Mending knits: 3 favourite darns

mending knits 3 favourite darns.jpg

A huge thank you to all the lovely people who stopped by the mending stand and joined me for the mending workshop at Oslo Knitting Festival! You really made my weekend!

Now, showing off mending samples and explaining techniques is all well and good, but what everyone really needs is a tutorial, right? Right.

Here are my three favourite basic approaches to mending knits.


Weave darn

  • Easy
  • Visible
  • Non-stretchy

This is the classic all-purpose darn that perhaps most people associate with ‘darning’. Practical and versatile, it works for most types of holes, but is not invisible.

Choose darning thread or yarn that is a little thicker than the original knit fabric to ensure the finished weave is not too airy. Alternatively, you can create a tighter weave by spacing your threads closer to each other or using double thread in one direction.

How to do it:

  1. From the right side of the knit, start a few rows below and to one side of the hole. Work across, weaving your needle over and under the stitches on the row.
  2. You will work back and forth horizontally, weaving over and under the stitches and alternating on every row: over-under-over on the first row, then under-over-under on the next, and so on. When you reach the hole, gently pull the yarn across and continue as before on the other side.
  3. Once you have created a patch somewhat larger than the hole, turn and work vertically up and down. To avoid a bulky edge, start a little closer to the hole keeping inside the horizontally worked patch.
  4. Weave over and under the horizontal threads. (So, you want to go under every visible horizontal thread.) When the hole is covered, finish by attaching the ends on the back.

It is worth noting that the weave darn alters the character of the fabric. The original loopy structure of the knit is replaced by a stable weave. This means that the darned area looses its stretch.

This may not be a problem at all. But you can also partly compensate for this by working diagonally instead of vertically in step 3. Alternatively, you can work the whole darn diagonally which will give a more stretchy darn. However, you then loose the even spacing of the original stitches as your guide and it is harder to get an even and neat finish.


Reinforcing with duplicate stitch

  • Slow
  • Invisible
  • Reinforcement

Duplicate stitch can be used to reinforce thinning areas in knits before there is a hole. Of the three techniques, it gives the neatest finish but is also the most time-consuming. It is simply a way of working over the original stitches of the knit with a tapestry needle. This maintains the original structure and stretch of the knit fabric, and can be close to invisible if you use matching yarn.

Choose darning thread or yarn that is similar or a little thinner than the original knit, so that the area covered will not be too thick and bulky compared to the rest of the garment. (If you are using a contrast colour and want to be sure you completely cover the original stitches, choose a yarn that is a little thicker than the original knit.)

How to do it:

  1. Starting from the back, pull the needle through the middle of a stitch and follow the loop of the stitch up and under the two threads of the stitch above.
  2. Push the needle back through the middle of the stitch where you started and up through the middle of the stitch next to it. Continue along the row. It may help to visualise each stitch as a ‘v’.
  3. To move up a row, push the needle through the middle of the last stitch worked and up through the middle of the stitch above, i.e. under one horizontal bar. Continue along this row, working in the opposite direction.
  4. Work back and forth over the area you want to reinforce. Finish with the ends at the back.


Knitted patch

  • Quick
  • Nearly invisible
  • Double layer of fabric

A knitted patch is a great way to cover larger worn areas fairly quickly. In principle, you knit a pocket that is closed at the top. This leaves a double layer of knitted fabric where the garment is patched.

You will need the same gauge for the patch as the original knit or you may end up with a patch that is too baggy or too tight. Also, if you are working over a hole you may want to secure the edge with a circle of basting stitches or similar, so it doesn't unravel any further.

How to do it:

  1. At either side of the hole pick up every other horizontal bar between two columns of stitches. Pick up and knit a row below the hole keeping in between the needles at either side.
  2. Knit the first stitch as usual. Knit the last stitch together with the first stitch on the needle at the left-hand side. Work back and forth in stockinette.
  3. On every right side, the last stitch is knit together with the first stitch on the side needle. On the wrong side, the last stitch is worked together with the first stitch on the side needle as 'purl 2 together'.
  4. When the hole or worn area is covered, snip the thread leaving a tail long enough to sew the patch closed at the top (approximately three times the width of the patch). Use a tapestry needle and graft the patch in place using kitchener stitch.

