Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

I confess – I love to mend clothes even more than I like to make them. There is something very special about mending socks, mittens, gloves or favourite sweaters. It is a lot like helping an old friend. It feels good.

When I mend small rips in woven fabric or store-bought socks, I usually use baseball stitch (here’s a tutorial that explains how it works). It forms a flat, almost invisible seam that does not add any bulk to the fabric.

But when I have to mend bigger holes or worn-out areas, especially the ones that appear in hand-knitted garments, I use a wonderful old mending technique called Scotch darning. I absolutely love the rustic look it creates and I know that the patch formed by this type of mending will stay intact even when the rest of the fabric falls apart. That’s how strong it is.

Here’s a photo of an elbow patch I made using Scotch darning. This patch covers a pretty big hole on my daughter’s favourite cashmere sweater.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

Of course, mending is a very creative process and it is hard to account for all possible shapes of holes in one tutorial, but I’ll show you how this technique works in general and I’ll outline the steps that you need to take to mend holes and worn-out areas in your knitted projects.

If you prefer to learn from a video, click here, or simply scroll to the bottom of this page to watch an embedded version of the video tutorial.

STEP 1 – FIND THE STARTING POINT AND ATTACH THE YARN

1.1. Thread a fairly long piece of yarn into a wool needle. You can use yarn in the same colour as the project, or use the yarn in a contrasting colour for a touch of “visible mending“.

In my example, I’ll use yarn in a contrasting colour to help you see each step better. The patch will look much more subtle when it is made with the yarn in the same colour as the project.

If you want to make the patch thicker than the fabric, use a thicker yarn. Otherwise, use a yarn of the same thickness as the yarn used to make the garment.

1.2. We’ll start at a spot that is one row and two stitches away from the top right corner of the hole or worn out area. Find that spot and either mark it with a pin or just mentally remember where it is. This spot will be our starting point.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

1.3. Insert the wool needle into the work a few rows and/or stitches away from the starting point. You can do it horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Then snake the needle through the fabric and let the needle come out of the fabric at the starting point. It is a good idea to split the yarn as often as you can.

As you see from the photo below, I inserted the needle diagonally in a spot that is four rows and three stitches away from the starting point marked by a pin.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

When you snake the needle through the fabric, try to do it in such a way that the needle doesn’t show too much on the right side of the work. We do this step to anchor the yarn in the fabric while weaving in the tail. This way, we won’t have to come back to the tail to hide it. It is already hidden.

1.4. Pull the yarn through, but stop pulling when the tail has just disappeared in the fabric.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

Remove the pin from the fabric.

1.5. Make a tiny overhand stitch at the starting point to secure the yarn.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

Now we are ready to mend. We’ll fill the hole row by row and we’ll make each row of filling in two stages – first, we’ll run a thread across the hole (like a bridge) and then, we’ll work blanket stitch around that thread to reinforce it and give it more body.

STEP 2 – MAKE A BRIDGE

2.1. Run the wool needle across the last undamaged row at the top of the hole picking up the left leg of each stitch of that row. Start at a spot that is two stitches away from the right edge of the hole and finish at a spot that is two stitches away from the left edge of the hole.

Pull the yarn through.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

2.2. Run the needle under the right leg of a stitch that is the closest to the exit point of the yarn.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

Pull the yarn through.

STEP 3 – REINFORCE THE BRIDGE

3.1. Insert the needle from the top down under the closest horizontal strand at the right side of the yarn, and over the working yarn just as we do when we make blanket stitch.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

Pull the yarn through.

If you want the patch to be as strong as possible, catch the fabric whenever there is fabric around the horizontal strand.

If you use yarn in a contrasting colour and want the patch to look as nice as possible, then work only around the strands of the mending yarn and don’t catch the fabric.

3.2. Repeat step 3.1 to reinforce each horizontal strand of mending yarn in this row.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

3.3. Insert the needle into the second stitch from the right edge of the hole in the current row and take it out of the second stitch from the right edge of the hole in the row below.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

Pull the yarn through.

If the hole has an uneven shape, move the needle to the right or to the left as necessary. The needle should come out of the second stitch from the edge of the hole to set up the work for the next row.

STEP 4 – REPEAT STEPS 2 AND 3

4.1. Just as we did in step 2, run the needle through the work starting at a spot that is two stitches away from the right edge of the hole and finishing at a spot that is two stitches away from the left edge of the hole. Pull the yarn through.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

This time we won’t have the fabric all the way across the hole, and the yarn will serve as an actual bridge between two sides of the hole. Make sure the “bridge” is long enough to allow the fabric to lay flat without puckering.

4.2. Bring the needle one-leg-of-a-stitch back as we did in step 2.2.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

4.3. Reinforce each horizontal strand from the previous row by attaching it to the bridge we formed in step 4.1. with blanket stitch just as we reinforced the first “bridge” in step 3.

Watch how to do it in this part of the video tutorial.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

4.4. When all strands of this row are reinforced, set up the work for working the next row as we did in step 3.3.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

Repeat steps 4.1 to 4.4 until you get to the first intact row at the bottom of the hole. Keep track of the tension of the patch to make sure it is not gathering the fabric around it.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

Move the yarn to a spot that is two stitches away from the right side of the hole in the row that is at the bottom of the hole to set up work for the last row of mending.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

STEP 5 – FINISH OFF

5.1. The last row of the patch is similar to the first row. Just as we did in step 2, run the needle through one leg of each stitch in the first intact row at the bottom of the hole. Then make one stitch back to get ready to reinforce this row.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

5.2. We can use blanket stitch to join each horizontal strand of the previous row with each horizontal strand of our last “bridge”, but I find that we get a neater look when we use overhand stitch to finish off our patch.

To make overhand stitch, insert the needle from the top down under the closest horizontal strand of the previous row and under the closest horizontal strand we formed in step 5.1. Keep the working yarn at the left side of the work to ensure it does not get caught under the needle.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

Pull the yarn through.

5.3. Repeat step 5.2. until you join all strands of the last row.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

5.4. Secure the yarn and run the needle horizontally, vertically or diagonally to a spot that is a few rows and/or stitches away from the patch. This move will take care of hiding the other yarn tail.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

Just as we did in step 1.3, try to snake the needle in such a way that the needle doesn’t show too much on the right side of the work.

Or, hide the tail inside the patch (as I did in this part of the video), and you won’t have to worry about the yarn showing through the fabric.

5.5. Pull the yarn through and trim the tail close to the fabric.

Scotch Darning – a Great Way to Repair Knits

Now your knitted garment will be happy to serve you for several more years. Every time I look at the patches on my knits, I remember the joy I felt caring for this piece and this memory makes me smile. I hope you will feel that way too when you look at your own mending creations 🙂

Scotch Darning - a Great Way to Repair Knits | 10 rows a day
Scotch Darning - a Great Way to Repair Knits | 10 rows a day
Scotch Darning - a Great Way to Repair Knits | 10 rows a day