Sunday, April 13, 2008

Darning Displayed

So you're ready to darn your first hole. How to begin?

First step: assemble your tools. You'll need at the very minimum thread and a needle, and snips or scissors. Optional (in some opinions) are wax and a darning egg.

(A photo would be here, if I didn't have an ornery camera that refuses to take 2/3 of the pictures I want it to take today!)

Anyway, today's mending is a lovely vintage linen dish towel. I adore my linen dish towels, and use them regularly. I found several of them at a church rummage sale before I learned how to weave, and now I intend to make a whole bunch of them to match my kitchen. But as we know where the path paved with intentions leads, I figure it's best to keep these in good repair.

This towel has two spots in need of attention: one a thin spot, and one a true hole. As we learned last time, we can essentially re-weave the thin spot to give it longer wear and avoid the whole hole thing. (tee hee, I had to!) I'll be patching the hole in a future lesson.

Step two: prepare the hole. I stretched the thin spot gently over my darning egg. I am lucky enough to have several of these things is different shapes and sizes, for different types of repairs. This one doesn't look like an egg, it has a more flat, round top, but it has a ring for holding the fabric on - total bonus! (Yes, I'm weird and collect vintage needlework supplies).

In this picture, you can see that it's not really a hole yet, but some of the weft threads are missing. I'm holding it so the warp threads are running top to bottom, and the weft run across in front of me. I have threaded my needle with linen tread (I like to match the fabric, and yes, I had it on hand) then held the thread against an old high-quality candle with my thumb and pulled the thread out. Repeat it a few times, two or three will do, and the thread gets stronger for sewing. Not entirely necessary for mending, but I know this spool of thread well enough to know it needs it. And I'm ready to begin.

I started by tracing the warp threads with the new thread. I went over one- under one from top to bottom, then bottom to top, and repeated until the entire area was set up with doubled warp threads.
Then you start tracing the weft threads from left to right and right to left. Some people find this easier to do without an egg, as I'm showing above. Fold the stitching over your finger to keep from catching any other bits of the fabric and try not to poke yourself.

It doesn't show very well in the picture, but have the needle run all the way across the thin spot, over two- under two.

Wait! I thought this was a plain weave?!

It is. We doubled the warp, remember? So for every warp thread, we have to pick up the new thread, too. This isn't always necessary, but I let this spot get so thin that I didn't think it would hold much longer. It made a thicker repair than I would have liked, though.

So I went across and back until I covered the entire space that needed reinforced. I staggered which thread I turned around on, so as not to stress on particular thread too much, and I left little loops at the turn-around points, just as I learned.

The result?
A thick spot in my towel.

I have yet to wash it, and the wax will wash out, and the threads will redistribute to cover the spaces. But even if it never evens out, that's OK with me. My towel will last longer, and it won't get another unsightly hole in it.

Some folks might prefer to throw it out and get a new one, and that's their choice, but I don't believe that we should be so...light with our resources.

In the overall appearance of the towel, it's much better. And not that bad. I'll wash it, and it'll smooth right into the fabric.

Next time, though, we're going to have to talk about patching. That other hole is a problem!


Kate Hussein A. said...

Very cool idea about the wax! Very impressive darning in general - I've only really tried to darn once, and I got impatient halfway through and ended up doing a pretty crappy job.

I'm jealous of the nifty darning egg, too - I always look for vintage needlework tools, but never seem to find any.

Gloria Patre said...

Superb job! I remember being shown how to darn like this by my grandmother. Boy! It's been a long time since I've done it ... ask the hand knit socks in the "Fix Me" basket! LOL!! Maybe I should get at it!
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