes it much more likely to skip stitches (resulting in a weak seam).  This is where the spacer comes in.  When the front of the foot reaches the seam, prop up the back of the foot with the spacer to make it level.  Then as you stitch over the seam, move the spacer to the front of the foot, to keep it level until you are past the bulky seam.  Be careful to keep the spacer in front of the needle, so that you don’t hit it as you sew!

 

Jeans hem spacer

 

If your machine still skips a few stitches, try sewing in reverse and then forward again over the part that’s giving you trouble.  Going slowly over the bulky parts will also help.  You can even use the hand wheel on your machine to make just one stitch at a time.  If it’s skipping a bunch of stitches in a row, check to see if the bobbin thread has broken.  If so, stop and cut the top thread too, then start again so that you overlap a few of the last stitches before the thread broke, to hold them in place.  If the leg seams are giving you a lot of trouble, you can also try flattening them as much as possible using a steam iron, or pounding them with a hammer.

When you get all the way around the leg, sew over the first few stitches that you made, to hold them in place.

Do not skip this step: once you sew around the hem, try on the jeans again to check that the length is where you want it.  If not, at this stage all you have to do is pull out this one line of stitching, and start again.  If the length looks good, you’re ready to finish off your hem.

If you took out more than about an inch in total, it’s likely that your folded out fabric is long enough to show below the hem if you turn it down.  If so, trim it to about 3/8″ (10 mm), or a bit smaller than the original hem (I repeat, try on the jeans and check the length of the new hem before you do this).  To keep these cut edges from unraveling, overcast them with a zigzag stitch.

 

Jeans hem overcasting

 

Use a regular sewing foot for this (zigzag and a zipper foot don’t mix).  Stitch close to the edge.

This whole process is pretty darn simple once you get the hang of it.  You can also use this method to hem other pants, when you want to keep the original hem intact.  It will be even easier if you don’t have think layers of denim to sew through.

In the next post I’ll go over my method for tacking down the extra fabric to make the hem look natural.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, just leave a comment!

 

All’s Well That Ends Well, but Please, Don’t Put Your Wool in the Washine Machine

 

 

 

viola outfit 2

 

At one point, I considered not writing this post at all, because I’m pretty embarrassed about how this skirt got to the point where it needed remodeling in the first place.  But in the end, there was no way to not write about it, especially since I ended up wearing this once-shameful skirt to dressy Flagstaff event (maybe the only dressy Flagstaff event? We always joke that people here wear jeans to everything) . . .

I made this skirt, as near as I can figure, about 10 years ago!  This was a time before I knew much at all about wool, other than the basics; it comes from sheep, it’s been used since ancient times, people say it’s lovely, etc.  It may be worth pointing out that this was also years before I had felted anything, on purpose or otherwise.  You probably see where this is going.  I put a sample of the fabric though a normal cycle in the washing machine.  Nothing happened, the fabric looked just about the same as when it went in.  “Great!”  I thought.  I made up the skirt using the Folkwear Walking Skirt pattern, one I love and have used a lot.  And, I continued to wash it in the machine.  It never went in the dryer, thankfully, or what happened next probably would have been a much shorter process.  As it was, the fabric continued to look like nothing happened, for many years, for dozens and dozens of washes.  But eventually, all that agitation inevitably started the fibers felting together.  By last winter it was impossible to ignore.

 

pinstripe skirt remodel 1

 

Since I now know quite a bit about felting, once I could look past my obvious horror since I had ruined some lovely fabric, I found it fascinating that the places on the skirt where small parts of the fabric were stitched to each other (the waistband, hem, and back placket) were still unfelted, while the big skirt pieces were noticeably felted, thicker and fuzzier.  Actually, it was the contrast between the two parts that made the skirt look weird, especially the unfelted hem, which looked almost gathered against the felted skirt.  My current theory is that since the hem and placket fibers couldn’t move as much, they couldn’t interlock to felt like the others did.

