Mending a Treasured Garment – My Gulp!! Knitted Cardigan

I have always had good intentions when it comes to mending my clothes. But just like my unfinished sewing projects, the follow through on my good intentions isn’t always a long lasting desire. Like many, I am easily distracted by the allure of new projects, fresh fabrics, and expanding my wardrobe and personal style, and sometimes I do that at the cost of strengthening what I already have. Particularly the items that I consider dear to me, that hold memories, and that evoke a certain emotional response when holding or wearing them.

Hows that for a label!

We are in lockdown here in Sydney, and it’s also about as cold as it gets right now (comparatively not very cold lol), and as a big home body I cling to everything that provides comfort and warmth right now. One of my most precious but also most worn winter garments, is my mum’s vintage knitted cardigan. The style gives off a very 80s silhouette with the oversized shape and the shall collar, with a very 70s colour palette. Warm tones of orange, red and yellow highlighted with blue, black and white in vivid zigzag patterns. The label shows a very unique brand name “Gulp!!” which I haven’t been able to find any info on. Mum bought it some 40 years ago in Jindabyne, the traditional land of the Ngarigo people, and a popular holiday destination in winter. I can see just how appealing a garment like this would have been in a setting like that, and I feel like it would have turned heads just as much as it does now.

I’ve worn it sooo much; at home on the couch, bogan glamour shopping in uggs, rolling in the grass with friends, and sitting around a campfires with hot chocolate. It has been brought out of winter storage every year with a glee that is unmatched. It’s pretty magical. It provides so much warmth and is so amazingly cozy. The oversized nature of it means I can wrap it around myself like a blanket. The collar acts like a scarf and the length is just right. Wearing it feels like the biggest most satisfying embrace of not only warmth but emotional comfort and support, which is why it is one of my most treasured garments. But after being on this planet longer than I have, it was in desperate need of some mending. There were many holes from broken threads and dropped stitches, and the longer I left them, the bigger they grew.

With the help of my recent book purchase – Visible Mending by Arounna Khounnoraj, I set about finding a method to mend my cardigan. The book is beautiful with both line drawings and coloured photos of the techniques used. I was able to find that duplicate stitch would allow me to mend the holes in a way that mimics the knitted stitch that is already there. Now I am not a knitter (yet!) so I also did some Youtube searches for video instructions I could follow along with and found these helpful resources for Swiss darning.

Creating a ladder over a hole before darning – https://pattylyons.com/2016/10/tuesday-tip-fix-hole-knitting/

Swiss darning –

It was actually a bit harder than it looks to get the hang of! I kept going in and out of the wrong loop at first couldn’t get the tension on the stitches quite right. I also didn’t know how to tidy up the holes, but through more research found how to do this and made my own little reel on my IG for that process.

Before
After

Before
After

Already this seems like a lot of work just to fill in a few holes, but I also felt such joy in the process. Like Khounnoraj says “Hand sewing makes me feel very connected to the piece I am working on”, and it’s so true. Spending time learning these new techniques has given me even more appreciation for the work that went into creating the cardigan and it has breathed new life into it, restoring the emotional connection and memories I have with it.

I only used yarn that I had on hand so sometimes the colour matches aren’t spot on, but this is how through mending you can stamp your own creativity into a garment. I have seen it written that ‘to repair is radical’ and I fully understand it now. You could take something that is mass produced in a fast fashion setting and not only extend its life but give it a uniqueness that sets it apart from every other garment. It should be just as meaningful (if not more) to put time and effort into restoring a treasured or well worn item, as it is to create or buy a new one.