Make Do and Mend – and finish that project from January

While I wait for the wool I ordered to make its way to me, my hands have been searching for other ways to occupy themselves. Using my hands to manipulate and fiddle and fix things is so satisfying – I’m beginning to think I should have gone to a trade school instead of graduate school. I could have been a clock maker! Or a mechanic! I really think the “crafty” bug that so many people catch is a symptom of our underlying desire to use our hands.


Anyway, I went to Goodwill on a whim on Tuesday night, and I scored big time. Elsie from A Beautiful Mess recently did a post on thrift tips, and she’s right – hitting the thrift stores mid-week is the way to go! (Have you seen her blog before? It’s pretty much crafty-thrifty-DIY eye candy in the extreme:)

Elsie has her own clothing line

During my mid-week thrift store adventure I harvested no less than five sweaters and one plain white button down shirt for about $25. I say “harvested” because thrift store shopping involves a little work, right? You have to separate the wheat from the chaff. Here are some of my finds:

The “wheat” – aka my sweater haul
grey pretty cable sweater (wool blend plus angora), silky merino black crew neck, royal blue merino sweater with short sleeves and waist tie, and that mustard color that everyone is coveting for fall in a v-neck

Most of the sweaters I bought were wool, and I’ve learned through several sad experiences that you can’t just throw them in the wash. Happily, Solanah from Vixen Vintage wrote this post for Casey’s Elegant Musings a while back, and I had it stored in my memory bank.

How to wash a wool sweater? Solanah will tell ya!
Following Solanah’s instructions, I have successfully laundered my sweaters with no shrinkage! I’m pretty psyched, as psyched as one can possibly be about doing laundry. And since I was on a thrifty/laundering high, I decided to plunge into some mending. One of the new sweaters had a very small hole in a very…noticeable spot. Whereas previously I might have just left it and considered it part of the thrift store bargain price, this time I found some matching thread and in a few minutes had it mended to where it was barely noticeable.

close up of mended hole
hole from a small distance
Ta da! I was so pleased with this quick fix that I ran and got my cashmere sweater. This black sweater was a thrift store find too, and a gift from my mom a while back. It is so soft and lovely, and I was really heartbroken when moths got at is last year. Until yesterday, it was so sadly moth-eaten that it really shouldn’t have been worn outside the house (even though it was). But 30 minutes with a thread and needle and it is totally wearable once more. Why didn’t I do this sooner? I really don’t know. I think I looked up sweater mending a while back and was intimidated by the pictures and descriptions of reweaving, patching, and so on. I wasn’t about to spend that much time on a thrift store sweater. But it turns out you don’t necessarly have to do all that. Here’s what I did to repair my own sweaters.

Here’s a photo of what the holes in my sweaters looked like:

I didn’t take before photos, or during photos, so just bear with me. All I did was take some matching thread, and (with the sweater inside out) run the needle around the hole, catching the loops of the knit which were still secure, like in the red circles below.

I tugged gently to close the hole a little, and then went back and forth, catching loops on either side of the hole, as in the blue lines below.

I pulled the two ends of the thread tight, knotted them together, and clipped the ends. This is by no means a perfect or professional fix, and it probably will only work for holes which are fairly small (about 1 cm or less) and for knits which are fairly fine (no big chunky yarn). On my black sweater, however, I repaired about eight holes this way, and I think the mends are pretty discreet. I’m happy I’ll be able to get many more wears out of it, with only minimal effort. And to think I was going to cut it up to make a hat and mittens. So silly! I’m not sure why I’m so excited about these pretty mundane mending jobs. I guess it’s just nice do a project that is really easy and saves a garment from being recycled before its time is up. And it makes my thrift store closet feel a little less like a series of castaways and more like a collection of cared-for special pieces.

Speaking of knits and yarn, I’m once again trying to tackle the honey cowl that I blogged about back in January. How far along am I? Oh.. about one inch of knitting. I’ve stopped, backtracked, and unraveled my knitting two or three times now. I was cursing at it last night, but I’m not going to let my second knitting project of all time get the best of me. Anyone know some tips or tricks for keeping track of where you are in a pattern?

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