New Things (Part 2): Darning

Having spent a decade exhaustively knitting, recently I decided to try some new things, which I posted about the other day, and intend to make a little series of New Things!  What prompted the latest New Darning Thing was when I found these examples of some really very old Dutch needlework darning samplers.  I presume the purpose of the colorful samples was ultimately to learn to repair fabric, but in doing so it seems the lessons are teaching a solid understanding of warp and weft, so artfully,  and in as many types of weave patterns as possible. There are quite a few, click the first photo and see a slide show, they are so inspiring!

I adore how cross stitch and darning are combined in these. Although I think the many colors in darning are so very artful, I think I am mostly interested in invisible darning, which brings me back to the point of New Things.

Having lost my wardrobe to the wildfire, I am taking a new stance about clothes; I want to own far fewer things, and only things I love to wear, and then take care of them.  First off, I never was one for expensive clothes at all, nor too casual, and although I’m a bit goldy-locks about clothes, there is one thing for sure, I do love linen with a passion!  So I have been collecting some of my favorite linen brands,  inexpensive (used) ebay finds, and perhaps because used, already I have been wearing some things threadbare, and that says something about how hard I am on clothes, but also the quality of linen. I find that Irish Linen wears so very much longer, but I do not care if I have holes in them, I’ll wear holes in my clothes until it becomes too unseemly, then I must repair. But I have been a little too uncaring in recent year, to the point of wearing nearly indecent holes in my clothes, but now I am up for an all-out clothes repair intensive. Darning is now my new obsession. Okay, well, maybe not totally new. I have done some beginner stabs at darning (posted here) But I do want to pick up needle and ease back into it, and practice practice practice.

Just last night I spent about an hour on this hole, I stitched in tan for warp (threads going up & down) , then wove white weft (threads back & forth) into the warp, then tan again at the diagonal. I left it at that. An impossible weave to disguise actually, so I just went randomly, and when I say ‘weave in’ , it is just a running stitch I am working, in a random woven affect.

jenjoycedesign© repaired hole

Rather haphazard looking and not at all artful, its not even ironed yet (where is my iron? Packed somewhere in the recesses of the shed!) … but its just a work shirt. If I were going to repair some heavier fabric, I would stitch in the warp layer, then weft layer and two opposing diagonal layers, and repeat as necessary until the fabric density felt even.  I really do have quite a pile of mending to do, and here is the task of today, to weave in the twin holes in the inner thigh of these pants…

jenjoycedesign© darning 2 colors warp and weft

A discovery I made is that is cotton embroidery floss works great; it is relatively inexpensive, you can get in any shade and can be found everywhere.  A single strand of the 6-strand floss is the best I have found, it is soft and very pliable, and you can find a shade matching nearly exactly for threads in warp & weft.  I am thinking for the very very lightweight fabrics to split one strand, but that is an experiment for another day.

jenjoycedesign© embroidery floss for darning 2

Having stitched in a warp in tan like the fabric has, I am now weaving the black weft layer, as the fabric has,  and I work the weaving past the edge of the hole, all the way out into the fabric that is stable. Then I will weave in a diagonal sheer layer in tan again.   Not overly artful either, but I am just repairing casual everyday clothes, and this darn is from a very large shredded edge hole about 3″.   I am observing that weaving diagonally over the grain of warp & weft adds a great deal of sheer strength.

The old saying ” An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is resonating loudly for me.  Had I only done this when the fabric was starting to show wear I would have saved myself a heap of darning, but regardless, I want to learn to repair these disasters all the same.  I suppose being a practical person the fancy darning samplers will have to wait until a day when I have nothing better to do. It is extremely tedious weaving  one-over/under-one warp and weft, so I just decided to go more randomly with the running stitch. I found a rhythm. A mesmerizing rhythm, and I am loving darning!

Artful Patches

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These days when I take a needle & thread to mend,

I attempt to do something artful.

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Becoming intimately involved with warp & weft in the fabric of something that you wear on your skin is beautiful,

and maybe even a little bit essential.

It is such a novelty these days it seems,  to have any skills at all in mending.

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Do you recall this  linen shirt make-over from nearly two years ago?  You might recognize the collar re-do,  and already I have nearly worn a hole in the linen,  and this is just a fun patch job of it, although the white-on-white is not really easy to see the detail, especially in this early morning light.

I have a second shirt I’m patching here,  that is full of holes, and I am using it to practice my new ‘quilt patching’ technique.

Here is what I do:

  1. Whip stitch hole shut, aligning grain of warp & weft  threads as much as possible.
  2. Cut squares of new fabric on the grain, big enough to fold back up to 1/4 inch hem on all edges.
  3. Iron all edges to fold in, and pin to garment with care to aligning grain of fabric with both garment and patch.
  4. With a simple running stitch, sew as close to edge as possible, then again, artfully fill in the patch with shapes, ‘quilting’ the patch against garment, which improves wear of patch as well as looks good. Almost as if you stuck on squares to quilt for the pure craft of it!

