Hello sewerfolk (hmmm, that might not have sounded right the way you pronounced it....). I seem to go through merino long johns like no one's business. I wear them everyday all winter and they always rip on me so I've got a bunch that I would like to rebuild into functional garments. Many have big rips that don't seem conducive to patching, plus I don't want bulky crotch areas! I'm not a stellar seamstress (yet!) though, so I'm reaching out to ask about how to deal with thin, somewhat worn out, stretchy merino wool fabrics. Any advice? I'm not really clear how to sort out the pattern when dealing with stretchy fabrics, or how to make flat seams with my basic machine. Thanks! Hilary
If these are not for public display, which I assume they aren't, they can be patched, darned, and/or have sections cut out and replaced. Actually it is possible to do all this for outer garments too, but requires a little more finesse and depends on the amount of damage.
I make my own leggings from merino wool sweaters; the pair I have on now I sewed completely by hand, but I have also used my machine. A zigzag stitch is best for stretchy fabrics. I always keep scraps in order to make repairs later :)
In your case, I would decide which were the best candidates for repair and use the others to harvest material for making those repairs. Small holes can be darned or patched. To discreetly patch a small to medium hole I first trim any loose strings, then I will take a scrap piece a little larger than the hole and put it on the wrong side of the garment and taking very small stitches, sew it by hand all around using a little bit of unravelled yarn from the scraps. I will then sew small running stitches up and down the patch (side to side works too, but doesn't blend in as well as up and down). These are like quilting stitches or basic sashiko stitches so the whole thing is firmly anchored and the edges of the hole are all tacked down against the patch. If the area around the hole is thinning, I'll make the patch large enough to cover this whole area.
I'm uploading a photo of my old pajama bottoms to try and show what I mean. I've worn these for about four or five winters, but have got to the point where I'm just sick of mending them, and have made a new pair--these actually aren't merino, just regular wool. I didn't care that the mending on this didn't match, as I don't even wear them around the house--just upstairs in bed. Most of the patches are actually scraps of felted cashmere which feels makes these so warm and soft on the inside.
To replace an entire area like a crotch, you can cut out the old section and use it as a template for cutting a new piece. Or cut out the crotch of one of the "discard" pairs and use that for a template. The new one can be all in one piece or can be in two or more pieces sewn together, depending on your preference and how much material you have to work with. I advise basting in the new piece by hand first and seeing how it fits before machine sewing it in, as ripping out stitches in stretchy wool is not fun. The edges of the new section should be zigzagged or overlocked to prevent any unravelling. When sewing by hand I use a running back stitch to sew them together and blanket stitch to finish the edges.
Here's my leggings which I wear out in public. Even I can't find most of the mended bits (though this is only a year old and has only had about five or so smaller darns). I did replace the crotch gusset as you can see; not having a large enough matching piece, I used a similar thickness cashmere piece. I don't ever display that area so I'm ok that it doesn't match.
What brand are you using? I'm going into my 3rd winter with some of my merino long johns, with very little mending required yet. I particularly like the Stanfields ones. Other than that, consider trying a larger size/brand - if you are getting rips in the crotch it may indicate it's too tight in that area, or possibly cut wrong for your body. I handsew/hand darn any thing on stretchy fabric. If you feel you need to use a machine, I'd do a zig zag stitch to add some elasticity.
I would also darn them. A good darn isn't much thicker than the original.
Catie George wrote:What brand are you using? I'm going into my 3rd winter with some of my merino long johns, with very little mending required yet. I particularly like the Stanfields ones. Other than that, consider trying a larger size/brand - if you are getting rips in the crotch it may indicate it's too tight in that area, or possibly cut wrong for your body.
Most of them are from Mountain Equipment Co-op, and the fabric is just too thin. there are some crotch rips but alot of them are just rips on the leg from me putting them on! I was already pretty disappointed with MEC and now they've gone and sold out to a company in California (wtf?), so won't be buying anymore of those. Have tried some other brands too. I am short and curvy so hard to find pants that fit in general. My honey wears Stanfield stuff and it seems really itchy to me, but maybe they have some merino stuff that's better? Just splurged and bought a pricey pair of Icebreaker longjohns with a nice pattern so I can wear as leggings, so will see how they wear. I splurged similarly last year and got a pair with gorgeous pattern from Adventure Pants in Australia and they ripped...... I will keep you all posted on how it goes....once I carve out some time for sewing hopefully later this week....... Thanks for all the suggestions! I have darned socks but haven't sewn through fabric like illustrated above, just filled holes so I will try it out. I have a duffel bag full of socks to darn this winter too......
Location: Ontario - Gardening in zone 3b, 4b, or 6b, depending on the day
I am also VERY disappointed with the sudden selloff of the assets of Canada's largest co-op to a random American investment firm. Apparently I am now a member of a holdings co op with no assets? Hmmpf. Anyway, never bought the MEC merino as didn't like the look of it in store for the price.
Here's I think what I own - very spendy, was bought a few years ago at a local store as a Christmas gift. Smoother and more tightly woven than the Smartwool and Mountain Warehouse ones I own. 100% Merino, made in Canada. These are my absolute favourites and I have occasionally worn them as leggings. I am also short and curvy, so they may work for you as well.