How to darn a jumper

— by Alyson Walsh

Darning meets design

Having trained and worked as a successful milliner, Shelley Zetuni had to rethink her career when the studio she rented in north London was sold off to developers. ‘ I was gutted,’ she says, ‘It was a sad day when I had to leave Hornsey Town Hall, it was a real hub for the community. Such a beautiful modernist building, we felt really fortunate to be there – and the rent was really cheap.’ Unable to find another affordable studio, Shelley had to reconsider her future, ‘It happened around my 50th birthday and the two things colliding made me consider moving on to something new,’ she continues, ‘I didn’t feel entirely comfortable selling couture hats that cost a fortune – really expensive things I couldn’t afford myself, and I’m an accomplished sewer so I decided to move sideways.’

Keen to continue learning and developing her sewing skills, she enrolled at the Royal School of Needlework and completed the certificate in Hand Embroidery. But it was attending an independent class on visible mending with award-winning textile artist Celia Pym that really inspired Shelley to make do and mend. She went home, started repairing her husband’s many pairs of jeans and set up her Sewing Smith Instagram feed. ‘Life had thrown me a bit of a curve ball but I do like a challenge and I’m confident in my skills ,’ she adds, ‘ I wanted to move on in a positive way and do something achievable. And I think in these times the message of ” reduce, reuse, recycle” is very powerful.’

Mr Sewing Smith’s denim jacket


Here’s Shelley’s advice on how to darn a hole in a jumper or cardigan in three easy steps:

Create some ‘warp threads’ by stitching back and forth across the hole in one direction. These should be nice straight lines, evenly spaced. Tension is really important. Try to have a looser tension in your stitches than in the item you’re repairing. And don’t start by darning your best things, give it a few shots and get the tension right first.

Add some running stitches around the hole to reinforce it so that it doesn’t unravel. Work in one direction – for example, from right to left. For your first mend, think about contrasting colours (yarn and knitwear) as it will be easier to see what you are doing. And also, using different colours can create a lovely chequered effect and make a detail of the repair work.

Turn the work 90 degrees and start weaving in and out of the warp threads. Adding reinforcing stitches at either side as you go.



Turn the work 90 degrees and ‘weave’ in the other direction


To darn a jumper you will need:

One piece of knitwear with holes

Thread/yarn of a similar weight to what you are mending ( Shelley recommends using stranded cotton from DMC Threads or Anchor Threads. And wool from the French brand Laine St. Pierre).

1 x tapestry needle ( with a blunt end) 

1 x darning needle 

A darning mushroom or small embroidery hoop (optional).


Shelley visible mending


Shelley has set up a series of embroidery tutorials on Zoom and is inviting guests to sign up and ‘pay as much as you like’. Classes have a maximum number of four participants and last 90-minutes. The next three sessions  will be held on Tuesday 5th May at 1Oam, Thursday 7th May at 8.30pm and Sunday 10th May at 3pm (BST). For those based in the UK, Shelley is happy to send out a small bag of stuff to work on in class (a woolly patch with a hole, two needles and a selection of yarns). ‘So, pull up a chair, make yourself a cuppa, or pour a glass of wine and enjoy learning a new skill that will not only bring you joy but extend the life of your wardrobe!’


For further details see Sewing Smith on Instagram or email [email protected]


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Having trained and worked as a successful milliner, Shelley Zetuni had to rethink her career when the studio she rented in north London was sold off to developers. ‘ I was gutted,’ she say…