How to Mend a Sweater
Hand-knit sweaters and most sweaters made to look hand-knit can be mended quite smoothly when they've been badly frayed or snagged. Many good sweaters are even sold with a bobbin of yarn attached. Test for needle sizes by slipping needles into the existing stitches -- the body is usually knitted on a needle that is a size or two larger than the cuffs.
Tools: yarn needle, straight knitting needles sized for the sweater cuffs or body, sharp scissors, crochet hook sized for the yarn.
Materials: matching yarn of the same color, weight, and type as that used for the sweater (acrylic, wool, etc.).
Time: 1 to 2 hours.
When one thread in a sweater is snagged and broken, a horizontal tear opens between two rows of stitches. The tear can be rewoven in a stitch that looks almost like the original. Work with the right side of the sweater toward you, from the right end of the tear. With the point of a yarn needle, pick the two loose ends of broken yarn out far enough back to give you a length that can be tied to a new piece of yarn. Cut a piece of matching yarn about 1 foot long and tie one end of it to the loose end of the old yarn at the right end of the tear. Tie a small knot on the wrong side of the sweater, leaving 1 1/2 inches of yarn on the end to be woven in on the wrong side after the repair is made. Thread the end of the new piece of yarn into the yarn needle.
Starting from the knot, bring the needle up through the first loop or stitch on the bottom edge of the tear, from the wrong side to the right side. Carry the needle across the opening and up through the opposite stitch on the top edge of the tear, from right side to wrong side. Bring the needle from the wrong side to the right side through the next stitch on the top of the tear, then down across to the first stitch on the bottom edge of the tear, from right side to wrong side, so there's one up and one down strand in each loop. Continue, forming a row of loops like the knitted stitches between the two rows of stitches that form the edges of the tear. After the last stitch at the left of the tear is woven, tie the end of the mending yarn to the loose end of the sweater yarn, on the wrong side of the sweater. With a crochet hook, weave the loose ends into stitches on the wrong side of the sweater.
If the neckband or the cuffs are frayed or torn -- sometimes caused by binding off too tightly -- clip the stitching that holds the cuff or band seam, from the outside edge well past the cuff or band. Be careful not to cut into the knitting. Smooth the ribbed part flat and clip the yarn in the bind-off or cast-on row at its edge; pull the edge of the yarn to ravel the ribbing. Ravel the entire ribbed band, rolling the yarn as you go; tie broken ends of yarn together as you go.
With the raveled edge and the right side of the ribbing toward you, pull the yarn to ravel it exactly to the right-hand end of the last row. With a straight knitting needle sized for the sweater cuffs, pick up the loose stitches from the left end, slipping the point of the needle into the right side of each stitch so that all stitches lie evenly in the same direction.
Reknit the cuff or neckband with the raveled yarn, using the same ribbing pattern as the old cuff or band; when you come to a place where the broken ends of yarn were tied together, bring the knot to the wrong side of the sweater as you reknit. Leave enough yarn to bind off loosely so the edge of the ribbing doesn't break again; rebind carefully. The band will probably be two or three rows shorter than it originally was.
If the old yarn is too badly damaged to use, or if matching yarn of the same color, weight, and type (acrylic, wool, etc.) is readily available, reknit the cuff or neckband with new yarn, following the procedure above.
Mending Sweater Cuffs
The cuffs of hand-knit sweaters and most sweaters made to look like hand-knits can be raveled and reknitted to the proper length. Test for needle sizes by slipping needles into the existing stitches -- the body is usually knitted on a needle that is a size or two larger than the cuffs.
Tools: sharp scissors, straight knitting needles sized for the sweater cuffs and body, yarn needle, steam iron and ironing board, pressing cloth.
Materials: matching or coordinating yarn for lengthening, of the same weight and type as that used for the sweater (acrylic, wool, etc.).
Time: about 2 to 3 hours.
With a sharp scissors, clip the stitching that holds the sleeve’s underarm seam together, from the bottom of the cuff well up into the sleeve. Be careful not to cut into the knitting. Smooth the cuff out to lie flat. Clip the yarn in the bind-off or cast-on row at the lower edge of the cuff and pull the end of the yarn to ravel the cuff, rolling the yarn into a ball as you go.
To shorten the sleeve, ravel the desired length into the sleeve above the cuff -- ravel 1 inch into the sleeve for every 1 inch you want to shorten it. With the raveled edge upward and the right side of the sleeve toward you, pull the yarn to ravel it exactly to the right-hand end of the last row. With a straight knitting needle sized for the sweater cuffs, pick up the loose stitches from the left end. Slip the point of the needle into the right side of each stitch so that all stitches lie evenly in the same direction on the needle, and no stitches are twisted.
Use the raveled yarn to reknit the cuff in the original ribbing pattern. When the cuff is the same length that it was at first, bind it off in a ribbing pattern. Resew the underarm seam, using the leftover raveled yarn and a yarn needle. After reknitting with raveled yarn, steam the area with a steam iron and a pressing cloth to blend the reknitted part into the rest of the sweater.
Lengthening poses more of a problem unless you knitted the sweater yourself and you still have leftover yarn. If not, try to get the same weight and type of yarn (acrylic, wool, etc.) in a matching or nicely coordinating or contrasting color. Clip the sleeve seam and ravel the cuff from the bottom as above. At the end of the cuff, pick up the sleeve stitches on a straight knitting needle sized for the sweater body, and reknit the sleeve as long as you want it with the yarn raveled from the cuff. Use the new yarn for the ribbed cuff so that if the match isn’t exact, it won’t be as obvious.
If you’re using yarn that’s a coordinating or contrasting color, make it work for you decoratively. Ravel the sleeve back a little further than necessary and knit several bands or horizontal stripes of the new color; or knit in any decorative pattern you like. You may want to lengthen the body of the sweater the same way; if you do this, knit in matching stripes on the body. Bind the new cuff off in a ribbing pattern and resew the underarm seam; press with a steam iron and a pressing cloth.
Whether it's your old sweater or an old suit you just bought from a secondhand store, you can breathe new life into old clothes using the practical tips on the next page.