The skirt sat in my to-fix pile until I figured out a plan, actually a pretty simple one, which I think is essential to not spending inordinate amounts of time remodeling something.  I would cut off the not-as-felted hem, waistband, and placket, fit the remaining felted skirt to a wider and lower waistband facing, make a new placket, and re-hem it.  Above you can see my chalk lines for what to cut in the back, I continued the line of the wider side of the placket down to the hem, and cut a symmetrical amount from the other side of center back, to keep the back pieces the same size.  I got little pieces of felted fabric to use for my new placket from the extra cut off below the old placket.

 

viola outfit 3

 

While I working on this project, I was also trying to figure out what I would wear to the Viola awards.  They’re Flagstaff’s yearly art and science awards for teaching, exhibits, and community outreach, and they throw a big Oscar-like party to give them out.  Bryan was nominated for one this year, for the exhibit of his In a Big World Wandering work, for which we also made the giant silk cyanotype.  I’d never been before, and I wondered what would everyone wear, what should I wear, should I borrow something, is it more like a costume party, should I wear something shiny?

I am not a shiny person.  In the end, I decided not even to go to my friend’s and try on formals to borrow, but instead to wear something that reflects who I really am.  Not only that, but I realized I could actually wear the lovely tailored skirt I was working on – if I went ahead and finished it!  I took the photos of my outfit right before we left, and I think you can tell I was pretty thrilled with my decision.  If what we wear tells everyone we meet a lot about who we are and where we stand, shouldn’t it be even more important, at an event where people are actually paying attention to my clothes, for me to wear something that shows my values and my heart?

 

pinstripe skirt and top

 

So I wore the rescued skirt, in it’s newly tailored glory!  Note the buttery folds.  And a nubbly cream silk tank top I made to wear to a wedding last year (same copied pattern as this linen one) which has proved more useful than I thought it might.  The shawl is something I started knitting for our wedding, realized would never be done in time, and eventually finished later.  (It’s a longer and wider version of the Fiber Trends Cocoon Lace Wrap, in a wool/alpaca blend lace weight yarn.)  It’s drapey and surprisingly warm, enough to keep me comfortable outside while I took the photos.  The pin holding it closed was my grandmother’s.  I didn’t make the tights or shoes, but I still love them . . . topped off with my winter coat, and I felt like I had stepped back to the ’40’s.

 

bryan and tasha viola photo booth

 

Proof that we went and I wore this outfit!  If you are curious what others wore, or what the event looked like, there are lots and lots more photos on the Facebook page for the organization.   We didn’t win (Bryan’s photo exhibit was up against the opening of the Discovery Channel Telescope!  And the winner, a recycled art exhibition that’s been going strong for 10 years here) but it was a really fun party, and I got lots of compliments, especially on the shawl.

 

pinstripe skirt remodel 2

 

But back to the skirt, and I might as well confess one more thing, I feel slightly guilty but I can’t help it; I like this fabric more now than I did in it’s new/intended state.  It’s so soft but with so much body, and it tailors like a dream.  In fact, making the new placket and waistband gave me the itch to sew with wool again, it’s just a pleasure to work with.  This has got to be the flattest-laying, easiest-pressed-in-place placket I’ve ever made.  And the buttonholes – I made them by hand with a single strand of waxed black cotton sewing thread, and it was as if I sealed the cut edges with a magic wand.  Not only can you not see the stitches here, I couldn’t see them in my studio while sewing in broad daylight.  Note the pockets!  Another benefit of me-made formal wear.

 

pinstripe skirt remodel 3

 

I also thought about how much I’ve learned in the last ten years.  I was able to add several refinements to this second round of the skirt, including using rayon ribbon on a lot of the edges to reduce bulk, adding a contoured waistband that fits my figure, and using catch stitches to secure the hem and placket so they wouldn’t show from the outside.  Now that it’s on a strictly hand-wash-only plan, the new and improved version should last me another ten years at least!

