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Archive for the ‘remaking’ Category

Last week, I showed you two invisible mending commissions I took on. However, there was a third garment to be repaired. What’s more, it’s not the first time I have tackled it. Remember That Green Cardigan?

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That Green Cardigan

I hadn’t seen it for a while, and as Zoë has been wearing it day in, day out since it was repaired first time around, it started showing some more fraying, elbow holes and snags. But it was also very nice to see how the old repairs had really settled in; they look like they were always there.

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An old repair and fraying of the welts

This time, I used Foula wool for repairs. It’s a somewhat different shade of grey, but the texture is quite similar to the Jacob wool I used previously. Assuming the cardigan will keep returning for more repairs over the coming years, I’d like to continue using different shades of grey (although I doubt I’ll get up to fifty…), making each repair episode discrete, yet all together they form a coherent story.

I used a variety of techniques this time. I’m starting to appreciate crochet as a repair technique:

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Old repair in 1×1 ribbing, new repair in single crochet

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More crochet repairs

Then there was some thinning fabric to be found in an unexplainable-to-me area. This I reinforced with Swiss darning in Brioche stitch:

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Swiss darning in Brioche stitch

As my love for Scotch darning just does not diminish, I used it for the hole in the elbow. The texture is amazing when using a heavy DK weight knitting yarn:

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Scotch darning in Foula wool

Zoë’s cardigan is fit for another round of heavy-duty work, which is just as well, as she spends lots of time in the forest, working for Wilderness Wood.

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Zoë’s green cardigan, repaired once more

And if you feel inspired by these visible mends, but you’re not quite sure where to start, then sign up for my next darning class at Super+Super HQ in Brighton. You can sign up below:

Eventbrite - Darning Workshop

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Last Friday I made my way up to Retford, Nottinghamshire, to stay with Louise Presley, owner of Hope & Elvis. Louise and her husband Nigel were very welcoming and made me feel right at home, making sure I was fed and watered and had a good night’s sleep in preparation for the darning and mending workshop I ran at her beautiful studio on Saturday.

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Hope & Elvis studio, darning examples and reference books on display

By 10am everybody had turned up, and after an introduction to my Visible Mending Programme, I used some of my darned garments to discuss a variety of techniques. I explained why I had chosen them, and what the advantages and disadvantages of each technique was. Then, whilst having a cuppa and a biccie, each student showed what they had brought to repair and we discussed ideas together.

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Repair in progress at Hope & Elvis

Throughout the day I demonstrated stocking darning, Swiss darning, Scotch darning* and giving hints and tips on what materials to use, make people think about whether their darns would be practical or an embellishment. Needless to say, I also showed my Speedweve, and I was so pleased to see that Louise not only had one herself, but that she also had a Star darning machine!

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A darn in contrasting thread

Louise’s studio is crammed from floor to ceiling with vintage haberdashery, blankets, fabrics, needlework gadgets, threads, yarns, old and new books, and it was fantastic to have all of this to our disposal. Although we had a break for lunch, most people were keen to continue stitching, and I think that when you see the following pictures you’ll agree that everybody made something amazing on Saturday. With apologies in advance: I haven’t remembered everybody’s name – I must be getting on a bit…

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Marks made on a blanket

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Pattern darning sampler

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Buttonhole filling stitch by Mister Finch

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Sock stitch sampler

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Sturdy sock embellished with damask darning

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Delicate darning by Dawn

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Patched up ripped underarm seam by Sarah

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Meta-darning of a tear in a paisley scarf

It feels good to know that there are a few cardigans, tops and scarves back in the wardrobe, rather than lurking in the mending basket!

I hope my next darning class will be just as successful. It’s coming Friday, 10 May, and there are still a few places left if you’d like to sign up.

*) On Scotch darning: for months now I have been trying to find a copy of a particular edition of Weldon’s Encyclopaedia of Needlework, which explains the Scotch darning technique. I have discussed variations on it in this post, but Saturday was my lucky day. Louise had two copies of said edition, so she gifted one to me! Here is The Page:

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Scotch darning explained

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Late last autumn I bought a jumper from a charity shop. It was a nice enough woollen jumper. But after wearing it a few times, I wasn’t feeling the love anymore. As I was keen to explore a technique I tried out on a cardigan last year, I indulged in ten skeins of Appleton’s crewel wool:

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Ten shades of Appleton’s crewel wool, and a boring jumper

It was time to say Bye Bye Boring Jumper, and Hello Amazing Jumper:

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Bye Bye Boring Jumper, Hello Amazing Jumper!

