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*




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.

I discovered this stitch while making a tea cosy and have loved using it ever since. I don’t know what it’s officially called, but it’s very similar to a brioche stitch, which creates a lovely thick, springy rib that looks good on either side of the piece.

This is actually much easier to work than real brioche – none of this slipping  of yarns over and other nonsense that makes my head spin. The number of stitches you cast on should be a multiple of 4, plus three stitches. Just work a knit knit, purl purl rib until you get to the last three stitches, which should be knit, knit, purl. Then repeat on the other side!

In the photo above I’m knitting with two strands of Katia Pluma picked up at Ondori in Singapore – it’s a fairly chunky wool mix with a subtle silver thread going through it. Sadly it’s not knitting up as sparkly as I’d hoped, but will still make a lovely warm scarf for someone back home.