 

viola outfit 1

 

Morals of the story: please wear your heart on your sleeve, especially to formal events.  Sometimes a silk purse is lurking inside the sow’s ear of your mistakes.  And people please, no wool in the washing machine!

 

 

Update: How to Fix a Small Hole in Knit Fabric

kitchener stitch 6

 

When I published this post about fixing small holes in sweaters and other knit clothes, I realized I didn’t really have pictures of repairing a hole in the middle of the fabric, not near a seam, and I said I’d add some if the opportunity came up.

Well, it did.  One of the lovely things when word gets out that you work with a certain material (in this case recycled cashmere garments) is that every now and then, someone just gives you some.  The best thing about this as far as I’m concerned, better than the free stuff, is that I have absolutely no obligation to use the donated items for business purposes unless I want to.  Therefore, when someone gives me not-yet-felted cashmere sleep pants (thank you thank you Lauren!) I get to yell “Cashmere SLEEP PANTS!” try them on immediately, and wear them myself!

They also had one small hole, a perfect example to fix.  It was perfect but, um, fuzzy and a little hard to see (who’d have thought, right, fuzzy cashmere?) so I also snipped a hole in my sample from the how to pick up a dropped stitch in knitting post, fixed it, and included those pictures as well.  Click on the link above to see the updated post.

Here’s to enjoying the materials life gives you!  And happy mending!

 

fix sleep pants 3

 

How to Fix a Small Hole in a Knit – Glorious Mending

fix sleep pants 1

 

Before I lose anyone who doesn’t currently have a sweater to fix, I’d like to mention a couple of really interesting things about mending and repair I’ve come across while working on this post.  The first one is Tom of Holland’s Visible Mending Programme, which is based on darning knits and on the idea that mending is something to be proud of.  Pretty much needless to say, I love this idea and it’s implications.  The second one is about fixing all kinds of other things, I saw it just yesterday (via Boing Boing via Root Simple) it’s a project by Paulo Goldstein called Repair is Beautiful in which he repairs all kinds of things (like a lamp, a chair, headphones) in unusual and beautiful ways.  I love the aesthetic of his project, it says all kinds of provocative things about repair, not just that it can be lovely and unusual to look at, but also he’s calling attention to the repairs, asking you to think about what it means to fix something.  Check it out, the pictures are way better than my description.

So, after all that, just an invisible mend for today – kind of disappointing I know, sorry!  I do have some ideas for visible mending of a couple of things now in my to-fix pile, and I’ll share them as they are done, but sometimes, you just need to repair a little hole.  The idea for his post started a month or so ago, when I realized that two of my favorite light sweaters/tops were sprouting holes under the arms.  Not big enough holes to need filling in/darning, but still enough to need fixing before they got out of hand.  Sometimes I even happen to catch a problem when it’s still a thread that’s about to break, like the one near the arrow below.  Most of the time, I don’t notice until it’s more like the hole on the left.

 

knit fabric fix 1

 

If you do find a weak thread that’s still intact, you can “trace” along it, following its path with a new stronger thread.  This is a fine gauge sweater, and I had sewing thread almost exactly the same color, so I used that.  You can also try embroidery floss or yarn of various types and thicknesses to get something close to your garment yarn, or something you like as a contrast.  There will probably be at least one stitch that is only made up of the mending thread, so if you want it to be invisible, choose something as close as possible to the original yarn of the garment.

 

knit fabric fix 2

 

We’re now looking at the sweater from the inside.  I like to start a repair like this by anchoring the thread somewhere where you won’t see it, like in the seam or in the back of a nearby intact knit stitch, with a couple of back stitches.  Then I start picking up the parts of the sweater that are coming apart.  Can you see how the thread and needle are following the path of the weak stitch?  In this case, that’s all I need, so I’ll go back to the seam, take two more back stitches, bury and clip the thread, and I’m done.

