Make Do and Mend: Recent Repair Projects

I’ve been working and plugging away at a number of repair projects, and while I’ve been posting them to Instagram, I thought I’d highlight a few here.  We’ve got one crochet piece and one knit piece.

The knit piece features a stocking that was hung over the fireplace with care – but was hung a little too close to the flames!

a christmas stocking with a hole burned through it

a christmas stocking with a hole burned through it

Not only did the warmth of the fire burn through the stocking, but it melted one of the stocking stuffers to the fabric, causing the bottle to leak all over the fibers.  It was a mess!

A side note: this is a really good reason to use wool when making anything that will get anywhere near heat – wool does not melt or burn like acrylic or cotton.

repaired christmas stocking ready to go back to its owners

repaired christmas stocking ready to go back to its owners

This stocking needed an overhaul – I pulled things out at the ankle and re-knit the foot.  I’m pretty pleases with the color matching – not perfect, but pretty close!


The other project I wrapped up was a crochet afghan that had developed a hole.  It was a nice diversion, since the last few repairs I’ve done of crochet afghans have been plain single crochet.


The first step was isolating the crochet stitches that were in danger of unraveling.  Because this pattern is a gathered stitch, things are a little more tricky – there isn’t a one-to-one ratio of stitches.


Then there’s the process of re-crocheting the area. I had a choice here: I didn’t have any of the blanket yarn I could harvest, so I could either use a closely matching yarn (which is tough to find with cream colored things), or I could crochet the piece in a slightly tighter gauge so I would have enough yarn to do the repairs (and weave in ends).


This is a strategy that works well over a small area – in this case, this one pinwheel (marked by the teal thread). Over larger areas this would cause the area to pucker.

And that is most of what I’ve been working on!  What projects have you gotten off the needles/hook?

Repair and Restoration: Behind the Scenes

Last Thursday I had a lovely surprise: Jeanne Huber, a reporter in the Washington Post, quoted me heavily in answer to a question about repairing an afghan.  She had been asked a question: was there a way to get the holes in her afghan repaired?  Huber called Fibre Space (one of the yarn stores I often teach at), who in turn recommended her to me.  Huber had gotten in touch with me on a Friday afternoon, and between packing up to leave for a long weekend, I chatted to her on the phone about how I do repair.

Huber did a lovely job with the article, taking my rambling replies and distilling them into the pertinent information.  As a result, I’ve been able to chat with a number of people looking to have family pieces repaired.

Still, it left me realizing that there’s a bit of mystery to what I do, and I wanted to expand a little upon the article.


Blanket in the process of being repaired

How I Approach Repair Work

When someone gets in touch with me looking to get an item fixed, I try and have a dialogue with the customer about their goals.  What is it they want from the repair?  What would be the ideal results for them?  Are they looking to have an item repaired so they can use it further or are they looking to have the holes fixed so that the problem doesn’t get worse?  Are they on a budget?   Are they looking for the item to look pristine or are they willing to allow the repair to become part of the character of the object?

Each person has a different idea of what “fixed” means.

21831892331_7742a4b943_bMeanwhile, I’m also looking at the practical part of the project.  How damaged is the item?  How widespread is the wear?  Would attempting to fix the item hurt things further?  When I’m looking into this I’m often learning about the history of the item: if it was stored in a place where a lot of sunlight, heat or humidity could get to it, the fibers may be damaged.  Are the places where wear is showing from use – such as worn out fingers on mittens, or a handle on a bag becoming worn, or because of a different factor?  Often the answers form the type of repairs I can do – mittens that are going to get further wear over each winter are going to receive different treatment than a Christmas stocking that’s taken out once a year.

Based on the customer’s feedback, I come back with a number of options.

Sometimes this means the repairs are visible repairs: so that the owners can show where the original piece is, and where the repairs are.  Sometimes this means we transform a piece: adding a cute embroidered kitten over an elbow patch.  Other times the repairs are nearly invisible as I splice new yarn into the old.

Just as I put time and thought into repairing damaged items, so can you put the time and thought into what you want from your repair.  Worried that a piece of yours might need help?  Check out my post on what to look for.  Already decided to have your piece fixed?  Get in touch with me through my finishing form– I’d love to start our conversation!

What to do if your Family Heirloom is Falling Apart

working on repairs

As you are putting away your holiday decorations, you notice it: a hole, a tear, a rip or an unraveled bit of yarn.  Somewhere along the way this holiday season your childhood Christmas stocking, or that bit of lace your grandmother made, or other family heirloom has gotten a little beat up.

What do you do?

I’ve written before about checking your knit or crochet items to make sure they are staying well-cared-for, but what happens when the damage is already done?  What do you do?

First, make sure that the stressors on the item have been removed.  If the stocking was stuffed full of gifts, remove them.  If the lace tablecloth was hanging off the side of the table, move it to a more supported location.

A recent Christmas Stocking Repair, nearly finished. I was fortunate to be able to closely match the red and the cream.

Then, take a deep breath.  Old knitted and crochet objects have a wonderful thing going for them: the stitches and yarn have been sitting in the same way for a very long time.  They’ve settled and, perhaps in the case of wool, even felted a little bit.  That means unless you are pulling and tugging on the object, the stitches should stay in place and unravel no further.  If the yarn or fibers aren’t too delicate, fold the object up and put it in a bag that protects it from sun and dust.  If it’s plastic, don’t seal the bag: it can trap moisture in with the fibers, which isn’t ideal.

Next, get on the phone or the internet and see if you can find a Local Yarn Store.  If not, see if you can find a local museum or historical society that might deal with textiles.  Often someone will know of someone who might have the skills to repair your object.

Repairs to the edge of a sweater.

Then, think.  Before you talk to someone about repairing your heirloom
determine your goals.  Are you looking to restore it to it’s former glory?  Do you want to just have it fixed so you can continue using it?  What is feasible for caring for your heirloom in the future?

A local knitter, crocheter or stitcher of some great experience might be skilled enough to repair holes and return your heirloom to former use, but they might not have the resources to do a perfect restoration.  On the other hand, they might be more affordable.  Meanwhile, someone affiliated with a museum might have more resources to do a full restoration of your heirloom, but it will probably cost more.

Making a decision about your commitment to keeping the heirloom safe and preventing it from deteriorating further is also important.  If you plan to keep using the heirloom, it’s not feasible to have it under glass.  Sometimes the best ways of preserving textiles is to not use them, which can be problematic if the reason you love a heirloom is because of it’s tradition of use.

Repairs to the arm of a person on a stocking – not all color matches can be perfect.

Personally, I fall on the side of loving and using family heirlooms.  I’m careful about how I handle and store them, but it doesn’t prevent me from using the object.  As someone who creates, I think that useful objects (like furniture, clothing, blankets and many textiles) lose some of their meaning when they are no longer able to be used.  And if the object takes some damage?  Well, I’m fortunate enough to be able to make repairs myself.