Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Preparing Sweater for Its Second Life...

My nephew has a favourite sweater he's had for years.  My niece (his younger sister) has her eye on it for as soon as he outgrows it!  It is a beautiful Canada wool sweater with a fleece lining.
Unfortunately, the elbow on one of the arms snagged and caused a hole.  Knowing that its his favourite, and little sister wants it, my very smart sister-in-law considered different ways to fix this before the hole got bigger!

1) Sewing the hole shut.  My comment - it won't be invisible and I'd worry about the thread cutting the yarn faster over time.  Pilling of sweaters occurs from the fibers rubbing against each other, add in a nylon thread and it'll cut.

2) Elbow Patch.  This would be a cool feature, but probably not what the niece wants for 'style'

3) Patterned Darning.  This would be an equally cool feature, but probably not what the nephew wants for style.

4) Invisible Mending - and that is what I did.

A photo posted by Katherine Caughran (@stringandbeans) on

Now, with this being fleece lined, using existing yarn from the sweater (side seams) wasn't an easy task for such a small fix; however I did have a matching yarn in a slightly heavier weight.  Steps I took to fix it were:
  • I thinned the new yarn a bit so it wouldn't create a thicker area in that spot; 
  • shaved the pilling around the hole so I could see the stitches clearly, 
  • sewed a 'grid' with white cotton sock yarn to guide me and 
  • swiss darned the hole which was 3 rows by 2 stiches

Depilling helps renew the look of the sweater, and prevents future 'snags'.  Plus it gives the sweater new life...My photos don't do it justice!

A photo posted by Katherine Caughran (@stringandbeans) on

Nephew will be happy, but I'm sure my niece is going to drool over this renewal..."Hurry up and grow big brother!!!"

Friday, April 1, 2016

Sweater: 25 years & looking brand new!

As the weather warms up, it's actually the BEST time to care for our favourite sweaters so they are clean & moth-free for the summer storage.  My favourite sweater is over 25 years old (I can't quite recall when I got it, but I know it was a gift from my parents).  I wear this sweater to nearly every hockey game and hockey practice, so the sweater is well-worn!  It just doesn't need to look that way:

Any sweater with pills will snag more easily and collect dirt more easily - dirt also attracts any sweater going into 'storage' needs to be clean to avoid surprise moth holes in the fall.  In this case, first step is de-pill the sweater!  I did one side using a dull razor from my husband, it was quick, but with the amount of pilling, became far too dull before I could complete the sweater.

I purchased a small battery operated sweater shaver, which took me a total of 3 hours to completely clean off this sweater.  Had the pilling not been so bad, it wouldn't have taken as long, and its definitely better for preventative maintenance, but for something this drastic, the shaver kept snagging - yarn would spin in the middle and catch on the sweater:
You can see it sticking out on the shaver, as the shaver spun it would catch on the sweater and build up inside the shaver
I hope to try out another technique in the coming weeks as I order in some other de-pillers :)

But, sweater looks brand-new, and after a wash & dry, I'll store this one in my closet with some lavender - because I still love this sweater for nights when camping plus I'll be visiting arenas again in August.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sock Fix: Swiss Darning

My mending pile now remains filled with MY items...always the last to be looked after...what is it they say about the cobbler's shoes?

My first pair of socks that I knit for myself are from 2007, and although its held up quite well, the heels were getting 'weak' so they needed some boosting before I actually created holes.  It's much easier to mend weak stitches than recreate something that is no longer there (ie mending a hole).

If you look up darning socks on Pinterest and the like, you'll see a number of methods of knitting or patching over top of the holes.  Reknitting or swiss darning are my preferred methods of mending knitwear.  My interpretation of swiss darning is basically doing a duplicate stitch over the weaker stitches.  I didn't think of taking better photos for the blog until after the socks were already fixed.  I had luckily taken photos of the before shot to show family members (read: my husband) when they should be providing me their knitwear for mending, not after they create a huge hole.  But I digress...
A photo posted by Katherine Caughran (@stringandbeans) on
I no longer had the matching yarn, but this is on the bottom of my foot, so I really didn't worry about matching the yarn, besides it's easier to show the mend when its a different colour :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sock Fix: Skinny legs, Long(er) Feet

To further my spring cleaning of the mending pile, I took a pair of Kman's outgrown navy socks (barely used) and ripped out the toes to make them longer.

Background:  Kman goes to a Montessori school and wears a uniform consisting of navy or white socks, navy pants and a white or red golf shirt.  He prefers navy socks and each year asks me to knit him a new pair of navy socks.  Last year his shoe size grew so FAST he hardly had a chance to wear the socks that I had knit him.  But his ankles and legs are still the same circumference.

So, rather than knit new socks, I thought I'd save some time and rip back the toes and reknit to lengthen.  I have lots of navy sock yarn purchased just for him!  After I reknit the first sock and had him try it on, he did say the band was a bit tight.  So in addition to lengthening the socks, I ripped out the top of the sock band and cast off using Jeny's Super Stretchy Cast Off. 

The photo might not show it  well enough, but you should see the original sock length on top of the new sock length - I added over an inch in length!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Spring Cleaning

Following up to my business idea of fixing sweaters, socks and the like...I had a pile of socks with wear that I needed to get caught up on...

The first, a sock I had knit for my dad, which was confiscated by my mother as her bed socks...unfortunately she caught the toe on something, and it needed major surgery...
I started with picking up the ladder with my crochet hook, to determine how much I may need to stitch, but that showed me that there were two different places the yarn was cut (not just one), so instead of doing swiss darning, I tore back the toe and reknit it using a russian join to reconnect the broken strands.
My mother is happy to have socks again (although had she given me both socks, I probably would have reknit both toes and resized the socks to her feet, since they were originally intended for my father)...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Plan!

Before the holidays, I was asked to fix someone's sweater.  I looked high and low to find matching colours for the wool sweater.  It had 6 safety pins to hold various holes in place, and had previous iterations of patching done by the owner's mother.

It took me longer than I care to admit, but I finally found colours that could match as best they could, and fixed up the holes along with a number of weak spots that threatened to break with wear.  Lo and behold the sweater was wearable again...and the owner was ecstatic...because he's had this sweater for 35 years and its his favourite.

Which led me to my new plan - repairing favourite sweaters, socks, kilt hose...something that I enjoy and will keep handknits, cashmere sweaters, and the like still in circulation :)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Upside down and backwards

It's been years of me saying I'll knit myself a new christmas stocking, since mine is so much smaller than hubby & child's...(yes I'm glossng over the fact its been years since I last posted here).

Each year, I'm usually too busy with gift knits to get around to my stocking, so this year, I started the stocking after Christmas, so it'll be ready for next year.  I'm following this Falling Snowflake pattern and after starting off great, realized I needed my name added.

Now, when knitting a sweater or blanket, you just chart and go...but this stocking is in the round and top I could chart my name using excel, but needed it to be upside down.

I tried a couple of things:

1) I searched Ravelry for upside down alphabet charts - didn't find one
2) I googled upside down alphabet charts - didn't get results I needed.
3) I charted name as per usual in Excel then knit it backwards from what I'd usually do with a chart.

  • I set my column widths to .74cm so it would look like the graph chart in use by the stocking pattern
  • I chose to have the letters in the same height as the 2nd snowflake band of the pattern so only 10 rows high
  • My letters were 'narrow' but I still had to add an extra repeat of the snowflake pattern (ie cast on an extra 32 stitches) in order to fit my whole name.
And now I have my own 'larger' stocking, albeit still smaller than the other two