Ok, how about a hole that’s progressed a little further?  Also illustrated further down is a small hole with one broken thread, keep scrolling down for that one.

 

knit fabric fix 3

 

The first step here is to pick up the fallen stitches as much as possible.  Remember when I said that knowing how to pick up a dropped stitch in knitting would help you figure out how to fix things?  (Incidentally, I learned I new tip from my resident photography expert to make the photos from that post clearer, so I went back and edited them, it should be easier than ever to see what’s going on.  You can click on those photos, and the ones in this post to enlarge them as well.)

 

knit fabric fix 4

 

I’m not going to lie, it helps to have a really small crochet hook, or another tool with a tiny hook on the end.

 

knit fabric fix 5

 

It may also help to use a safety pin to hold any stitches that may pop loose while you work on the rest.

 

knit fabric fix 6

 

When you have picked up as many of the stitches as you can, it’s time to stitch the hole closed.  Start by anchoring the thread with backstitches again, in this case in the nearby seam.

 

knit fabric fix 7

 

For a small hole right near the seam like the one in this pink sweater, I basically stitch the sides of the hole to the seam, making a couple of passes and trying to keep my sewing stitches looking as much like the knitting as possible, which often involves going back and forth and going though each knitting stitch more than once.  Again resist the temptation to pull the thread very tight, or you’ll pucker the fabric.

 

knit fabric fix 8

 

If the hole is in the middle of an area with no seams, still start by picking up any dropped stitches that you can.  Take the anchoring backstitches through only the wrong side part of a nearby stitch, so that they don’t show from the outside.  Bury the thread between backstitches by moving diagonally, again piercing the stitches and not going all the way through to the front side.  In a garment with thicker yarns, you can fix the hole first and bury the yarn ends later, the body and friction of the thicker yarn will usually keep them from unraveling, although of course you can also do backstitches if you wish.  In any case, avoid pulling the mending yarn too tight or the fabric will pucker.

If the hole is too big to look good when pulled almost closed, it’s time to darn it, which will make a more visible patch.  (Look up “darn a sock” if you aren’t sure how.  You could start with Zoe’s post about it, which is where I first found out about Tom of Holland as well).

 

kitchener stitch 1

 

The mend will be most invisible if you can mimic the structure of the knitting.  The knitting term for this is Kitchener Stitch.  If you search for it, you’ll find all kinds of diagrams and instructions, but the only way it ever makes sense to me is just to look at the knitting and follow the path of the yarn.  Start a couple stitches away from the hole to make sure that you catch all the threads around it, and to practice moving the needle the way that the yarn goes.  When you get to the missing area, try to keep the pattern going.  This will involve going through a stitch above and a stitch below the hole, then the next stitch below with the same stitch above, or a similar pattern.  I’ll say it one more time, the mending yarn needs to replace some of the yarn that broke, so let it be there and don’t pull too tight.

 

kitchener stitch 2

 

kitchener stitch 3

 

fix sleep pants 2

 

I fixed the sample from the right side, and the cream knit pants from the wrong side.  You can do either one, whatever works best for you.  Just check the public side if you are working from the inside, and make sure no stitches that you don’t want to show are showing.

 

kitchener stitch 5

 

fix sleep pants 3

 

For a little hole like these, we’re just about done!  If you are tracing the knitting stitches with mending thread, keep going past the hole to make sure that you catch all the stitches which the broken one was connected to.  End with a couple of backstitches to make sure that everything will stay in place, and leave a short tail of the mending thread or yarn on the wrong side so that they don’t pull out.  With thicker yarns, you can use a sharp needle to bury the mending yarn, and any leftover ends of the original yarn, by piercing the back side of the nearby stitches.

 

fix sleep pants 4

 

kitchener stitch 7

 

The finished repairs.  Believe it or not, the arrow points to the replaced stitch in the cream knit.  The green sample still has two ends to bury in the back.

 

knit fabric fix 9

 

fix sleep pants 5

 

kitchener stitch 6

 

If you have questions about mending something, or an unusual repair you made to share, I’d love to hear about it, do share!

