How to Patch a Moth-Eaten Sweater

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Rescue your favorite sweaters from rips, holes, and stains with imagination, yarn, and a needle.

Moths are no respecters of woolen clothing, no matter how special, expensive, or dear to your heart the garment might be! The night fliers aren’t the only culprits, either: Rips, stains, and snags can mar the best-cared-for cardigan. Whatever the mishap, though, it’s almost impossible to locate matching yarn in order to repair the damage, and many a fine old woolen knit has been relegated to the rubbish as a result.

Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. Stains and holes need not mean the end of your sweater; indeed, a moth’s meal can be the start of a new life for your beloved woolen.

First of all, don’t even try to find perfectly matching yarn. Instead, look for a selection of colorful two- or three-ply hanks of twist (a friend or relative who knits or crochets is an ideal source for these scraps). Next, get yourself a pair of sharp scissors and a tapestry needle with a large eye. Then sit down with your tools, the multicolored yarns, and your old sweater, and get ready for a good time!

Begin by patching the hole or stain with one strand of yarn. Go right over the fault, catching or covering the edges with yarn, making a little “button” of color. Now, put a few petals around the little patch (the “lazy daisy” embroidery stitch works well here)…and there you have it! A flower! You can mend a whole sweater with daisies, or let your imagination go wild, and embroider fish, fowl, and a veritable Noah’s Ark of creatures. Furthermore, there’s no need to limit your efforts to depicting flora and fauna: Sailboats, cars, buildings, or office supplies can all be worked into attractive thematic patterns. Then again, if you prefer abstract decorations, simply cover the offending spots with squares or rectangles, using various colors for the patches. Sometimes the yarns themselves will suggest designs.

Who knows, you might even end up looking at those moths as allies!

EDITOR’S NOTE: For a compendium of needlework stitches to enhance repairs, readers might find Marion Nichols’ Encyclopedia of Embroidery Stitches Including Crewel to be helpful.