Quite a hash of patches, but it makes the shirt all that much more of a treat to wear again!

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Just in case you’re curious, you can see all posts “New From Old”  HERE (including this one, but scroll down!)  This category has grown over the years, sharing  artful mending & upcycling that I have done, where even I go deep into the warp & weft and try my hand at difficult weave darning.

I hope you try the quilted patch on one of your holey shirts, and see how useful as well as lovely a simple running stitch can be!

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Linen Shirt Make-over

jenjoycedesign©linen shirt makeoverMy love of linen has grown deeper with time. Its rustic wholesome weave holds my appreciation like no other textile. The warm shades of grey form layers in the seams, and when held in front of angled light from the late or early sun, it is simply beautiful. Just to see it that way I am able to almost smell its fragrance, as if the presence remains of that field of flax from which it was born, and it my skin longs to be against it.

So, I made another shirt for myself, new out of old.
jenjoycedesign©linen shirt make-over1
Making new clothes out of old is one of those things which I absolutely love to do but takes a bit of skill.  Pardon the wrinkly shirt photo, but that is actually the way I prefer it, not ironed too much, just a little, for linen has such personality with a little texture showing.  Months ago I bought a linen shirt from the thrift shop and I was wearing it around like a tent recently, and yesterday I finally cut into it.  Now it is more of my style, it has personality, it is natural, totally unique, and has a feminine classic charm. There was plenty needle threading and hand-sewing, which I adore actually, and the machine work was plenty too.

Here’s what I did:  I first ripped off the breast pocket, then cut out the big bulky button bands and collar. Then I cut off some off of the length which gave me enough fabric to sew in a ‘gusset’ to bridge the two fronts in the absence of the button band.  I cut off the cuffs and cuff button placket, completely, which left sleeves a little short.
jenjoycedesign©linen shirt makeover 2

From two sleeves I had cut before off of another linen shirt in my pile of linen scraps, I made simple wide folded faced bands to extend into a sort of cuff, and pleated the excess sleeve material to fit… a fast & easy way to go… and looks great rolled up. Usually I just hem the neck opening without a collar, but this time I had envisioned a peter-pan collar, so I set into making a collar custom to the cut-out neck, with the other linen sleeve in the scrap pile, and with the help of this book, published 1930’s….


Finished, and excited to get involved in a very summertime project for the hot weather, and that is making new out of old, re-making every possible tent-like mens’ linen shirt I possibly can get a hold of , and immerse myself in the metamorphosis of them into artful beautiful shirts for *moi*. My wardrobe is anorexic, but is on the mend, and I’m absolutely loving my needlework, on a quiet mountain, punctuated by very little else, which suits me just fine.

I’m ready to go at it with another!

Good Things

jenjoycedesign©first-darns

Wholesome and necessary are words that describe two materials known to humankind for thousands of years;  linen & shell.  I shouldn’t  crave these things, these essential objects as I do, but  I do love the little  unworldly things in life…  like ice cream, linen, and shell buttons.

jenjoycedesign©shell-buttons&linen

Let me begin with my love of linen.  This is not just a fondness, but an intimate part of me, and the way I dress.  I could happily wear a fine white linen blouse every day of the year.  I hardly can begin to describe why, or when this became so.

So in my limited & dwindling number of linen shirts,  there have been more given up to the linen shirt graveyard than I care to face.   I am a thrift shopper, and take the time to sleuth out fine linen shirts for dollars, alter when I must,  and have cause to celebrate when I find one perfect just as is.  I have come to face another fact, that I’ve been long overdue in learning to use this odd  wooden thing . . .

jenjoycedesign©my-darning-egg. . . a darning egg.

In above photo is my first attempt at darning, and I am so pleased with myself I can’t even tell you ! After two darned ‘holes’ , and switching from off-white to white thread, I started to get the knack.  I managed to close up and fill in the underarm disaster areas which my favorite shirts began to show, after near constant wear, and the final darning jobs were alright by me.

jenjoycedesign©linen-darned

Satisfied that my work is pretty much unnoticeable when not back-lit,  I decided to try the small holes which happened to riddle my favorite shirt,  one with a label that reads the beautiful words  “100% Irish Linen”.  I managed to darn all the wee holes in it,  ‘it’ which is my favorite linen gig shirt which has not been  worn, but hanging in the closet for a couple of years now.  I was floating for a whole day from this darning epiphany !

jenjoycedesign©favorite-linen-shirt

But sometimes one must surrender a great linen shirt , in the end, to the scizzors   (as I had in this post ), for it becomes too thread-bare.   I made a fine linen hand kerchief, and I even got to collect the lovely shell buttons from it.  Those pearly surfaced little treasures are put in a little jar , a present-place destination, an artful limbo, for buttons of linen shirts past and future.

jenjoycedesign©shell-buttons

 My Good Things,

 unworldly, and essential.

jenjoycedesign©100%-Irish-linen (2)