Per the request from the flicker forum, I thought an entire post on darning would be a good thing to have.
It was strange, I looked through about 6 of my vintage sewing books and most of them had at least a paragraph dedicated to the art of patching and darning. None, however covered the territory like The Complete Book of Sewing. I will post the entire section later in this post.
Darning and patching can be some of the best tools to shape up a worn wardrobe. I'm surprised that more people don't do it. This make n mender did a great tutorial on darning jeans.
I do think there are some misconceptions that we need to get over when we talk about darning/patching.
- 1) You will always see the mend.
- 2) The process does not take as long as you think. For the practice ones I'm going to show, they took no more than an hour. Not too bad to get regular wear back from your garment. And these were both done by hand.
I prefer to do a mend by hand, especially if the repair is on the bias. Why? I find hand sewing is a bit looser than machine sewing, and if its concentrated in a worn area, the mend has the tendency to work with the fabric, instead of being like a 'brick wall' against the fabric. Hope that made sense.
Tutorial one: Mending a hole.
Here is the hole I am working with. For the sake of the tutorial, this is a cotton sateen. I cut the hole on the bias and frayed it too so it would mimic a real tear.
First thing to do is iron the fabric flat and snip off all the stray threads. Some steps have you cutting a square shape on the grain the size of the hole. I don't ever do that.
Next you whip stitch the frayed tear and mark around the mending area on the grain. You can do a ziz-zag on your machine of you prefer. If the fabric is cut on the bias, then your patch needs to be on the bias. I have the patch starting 1/2" from the closest parts of the tear. This gives good reinforcement for the sewing to be done without worrying about further fraying.
Next measure a patch with 1/2" seam allowance and fold the allowance under.
Pin over the mend, right side up and whip stitch all around.
Measure closest to the tear another square. (This is the wrong side up).
I do a basting stitch around that, keeping on the grain and tie it off.
There, your patch is all done. If you want to get fancy about it you can match patterns or whatever but I find that isn't really too important to people.
This process works best on light woven fabrics, linings, or if the damaged area requires stability.
Tutorial two: Darning a hole.
The art of darning requires the concept of mimicking the weave of the original fabric with thread to provide the reinforcement of the damaged area. You can take your damaged pieces to some tailors to actually do this, but for the most part, you can do it at home.
The crucial thing to know is not to simply 'sew' a darn closed. People do it all the time. That always creates a pucker which can tax that area more and make the darn you created come apart that much quicker. You want to 'fill in' the missing/damaged material with thread, like a bridge. That's why darning eggs are so important, especially with curved knits like socks. It spreads out the damage so you can maintain the shape of the article of clothing as you mend it.
This type of darn works great with a knit or thick fabric. Here you can see the missing threads in the weave. Clean that area up as much as you can, snipping broken threads but be sure not to stretch the area or to cut stable threads. That will only make the darn larger.
From there measure off a square shape on the grain like we did in the previous tutorial. With darns like this, you can stitch it to shape the damaged area, but be sure to start your sewing at least 1/2" away from the damage to give your thread reinforcement. That is very important.
Weave in and out of the existing weave with the grain as I did here.
Then you go vertical as well, making sure to loop the sewing in and out like the weave of the fabric. You might have to do a few passes, but that will stabilize the area. As you are sewing, make sure you are not pulling too tight and press the fabric out as needed so your weave stays straight.
Here is a diagram I laid out over my darn to show you my stitching. I did a diagonal pass for stability, but I didn't have to. If I had used a matching thread, like black, the darn would be nearly invisible. That's the trick if you have a fabric that's flecked like this. You can even alternate different colors of thread to mimic the area as much as possible, if you are really serious about it.
There you have it, daring and patching in a nutshell. Here are the pages from The Complete Book of Sewing covering all this and more.