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!

 

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 …

 

Fix a Ripped Out Button (or Other Small Hole)

 

 

This is a sweater/jacket I picked up at the thrift store the other day, I thought it would be good for our upcoming ski trip to Bend (and also because I’m cold basically all winter long).  Only one or two small problems, the original buttons are some crazy unique things, more like a snap with one large flared button side and a flat back, and two of them are missing, leaving holes where they ripped out.

But small holes like that are pretty easy to fix, especially since the result will be covered by a new button.

The fabric here is a sturdy (not very stretchy) knit.  I happen to have some sturdy black knit fabric to cut little circles from, but if I didn’t I would use a woven rather than something too thin or stretchy.  The fixed place is going to have lots of stitches in it and not be very stretchy anyway.

The easiest way to get the patches to stay where you want them is to baste them in.  (Basting just means stitching that’s not permanent, but meant to hold something in place while you sew.)

 


 

Because I want this spot to be super sturdy, I put one small patch directly behind the hole and another one on top to back a larger area (both on the wrong side of the jacket).  I used contrasting thread for basting, but you may want to try matching, it will make pulling out the smaller stitches later not as necessary.

Next, smooth the sides of the hole down and as much back where they came from as possible, and sew using your machine.  If the fabric has a distinct color on each side, you can use different color top and bobbin thread – I used cream on top and black in the bobbin.  (A picture of me sewing this would show nothing, since it’s all under the foot!)  I used a short stitch length and went back and forth over the hole, mainly in the same direction as the knit ribs of the fabric, and then a bit side to side.  Make sure to catch all the raveling edges.  When you’re done it should look something like this:

 

 

Pull out the basting threads, bury the sewing thread ends, and you’re done!  Next week: how to sew on the button.

One final note, only one of these cuffs had the button come off.  But as you can see, the other one is about to go.  And besides, it will look more natural if they’re symmetrical.  Sometimes it just feels good to pull something off with pliers – rawr!

 


 

Got something you would like to fix?  Not sure how?  Leave a comment!