 

Sun Bleaching – Yup, It Still Works

 

One of the things I love about having this blog is that it encourages me to do my homework.  I know that I hang clothes out in the sun to bleach them, and that it works, but what’s the history of doing this?  Isn’t it how they used to bleach linen?  Hmm . . .

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may have noticed that I promised more about this soon, in a post about hanging laundry, um, quite a while ago.  I’ve seen a couple of other bloggers mention a mild curse around promising something “soon”, now I see what they mean!

The good news is that in the meantime I did some more hands-on research, and some more reading.  I read part of a fascinating book called World Textiles: A Concise History by Mary Schoeser.  As near as I can figure, bleaching by (at least in part) laying things in the sun goes back at least as far as ancient Egypt.  That makes sense to me, especially if early cultures were also trying to find dyes that would withstand fading in the sun.  For the more recent history, after much guessing at search terms, I finally found this post on Root Simple, which linked me to this page on Old & Interesting.  If you’re curious, do click, both these sites are tantalizingly full of interesting stuff!

 

 
While I was doing this research I mentioned my ideas about this post to my mom.  She told me that when we were kids, she would always hang our cloth diapers outside to dry, which got them back to a reasonable whiteness.  In fact, one of my aunts (the one who has always liked her household very neat and clean) was visiting and commented that she wanted my cousins diapers to look like ours!

 

It’s been my experience that when trying to keep things white, it’s the sun that helps the most.  Pre-treating stains helps a little, oxygen bleach helps a little, but the thing that gets collars, underarms, and kitchen towels back to presentable is to hang them in the sun.  I’m limited in what I’ll put in our laundry as far as chemical bleach, partly by my inclination, and partly because our washer empties right into the back yard, and has done since it was put in in the 70’s.  But on recent road trip I tried out chlorine bleach at a laundromat, following the instructions on the package.  I admit I’m pleased to say it made much less difference than my usual sun routine!  Now if only I could do it while we’re traveling (I can see it now, the truck streaking down the highway with shirts flapping against the sides).  I have been known to bring clothes on our visits home, so I could get them back to white before venturing out again!

 

My method is pretty darn simple, I hang things that need bleaching with the stained parts getting as much direct sunlight as possible.  Sometimes I lay clothes on the ground or bushes – old school bleaching ground style, especially if they’re particularly yellowed.  But most of the time I hang them on the line, in some funny arrangement with clothes pins like the picture at the top.  I’ll leave the whites out all afternoon, occasionally moving them if needed as the sun shifts, and spraying the stained parts with a mist of water, which really seems to help as they dry again (chemically why? I have no idea – I didn’t do THAT much research).

 

I also tried out lemon juice, not part of my normal routine but suggested by a couple of sources I found.  I mixed it with a little water and dipped in the stained areas, then hung out the shirt as usual.  It didn’t seem to do more than just misting with water on underarm stains.  BUT, out of curiosity I also dabbed it on this really stubborn light orangey spot which lots and lots of regular washing and sun exposure, plus extra scrubbing, stain remover, even chlorine bleach pen had faded but not erased.  Voilà!  Totally gone.  So now I have added lemon juice to my stain removing tools.

 

Oh, I should mention that if your clothes are stiff and/or wrinkled in weird places after this treatment, you can throw them in the dryer for just a couple of minutes with a wet cloth, or iron them, or mist the wrinkled places with water and hang them on a hanger and let them dry.

 

Lynda Barry has this line in her wonderful book Picture This where she writes “IT STILL WORKS”.  I think about this all the time, all the time, not just about laundry (or about making books by stapling paper together, which is what she means).  Just because humans invent something new (like chlorine bleach) does that make the old way somehow not work?  Nope, in fact, it doesn’t even mean that the old way might not still be better.

