Wednesday, January 14, 2009

fixing a hole

A while ago, I proposed a class called: "Holey Sock, Batman!" The premise? Students get a chance to learn to darn their handknit socks. I didn't get accepted as an instructor for that event, which worked out ok in the end. However, I think darning is a lost art. It needs to be re-taught...and not just because "Darn IT!" can then be a real curse again! Darning enables us to keep our clothes instead of throwing them away. This is important. It wastes a lot of energy to make clothes and throwing away clothing is wasteful and fills up landfills. (If you donate your clothes to charity without darning them, you're just expecting folks without money to darn when you don't know how! Is that fair?) Lots can be done with clothes to old to wear, but before they become old in my book, they get darned once or twice.

I've been pondering this. A friend invited us to dinner and gifted me with a 100% alpaca sweater. It's black, with 3/4 quarter sleeves, and a bright floral pattern. I didn't think it was my style, but surprisingly, it looked SO good on me that I had to rethink and graciously accept the offer. It's a great addition to my sweater collection, since alpaca is very warm. (more on this in a bit.)

My friend took out another beloved alpaca sweater to show me, and horror of horrors, there were HOLES in it. Moth panic erupted for all of about 30 seconds. Then my husband the professor (the one who studies butterflies and MOTHS, remember?) stepped in and examined it. These weren't moth holes, these holes happened because of actual wear. Yes, weak threads/yarns can break down over time, especially in an intarsia knit. Moths will leave evidence, such as casings and other insect detritus, of which there was none. It's so nice to be married to a PhD who's an expert in the topic!

I volunteered to mend the holes, and my friend was relieved, because while she can darn, she worried she'd do a messy job. I took photos of it, the darning came out just fine, I had hand-dyed sock yarn that matched perfectly...but gosh, the photos are terrible. (use your imagination!)

Then, we heard that the temperature in Winnipeg this week reached -40. Yup, that's the same temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. DARN COLD! Since we hope to be living in Winnipeg next year in this time, I'm rethinking my winter clothing. In very cold weather, it's not embarrassing to double and triple up on hats/mittens...even coats. A regular hat with one layer isn't warm enough even when it's 5F/-15C. (We've dealt with those temperatures with frequency when we lived in upstate NY.) So, I dragged out this thin knit cap that I've had for years...and holey HAT, Batman! Perhaps 10-15 years old...I based it on a Rowan pattern, it's Rowan yarns, and I made it before I was married. Maybe even when I was in college in upstate NY in the first place? I found a hole in the cap along the was knit flat and then sewn up.
Another darning chore. Darn it! Yet, it's nice to maintain this link to my long ago knitting past...and don't really mind darning, especially if I'll get more use out of this hat. So, I've been wondering...

Do you darn your clothes/knitted items? Do you wish you knew how to darn and mend things? Are you completely opposed to darning? Inquiring minds want to know!

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Blogger dk said...

Darn It! was a life lesson taught to me as a child. I continue to practice the art today.

Considering the recession we have going on today I'm sure more people will start practicing the art of Darn It!

January 14, 2009 at 4:00 PM  
Blogger Donna D said...

I'll darn handmade things but not store-bought.

January 14, 2009 at 4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I may mend things, but I lack the knowhow to darn properly. Your post, however, reminded me of a few years back when I discovered during a particularly awful mouse invasion that a mouse had eaten a 1-inch hole in my favorite and gorgeous handknit sweater. I was devastated but asked an acquaintance and champion fiber person Tracy Bunkers if it was possible to mend, and she did it. It's amazing. I am in awe. The hole was in a very visible spot, and you wouldn't even notice it's there now. My hat is off to Tracy and pros like you!

January 14, 2009 at 6:38 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

I will darn hand knit items or a knitted item that I think I can do a good repair job. My problem is repairing hand knit socks. I wear out the heels. I need to learn how to re-knit heels. The leg and the toes are fine. Is there a class for that? :) great topic.

January 14, 2009 at 6:59 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Becoming a disposable society granted us the permission to throw everything away except nasty pop (soda) (etc.) cans which might could be recycled if they were really taken to someplace that would recreate them into some other disposable product. I do darn or sometimes just relegate the item to the 'work around the house/painting' drawer!

January 14, 2009 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger SueJ said...

Food for thought! I was taught to darn, but I don't do practice the art & I don't own one of those lovely darning 'mushrooms'. Some of my hand knit socks look like some practice might be needed in the near furture. I need a mushroom!

January 15, 2009 at 2:03 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

I recently darned about a dozen hand made socks (knit and crochet) since all we now wear are handmade socks. It was a long day but well worth it. A tutorial would always come in handy and be printed out to live next to my darning needles.

I mended a number of sweater (handmade or store bought) coz if I love them enough to keep them ... well, they deserve the attention.

January 15, 2009 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Geek Knitter said...

Darning... doesn't that just bring back the memories. My paternal grandmother, who lived through the Depression, was quiet probably the thriftiest person to ever draw breath. She mended, darned and patched, and when clothes were too worn for any of that she made quilts. I can still see her mending basket next to her favorite chair.

I can darn, but for some reason have never learned to get a button to actually stay where I sew it...

January 15, 2009 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Kathryn said...

I haven't had much occasion to darn or repair anything, but I have darned the elbows of a sweater my grandmother knit (it was in pattern, too). It wasn't too hard, but I can definately see where I did the work, although my mother can't (and it's her sweater).

Fixing handknits seems very important to me; I've just spent $100 and all that time? I had better get years and years of wear out if it.

January 16, 2009 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger Adele said...

I can do a reasonable job of darning, but I don't like doing it. One handknit sock has been on my bedside table awaiting darning for over a year. I got to wear its mate a few times recently on my right foot, when my left ankle was broken and too swollen to get a regular sock on. Also, I now have so much neuropathy in my fingers that small needles are difficult for me, so that's a good excuse not to darn.

January 16, 2009 at 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Life in Winnipeg has certainly been interesting this week. Environment Canada reports though that the coldest temperature we've seen was actually only -36.7C (-34F) of course at the time with windchill it felt like -51C (-60F). You would probably be surprised how many people you see without one hat on and how few people you see with more than one hat. I always feel sorry for the people I see in October all bundled up and I wonder how they will survive January. You do get used to it though and the more time you spend outside the faster it happens. There really is nothing like a cold day in January though. The air is crisp and if it's that cold the sun is shining brightly. Plus you really appreciate things like wool sweaters, mittens and hats.

January 16, 2009 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger cyndy said...

Look at all these darners!!

My mother taught me to darn when I was about 8 yrs. old.

I have a collection of darning is a worthwhile task to do.

January 18, 2009 at 7:16 PM  
Anonymous Jan, San Francisco said...

Just found your post when I was looking today for a tutorial on darning...will be searching on YouTube or Instructables next. So wish I had learned at the feet of my Irish aunties all these domestic arts which would really come in handy during these lean times. Well, I'm starting with gardening; darning is next!

April 20, 2009 at 2:56 PM  

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