A bit of moth-hole mending, military style on a burnt orange double breasted coat

Military style darning for a military style coat

Thoughts of things long promised to be done but not done sit incubus like at the back of the mind creating a little spot of festering irritation. Well, perhaps I exaggerate but daughter No 1 did leave this coat with me at the end of summer 2019 asking me to darn and conceal a very small (and it was very small) but almost perfectly geometric single moth hole. I knew it was only a small job and the hole itself was soon darned but the bit that got me stuck was trying to work out with what sort of embroidered motif should I hide the darn.

Details of satin stitched bars embroidered over a moth hole (the other sleeve was perfect but done to match in the interests of symmetry

I was tempted by a honeysuckle sprig (and I’m always tempted by honeysuckle sprigs – see photos below) and feathers (ditto) but both felt lazy choices and inappropriate for a slightly military looking coat with a double row of brass buttons and symmetrical pockets with pocket flaps. (Interesting detail detour – the Prince of  Wales apparently dislikes pocket flaps to such an extent he always tucks them in so they are almost invisible. Good job I’m not his mother – they’d have been sent to me for removal.)

Detail of satin stitch bar embroidered over moth hole

Then suddenly, one day I had an idea and as ever, it was along the lines of  ‘less is more’. Perhaps recently seeing all those veteran servicemen with their medals and ribbons had taken root, though I realised the bright coloured ribbons interested me as much as the medals dangling from them. Hence, four little embroidered squares now decorate each sleeve of daughter No 1’s coat. To ensure depth of colour I laid satin stitches one way and then went over these with another row of satin stitches the other way.

Honeysuckle embroidered sleeves on winter coat (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Bless her, daughter  No 1 never nags me – she’s has probably even forgotten she’d left the coat with me. As it is more of a coat for spring days rather than deep winter, I am determined to get it to her for the spring to come. My husband has another appointment at Moorfields Eye Hospital just before Christmas. I haven’t accompanied him recently because of lockdown but perhaps I’ll go this time and while he goes to the hospital, I can take the coat and Christmas presents and sit on the steps outside the house and chat with daughter No 3 (which I think should be in keeping with the relevant Covid restrictions).  May it not be raining … or snowing!

Pure cardigan: multiple moth holes darned with little dancing feathers

Another Jigsaw jumper with a bit of feather darning

For the serious darners among you I recommend Mend and Patch: A Handbook to Repairing Clothing and Textiles by Kerstin Neumüller.  The sections on knitted patches and repairing knitting with swiss patterned darning are very helpful and take darning and mending to something a bit more than just repair which is the sort of mending I like best. The parachute mender’s stitch is also utterly brilliant. Kerstin learnt it from a friend who did his service for the Swedish Armed forces with the Parachute Forces and was taught how to do it as part of his training. Described as a heavy duty repair for situations where you want to solve the problem quickly, the stitch is excellent for tears in materials like tents, rucksacks, trousers, jackets and possibly even parachutes. The soldiers were taught it one day, left to get on with it, and then the next morning the officers returned and pulled and tugged the repair to see if held up. If it didn’t, it had to be done again, and possibly again until it passed inspection.

Mend and Patch by Kerstin Neumüller (pu. Pavilion 2018)

For the Parachute Rangers’ Stitch: with the tear vertical in front of you and with a knotted piece of thread, take a stitch about a quarter of an inch to the left of the tear. Slip the needle under the tear and bring it out about a quarter of an inch to the right of the tear. Dipping under the tear, now bring the needle and thread up on the left side, as close as possible to the first stitch you made. Do this repeatedly and you will see it’s like sewing little figures of eight. don’t pull threads too tight. The idea is to align the two sides of the tear, not to overlap them. A great stitch  which everyone should learn and perform at least once in a lifetime!

The Parachute Ranger’s Stitch (from Mend and Patch by Kerstin Neumüller; pub Pavilion 2018)

Here is a fun little cutting from The Times of 11 November.


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Debbie Bliss pattern for knitted polo shirt

Debbie Bliss polo shirt with Fair Isle band

Another Debbie Bliss pattern I really love and this is the 6th time of making. It’s a brilliant little jumper – just two buttons which can be fastened or not, depending on how still the child will keep, and nice partly-inset sleeves which don’t droop too far down over the shoulder; the collar is a good one too, whether fitting snuggly around the neck  or pulled up around the ears secured by a scarf. Normally I like splashing colour about but this time I was happy to use just 2 colours for the Fair Isle band. The yarn used is Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. The main colour is Lilac while the Fair Isle band is in Duck Egg Blue and a very, very pale green, which is no longer available and whose name and number I have now lost. (Sized for 12-18 months, but it comes up nice and roomy.)

It’s been another bitty week of finishing things off, sorting things out and packing up the cushions made weeks ago but not yet sent for various different reasons. Oh and of course there’s the hours and hours spent trying to order yarn on line and not getting anywhere and I’m trying not to mention the flurry of scam phone calls under the guise of being from our bank which in the end had us taking a good brisk walk into town to the high street branch just to check nothing untoward had been happening. We are fortunate that at least our bank, and peace of mind, is just a good brisk walk away – pity those who have to get in the car or catch a bus because their bank is miles away or even in another town.