In a way this is a darning sampler gone slightly out of hand. The bottom half consists of blocks of crewel wool woven in and out of the stitches of the knit fabric:

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Damask darning on knitted fabric

As you can see, there’s plenty of different patterns to make, and yet I think I’ll run out of jumper before running out of ideas! In some patterns I pick up a single “leg” of a knit stitch, in others I pick up a whole stitch, or even more. Some of these patterns are based on existing patterns from other sources. There are quite a number of herringbone variations, a Prince of Wales Sanquhar tweed pattern, and a simple houndstooth, too.

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The pattern in the middle is based on the Prince of Wales Sanquhar pattern

Unsurprisingly, weaving in and out of the fabric mutes the colours of the crewel wool when seen from a distance. And these colours do deserve to be seen in all their glory:

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Appleton Bros. Ltd. London, 100% Wool, made in England Crewel Wool

So I have just started adding a row of what I have called “Finnish” darning in the past, by want of a better word. This really shows off the colours:

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As an aside, when I was browsing through a stumpwork book, it turns out that in this needle lace tradition it is called Corded Single Brussels Stitch, but, as a few people have pointed out, it also appears to be a variation of nålbinding. Whichever name you use for this stitch, I just love the way it looks.

It might take a little while yet to finish the Hello Amazing Jumper, but I will be taking it to my one-day darning workshop to share these techniques at Hope & Elvis on Saturday, 4 May (please note, this is now fully booked.) I will also run the same workshop in Glasgow, on Saturday, 18 May at The Stitchery Studio - for which there are still a few places available.

Last but not least, I’ll be running my usual darning class at Super+Super HQ on Friday evening, 10 May.

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Goodbye 2012

Some of my personal highlights for 2012, a year in which I saw my making and mending practice bloom, are almost too many to count. I’m thankful for all the people that believe in me, with a special mention (in alphabetical order) to Susan Crawford, Felicity Ford, Louize Harries, Rachael Matthews, and Linda Newington; and last but not least, all my blog readers. So, without further ado, here are some of my highlights:

Commissions:

THAT Green Cardigan, was a commission that I really enjoyed doing, contrasting luxurious soft dyed cashmere with sturdy, natural Jacob wool.

VMPZC

Invisible Mend: this commission was a learning curve for me, and rather scary: an invisible mend of a beautiful 1950s (?) Aquascutum woollen coat:

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Mending:

I started teaching regular Darning Workshops in Brighton at Super+Super HQ (incidentally, the next one is on Friday, 1 February 2013). I have also been roaming the country for one-off workshops. One that I particularly enjoyed took place at the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.

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I also started taking my darning to a whole new level: meta-darning Sanquhar Socks.

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My favourite Visible Mend of 2012, however, must be my shoes!

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I felt honoured when I was asked to be Mender in Residence at the MendRS Symposium. I met so many amazing people and I got to talk about mending in a barn, what’s not to like?

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Knitting:

In 2012 I also released my very first knitting pattern: A Sanquhar-inspired Pencil Case.

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I presented at In the Loop 3. Incredible that it is possible to talk about knitting for three days, my head was spinning for days afterwards. Alas, I didn’t take any pictures, as I was completely immersed in a different world.

Although I’m no speed knitter, I did manage to churn out a lace stole sample knit for the cover of Susan Crawford’s Coronation Knits in 3.5 days.

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Coronation Knits Cover © Susan Crawford and used with her kind permission

Wool:

For the woolheads amongst us, November was transformed into Wovember. A month-long turbo-celebration of all things wool. This was the first year I helped out, and I curated a series of posts called Wovember Words. It also spurred me on to start sewing and I made myself a pair of Woollen Trousers.

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2012 was a great year, and I hope to continue this in 2013.

Hello 2013

Mending:

One of the things I really enjoy doing, is running my darning workshops. So I will continue my regular workshops at Super+SuperHQ, although somewhat less frequently. Also, I will be doing more one-off workshops. You can stay up-to-date by following me on facebook and, of course, my blog.

TOM SAYS DARN IT

As I learn more about darning, I realise there are more darning techniques to be explored then just the regular Swiss darn and stocking darn; a new world is waiting for me.

Knitting:

One reason for doing less darning workshops, is because I want to start offering knitting classes at Super+Super HQ. I’m working on a Sock-Knitting Workshop – details to be announced in a few weeks!

Sanquhar Socks

Art:

At long last, the Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches will see its first outing. Head over to Prick Your Finger in February (Private View on 15 February, Tom’s Curious Stitches short workshops on 16 February).

