Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Darn it

This is one of my favourite cardigans, a pale green cashmere from a twin set I bought when I got my first Fellowship.  I always wanted to wear a twin set and pearls while giving my lecture on Queer Theory! 
You only darn or patch clothes which are precious to you and which are of a good enough quality to hold the darn.  I darn the Good Fella's  precious black jumper collection (his mum always gives him one for Christmas) and my pale green cardi.  You can buy darning, or mending, wool in black but not in pale green so I used some Coats thread for the cardi.  

Darning and patching clothes reminds me of LIttle House in the Big Woods and The Borrowers, books I read as a child in which people made do and mended.  Often not so much a way of life as the means by which they hung on to life, there is something about people rescuing broken items precious to them and renewing them, something feminine:  domestic, small, a peaceful meditative activity for evenings when the day's labour is done, an act of love - to rescue some garment which people have fondly worn holes into.  Knitting up the ravelled sleave of care!  If only poor old Macbeth had got into knitwear instead of politics.  Perhaps someone should suggest it to Malcolm Tucker.  
One of Agatha Christie's novels which combines an anti-fascist story with an account of Baghdad that makes you realise what a lovely city it is (or used to be), has a vignette piece which encapsulates the story.  The heroine is thinking about a bowl found on the archaeological dig where she's staying which had been mended and reflecting on how people were the same all that time ago;  she had a favourite bowl which she wished she could have mended when she broke it.  Like the bowl, she's not special, not an Übermensch (Überfrau? no such thing for Nietzsche of course!), actually she's much more important because she's ordinary and loveable.

(Sad picture of accident earlier today to the bowl my kind friend bought Piglet.
So sorry, Piglet, I don't think we can mend it,although it does still say I have many good friends.)

 You can darn even quite large holes, darning works best on things knitted with finer wool.  

Your aim is to reweave part of the cloth that has been worn away so you start by creating a warp.  (Sorry this picture is a bit blurry! you just want some lines running up and down.)  Sew the thread up into the cloth that's still good a little way so it doesn't tear straight out again.  
Then you make a weft.  

This picture shows the sort of webbed effect you get halfway through.  

This is that big hole I started out with, backlit after I finished it to make it look like something photographed through the Hubble telescope.  
This is the cardigan I patch.  I bought it when I was an undergraduate, in the Borders when I went up there one time with my friend who used to sing The Queen of the Night aria while cycling down King's Parade.  When I was living in a house-share with some other lovely women who loved women, one of them gave me some tartan squares - samples of tweed cloth she had.  I started using them to patch my cardi and now it's about 1/3 patches;  parts of my life have been stitched into it.  The old leather buttons have gone, I replaced them with china ones from the fabulous button shop Claire Grove.  I love to wear this cardigan while I'm writing.  
One day it will be all patches, it will be quite different but it'll still be the same cardigan.  

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