by Learning Lead- Katie Yantzi

It’s taken me a bit longer than I’d hoped to tackle this next mending skill, for a few reasons: I’ve been busy with other life projects (including moving to a new city and home), but I was also a bit intimidated by mending knits. Why exactly? I’m not sure. I’ve knitted and crocheted for years, so I’m comfortable working with yarn and weaving strings into something new. I’ve even attempted to (very messily) darn knitted items in the past. But I wanted to learn to do this properly, or at least nicely, and I didn’t want to “ruin” my knit cardigan in the process of trying to repair it. The particular technique I was interested in trying resulted in a beautiful, satisfying woven pattern, but also looked a bit difficult. 

The item I needed to repair was a thin, cotton knit cardigan with a nickel-sized hole in the front. Knit fabric is made from a continuous thread that is pulled into interlocking loops, which gives it ease and stretch. When knit fabrics get a hole, the thread will continue to unravel and the hole will grow, unless they are looped together again with new thread or yarn. There are different ways to do this, but I was particularly interested in learning a technique that I’ve seen employed by Scottish knitwear designer and visible mender, Flora Collingwood-Norris.

I was inspired by Collingwood-Norris’ creative clothing repairs, which often feature pops of colour and decorative designs, so I purchased one of her sweater-darning video tutorials and got to work (so quickly I almost forgot to take a “before” shot).

Photo by Katie Yantzi.

For this project, I used:

  • Needle with an eye large enough to slip my mending thread through. I’m told using a needle with a blunt end (rather than a very pointy one) for this sort of mending makes it easier to pull the needle in and out of your threads without splitting through them, but use whatever you have.
  • Thread (or yarn) made from the same material and about the same weight as the thread of the original garment. I used cotton embroidery thread, since my cardigan is cotton, and I chose to use three colours to create a sort of checkered pattern, but you could use a single colour, or more.
  • Scissors, to snip the thread (of course!)
  • An iron to press the finished product

One of the key things I learned was that it’s important to mend well outside the edge of the actual hole, to make sure all of the loops are well secured. When looking at knit fabric up close, you’ll see what looks like columns of v-shaped loops – each “v” represents a single stitch. I counted several rows and columns above and below the hole, and made a note of the rectangular-shaped area I wanted to cover (you could mark this with chalk or a fabric pencil for reference).

Photo by Katie Yantzi.

Starting at the edge of my mend area, and with the thread coming up from the back of the fabric, I first worked long stitches vertically up and down the columns of knitted stitches, threading my embroidery floss up and down each column with a single stitch from one side of the hole to the other. I also picked up a couple extra loops at the top and bottom to create an extra border of stitches outside of the main mend. I tried to make sure that I got each column of knitted stitches without skipping any, but I’m sure I missed a few as the knitted loops of this sweater were *very* tiny and easy to miss. There is no need to tie a knot when you start; just leave a long tail of thread behind, which you can take care of securing at the very end. Make sure there’s more than enough length there to thread onto your needle later.

The last stitch you do vertically should pull the thread to the back of the fabric again. When I was finished working my way across the hole, some of my stitches were a bit loose – I think this is better than having them too tight, as you want the finished product to be able to stretch a bit, too.

Photo by Katie Yantzi.

I then did the same thing crossways, this time weaving the needle alternating under and over each thread. This holds it together, and creates a checked pattern. 

Photo by Katie Yantzi.

At the end of each row, I found the thread didn’t sit straight, and I had to nudge it down with the tip of my needle or by pushing sideways with my needle against the horizontal thread each time before beginning the next row.

Photo by Katie Yantzi.

If you’re alternating colours, you can just leave a long tail of thread before picking up the next colour. Then, if you need to use the same colour a second or third time (for instance, when stitching crossways), you can simply pick up the previous thread tail again and use it. If it’s far away from where you need to start with it, you can weave it through a few other loops on the back of the fabric on the way there. 

Finally, once you’re finished weaving horizontally and vertically over the area around the hole, you’ll need to take care of the loose threads at the back of the fabric by weaving in the ends. For this you can simply thread each end onto the needle, pull it through a few loops of the original knit fabric in one direction, and then a few loops in the opposite direction. This should be enough to keep the ends secure, you can now snip off whatever is left. Do this with all of your loose threads.

I then pressed my mend with an iron to try to smooth out any bits that weren’t lying nice and flat; this helped marginally, but wasn’t perfect.


So, was this tricky? Yes, somewhat. My results are nowhere near as neat and tidy as Collingwood-Norris’, and I’m not sure I love the colour palette I chose for this particular piece, but I’m glad to be able to finally wear it again. Despite my somewhat wonky results, I think that I could improve at this technique with more practice, and I do intend to try again.