Monday, 30 July 2012

Wardrobe admin: Tom says darn it!

Tom says darn it! The visible mending programme

As part of my wardrobe admin mission, I decided I should learn a little more about how to 'make do and mend' when it comes to my clothes. Having studied knitwear design you'd think that darning techniques would have been part of the syllabus, unfortunately this knowledge is something I lacked.... until now. Previously, I've freestyled darning holey knitwear based on my knowledge of the behaviour of knit, which has worked out fairly well, but it's difficult to flawlessly mend this kind of damage and ultimately, the visibility of the flaw (no matter how unnoticed by others) has always bothered me. I have to admit that in my pre-knitter days - there were even occasions when I resigned a ratty holey cardigan to the textiles recycling bin, assuming that it was beyond repair.

On Friday evening I learnt the art of visible mending, attending a workshop by talented knitter and darner Tom van Deijnen (aka Tom of Holland). Tom uses traditional darning techniques to mend and decorate distressed knitwear, turning damaged areas and holes into design features; giving well-worn items an extra lease of longevity and adding a sense of history and idiosyncrasy to every day garments. A kind of celebration of flaws. I really wish I had found this class ten years ago, I also kind of wish I had some holey knitwear to mend, as I'm now itching to make use of my new skills!

We learnt two types of darning techniques, swiss darning, which is traditionally used to strengthen the knit (and as such can be used as more of surface embellishment) and stocking darning, which is used to darn holes. Tom provided samplers for us to work on and we were each given a set of two darning needles to keep.

Tom says darn it! Darning needles

My first attempt at swiss darning

Tom's chalkboard diagram, illustrating the structure of knit

My holey knit sampler, ready for stocking darning

The halfway stage of stocking darning, with a darning mushroom in the background

Stocking darning, wrapped around the darning mushroom

Stocking darning, the right side of the knit

Tom entertained us with knitting stories and snippets of knit history while teaching us how to use these traditional techniques to mend and even improve existing garments. My samplers demonstrate basic techniques, but you can see from Tom's blog that he uses darning to beautify worn out knits- with some especially intricate swiss darning designs.

I'll be meticulously studying my winter knitwear for holes and for once, really I'm hoping to find some...

'Tom says darn it' is a regular class at Super+Super in Brighton, the next workshop is on Friday 24th August, for more info see what's on at Super Super in August.

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