 

Travel tip – Smooth Wrinkles with Water

 

We are traveling today (I’m actually typing this in the Phoenix airport while waiting to fly home for about a week!) so I thought a tip you can use while traveling would be appropriate.

Have you ever noticed that a little water can make the most stubborn wrinkles relax?  When I’m at home, I usually spray on some water, and then use the iron to dry and flatten the wrinkled area.  When we’re on the road, I may or may not have an iron, or for that matter, a spray bottle.  But I can use a wet washcloth to dab on some water, or even smear it on with my fingers, then use my fingers to smooth and flatten the wrinkled part, and let it dry.  The water relaxes the fibers and gives the fabric some extra weight, making it easier to shape.

You can also use the same principle for clothes that are air-drying.  Smooth and shape the fabric while it’s wet, and you can often skip the ironing.

Happy travels!

Another Way to Rip Seams

 

pocket seam ripping 1

 

If you’re going to make anything, it’s fairly certain that you’ll have to un-make and re-make part of it at some point.  It’s not bad, it’s just part of the process.  In sewing, this involves seam ripping.  It’s an essential skill for makers, and especially those who are interested in refashioning, repairing, upcycling, etc.

Although some folks rip stitches fast and furious with razor blades, I have always stuck to my trusty seam ripper.  Recently I’ve been using it in a slightly different way on straight and zig-zag seams, with really good results.

seam ripping 2014 0

 

The photo at left shows classic seam-ripper technique.  Slide the seam ripper into the seam, use the pointed part to pick up a stitch or two, and slide them into the blade in the middle of the ripper to cut.  Once you have a couple of stitches cut, pull the seam open and you will be able to see and cut more without harming the fabric.

 

 

 

seam ripping 2014 1For this technique though, everything stays flat, which is especially nice if you have a delicate fabric or it’s hard to see the stitches in the seam.  Use the ripper to cut a stitch, and then another one 1 -2 inches away, creating a small thread section with cut ends.  Then use the long prong of the ripper to pull a few stitches up and out of the back thread without cutting them.  You may need to do this one by one if the stitches are small.  The object is to get a little tail that’s long enough to hang onto with your fingers.

 

Once you get a tail, grab it with one hand, hold the fabric with the other, and pull the the thread section out in one go!  Pulling close to the plane of the fabric, instead of straight up, will make it easier.

 

pocket seam ripping 3

 

If you flip the fabric to the back you’ll see that the stitches on the other side, which were held in place by the ones you just pulled out, are now free.  All you have to do is cut a stitch a little way down the seam and you can use the free thread to pull out another section.  Every time you pull out a section, flip the fabric over and you’ll find a tail ready to pull out the next section.  I find this quite fast, and it also creates fewer tiny thread ends that you’ll have to clean up.

 

pocket seam ripping 4

 

If you are ripping out a specific part of a seam, such as between the pins here, you may want to have a longer thread to work with when you get to your stopping point, so you can tie a knot to hold it in place.  In this case, pull up the last inch or two of stitches without cutting either side.  It may help to turn the seam ripper so the stitches don’t slide into the cutting part.  Once a stitch is loosened, you can also use your fingers, the whole handle of the seam ripper, or another tool to pull the stitches up without cutting them.

 

pocket seam ripping 5

 

When you get to the new end of the seam, pull on the thread to get the last stitch from the back side to pop through onto your side.  Slide the point of the seam ripper into this new stitch and pull it up so that both ends are on the same side.

Tie a knot or use backstitch, and bury the ends if they’ll show.

 

pocket seam ripping 6

 

Again, this last part is only necessary if the end of the old seam won’t be crossed by or stitched over with a new seam, and so you need to secure the end.

This way of seam ripping works great on zig-zag seams, too, although it won’t work with seams where the thread crosses back over itself.  Sometimes I’ll get lucky and pull the right thread on serged seams, but I don’t have a sure-fire formula for those yet.  Maybe you do?

I’m sure that others use this technique, I just discovered it recently and I’ve been using it all the time …