How to Fix Holes in a Sweater

Man wearing sweater with holes

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Sweaters can last generations, but those handmade sweaters of yesteryear (or even last season's purchase) can look the worse for wear. The nature of knit material makes it difficult to simply stitch up a hole. To repair knits, you need to learn how to darn. Darning is an old technique that is most often used to fix and reinforce holes in socks. With darning, you are weaving the yarn over the hole, creating a new patch that replaces the missing knit fabric. Here's a brief step-by-step account of the process.

Getting Your Materials Together

Before beginning, have these materials at hand:

  • Appropriate darning yarn. If you're just beginning to darn, it's a good idea to take the object you're going to darn to a store to make sure that the yarn you're getting is the best match for your sweater. Almost needless to say, your repair yarn should be the same color and diameter and should have the same ingredients as the sweater itself. If you're not sure what your sweater is made of—all wool or a blend—get advice from an experienced store clerk.
  • Matching thread. While you intend to repair the sweater by darning it, sometimes damaged sweaters will also need to be sewn.
  • A mushroom darner. Sometimes called an "egg," a mushroom darner is a pole just a few inches long (which you'll hold onto) and attached to another piece of mushroom-shaped wood.
  •  Darning needle. Sometimes called a "darner," a darning needle is an oversized composite plastic or metal needle with an eye on one end that's large enough to pass yarn through.
  • Small scissors. Use small scissors to cut yarn and thread.
  • Small embroidery hoop. You may want to get a small embroidery hoop as well. Some repairs go better with a hoop to hold the area you're repairing, although in most cases a mushroom darner will work fine.

How to Darn

Darning is pretty simple. Learn how to darn a sock before you begin. It always helps to see what performing the instructions looks like.

  1. Using the tutorial as a general guide, place the darning mushroom under the area in need of repair. Get the yarn threaded through your darning needle. Now weave your darning needle in a straight line (and parallel to one of the directions of the sweater's weave) in-and-out of the sweater, starting about 1/2 inch to the left of the hole and starting about 1/2 inch below it. After your first pass, turn the needle around and repeat the process next to your first line of yarn. The second pass (and all following passes) should be about the same distance from the previous pass to provide the best match for the original sweater. In other words, finely woven sweaters need fine repair weaves and coarsely woven sweaters need coarse repair weaves to match. The in-and-out pattern you'll weave should also match the weave dimensions of the sweater.
  2. Now repeat the process with a second pass that's at right angles to your first. If the hole's about 1 inch in diameter, your patch will probably be a little under 2 inches in diameter.
  3. You can finish your ends in several ways. Some prefer just to weave the last row a little longer and leave the yarn untied. Others prefer a small knot, although you have to be careful that it's on the inside of the sweater and doesn't show. Or you may prefer to use a little thread to stitch the beginnings and ends of both the horizontal and vertical weaves to the sweater's adjacent yarns.