Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Knit Nights at the Brain: Make Do & Mend

Earlier this month, a number of us Bees had the pleasure of attending a special edition of Knit Nights @ the Brain: Make Do & Mend. The evening was lead by the multi-talented and master mender, Becky Johnson, who to our delight agreed to stop in on Knit Night to share her mad mending skills, just in time for the chilly season ahead of us.

Armed with tins full of darning yarn and materials, Becky shared two mending techniques used to tackle the most daunting holes: classical darning, and swiss darning.

Classical darning is a mending technique that's used to repair existing holes in knits. This method is done by using an embroidery needle and yarn (of a weight that's similar to the knit being repaired) to create a warp between the two strongest rows on either side of the hole. The next step is to weave yarn through the warp, creating strong woven material that patches the hole, as well as reinforces the stitches around the damaged area so that the knit ceases to unravel. While the concept is easy to grasp, the real trick lies in creating a patch that matches the same weight and tension as the knit material below; too tight and the knit may bunch; too loose and the knit may sag. A darning egg helps in this process by providing a nice flat surface to work on, but a lightbulb (or even beer bottle, as was the case that evening!) would also do the trick, DIY style.

Most of us Knit Nighters focused on classical darning for the evening, but those who finished their repairs graduated to swiss darning -- a method of mending that's used to reinforce weak spots in woollens, not holes. In basic terms, swiss darning (also called the duplicate stitch) is done by threading new yarn through the knit, following the path of the existing knit stitches. Doing this strengthens the knit, thus preventing impending holes.

Unfortunately I didn't nab any swiss darning action photos, but I highly recommend checking out Becky's blog for some fantastic examples of her swiss darning, and other mending projects. (Sidenote: this is why I refer to Becky as master mender -- look at those socks!) Also worth checking out is this duplicate stitch video - a straightforward visual tutorial on swiss darning.

It was a pretty cozy Wednesday night at The Brain, and it was so nice to spend the evening learning a new craft, with both familiar and new faces. A super special thank-you goes out to Ms. Becky Johnson, for teaching us how to fix all the little (or large!) holes in our woolly lives.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


I always get excited when summer draws to a close and my most favorite season approaches. Fall has so many great things. Wool sweaters, apple picking, garden harvest, warm drinks, fires in the wood stove, and Halloween!

Growing up, my mom would make us the best homemade Halloween costumes - Pigs in Space, Frogs, Toasted Westerns, Pippi Longstockings, Care Bears, She-ra, and so on.

Now, as a mother myself I pride myself in making the coolest costumes for my kids (at least, what I think are cool). It sometimes takes some negotiating, to convince my three year old that he doesn’t want the generic store bought Halloween get up. And I always wait in anticipation to see if the tough critics will approve. Last year they wouldn’t put on their Red Riding Hood and Big Bad Wolf costumes until the actual day, and I am not going to lie, I was a bit worried.

So after convincing my son this year to be an Aviator, I got worried when he told me he was going to be a kitty cat or Wall-E only days before the big day. Luckily we both came through and the costume was not only simple but I’d say a hit.

I made the hat out of vinyl lined with fleece, I made a rough pattern and then shaped it to his head for a perfect fit. I borrowed my friends snap press to add a few finishing touches.

The goggles are a pair of welding goggles we had laying around the house (I just took out the darkening lenses). I found the almost perfect fitting jacket at a local thrift store added a fleece collar and pilot patch to the sleeve. A scarf and a mustache were finishing touches to our simple but very cool costume.