Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Repairing a $1 Thrift Store Cashmere Sweater

I quit buying sweaters with polyester or acrylic quite a long time ago - when I started my closet overhaul several years ago.

And the sweaters I love now, as I've said before on the blog, are all natural fibers.  Cashmere, merino wool, wool, alpaca, angora and mixes of those fibers.  But, I can't afford those things!

What I can afford is to watch the thrift stores and pick up these wonderful sweaters for $1 to $3 and then gently wash them, reshape them and repair holes.  The natural fiber sweaters are prone to holes.  I suppose that's the trade off and why plasticky, man made fiber sweaters dominate the market.  They'll look exactly the same a hundred years from now in the bottom of our heaping landfills.  

Natural fibers are not perfect.  And that's why I love them.


This is an Express 100% Cashmere I picked up last month for my daughter.  It's a great cranberry red color and lightweight.  It's cut more like a long sleeve tee and even has a cute little chest pocket.

I paid $1.50 for it on half price day at a thrift shop.  It had several holes in the back.  The one shown is the largest.

So, as I've recommended before - the first step is to find thread that matches as CLOSELY as possible!  Go to the inside of the sweater and make your first stitch.  There are two things to think of - first the thickness of the fabric.  You want your needle to always be in the center of the thickness of the fabric.  Like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich - the needle needs to slide through the peanut butter without jabbing through the bread.  This will keep your stitches from showing on the outside of the sweater.  

I begin my first stitch slightly above the hole.  This is the second thing to think about.....the weave of your sweater is like a tic tac toe.  In the original sweater weave there are fibers that go across and fibers that go up and down.  They are interwoven and pulled together to make a solid fabric.  To fix a hole without it showing - think about placing the new thread (on your needle) into those same patterns - either horizontal or vertical.  

 Notice I'm trying to keep my needle within the interior thickness of the fabric (the peanut butter of the sandwich.)  And I started a little above the hole with a horizontal stitch.
I pull that thread through safely to the other side (extending a bit past the hole to anchor my new strengthening repair stitches in fabric that hasn't been damaged.

 Then I turn my needle and go back across the hole in the opposite direction, working my way down the hole with stitches - back and forth.  Do not pull the thread tight.  Leave it rather loose as if it were part of the original fibers in the sweater which stretch and give.
In this photo - I have completed the horizontal stitches back and forth across the hole and made a couple extra horizontal stitches below the hole to anchor my work in undamaged fibers.  This stitch is my first vertical stitch - where I repeat the same procedure (the other half of the tic tac toe design).  

Continuing to move vertically across the hole with the same sort of stitches - not pulled tight.  Anchoring in undamaged fibers on the opposite of the hole with a few extra stitches.  

 Tied off the thread.  This is what the finished inside of the sweater looks like.  If you know where to look and pull on the sweater - this area will not give quite the same as it originally did.  You'll know where you repaired it if you look for it.  It's not a miracle stitch.
But, this is the finished outside.  I can live with this - especially since it means I can wear beautiful stuff, rescue garments worth saving from the landfills and be warm.  

Happy stitching!

P.S.  If there is one noticeable hole in a sweater.....take the time to look it over carefully while you're stitching.  If there's one - there's more.  And my experience is that nearly every natural fiber sweater in a thrift store has a problem or it wouldn't be there.  Search for the problem right away and fix it - by restretching or refitting, or hand sewing.  Better to diagnose it now rather than have to deal with it while you're out for the day in it!