The Six-Year Darn

Anybody who’s met me at a darning-related event will have seen a dark green sweater with numerous moth holes in it. It was given to me about six years ago to practice my visible mending on. It had sadly surfaced from a relative’s wardrobe with many moth holes. What better to repair it with than some gorgeous hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn. It was a very textural and variegated yarn, and made for a beautiful contrast to the fine machine-knit jumper. I enjoyed this challenge to make use of jumper and yarn.

MUM+DAD Sweater moth holes

A sweater riddled with moth holes…

MUM+DAD Sweater Repaired tomofholland visiblemending

A mere six years later, all holes repaired

One thing that always interests me is the motivation for repair: every mend I have done has a story behind it. When I take on a visible mending commission, I always want to know the story of the item under repair. This is no different for the things I repair for myself, and this green jumper is a prime example.

The gift of sweater and yarn was bigger than I could ever have imagined, and in those six years, a lot of things have happened. I met amazing people along the way, I have learnt so much about repairing textiles, and yet I feel I have only just scratched the surface of what is possible.

The first record of the sweater that I can find, is when I wrote about attending the MEND*RS Symposium as Mender in Residence. It was a meeting of like-minded people at an old farm, and I have fond memories of gathering in the barn, talking about the subversiveness of repair, and with wild plans to change the world.

MUM+DAD Sweater Repaired tomofholland visiblemending

Extreme slow stitching – I always say I like to do things that take forever, but a six-year project must be my record!

Nowadays many people choose to throw out worn clothes, but I prefer to repair my clothes. From attending the MEND*RS Symposium it was clear I was not the only one. A few speakers had a background in fashion, and we talked about the issues around fast fashion. Clothes made in the fast fashion system are often of poor quality. Not because they are made by low-skilled people, but because highly-skilled people have to work with inferior materials and are under huge time pressure to meet deadlines. For me, repairing clothes is a way of honouring those anonymous makers. Speaking about my concerns with fast fashion at that symposium, and others such as John-Paul Flintoff and Sarah Corbett, I have come to realise that being informed about issues your concerned about is very important. It will help with focussing your attention to things you can do something about. This is something I spoke about with Sarah at length as part of her School of Gentle Protest.

MUM+DAD Sweater Repaired tomofholland visiblemending

The ribbing at cuffs and welts were the trickiest

Concerns around fast fashion is only one of many different motivations of repair, and I’m also very much interested in emotional connections to the item repaired. Mending an item, even through commissioning someone like me, allows you to highlight the story behind it, and one of my most favourite commissions was rather poignant. Mending a jumper knitted by a mother repaired a somewhat fraught relationship, and it was very special to work on.

MUM+DAD Sweater Repaired tomofholland visiblemending

Reminiscing about repairs

Likewise my green jumper has obtained a lot of memories and stories through the six years I’ve been working on it. Looking at the darns up close shows me how I have improved my technique over time. It has accompanied me to every single workshop, talk, and darning event. It started many a conversation about the meaning of repair, and I’ve made many friends as a result.

The sweater is now back on rotation in me and my husband’s wardrobe, and I’m looking forward to many more adventures together!

MUM+DAD Sweater Repaired silly pose tomofholland visiblemending

With many thanks to Anna “Sweaterspotter” Maltz for the impromptu photoshoot!

23 Replies to “The Six-Year Darn”

  1. Wow. This is humbling. I have a fine silk scarf that I love and can’t bear to part with and it has numerous moth holes so I haven’t worn it …after seeing what you’ve done here, I have absolutely no excuse not to repair it (and finally wear it again!).

  2. Wow. This is humbling. I have a fine wool scarf that is moth-eaten and I can’t bear to part with it but I just haven’t been able to mentally prepare myself to repair it. Looking at what you have done with a piece that had a LOT more moth bites, I have no more excuses…that sweater is sustainability at its finest. Gorgeous.

  3. Wonderful! I have a sweater that is so ugly….. Maybe I should attack it and create lots of holes. Then I could repair the edges of some of the holes and perhaps fill in some of the other holes with darning. If I do this I’ll call it my six year project in your honor. Thank you for this marvelous post.

  4. I find it very intriguing how long the sweater was worn before they thought it had too many holes in it.
    Me and my son both seem to hold on longer to garments than we should. But I haven’t darned any of them.
    It is wonderful to see the (com-)passion you have (had) for this garment.
    You have been giving it love and time and a further life. Sharing the love.

  5. I remember this from a workshop I took with you in Edinburgh. You’ve made something uniquely beautiful and thought provoking, thank you for sharing it.

  6. I liked the way that you combined woven darning with the knitting – creating places to stop and circle on the otherwise very plain jumper. It looked at first like an abstract tapestry.

  7. Beautiful post Tom, well done on finishing the mend! I remember Rachael talking about it in her shop a few years ago. You are the king of commitment xxx

  8. 2020/04/01

    Dear Tom,

    Thank you for the excellant visual tutorial on hole mending…definately not what my Mum taught her kids to do, just better!
    I have her darning egg and my favourite pair of woolen socks (not handknit) with holes around the ankle bone. I was frustrated with her method and thought I would just live with the holes, now I dont have too. My fave blue socks will be sporting big(ish) yellow polka dots…hey a new fashion trend. Thanks again.


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