Charity Shop Vintage Finds, Granny Chic, Sewing and Baking with Giddy Aunt Lola

Monday, 19 February 2018

Learning how to Darn with Celia Pym

I had a fab time learning how to darn with the very lovely Celia Pym at Raystitch.  I heard about Celia when she was short listed for the Woman's Hour Craft Prize last year and although she didn't win (she was robbed!!) she was by far my favourite contender for the prize.  Celia has revived the forgotten skill of darning and made it into an art form.  Although I hugely admire the skill of invisible mending, I much prefer the beautiful results that Celia achieves with her glorious Visible Mending techniques. The above is an example of Celia's work on a very old moth eaten child's jumper - it's turned it into something precious.

Another example of Celia's work

The two-part course was held at Raystitch - if you never been, it is a gorgeous fabric shop full of wonderful cloth, patterns and everything stitchy.  The shop itself is in London, barely a 10 minute walk from Angel underground and so super easy to find.  I don't live in London, but it was a fairly easy pilgrimage for me to make for the evening. 

Celia's work

Part one of the course was an introduction to darning wooly items - so socks and jumpers and cardi's in particular. Celia explained the basics of darning a hole using the time honoured technique of warp and weft.  It's so simple, just a basic running stitch vertically (warp) followed by a horizontal stitch (weft) that weaves over and under the warp stitches.  I am a clumsy inexperienced hand sewer but I was pleased with my results.  Celia is a very patient, kind and funny teacher which made for a lovely workshop, together with my fellow course mates.  I would say I felt in the remedial end of the class, as others seemed to have more delicate, even, neater stitches, but Celia constantly reassured us all that darning is not about being perfect. That's handy for me, as being perfect is not my style.

my first wooly darn 

It's about adding character to well worn and much loved items of clothing.

The second week focussed on darning woven fabrics - this was much more in my comfort zone and I bought along a pair of jeans that needed repairs to the knees. It's the same warp and weft process but it felt like there was more scope for creativity with darning woven fabrics.  I carried on darning my jeans over the weekend after the course and I am pretty chuffed with my first attempt.  As you can see, this darning style is very much in the school of the Japanese textile crafts of Sashiko and Boro.  I've had a big crush on both these textile art forms for a long time, and can't wait to experiment more. I hasten to add that I wouldn't want to attempt to darn something for anyone else for a long time, until I'd got a lot better at it. (Yes, don't bring me your holey socks if you want them back anytime in the next decade!)

Celia bought along some of her own wonderful darning projects which have been exhibited in the V & A and Somerset House.  The cream knitted jumper she wore on week two had been lovingly darned with some vibrant coloured wool and she showed us a favourite sheet that she has darned many times over and still uses.  It never occurred to me to darn a sheet when it rips, but why the hell not?!
Have a look at the wonderful work of Celia Pym on her website and take a look at the course that I attended at Raystitch.
It's been a lovely boost in dreary February to get stitching and creative with a new-to-me skill.

I know our grannies and granddads darned as a way of life; make-do-and-mend and the need for economy with limited resources meant darning was a necessity rather than a textile art form. I have a lovely little book that reproduces all the government pamphlets on making-do; there are lots of other more advanced darning techniques in there which Celia showed us but I am not ready to attempt those yet. Celia has helped to revive the skill and to celebrate darning, reminding us how to look after things we love and turn them into something beautiful, as they start to fray.

I'd love to know if any of you darn and who taught you, so feel free to comment below. All photos of Celia's work were taken by me on my decrepit iPhone, so not high quality, but hopefully you can still see the quality in her work.


Madame Saucy


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Hi, thanks for taking the time to comment. GAL x

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