Darning a Vintage Cardigan DIY | Sustainable Frugal Minimalist Wardrobe

This post is well overdue. I have been planning to write about this little gem for some time. Alas, there is never enough time to cover everything I would like to on this blog!

I first spotted this vintage cardigan in a little shop in Fremantle many months ago. It is a 1960s wool and lurex blend with a cropped sleeve. I tried it on, and while I loved the fit and the look of it, I was not sure it would suit the rest of my wardrobe.

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If you are tuning in for the first time, I have a small wardrobe, consisting of less than 30 items of clothing and shoes. I get very pedantic about what I buy, because I want to maintain minimalism in my wardrobe. One of the more important strategies for keeping my wardrobe small is ensuring that everything in it works well together. For this reason, I tend to avoid items that don’t suit the overall ‘narrative’ of my look.

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I walked away from the cardigan that day, but within the week it was evident that I could not stop thinking about it. A month later I decided to try it on again. At this point I’d spent a lot of time visualising how I could incorporate it into my look. When I tried it on again, I decided that I wanted to bring it home. One problem though, it was covered in holes.

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The video below shows you how I darned the holes in the cardigan. If you watch it, you will see that I show three obvious holes. In reality, there were more like six or seven. The cardigan must have been attacked by moths at some point.

Darning is a mending technique commonly used on knitted items. The darning pattern is based around a simple running stitch, in which the thread is “woven” in rows along the grain of the fabric. The direction of the stitch is reversed at the end of each row. Next, new stitches are ‘cross hatched’  into the existing set to fill the hole. If used with a knitted fibre, darning is an effective way to repair a hole with few obvious marks.

In the video I have used a red thread to illustrate the darning technique. Obviously, this was just to ensure visibility. I took the red thread out immediately after I shot the video, and re-darned in black.

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In the video I also demonstrate how you can fix a bigger hole using a similar technique. First, I use a strange wool-like black synthetic mass I found in my sewing box to cover the hole. I then replicated the darning stitch pattern over the top to unify the fibres.

I was surprised to find that in both cases, the holes completely disappeared after I mended them. Before I bagan fixing the cardigan, I thought I would need to find some silver thread to work with, but in the end the black thread was more than adequate. It is almost impossible to see the repairs.

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The images that I have used to demonstrate the darning technique are from a book that is dear to me, Slow Clothing: finding meaning in what we wear by Jane Milburn. Jane is an accomplished author, and also the founder of Textile Beat, a unique enterprise that aims to cultivate an interest in ethical and sustainable clothing. I was lucky enough to interview Jane about her work earlier this year, and you can read that interview here if you are interested.

I have found the book to be a wonderful resource for any sort of mending and upcycling inspiration. It is an excellent resource for all things fast and slow fashion, and I definitely recommend that you add it to your library.

Check me out on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and now Pinterest! I also have a Patreon account, where I post additional content weekly. Patreon subscribers receive a number of benefits, including additional weekly content, early access, and discount in the Small Wardrobe shop.

As a final note, here is a new YouTube channel I have started! I’ll chat a little more about it soon.

❤️

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6 Comments

  1. I continue to be impressed and amazed by you. Each post is something thought-provoking, useful, or informative. This sweater is a great find and works perfectly with your wardrobe. If it were me, I’d spend the day imaginging fantastic stories about the previous owner(s) of the sweater and listen intently for historical echoes coming from the fibers. =)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice! You’re right, the black-only mend really doesn’t show.
    I’ve got a list of about 5 mending projects that need to be attended to, most of which are darning issues, although I think one at least might be far enough gone to need patching. Must get on to it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Really love this. I just bought a wool, sleeveless long cardigan that I am hoping will play the same role as this one. I love pairing down my wardrobe and also thinking critically about what actually belongs. Thanks also for the repair tips. I was wondering if you have ever done a re-lining of a purse and or fixing the inside?

    Liked by 1 person

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