It’s time to start pulling the sweaters out of the cedar chest, and as you do, keep this simple idea in mind for turning time-worn treasures into new. Duplicate stitching is an easy way to take an old, purchased sweater and give it a new look. If it’s still in good shape and has no distinctive design already stitched into it, consider learning how to duplicate stitch to bring it back to life.
Basically, duplicate stitching means just what it implies – you duplicate the knitted stitches with a needle and thread to sew a stitched design on the plain surface. Use a tapestry needle and one strand of matte cotton yarn to apply your design.
To sew your stitches, begin at the bottom of the “V” formed by one of the knitted stitches. Come up from the backside of the sweater, leaving a 3-inch tail dangling, which you can secure by working into adjacent stitches as you sew. Insert the needle at the top of one side of the “V,” then bring the needle back out at the other side. Finish the duplicate stitch by inserting the needle at the bottom of the “V”.
One design you can try out with this duplicate stitching technique is a simple stacked diamond pattern for an argyle look. To plan the design, count down the number of rows you want each diamond to cover (This needs to be an odd number, 21 to 41 is a good range). The shorter each diamond is, the more narrow, so you will be planning the width of your design at the same time. You might count the entire number of rows down the front of the sweater and divide by the number of diamonds you want, but don’t be concerned if the bottom diamond has fewer rows than the rest.
Next, fold the sweater in half arm-to-arm to mark the center of the sweater’s front. Begin just under the neckband with one duplicate stitch in the color of your choice, stitching on the fold if you will have one wide column of diamonds. Count over from the fold half the height of the diamond if you are planning two narrow columns side by side.
After sewing the top duplicate stitch of each diamond, move down to the next row and sew three duplicate stitches. Continue to add two stitches to each subsequent row until the diamond is as many stitches wide as it will be tall. Then continue stitching the diamond, but begin subtracting two stitches from each subsequent row so the bottom half of the diamond is a mirror image of the top.
When each diamond is completed, run the thread under the stitching on the backside to secure it. Then begin stitching the next color diamond in the stack so that its top point is adjacent.
When the diamonds are finished, complete the argyle look with a contrasting black diamond outline stitched on top. Mark your stitching line with a basting thread, forming stacked diamonds the same size as those you have already sewn but with points that meet at the midpoint of the colored diamonds.
After marking the stitching area, duplicate stitch one continuous zigzag line from the neck band to the waistband for half of the diamonds. Then sew another continuous zigzag for the other half of the diamonds. Note that after stitching in one direction to the side point of a diamond, you will stitch directly below this point before working in the opposite direction.
Other simple geometric shapes that can be duplicate stitched onto pullover or cardigan sweaters include flowers, snowflakes, nautical symbols, fruits, animals or card suits.
Graph paper and colored pencils or markers can make it easy to sketch out ideas you have for patterns, but remember to keep the proper scale conversion in mind by counting the number of stitches and rows per inch in your sweater.