Knitting & Crochet Guild Commission – Conclusion

A few weeks ago I started working on a Visible Mending commission from the Knitting & Crochet Guild. Avid readers of my blog might remember the horror of this sleeve:

Knitting & Crochet Guild cardigan close-up of damaged sleeve

A sorry sleeve in desperate need of some Visible Mending love

The lovely people at the Knitting & Crochet Guild believe that this damage may have been caused by some corrosive fluid that might have spilt onto it during a flooding at their archives. And indeed, when I was trying to tidy up the holes before starting the repairs, the stained wool was so brittle it almost crumbled in my hands. I have collected this as the Guild might be able to get it analysed at a forensics lab. There were four small holes and one large whopper. What follows is not a repair tutorial; instead I wanted to give you an insight in the technicalities of this repair.

I first tackled the small holes with an advanced method of Swiss darning; or duplicate stitching as it’s also known. Usually you can simply embroider over the existing stitches, but to do this on a hole, you’ll first need to provide some support for the stitches you’re making with your tapestry needle. After that it’s simply a case of keeping track of the colours, just as if you were knitting the pattern.

Knitting and Crochet Guild Commission Swiss Darning pt 1

A framework made with sewing thread to support the new stitches as they are worked

Knitting and Crochet Guild Commission Swiss Darning pt 2

Then the Swiss darning proper can commence, staying strictly in pattern of the original Fair Isle pattern

Knitting and Crochet Guild Commission Swiss Darning pt 3

The completed Swiss darn. The top row grafts the new stitches to the old

Once this was completed on four small holes I could start with the large hole. I wanted to employ a technique I had found in a very old Dutch booklet on teaching darning and repair skills to girls (seeing this book was originally published in 1888, of course it would only be girls that would need to learn these skills at the time; the authors would probably be mystified why I would want to use this book in earnest!) For this mending technique you knit every row with a new strand or strands of yarn for each row. The beginning of the strands of yarn are Swiss darned in over the stitches of the original fabric, and after knitting the row, the ends are darned in, too. The last row which will close the hole up, is grafted in place.

Knitting and Crochet Guild Commission Dutch darning Pt 1

the first few rows completed; you can see the beginning of a new strand of yarn being darned into place

Knitting and Crochet Guild Commission Dutch darning Pt 2

Grafting of the last row was also a patterned row. I used the Sock Toe Chimney grafting method, hence the bits of white cotton knitting that suddenly appeared

After finishing off all the ends it was time for a wash ‘n’ block and the excitement of seeing the finished Visible Mend was almost too much to bear for me – this surely must be the technically most demanding repair I’ve done to date.

Knitting and Crochet Guild Commission Completed Close-up

The repaired areas blend in beautifully with the original Fair Isle fabric and colours

For this original Fair Isle hand-knit cardigan I wanted to stay close to its provenance. Therefore I wanted to use a Shetland wool for this repair. I settled on Jamieson & Smith’s Supreme jumper weight, as it comes in so many natural undyed shades. I set the camera on my mobile phone to take black-and-white pictures, and that way I chose the natural shades that came closest to the original colours, as seen in black-and-white. It turns out that the black-and-white filter on my phone gives different results than the one on my proper camera, as you will have to agree that in the following picture the Shetland Supreme shades look a bit lighter on the whole. Perhaps the light was different, too. Who knows.

Knitting and Crochet Guild Commission in black and white

The finished cardigan in black-and-white

Knitting and Crochet Guild Commission in colour


And the cardigan “in glorious technicolor”

This weekend the Guild will have their annual convention and I’m pleased that this cardigan was ready in time to be shared with all Guild members. Angharad, volunteer Textile Archivist of the Knitting & Crochet Guild, emailed me to say she and her colleagues were very pleased with the end result, as they feel “it has made the garment into something very special whereas before it was very sad and folorn.” What a great result of such a lovely commission!

34 Replies to “Knitting & Crochet Guild Commission – Conclusion”

  1. Bravo! I’m sure the Guild is delighted. Your work both inspires me and intimidates me. I love your approach!

  2. Excellent job! I probably would have given it up as a wash, ripped the sleeves off, and used the grey to make the armhole openings for a vest (and slipped in some afterthought pockets while I was at it).

  3. Beautiful work Tom! I agree with another poster, I might have decided that this would be better off with a new life as a vest. But you have shown us all the possibilities which can be achieved with very clever and talented mending!

  4. Bravo, c’est un vrai travail de restauration méticuleuse, comme un horloger avec des instruments microscopiques. Vous êtes très talentueuse. Encore bravo.

    Translation electronic :
    Bravo, it is a real work of accurate restoration, as a watchmaker with microscopic instruments. You are very talented. Still bravo.

  5. I have been waiting to see the results of the mend job. You have a great skill and perseverance to see that the job was done properly. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I mended a fair isle patterned cardigan, to commission, to similar effect, a couple of years ago. The sleeves of the grey and white cardigan had worn through at the elbows so I knitted patches in lilac and white grafting them top and bottom over the holes. I had contemplated swiss darning but could exactly match the yarn and tension and knitting was easier. I have to say, the owner was thrilled with her renewed, favourite garment.

  7. Funny that I was with you at Unwind Brighton while my twin sister was admiring this mending in person at the guild AGM weekend in Derby! It’s beautiful work Tom, and you’ve inspired me to further develop my newly-learned darning skills.

  8. So glad that the Toe Chimney idea worked for you here – you did a great job. For more rescue ideas using this principle take a look at my Finesse Your Knitting 1 DVD – I show a badly damaged Fairisle completely rebuilt using these principles. I often describe this as a horror movie when I show it in class, it usually produces squeals of alarm when the scissors come on stage. Another way to rebuild missing rows where there is no fabric to copy, is to sew your replacement stitches into a sheet of soluble paper or tissue row by row – rather like Debbie New’s virtual knitting, then remove the supporting paper once the mend is complete. The toe chimney method can be found on a couple of my DVDs and as a movie clip on Patternfish too.

  9. Thank you so very much for sharing this repair method. It is excellent work. I don’t have a mending issue, but your method seems the best solution to my challenge. My challenge is to change a drop shoulder to a set in sleeve which obviously requires me to raise the arm opening in a finished Fair Isle pullover due to too much fabric at the shoulder area. Sort of like having small “wings” protrude when my granddaughter wears it. I will try your mend approach of one yarn strand per row in pattern. I’ve tried reknitting in pattern but I’ve been stymied as to how to connect reach new row to the bound off sides where the drop sleeve was. Thank you!! I’m so delighted to have a possible solution!!

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