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Category: Knitting

Make Do and Mend?

I have to admit, I love to repair things an it’s only recently that I have begun to wonder why.

Thrift plays a small part in this. As a family we have always repaired and upgraded our own computers until they reach an age where they’re just not usable for our purposes any more, and as a mum I find myself forever gluing my son’s toys back together! But more and more I find that this is only a small part of why I almost always head for a pot of glue before heading to the shops to buy a replacement.

Whenever I visit antique shops the things that grab my attention are not large, impressive vases with exquisite detailing or grand pieces of furniture. I’m always drawn to the handmade, the obviously well-loved and well-used and things that have been fixed with skill, creativity, or both. Things that were used in everyday life rather than those intended to impress. They have a link to the people that owned and used them, a history.

The personal history of objects is just one of the reasons I choose to repair things. Some things have sentimental value such as the dolls in the photo below. When I visited my sister at Christmas she had a collection of dolls that our Mum made and they had been attacked by moths so I spent two days fixing them for her. Below that you can see my pencil case, which I repaired just because I like it. I’ve spent the last two years looking for another pencil case without being able to find one I liked as much, so why not fix it? I could have used tape to repair the hole but a fabric patch suited me better. I really should clean that smudge from Buffy’s face…

repaired dolls and pencil case

Sometimes I like to fix things creatively.

Holes and worn spots patched with, um, patches.

Hand knit blanket and cushion with creative repairs.

Baby blanket. I crocheted around the edge because it looked unfinished and covered any holes or tea stains with flowers.

Baby blanket with crochet edge and appliques

More holes and worn spots covered with patches. I also removed the tatty fringe.

Mohair blanket repaired with crochet circle appliques

Holes covered with a crochet patch and some loomed flowers.

Oddball sampler afghan with repairs

More holes covered with more crocheted patches!

Knitted blanket with rat applique repairs

Sometimes I like to fix things invisibly. I’m currently learning more invisible mending techniques so I can do this more often, especially with darned clothing.

At the top is a baby jumper made for my daughter (now 19). I replaced the neckband by undoing the original and knitting a new one on. Unfortunately I lost the cool bow button in the process 🙁

Below that is a blanket that I made many years ago and gave to my Mum. I replaced the red round of crochet. I needs a couple of more repairs now but it’s special because Mum did nothing for three days except darn in all the ends because she liked it so much.

Baby jumper/sweater and granny square jumper with repairs

Sometimes I buy things that are imperfect because they suit what I need. Then I fix them to make them into exactly what I wanted.

I had been thinking about buying a small tabletop ironing board for ironing seams when this one turned up in the local op shop for a couple of dollars. I had intended to replace the cover but a friend on ravelry suggested a removable cover, making it even better than new because now I can wash it whenever I need to.

Upcycled sleeve board and toiletries bag

The box is another thing I was looking for that almost suited my needs. Anyone who visits this site regularly will know that I have a bit of a passion for flower looms (a bit, haha). Anyway, I needed a way to carry them in my bag when I travel without the spokes getting broken off. No matter how hard I looked, all I could find was cheap looking makeup boxes until I saw this retro box at the tip buyback shop (a shop at our local garbage dump where people leave things other people can use so they don’t have to pay to dispose of them). The lining was filthy so I washed it, took out the bag and re-covered it with kitsch Christmas kitten fabric. I love how it’s now a very sedate looking retro men’s toiletries bag when it’s closed, and a total surprise of ridiculous kitschiness when you open it 🙂

It was also a very enjoyable challenge to work out exactly how to re-cover the lining of the box. The right order to do it in, the right technique, the size of the pieces and how to cover my mistakes.

Sometimes I don’t want to fix things at all but they’re important to someone else so I do it anyway 🙂

I took this blanket apart completely, remade about a third of the squares and then put it back together.

