Darning patches to mend holes in your knitwear
Visible mending works with the existing piece to evolve or harmonize with the style of your item. And, it actually looks better when there are more holes to mend.
In 2020 I decided not purchase any clothes for over 2 years (which is a whole other story) and this led to trying to extend the life of the clothing items I already owned and liked. I've particularly enjoyed visible mending. These repairs are meant to be looked at and becomes part of the design of the item.
The holes on this sweater started with just one in the elbow, so I was delighted when close to 10 holes developed over the years!
More is more
One counter-intuitive trick I’ve found is that it actually looks better when there are more holes to mend. Sometimes if there is only one mend, it looks random or unintentional. With more, it looks like a purposeful design choice.
Or sometimes the hole might be in a strange location, or too dead-center. Having a scattering can create visual balance or continuity.
There are many methods of darning that create different effects, but I darned this sweater with a simple woven patch. Essentially you are creating a little patch of woven material, attached to your knitwear over the hole.
If you prefer to learn from a teaching video, I recommend the videos from Collingwood Norris.
You will need darning yarn (or a very thick thread, like for embroidery). Ideally it is the same weight as the item's original yarn. I prefer to use a contrasting color. Since it won't blend into the existing knit texturally, I'd rather embrace it standing out.
You will also need a darning needle with a rounded, blunt point. This is important because a sharp needle will snag on the yarn and make it extremely frustrating to weave your darn.
2. Start your darn
Instead of a knot, leave 3-4 inches of thread hanging off the end. For the first few stitches you’ll have to be careful not to accidentally pull it through, but after that there will be enough tension to hold it in place.
Pull the needle through to make 3 stitches:
A small anchoring stitch
A long stitch that is longer than the size of the hole
Another small anchoring stitch
You can work your needle through more than one stitch at a time, then pull the thread all the way through.
After the small anchoring stitch, pull the needle through and come up just barely to the left (or right). It should be one column over in the original knit.
3. Finish the warp
Keep going, creating a series of these stitch columns. The hole should be covered by the long stitches.
It’s OK if the stitches don’t line up perfectly. This is natural because the knit pattern might not have stitches that are exactly lined up either.
When you’re done, bring the thread up from the back, horizontally aligned with the top or bottom edge of the long stitches. This sets you up for making the horizontal stitches in the next step.
4. Weave the weft
Next you will go back and forth horizontally. The main difference is that you will weave over and under the vertical threads you already created.
For each horizontal row:
Make a small anchoring stitch
Come up to the front, directly under the first warp thread (at the edge of the patch)
Weave across the vertical threads, alternating over and under
Pull the thread down to the back, directly under the last warp thread (at the opposite edge of the patch)
Make a small anchoring stitch
Keep going until you have woven the whole patch area.
You’ve finished your darn! It’s time to weave in the ends.
From the back, pull the loose ends to the inside of your garment. Then thread the ends onto your needle again and weave/stitch it through the material a few times. Clip the excess.
This may feel insufficient to secure the ends, but is surprisingly secure. You can add a few extra stitches or go back and forth in the same spot to add tension. And if the worst happens and it comes loose, you now know how to fix it again!
Here's how mine look from the inside:
You can see my weave isn’t super tight and you can see through it a little bit. On this project, it was sturdy enough and didn’t really bother me. If you want your weave to be tighter, you can use a thicker yarn or create more weft/warp threads closer together (which may mean you have to go between the same yarn threads in the knitting multiple times).
Another easy way to create fun designs is to use different colors of thread to create plaid or checked patterns. I did this sweater in a mix of light and dark grey. The dark grey blended in with the dark green a little too much, but it still added a bit of interest and variation.