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

 

 

 

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!