Tom van Deijnen on Working with Wool…

As anyone who reads Tom’s blog will know, this member of TEAM WOVEMBER is a very keen mender of clothes! Tom is interested in textile traditions as well as in the physical characteristics of wool, and his mending practice often utilises wool for both its referential and material properties. For instance in the case of these darned socks, wool yarns were used not only to reinforce the fabric that has worn thin, but also to reinforce the Sanquhar stitch pattern used in the sock cuff pattern. These socks are both repaired with wool and about wool, with their references to the traditional knitting patterns produced with 100% WOOL on Sanquhar.

Sanquhar sock darn – photo and darn by Tom

Similarly, in the case of mending the worn elbows in a merino cardigan, Tom used a lovely pattern-darning approach (created in Jamieson’s shetland spindrift yarn) both to stabilise the fabric, and also to refer to the sorts of tweed, woollen jackets that traditionally feature elbow patches.

Mending cardigan elbows in pattern-darning – photo and darn by Tom

Tom’s thoughtful use of wool in mending is a way of making clothes more meaningful; of celebrating wool-related fashions and traditions through acts of repair; and of integrating his work with wool directly into daily life. I (Felicity) asked Tom to select one particular mending story from his amazing collection to share here on the WOVEMBER blog, as I think that mending with Wool (and especially Tom’s distinctive take on that) represents some of the most important work we can do for WOOL. Not only can imaginative mending practices add narratives and longevity to our clothes; they can also combat the same cultural forces which deny WOOL a central position in High Street Fashion! Celebrating and extending the life of our clothes is crucial to WOOL gaining a key position within the world of fashion; as long as we chuck clothes away after a few uses, WOOL cannot be a principal textile, because there is just no cheap way of raising sheep, having them shorn, processing their fleeces and turning them into sweaters, skirts, suits, hats, gloves etc. to be purchased on a BOGOF basis.

In this post, which originally was published on his tomofholland blog, Tom talks about mending a cashmere cardigan with Jacob wool. The contrast between the ultrafine cashmere fibres and the strong, bouncy wool of the Jacob sheep is one of the principal points of interest in this story which was originally published here.

Item #11 in The Visible Mending Programme mixes new mending techniques with a familiar story. Zoë had heard of my Visible Mending Programme through word of mouth. She had a gorgeous green cardigan with some fraying cuffs, welts and pockets that urgently required my attention. Oh, and one horrifying hole:

Zoë’s cardigan story will be familiar to many people: when she spent some time in New York, Zoë did the inevitable thing, and went shopping. The sales were on and she spotted a beautiful green cashmere cardigan which was reduced in price. However, it was still very expensive, it wasn’t in her size, and she didn’t really have the money for it. With a sad heart, she left the shop. But you know what it’s like: the cardigan stuck in her mind, and when she spotted another concession of the same shop, she just had to go in and check. Because you can never know. And there it was: THAT green cardigan. In her size. On sale. The only one left. What can one do?

Needless to say, Zoë returned to the UK with said cardigan. It has held up really well – I think the cashmere used is of superior quality. However, favourite items in your wardrobe make many outings, and get love worn around the edges: this frayed cuff shows signs of a mending attempt:

Stress points at pockets started to unravel, the welt started to fray, and of course, there was that hole in the elbow. The chunky knit meant I could try out some new ideas about cuff fixing and elbow patching, and I’m really pleased with the result. I used 100% Jacob wool in aran weight, as I like the contrast: the cardigan made of dyed 100% cashmere, a delicate and luxurious very soft fibre from goats. The mending done in undyed 100% jacob wool, which is very strong and has a more sturdy feel to it.

The elbow patch was knitted in (you can see stitches being picked up in the first picture). I used moss stitch, as Zoë mistakenly believed the cardigan was knitted in moss stitch:

The welt and cuffs were mended by picking up stitches and knitting a 1×1 ribbing. I used a tubular cast-off as it looks good and is very elastic. Jacob wool is strong and has lots of spring, so I’m sure it will keep up for a long time. I mended the pocket corner with a little bit of crochet:

I met up with Zoë earlier today. I’m pleased to report that she was delighted with Visible Mend #11. We had a nice chat and a coffee, when it turned out that she has another horrific hole in her wardrobe. That, however, will be the subject of another post.

All content © Tom van Deijnen and originally published on his tomofholland blog, where Wovember Team Member Tom provides mending inspiration with his Visible Mending Programme and talks about knitting. A lot.

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8 thoughts on “Tom van Deijnen on Working with Wool…

    • Hi Joy, the cardigan is machine-knitting, and I think it was made with a warp-knitting machine. So it is impossible to replicate by hand-knitting. You can find out more about warp-knitting on the internet. It doesn’t really want to unravel in the usual fashion. I think there might be some brioche type stitches that might look a bit like it, but not quite the same.

      • Tom, are you sure it is warp knitted? There seems to be distinct weft threads running from the edges of the elbow hole. Brioche does look very odd when unraveling.
        I would think a simple (first row) p1, sl1 and (second row) k1, sl1 stitch would replicate this rather well.

      • Hi Kata, I’m not sure if it is warp-knitted, but the ribbing at the cuffs definitely doesn’t unravel as normal ribbing would. Which is what I based my comment on. However, I don’t know much about it apart from what I’ve read on the internet, so hope to learn more done day! Thanks, Tom

      • Firstly, thank you for your post. I am a great admirer of your work!

        Could the reluctant unravelling be connected to the fibre used and that it has simply felted together? In my experience, no knitting unravels well from the down up.

      • It wasn’t felted at all, it just didn’t want to ladder down in the usual way. Can’t explain very well as it was last year I did it and all I clearly remember is that it came undone in an unfamiliar way. But thinking through the theory of warp-knitting more, it probably wasn’t that though. Probably will never resolve this unless I get my hands on it again!

  1. Thank you so much – this looks great, and it is so necessary to refocus from getting new stuff to keeping the old ones around. I have recently taken up hand spinning with a spindle. Making the yarn myself has made me realize how precious yarn and fabric were just a century ago. It is a LOT of work to make the yarn for a sweater and then to knit it, and by repairing them once the cuffs (or worse!) wear out, we appreciate the work that went into making it.

    • Hi Jolanda, thanks for your comment. I, too, have recently bought a drop spindle and have been spinning all weekend long! Not sure if it’s usable yarn at all yet, but I’m really enjoying the process. And like you, it has made me more mindful of clothing and how they are made and what costs are involved. Happy spinning and knitting!
      Tom

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