Renewing a Favorite Sweater

There is something very satisfying about taking a damaged knitted piece, or one that is worn thin in an area, and finding a way that not only returns it to functionality, but does so with attractive repair or reworking. We’ve all repaired something “to just wear around the house”, meaning made it functional again and not caring about whether it really looked nice. But that’s not what I’m talking about here…this is about skillfully reworking so that most people will not even know you have fixed it. That’s the goal.

So here’s the project—my absolutely favorite commercial sweater ever. This sweater has gotten me more compliments over the years than pretty much any other piece I’ve ever worn (except for my hand-knitted 1940s style vests—you’ll see those another time).

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I wore it a lot…and the cuff on the sleeves finally gave out. Because I’m short, and short armed, commerical sweaters invariably are too long in the sleeve, and of course, to fix that, one flips the cuff to make it shorter. Usually that works pretty well, because the now visible seam is usually on the bottom of your arm. Over time, the fold of the flipped cuff wore so thin, well, you see the result:

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And it was thin all the way around. I kept the sweater for “around the house”, but it actually just stayed in the drawer for several, uhhh, years. Then, one day, I looked at it and said, “Heck, I can fix that!”

Okay, find the end of a yarn in the raveled part, and carefully with tapestry needle work out yarn along the row. Of course, the worn areas were not in a single row, so I just kept working until I managed to undo down consistently to the same row. I then cut the the seam part…just whacked through it. I figured it would stay sewn together right above the cut, and once I picked up and knitted the cuff, I could go back and sewn down any loose part in the seam. (Which worked fine, by the way.)

Yarn—just unravel the cuff and use it. WRONG! This is knitted flat and sewn, so I would end up with a lot of short pieces of yarn. I looked for some time in my local yarn shop for something fine enough and similar in color…not so easy to find. Commerical sweaters have itty bitty stitches. I finally tried out a very thin, single ply, black wool yarn (on a cone) that I use for making socks on my antique circular sock machine, and found it looked okay. Black ribbing on the dark charcoal gray wasn’t bad at all. From a distance, at the end of a sleeve, it would look pretty good.

 The stitch marker is the beginning of the round, which lines up with the sewn seam of sweater sleeve. Needles used are Size 0. The stitches are larger than the commercial yarn sts, but again, close enough.  Up close, the color difference and fiber difference is obvious.  But check out the finished look in photos below.

The stitch marker is the beginning of the round, which lines up with the sewn seam of sweater sleeve. Needles used are Size 0. The stitches are larger than the commercial yarn sts, but again, close enough. Up close, the color difference and fiber difference is obvious. But check out the finished look in photos below.

And I could make the sleeve the length that would fit my arm! As it turned out, I only needed to do 1/2” ribbing. And I decided to use an attached I-cord bind-off to add a touch of sophistication that makes the cuff’s color seem to be a stylistic accent, deliberately chosen, to bring out the edging. That little I-cord edge really takes it up a notch in looking good. Below is an image of the attached I-cord (on the left), and a comparison of the new sleeve cuff to the old turned up sleeve cuff..

 Attached I cord edge

Attached I cord edge

 New I cord edged cuff on top, the old flipped cuff on bottom. Yes…the commercial sweater really did have a sleeve that much longer than I needed it!

New I cord edged cuff on top, the old flipped cuff on bottom. Yes…the commercial sweater really did have a sleeve that much longer than I needed it!

I will be a happy gent this winter…wearing my sweater again…smiling at the compliments…knowing that the cuff looks even better than the original…because it fits now!