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3 squares of handknit fabric lie on a desk, along with a pair of scissors, a darning mushroom and a needle

How to Mend Holes in Your Handknits

Our mission at The Fibre Co. is to provide you with yarn for projects you are proud of. Once you’ve made those projects, we want to teach you how to take care of them so that they live a long and happy life. One way that you can do this is through mending holes in your handknits.

Holes are inevitable with any handknit, whether it’s through wear and tear, sneaky snags or those dreaded moths. However they occur, it is not the end of the world and certainly not the end of your handknit! With some careful mending, you can fix those holes so they can return to their rightful place in your wardrobe.

Your Mending Toolkit

You don’t need much to start mending. All you need is some yarn (we think you might have some of that!) and a darning or tapestry needle. If you’re making knitted patches, you will also need a set of DPNs in the size you used to knit the original project.

It can also be helpful to use a darning mushroom, but if you don’t have one, a paperweight or even a lemon will do the job – bonus: it smells lovely too!

When is the right time to mend?

Since it’s easier to reinforce thinning fabric than it is to darn a hole, we suggest that you pounce on any thinning areas of your knits before the hole appears. Don’t be discouraged if you miss it though. It’s never too late to mend a hole!

Methods of Mending Handknits

We will cover three key methods of mending your handknits in this blog post: Swiss darning, woven darning and knitted patches.

Whatever method you use, make sure that your mending extends beyond the hole or thinning area by approximately 2 cm on each side for optimum strength. Lightly stretch the fabric that needs mending over your darning mushroom to stabilise the fabric.

Swiss Darning

A mustard coloured square of hand knit fabric on a desk top with with a patch of Swiss darned visible mending in teal.

If you have noticed that your knits are starting to thin in some areas, it’s time to swiss darn them. Common areas are the elbows of sweaters and the soles of socks.

Swiss darning can be rather time-consuming; however, it has a very neat finish. In fact, it can look practically invisible if you use leftovers of the same yarn to do it. Washing the handknit will neaten up the darn and help it to blend into the fabric.

You will need yarn that is either the same thickness or slightly thicker for the best results. This swatch was made with Lore in shade Happiness with shade Heaven as the darning yarn.

  1. Starting at the bottom left of your intended darn, bring the needle from the WS of your fabric to the RS through the bottom of the knit stitch (it looks like a V), leaving a tail end to weave in at the end.
  2. Thread the needle through the two arms of the knit stitch above the one you are working into.
  3. Insert the needle back into the spot you came out of at the bottom of the knit stitch and pull it through. You have now Swiss darned one stitch.
  4. Continuing working across to the right, Swiss darning stitch by stitch until you have reached the required width.
  5. Then, move onto the row above and work your way across, over and over, until you have completed the darn.

A mustard coloured square of hand-knit fabric on a desktop with a single stitch of light teal blue in the fabric. A darning needle is making the second stitch.

Woven Darning

A handknit square of fabric lies on a tabletop. The square has a woven square patch at the centre.

Once your handknit has gone past the stage of thinning and a small hole has appeared, you can use a woven darn. This is the classic method of darning holes that you likely think of whenever darning is referenced.

The woven darn is more visible than a Swiss darn since it creates a woven fabric that looks nothing like knitting. It can be made on the right or wrong side of the fabric and creates a strong mend that is ideal for socks. This swatch was made with Luma in shade Blue Dusk and darned with Lore in shade Heaven and Cumbria Fingering in shade Saddleback Slate.

  1. Lightly stretch the holey fabric over your darning mushroom and carefully trim away the fluffy edges of the hole.
  2. Use a running stitch to outline a rectangular frame for your darn.
  3. Once you have a frame, create your warp by threading the working yarn under the frame thread on the right side of your frame, and then running the yarn across to the left side to catch the frame edge there.
  4. Work back and forth until you have covered the whole frame with your warp.
  5. Once you’ve completed your darn crosswise, you need to do the same thing up and down the patch of fabric, weaving the needle under and over the crosswise threads to create a woven darn.

If, once you’ve completed it, your woven darn still feels a little too open, feel free to go back over it to fill in any gaps.

Knitted Patches

A knitted patch on a hand knit square of fabric

If the hole has gotten rather large, knitted patches are the ideal fix. They can be a little bulky, but if you use the same yarn as you knit with, it can blend in quite well (although we’re a fan of contrasting, decorative patches!) This swatch was knit with Lore in shade Heaven with the knitted patch knit in Cumbria Fingering shade Scafell Pike.

  1. From the RS of your work, pick up every second horizontal bar between stitches on a DPN either side of the hole.
  2. At the bottom of the hole, pick up and knit a row of stitches, between the 2 vertical DPNs, using a third DPN.
  3. Start making your patch by working across the stitches in the stitch pattern of your choice until you reach the final stitch.
  4. Work the final stitch together with one of the stitches from the vertical DPNS, then turn your work to continue.
  5. Repeat the last step until you have adequately covered the hole.
  6. Use Kitchener stitch to graft the live stitches of the patch to the original fabric.

Get Inspired to Darn

We hope this blog post has inspired you to extend the lives of your handknits through mending. If you need any inspiration, please let us direct you towards Tom van Deijnen (AKA Tom of Holland) who set up The Visible Mending Programme. This case study of a gansey repair is particularly inspiring!

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