Remade granny square blanket

There are still things that I refuse to repair though. We have some nasty cheap book cases in our living room which I hate. They’re scheduled to be replaced with proper solid pieces of furniture as soon as they fall apart (which looks to be soon!). I also don’t bother to repair rips in cheap clothing, only special items or things like jeans, where a repair can be creatively done.

So that’s why I repair things. Personal history, a challenge, a chance to be creative, to turn something that’s “almost right” into something perfect, to lengthen the life of something useful, or to do something nice for someone else.

Do you repair? Why? Why not? If you write a blog post about it let me know and I’ll add a link below.

Blogs I like about creative and useful repair:

Tom of Holland

Past Imperfect: The Art of Inventive Repair

A Little Knitting Wisdom from 1922

From the Examiner (Launceston, Tasmania), Tuesday 11 July 1922 – page 7

Woman’s World
(by “Sylvia”)

A CHAT ABOUT KNITTING

The path of a beginner with wool and knitting needles is often very bumpy. First there is learning to manipulate needles and to throw the wool whilst still holding the right-hand needle in position. Then there is the trouble with wool forward to purl, and wool off the needle again to knit plain.

Every beginner knows the tragedy of forgetting to slip the wool back to its proper place, which means not only an an extra stitch on the needles, but an obtrusive hole as well. Even with plain knitting a beginner usually garners in a few extra stitches quite unconsciously, and she awakens suddenly to the fact that the outer edge is assuming a crosswise appearance, instead of being perfectly straight.

Anyhow, these are difficulties to be overcome by practice very soon, too, by some people, who go ahead so quickly as to be able to follow intricate patterns and produce exquisite articles in the finest silk, cotton, or wool.

I know an old lady who is nearing her 90th year, and she still knits most beautifully the finest thread and needle as fine as darning needle. Her knitting is practically unsurpassable. On my remarking to her about the wonder of keeping all the different slipping and making and passing of stitches demanded in some of the doyleys and lace she knits, which mean such a variety of rows, she laughingly told me how she manages to avoid confusion in rows.

She has made a number of little books from strips of paper, and on each leaf is written a single row (numbered) of all her patterns. When knitting she simply turns a leaf for every change, and, moreover, interruptions are a matter of no importance; she merely turns down the leaf, and knows exactly where she left off.

We all know how bewildering are some of the detailed directions in both knitting and crochet patterns. And possibly the excellent plan adopted by this old lady would prove valuable to many workers. No matter how well one knows at intricate pattern – or thinks she does it is practically impossible to remember it without a pattern. And yet the directions may be made quite intelligible by abbreviating them in rows. The writing to be done whilst the pattern is being worked. This sounds like something of a task, but even so, in reality the system is labour-saving for the future.

Casting on, and casting off often decides for or against the finish of jumpers, socks. etc. To have the edge too loose or too tight, is a fault – the tension should be exactly the same as the work in the article. When casting on with two needles the average knitter somehow manages to have the stitches so loose that the first and second rows are unsightly, because of slackness. Knowing this, such a knitter is well advised to cast on with needles a size smaller than those to be used throughout the work. And in casting off the trouble often is to knit too tightly – therefore, the plan is to use large needles for the casting off. Another point to bear in mind is, be sure to cast off on the wrong side to avoid the chain-stitch effect on the right side.

It is also desirable that wool should retain its elasticity. Remember this when winding. Avoid making a tight ball. Always keep fingers of the left hand on the ball when winding — roll the wool loosely over them for a few turns, then change the position of the fingers. This method will result in a soft ball that puts no strain on the wool.

A good way to wind wool so that you will have a ‘still ball’ is to arrange to have the end coming from the centre of the ball. Proceed this way:- Wind a few strands around your four fingers, slip off the strands and hold in the hand, and commence winding the wool around one end of the strands, leaving the top to stand out in a bunch. Wind loosely as described for the other ball, and tuck the end under one of the outer strands. Now pull the loops in the centre right. You will have a yard or two of wool and you will find the wool will continue to come freely from the centre of the ball.

A New Video :)

Sewing buttons onto knit and crochet garments.

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