Make or Mend of the Month: Darn that Cardy!

If there’s one thing that’s more exciting to me than uncovering a hidden gem in a charity shop its finding something beautiful that needs to be mended. I know, it’s probably a bit bizarre but picking a garment off a rail and seeing ‘sold as seen’ scribbled on the tag gets my heart beating!

Whether it’s my quirky 1940s vintage knee length playsuit, my stunning silk 70s floor length frock or just a cosy old cardy, if it has a hole then I’m hooked. I love the idea of restoring something to its former glory, tweaking it to make it perfect for me, or just having the chance to be a bit creative and seeing what happens. The problem is, now that I have a toddler I just don’t have time to get the repairs done and my beloved new garment sits unworn and gathering dust in a corner.

Holes in woolen cardigan before being darned

Months ago I bought this 100% wool cardigan (above) for £4 from the Brandon Trust charity shop on Gloucester Road in Bristol. It had three tantalising holes just desperate to be darned. It’s not my usual style – a bit ‘pretty’ perhaps - but I loved the felted wool appliqué and striking colour combination, and when I saw it was in need of repair I was sold.

Woollen cardigan darned with wool darning yarn

I’m so out of practice that the first darn, in a complementary colour, was not a success. The yellow yarn was too thick so the darn took up too much space. The two holes on the cuff were trickier to darn as the rib is obviously a different knit and one I'm less familiar with mending. The second yarn – the grey – was too thin which also pulls the knit out of shape.  

Woollen cardigan darned with wool darning yarn

At the risk of sounding like Goldilocks, I’m happy to say that the final yarn - the colour of a nice cabernet - was just right. Not too thin, not too thick, slightly tighter than the original yarn but about the same weight. The contrasting colour makes the darning easier as you can see what you’re doing, plus it makes for a nice visible mend (I hope visible mending guru and my darning teacher Tom of Holland will approve).

Woollen cardigan after being darned with wool yarn

Rather than immediately re-darn the first two less than perfect efforts I decided to document them all. I need to keep practising and next time I'll trim and tidy the loose ends around the hole before I start. It was a useful learning journey for me and now all three repairs are part of the story of my new (old) cardy. There is a method to darning but it is certainly an art too, and choosing the right weight yarn is definitely a science!

For more darning tips and tricks, plus visible mending inspiration visit Tom of Holland’s website.

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Founder and Director of The Good Wardrobe. Lover of charity shops and mending stuff.  New to Bristol. Follow on twitter

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