Debbie Bliss polo shirt: detail of collar

This week has also brought obituaries for two of my favourite writers. As I’ve gone through life, I find I’ve made a note of certain interesting people who I hope life might throw across my path so that I could encounter them in reality – a sort of bucket list of people to meet. The problem is that most of these people are older than me and recently they seem to be dying at an ever quickening rate. Never mind about being able to tick people off because I’ve met them, I’m having to cross them off my list because no one can now ever meet them!

Debbie Bliss pattern for polo shirt: detail of Fair Isle band

Jan Morris was a pretty unique human being and a wonderful writer about all sort of things, but best of all to my mind she was a marvellously evocative writer about places. In earlier life, as James Morris, there was the scoop of the successful conquest of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and then some 20 years later, in 1972, came the much publicised gender reassignment surgery when James became Jan, an utterly honest account of which appears in her book ‘Conundrum’ of 1974. I’d encountered Jan’s son Mark in undergraduate theatre while at Oxford and I found him perfectly at ease with his father’s transition. (Someone once said they’d gone along to meet Mark’s parents and there sat 2 perfectly charming elderly ladies – that was it, there was no melodramatic flamboyance, just a desire to be an ordinary woman.) In fact, Jan’s wife, Elizabeth, gave Jan lifelong support – throughout the years of  hormone therapy, through surgery in Casablanca and on into the rest of Jan’s life. Legal necessity meant they had to divorce but they remained living together. A civil partnership formalised their relationship once again in 2008. Jan’s books on Venice and Oxford in particular are glorious – to be read again and again,  light and shade of the author’s voice being enjoyed in a new way with each reading (occasionally she could be irritatingly twee, but I can forgive some indulgence when so much of the books is so good.) ‘Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere’ has been on my reading list for sometime, if only because it’s such a ridiculously challenging title written by one you know couldn’t write a boring book however hard they tried.  The book title is also a bit of an earworm – since it wriggled into my head, I can’t get rid of it. I shall really have to get hold of a copy and read it in celebration of a life now past.

Debbie Bliss polo shirt pattern : detail of Fair Isle band

If Jan Morris was a pioneer in a non-travel, travel book, non- fiction, Jill Paton Walsh took fiction, in the form of her book ‘Knowledge of Angels’ as far as it would go and squeezed it until it squeaked. Though already a published writer, no publisher would touch the book (19 rejected it) so she published it herself and was rewarded by being shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It should have won the Booker, for the book challenges the reader to consider big, big issues, like what constitutes human goodness and how we value it in a society where formalised religion may punish a good, pure man because he doesn’t fit the mould, while religious piety elsewhere conceals the ultimate kind of hypocrisy. The whole idea of a mould is additionally challenged by the appearance of a wolf child – will nature be tamed by nurture. I can’t find my copy of the book so I’m stuck trying to remember it in anything but the broadest outline but I do know that it’s the sort of book I could do with reading again every few years  to clear my head of superficial matters and remind myself of the things that really matter in life.

Fair Isle samples

Many will remember Jill Paton Walsh from reading or recommending her books to children. One of our favourites  perhaps was ‘A Parcel of Patterns’ about the Derbyshire village of Eyam which sealed itself up during the Great Plague of 1665 to try to contain the pandemic. (Horrible as our pandemic is, that one was much, much worse.) Multi talented, at the other end of her powers came her crime writing. Not only did she complete Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey novel, Thrones, Dominions but she devised her own detective, a sort of young Miss Marple, Imogen Quy (to rhyme with Why), who works as a nurse in a Cambridge College but whose sleuthing outperforms the deductive logic of the entire Senior  Common Room. My favourite is The Bad Quarto whose clever plot combines night climbing (which both horrifies and fascinates me) and Shakespeare (both in print and on stage). Another book to read again; another person crossed off the list.

Other polo shirts knitted using the same pattern (all with different Fair Isle bands):

Little silver-grey polo shirt with little tree Fair Isle band:http://www.addisonembroideryatthevicarage.co.uk/2017/04/18/another-really-lovely-little-jumper-polo-shirt-for-baby-6-9-months/

Pale pink polo shirt with baby blue/white/rose pink Fair Isle:  http://www.addisonembroideryatthevicarage.co.uk/2018/07/14/knitted-jumper-with-collar-2-button-opening-and-fair-isle-band/

Denim blue polo shirt with a chequer band and another Fair Isle band in magenta/stone/pink/lemon/light blue bluehttp://www.addisonembroideryatthevicarage.co.uk/2019/03/26/polo-shirt-with-fair-isle-border-and-london-tourist-tips/

Magenta polo shirt with a chevron border and floral Fair Isle in pale blue/green/pink/salmon and citrus:  http://www.addisonembroideryatthevicarage.co.uk/2019/03/02/another-lovely-little-polo-shirt-with-fair-isle-border/

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