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Once the Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches Show has finished, I will start working on Bursiforms: an exploration of seamless containers.

New Skills:

Last but not least, in my quest of making my own things, I will start developing my sewing skills. With knitting, I know now how to make garments that fit me, without using commercially available patterns and I want to be able to do the same for sewing. In 2013 I would like to learn how to draft my own trouser and shirt patterns.

And to take the ‘making my own things’ a step further, I have started spinning. I’m taking this very slowly, using a drop spindle to get familiar with drafting fibre and everything that comes with it. Having done a little bit of fibre preparation, I’m amazed at how different wool is when you use it from scratch. It highlights how processed commercial knitting yarn is in order for the mechanical spinning process to work smoothly.

Here’s to a new year; I’m curious to see how all this will develop over the course of the next twelve months. I hope you have plenty of ideas, too!

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I own a pair of shoes that were in dire need of a Visible Mend. They were once very smart, yet comfortable to wear, and clearly made by highly skilled shoe makers. But now they are more than love-worn, as I haven’t always taken care of them as well as I could and I neglected using a shoe horn:

I remember very well the day I bought them. It was in the autumn of 1999 and I was visiting London with a friend. I would normally not have enough money to justify buying something by Vivienne Westwood, but I knew the sales were on and so I dragged my friend to her shop on Conduit Street. I fell in love with these shoes straight-away, but when I tried them on, I could not get my feet in. With a sad face I put them back on the shelf and looked at other things. However, nothing really appealed to me and I was drawn back to the shoes. I tried them on again. And I could not get my feet into them. So with a sad face I put them back on the shelf, again. After another trawl through all the racks and shelves, clearly nothing would do but those shoes. So I tried them on one last time. The helpful shop assistant started chatting to us and said that after nothing much had happened in the shop, I was her “amusement of the day.” And as if by magic, at that moment my feet just slipped in. I laced up, paid up and walked away with the most gorgeous shoes.

But twelve years later, I realised that if I wanted to continue wearing these shoes for another few years, something had to be done. So I bought a box of macarons, and paid a visit to my friend Alex, who runs Laste Shoehop in Brighton:

As you can see, not only were the heels run down, the insoles were also in need of replacement. Note that the box of macarons was still full at this point:

We decided to make a new heel piece, which would line the inside of the heel and a flap that would fold over to cover up the ugly mess. To put this into place and keep the shoes comfortable, we also had to take out the insoles. Or socks, as they are called by shoe makers! They clearly needed replacement, too. There was some shoe maker evidence about the size of the shoes hiding under the sock of the right shoe, if you look closely:

First, we made a pattern out of paper, which had a curved seam in the middle to create the heel shaping. The macarons were proving to be very tasty indeed:

I also traced the socks, so I could use that as a pattern for the new ones. Once we were happy with the pattern pieces, I cut them out from card. In the shoe maker trade, seams are indicated on the pattern by a few cut-outs, instead of cutting the wedge out completely. This makes the pattern more sturdy, as they are usually re-used a lot. One cut-out has a squiggly side, so you can tell left and right side apart. In this picture you can also see the so-called click knife. In shoe making, cutting the leather pieces from the pattern is called clicking – and using scissors is frowned upon at all times!

Alex explained how leather stretches in only one direction (across the belly), and when you click the pattern pieces, this is taken into account, so you can give the shoes stretch where they need it, for example across the foot. Once I had clicked the pattern pieces, it was time to sew the seams. Leather is a wonderful material, as you can use a very small seam allowance, without it ripping it. Alex has an old but sturdy domestic sewing machine for this:

Here are the heel pieces just after sewing up. They somehow remind me of moths in this picture:

In order to keep the seams open, and to make sure they don’t give you blisters by rubbing against your heels, they are flattened out with a hammer. This shoe makers hammer has a special head, one side of which is made from raw hide, which won’t damage the leather when you give it a good bash:

On the inside the heel pieces will fold under the sock, so here is Alex using the naughty scissors, cutting out small wedges to make shaping easier and avoid buckled up leather under your foot. Tut tut tut Alex, scissors!