As an alternative, you can also knit the patch first and sew it on afterwards using mattress stitch along the side edges and kitchener stitch along the top and bottom. In the picture of the stripy jumper above, the right elbow patch was knitted first and attached afterwards while the left elbow patch was knitted straight onto the jumper as explained in the steps above.


With these three techniques in your knitting vocabulary you can mend pretty much any knitted garment. Build upon these and vary them, go more advanced or keep it simple. As with knitting, there are countless ways to go about mending.

Have a go! And happy mending!

Cutting into your knits: How to lengthen, shorten or change finished objects

Have you ever knit something and found afterwards that the fit wasn’t quite right? Maybe it’s just a little too short, or perhaps too long?

Yep, me too. The good news is that you can easily fix that without ripping out the whole thing and having to start from scratch. In principle you can add length, shorten or re-knit the bottom of any knitted garment.

I knit these mittens last Autumn, and though I love the look and feel of them I didn’t wear them much over the Winter simply because they kept sliding annoyingly off my hands. My mittens needed new cuffs. It took me about a year to pluck up the courage, but I finally did roll up my sleeves and get to it.

Don’t make the same the same mistake of thinking it is too difficult to fix. It’s not. It’s totally doable and definitely worth it to get a garment that fits well and you will love to use.


Here’s how to do it:

1. Pick up a row of stitches on the garment where you later want to join to the new bottom piece.

2. Carefully snip into a stitch on the row below. You may be able to just pull the yarn through or you may have to snip the stitches as you go, depending on how 'slippery' or 'sticky' the yarn is. Separate the top and bottom pieces. Leave a tail of yarn on the top piece to weave in and secure later.

You now have the option to make changes to the bottom piece or knit a new one. For these mittens I knitted new cuffs with ribbing. However, if you want to add length to the original bottom piece, pick up the stitches and continue knitting until you reach the desired length. Alternatively, to shorten: pull the yarn of the bottom piece and unravel the number of rows you want to shorten your piece with. Then set the stitches back on a needle, stitch holder or some string.


3. With your new bottom piece ready, leave a fairly long tail of yarn and use a tapestry needle to graft the stitches together creating an invisible seam. (Also called Kitchener stitch.) There are some excellent tutorials on this, for example at Purl Soho, Garnstudio Drops Design and Vogue Knitting.

4. Finally, weave in any loose ends and you are done!

Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back and enjoy your "new" knitted garment to the full!

Mending workshop at the Oslo Knitting Festival 2016

As part of the Oslo Knitting festival 4.-6. November I’ll be holding a workshop on darning! I’ll also be on the ready with a mending stand for anyone curious about mending or needing some friendly starter tips.

You can view the festival programme and download the festival magazine here. Tickets are available from August 13th. Make sure you grab a spot! I’d love to meet some of you there in person!

I’m equal parts excited, nervous, honoured, humbled and giggling about this! So much woolly goodness in one weekend, I can’t wait!


Workshop details

At the workshop you’ll learn three different darning techniques which will give you the confidence and know-how to darn just about anything. Bring along a knitted garment that you would like to mend and I’ll help you get started and hold your hand as you set about darning it.

The three darning techniques I’ll demonstrate are a classic “weave” darn, a knitted patch which is great for covering larger holes, and grafting (sometimes called Swiss darning) which is excellent for strengthening threadbare areas.


Mending and memories: the mittens

I knit these mittens for one of my dearest friends five years ago (the year conveniently inscribed on the mitten front). Over the Summer I’ve held them in my hands again, now well-used, worn and with several holes.

I offered to mend them in preparation for the coming darning workshop. Oddly, the act of mending became like an act of gratitude and respect. It was like I was honouring what I once took the time to make and finding a way to express an unarticulated gratitude to her for using them all this time.

We go back a long way, the two of us. We would compete in having the longest giggling fits, read the same books and once, I remember, we sat in a tree in the school yard insistently debating who had the tallest Dad. At the time I knitted these mittens, though, we were done with all that. They may have been the first colour work mittens I ever knit. I remember counting stitches and rows and sketching out the pattern on graph paper in the dark of Wintery evenings.

Memories kept trickling into my consciousness as I quietly stitched up one worn patch after another. I loved knitting them, and I found I loved mending them too.

Mending is such an ordinary, everyday kind of thing: one of the many chores on the to-do list. And yet, there is something satisfying about making an object whole again. It is tangible and concrete, and actually very do-able once you know where to start.

At the workshop I’ll show you how!