It’s been a perfect week end so far, filled with crisp, sparkling sunlight, golden leaves and long walks around Hackney with bellies full of roast hog and burnished apples and endless, irrepressible mirth. Now it’s Sunday morning, the temperature has dropped and I am shivering. Half of my winter clothes are still in storage in Edinburgh, and what sweet, comforting, precious cashmere I have is either worn at the elbows or nibbled by the giant, ominous moths who press their disgusting moth-like faces against the windows at night. Bastards.

Last week I picked up a lovely soft thin gauge cashmere jumper in a charity shop for £7.95. The only problem with it? A rather prominent hole in the middle of the chest:

Grubby nails + moth hole = hobo

Like the complete yarn dweeb I am, I spent quite some time looking up darning tutorials online. This one from Makezine is quite extensive with lots of pictures, but I eventually settled on the instructions from Make Do and Mend over on Coletterie. There’s something quite reassuring about these war time instructions and illustrations.  They knew what they were talking about.

 Step 1: Find some darning yarn that matches as closely as possible.

This one was £2.95 from the little knitting shop on Camden Passage. Optional step: resist buying large skeins of pure cashmere in rainbow colours. (£32.95. OUCH.)

Step 2:  Start on one corner on the back of the item, leaving an inch or so of loose thread. Using a suitably sized darning needle, stitch lines across the hole, picking up a few stitches on either side of it. This can be a bit fiddly on thin gauge knit, so put on some music and take your time. You’ll need something underneath the hole to keep the tension right. A darning mushroom is probably very useful, but I used the back of a wooden stirring spoon and it worked just fine. Just pull gently around the hole to even the tension. I used two threads on this piece.

Step 3: Working diagonally across this base, weave the thread in and out of the yarn you’ve just laid, like lattice work on top of a pie, still picking up stitches on either side of the hole. Try to keep these as close together as possible, so the newly woven patch is nice and solid and gap-free.

Step 4: Feel a bit smug.

Tadaa! The darned hole on the right side of the jumper. It’s quite unnoticeable when it’s worn, though with hindsight I’d spend a bit more time tidying up the yarn around the hole before starting next time, and make sure to thread the needle through the existing loops in Step 1.

Not bad for a first attempt, and a lovely warm cashmere jumper for £10? Yes please. I’m off to Chatsworth Road Market. I hear rumours of a vintage cashmere stall there. *rubs grubby hands with glee*

 

 

 

What a strange day I had yesterday. One minute I was enjoying exceedingly strong coffee at Workshop Coffee, the next I was doing this:

Sewing bunting. At Kensington Palace, no less.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a view of the fortified wall that protects Will and Kate’s private apartments. From the inside. Pretty grim, isn’t it. It’s crying out for the living wall treatment.

The bunting is the work of my friend Natalie Ryde, who was an artist in residence at the Palace in the run up to its reopening to the public earlier this year. She produced some beautiful, characteristically colourful work based around historic fragments of wallpaper revealed during renovation of the palace.

Doesn’t she look sweet? This is her “Stop taking pictures and get sewing bunting, punk!” smile.

Don’t know whether it was something in the coffee, but by the end of the day we’d finished two fat spindles of bias tape and worked our way through most of the giant piles of fabric triangles. I was ready for a nap on the very inviting Kensington Palace cushions, and wondered idly if I could maybe sneak one out.

The bunting, produced by local primary school children during workshops with Natalie, is destined for the “Jubilee – a view from the crowd” exhibition opening at the Palace on the 24th of May, exploring Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897.

Back in 2009, which seems like an eternity and three lifetimes ago, my imaginary friend Emma and I decided to have a go at selling rude teatime treats at Craftacular. We sold out and yet didn’t make a penny, thanks to our complete lack of economic sense.

However! Cruel Tea is now back, this time thanks to the busy knitting bees at Cambodia Knits, a fantastic social enterprise working with marginalized communities near Phnom Penh. They provide paid training in knitting skills and believe that employment is an empowering way out of poverty, especially when that employment is fairly paid and works within the constraints communities face.

I’ve been working with them over the past few months to produce some new cosies, which you can now buy at the Cruel Tea Etsy shop. I hope it’s a success – I’d love to continue supporting Cambodia Knits with more orders.

Also check out Cambodia Knits’ own range of hand knitted monsters and animals.