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Many cyclists of the slightly nerdy variety are very big on wool. I’m of that category and similarly fond of woolen clothing for cold weather. I have an elaborate system of sweaters, tights, and outerwear that I layer on or eliminate as conditions require, and my favorite “insulating layers” for my torso happen to be a few nasty old Shetland wool sweaters I’ve had since the dawn of forever. All four of them got moth-bitten a few years ago, and I dithered around looking for darning wool for a while, until I realized that practically every OTHER woman on the Internet knits. I put a call-out on the usual suspects messageboard a while back, and two generous suspects hooked me up with some of the scrap yarn leftover from their projects. My plan was to darn up the damage, then do some embroidery, if necessary, to integrate the repairs into an aesthetically pleasant design scheme.

As it has turned out, so far, I have found perfect matches for the sweaters out of the cast-off yarn selections, though I’m designing embroideries for the old grey sweater simply because there were some pieces of blue, purple, and green slubby yarn that will make charming rustic floral embellishments.

Right now, I haven’t started in on the embroidery to an appreciable extent, and have only repaired this one old motly olive-green sweater and a grey v-neck, as well as a few small holes in a red merino which I use as a base-layer.

When I was a teenager, I prided myself on my hand sewing, and I modified a lot of my clothes, sinc eI wore a lot of hand-me-downs that would otherwise have been very ill-fitting or dated. I got very good at subtly taking in garments, eliminating shoulderpads and grading down the armseye, and replacing unsightly buttons or re-trimming garments to update or improve them. One of the hand-sewing skills I learned back then was how to darn, as I had a very chic black woolen dress which came to me with dozens of tiny moth-holes in it. I liked the dress enough to restore it, and actually still own it. I read up on darning in an old sewing how-to book and did my first repairs in pretty inconspicuous places, in case I really screwed it up.

In case somebody else is looking to take up the dying art of darning, I am including some excerpts from my prized 1946 Home Sewing Encyclopedia, a charming and useful little book published shortly after the end of WWII, with lots of “make-do and mend” tips, as shortages were still a reality, andmany young folks setting up housekeeping for themselves wouldn’t have a lot of extra cash on hand anyway. This book has been a stunning reference for nearly-obsolete sewing techniques, like side-placket zippers, and offers clear and concise instructions on making bound buttonholes and doing various sorts of decorative sewing. It’s got everything from how to make baby diapers to how to make a sofa slipcover. I found it at a used bookshop about 8 or 9 years ago for like $12 and it’s paid me back in usefulness (as well as period charm) many times over.

1946 Home Sewing Encyclopedia

The cover of this illustrious and illustrative volume.

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This is what I was doing mostly, except within a small embroidery hoop, rather than stretched over a darning egg. Darning eggs are most useful for darning socks.

Click on images for larger size.

I’ve used all of these techniques at various points in time. Sometimes, if you have a garment that is otherwise in good shape except for a little moth damage, or an tear here or there, it’s well worth the time to neatly darn it back together.

Going around in moth-bitten sweaters is rather demoralising. I just feel so ratty, unkempt, and generally pathetic. I will feel much more pulled together, tidy, and prosperous now that I will not be wearing the aftermath of a moth’s picnic party.

A “before” example. Two holes close together (and there were two more just off to the left of the frame)

Tools and materials! (I picked the little white slubs out of the yarn and it was a perfect match.

This is the same location where the holes had been. The mending went in very subtly and you have to know that the sweater had been gnawed (and where) to pick out the restoration work.

With the olive-greenish sweater the yarn was a variagated wool in olive, rust, and a brown, which worked amazingly well with the kind of motly greeny-brown-with-different-colored-fuzz yarn the sweater had originally been made of. I’ve had this sweater since highschool, bought during the Grunge craze when many of my clothing choices were made based upon the general unsightliness of the garment. This sweater is kind of a weird color and fairly masculine, so it fit my requirements of not being in the least pretty. And as the case has been, it’s been a hard-wearing, warm, useful sweater, and the weird color suits me – it matches my brownish-green hazel eyes.

The sweater.

A few repairs.

And if you ever wanted to know what a darning egg looks like, the following photos should elucidate. If you need to darn socks and do not own a darning egg, a lightbulb will work fine, too.

I thought I would take a picture of it in my hand to give an idea of the scale of it.

I have two more sweaters to repair, one bright green and one dark green. On these I will need to get more creative since I do not have close matches in color for the repairs, but I am sure I will come up with something serviceable and possibly fun. I have some interesting variagated yarns that I think I can use to interesting effect.

One Response to “Ah! The glamorous life of a nerdy cyclist.”

  1. Fantastic post, absolutely loved it. I well remember being taught how to darn in school in the sixties. Nowadays I find a lot of bargains in thrift shops that are simply missing buttons, it does make you wonder if that is why they were disposed in such a way.

    Love the book. I collect rug wool in skeins for future rugs and have virtually every shade known to man..so let me know if you are stuck for a certain colour.

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