Next stage is to put contact glue on all surfaces to be glued together. The smell of it made me feel a bit giddy:

Once the glue had dried, it was time to stick the pieces in place. This was a bit tricky to do, as the two glued surfaces should not get in contact with each other where you don’t want to:

When the pieces were in place, I had to let the glue dry properly, so the finishing touch: a nice contrasting seam in bright yellow strong top stitch thread, had to be done at home. It would be difficult to sew through layers of leather with a leather needle and at the same time making sure the stitch lines would be neat and tidy, so I used a little trick. I borrowed Alex’s awl, which is also known as a bradawl (pronounced as |ˈbradɔːl|), to pierce holes through the leather. To keep the holes equidistant, I marked them on the leather with a pair of contractors:

One heel done, one left to go! If you look carefully, you will see I also made a small piece on the right shoe where another seam ripped. I’m a bit obsessed with using yellow as a contrast colour:

I made new socks from this lovely thin blue leather:

I thoroughly enjoyed visibly mending my very favourite pair of shoes. I learnt a lot from Alex about making shoes, and I got to use some great tools:

Clockwise from top left: cup of coffee, bradawl hiding under shoe, left shoe, right shoe, upholstery hammer (there was one pesky nail poking through), contractors, click knive, lighter to burn ends of nylon sewing thread, ballpoint refill with silver ink (this rubs off easily), a rubber made from a piece of crepe sole in the shape of a shoe, heel piece pattern, sock pattern, right sock, left sock.

Although using special tools was nice and made certain things go a bit easier, I truly believe it is possible to do this repair at home with tools you have just lying around; you just need some courage and patience. Thank you Alex, for a wonderful day!

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Years ago,  when I just caught the knitting bug, I made myself a black brick stitch scarf. It’s a lovely scarf and very soft and comfortable, and I wear it a lot. In fact, I wear it so often, that I’ve started to get a bit bored with it. I no longer appreciate the looks of this scarf and the work I put in it. But what to do about it? I don’t really fancy knitting a new scarf, I don’t want to not wear it (if you know what I mean), and I most definitely don’t want to throw it out either. And yet, I’m bored with this scarf. It’s a classic case of Familiarity Fatigue.

I feel there’s only one remedy for this illness: a Fashion Intervention.

Regular readers of my blog know that I love my Shetland wool, and indeed you may have identified the two balls in the picture as Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift. Here’s an excellent opportunity to combine my favourite wool with my once-favourite scarf.

In a random fashion I coloured in some of the ‘bricks’ with doubled-up Spindrift, using Swiss darning (also known as duplicate stitching):

I like the purl side of Swiss darning too. The purl nubs of the original black yarn and those of the coloured yarn create a striped effect.

I used three different colours here. Jamieson’s called them ‘surf’, ‘bracken’ and ‘burnt umber’. I think ‘surf’ and ‘bracken’ are particularly well-chosen names for these heathered tones of blue and green. I think the Shetland wool works really well here for various reasons: it provides a nice textural contrast with the supersoft merino/silk blend of the scarf. Then, of course, there’s the contrast between colours and black. In addition, as Shetland wool is quite ‘grabby’, so it was possible to weave in short ends, and not have to worry they will work themselves out again, especially after a burst of steam to set the yarn.

As the days are getting warmer now, I’m not sure if I will be wearing this scarf again until after summer. But once I have packed away this scarf, I have something to look forward to come autumn. I leave you with some close-ups of the scarf, as it caught the sunlight beautifully this morning:

 

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Today I did my very first ever INvisible mend. Technically not for the Visible Mending Programme, but hey, exceptions make the rule. During my last visit to Belfast, I ended up in a secondhand clothes shop, despite having implored upon my partner earlier that we were not to buy any clothes during our visit on account of overflowing suitcases. So when I tried on this gorgeous herringbone tweed jacket, I conscientiously put it back on the rail. Even if it was a Donegal Mist tweed jacket. Handwoven. By a J.F Maguire.

As the fibre content contains mohair and cashmere it will not surprise you to hear this tweed is soft and has a great handle. The fact that it not only tells you about the fibres making up the fabric, but even tells you who wove it, is something that makes my heart sing. And I think anybody who supported Wovember last year will agree with me that this is a jacket with provenance and honest cachet.

Another label inside the jacket shows it was tailored by Magee expressly for Shannon [airport?] duty free shop. Browsing Magee’s website shows the history of the company and how they have been producing tweed since 1866.

I think you will have worked out by now that the above pictures were not taken in a secondhand shop. Indeed, I managed to squeeze it into a suitcase and brought it home. However, when I tried it on again, I discovered a small hole on the back.

I’m not sure how that came about. It doesn’t – or rather, didn’t – look like a moth hole and after careful inspection I did not find any other holes. But what to do with it? Somehow it didn’t feel right to do a Visible Mend on this tiny hole. After trawling the internet, I found some references to reweaving, usually on tailors’ websites. So, I knew it was possible to fix this INvisibly. Fortunately I found a reference to reweaving in a Threads Magazine back issue (no. 144) from September 2009, and today it finally fell on my doormat. Without further ado, here is my first INVISIBLE MEND:

As you can see, you don’t need many tools for this: scissors, darning needle, and an unpicker thingie. With these tools, one harvests some threads from an inside seam and uses these to reweave the hole closed. I started with unpicking the lining in a corner, so I could unpick some warps and wefts from the tweed fabric edges.

You then painstakingly weave these strands into the fabric, following its weave and replicating it over the hole, working on the right side of the fabric. I was too excited to take a picture halfway through, so the following picture shows all threads already in place, but I have woven in the needle so you can get an idea of how it’s done.

After all this work, you slightly pull on the ends and snip them off really close to the fabric. The yarn ends nestle themselves into the fabric and all that’s left to do, is press the treated area from the wrong side in order to set the weave. As you can see, the end result is perhaps not entirely invisible, but practice makes perfect. I now really understand why this repair is so expensive. However, next time I see a nice jacket in a secondhand shop I shall inspect it carefully, hope to find a hole, haggle on the price and buy it with the knowledge that each invisible mend I do will give better results.

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As regular readers of this blog know, I love mending clothes. I used to get upset whenever I stained or tore a favourite garment, but no longer! Instead I get excited at the latest item to add to The Visible Mending Programme. By darning, mending or “camouflage embellishment” I transform those stains and tears into features that turn my clothes into something uniquely mine. When I make my own things, I already put a lot of myself in them and they instantly feel like a tomofholland thing, having spent time and energy on the creation process. Not so with shop-bought clothes. Even if you are a discerning buyer and manage to find some unusual things, it is still just another jumper, t-shirt or whatever. And although shop-bought clothes can also become favourites, I find that I like them even more when I have had to fix them – they have suddenly turned into another tomofholland item.

So, on Saturday 29 October 1-3pm, I will run a darning workshop at Prick Your Finger, where I will show you some of the techniques I use.

Topics covered: Swiss darning (a.k.a. duplicate stitching), ideal for thin patches; regular darning with a darning mushroom, useful for repairing holes; demonstration of my vintage Speedweve.

Costs: £35. You get to keep your darning needles and a card of mending wool.

Book on-line in the Prick Your Finger webshop, or ring the shop on 020 8981 2560.

Bringing your own holy socks and thin elbows encouraged!

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Two months ago, one of my sheets ripped due to old age. And a month later, another sheet ripped. Pants! I had bought them at the same time, so they grew old together.

But my woes were not over yet, as a few of my older boxer shorts also ripped during this period! But, as the saying goes: if life deals you lemons, make lemonade. So I decided to make myself some new boxer shorts. I used an old pair of boxer shorts to make a pattern.

I made a front piece and a back piece. These is a very simple pattern, so I just used one piece for both left and right sides.

I then cut squares out of the sheets, making sure they would be large enough for the pieces plus a margin for the seams and a casing for an elastic band. I made sure to cut these from the edge of the sheets, where the fabric hadn’t worn yet. Then I could cut the pieces. Luckily the fabric was woven, not printed, and right side and wrong side were identical.

I sewed the boxer shorts on my gorgeous Singer 201K treadle sewing machine (on which I shall write another post in the near future). I started with sewing the short inside leg seams of the back pieces and the front pieces. Then I made the hem at the bottom of the legs. Next was the side seam, with my attempt at a small split. Or at least, that’s how I call them – after trying to find instructions on t’interweb I only found references to splits in seams due to wear and tear and how to fix those, so perhaps they are called something different in the sewing world? My two sewing reference books don’t have anything on that either!

Then I had to employ some fabric origami to make the fly. I just fiddled around a bit until it looked like a boxer short fly, referring to the old pair of shorts. First I sewed the long seam from the back to the crotch and then up to the fly, then graded the seam allowance and made a flat-felled seam. I sewed up the fly along with the flat-felled seam. Last but not least, I made a casing for the elastic band. I hadn’t taken the correct measurements, so the elastic was two inches too short for each boxer short, so I had to sew down the ends in the casing, two inches apart. I cunningly did this on either side of the fly, so it looks intentional.

I now have five new pairs of boxer shorts. Perhaps not entirely made according to the text book, but that’s okay. I think they look good at first glance, and only my partner will get to see them in close-up…

PS, if anybody knows where I can find instructions on how to make those split seams, I’d be ever so grateful!

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