Archive for the ‘Felting’ Category

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Project 1: Lessons Learned

January 7, 2011

So what did I learn this week?

– Procrastination is not my friend. There were many times this week when I might have preferred to stay on the couch but, because I had a blog post to write, I instead got up and accomplished things. I imagine this is going to be a constant battle in the coming year.

– Things, once made, do not always have to stay as they are. They are not shrines to the past.

– Sewing machines are awesome. You can take the two wonkiest pieces of fabric and sew them together and the sewing machine makes you look like you know what you’re doing.

– Having said that, I should really work on my cutting skills.

And, as promised, here is a before and after of my couch:

couch pillows before

Couch pillows before

couch pillows after

Couch pillows after

These are really more like before and during photos. A couple of the pillows you see still need hand stitching to close the bottoms, and the green one needs some holes patched. I’m going to add more fiberfill to the red pillow at my husband’s request and maybe monogram it. I also haven’t yet made the cover for the zebra pillow because the big grey sweater shrank more than I expected. (I just turned it around for this picture. Is that cheating?)

It occurs to me that these sweater covers won’t be very practical in the summer, so maybe I’ll revisit the pillow cover thing later in the year and change it up for the warm months. For now, though, I love them. They’re much more my style than the mish-mash of bachelor pillows in the before picture. Plus, I got to dig an old skeleton out of the closet and give it new life. I’m pleased with it… for now.

The sewing machine stays out for next week’s project. Stay tuned!

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Project 1: The sweater in question

January 6, 2011

Sweater: felted

Ready or not, I felted my sweater. I tossed it into the washing machine in a pillowcase like the others, but it wasn’t quite as beautiful when it came out. It wasn’t beautiful after a second washing, either. The yarn I had used to make the sweater was expensive and the places where it felted looked almost like a high end art project. Sadly, the washing machine method left it unevenly done. I briefly considered felting it by hand but decided against that due to time limitations.

The entire sweater had shrunk and firmed up a bit so I took a chance on cutting it as it was. This was the difficult part. I stood at my work table staring at this shriveled and unwearable part of my past, and I couldn’t bring myself to cut it. I had to reason with myself. Sure it was the first and only sweater I’ve ever knitted, but I hadn’t worn it in at least 12 years. I never really liked the way it fit and I didn’t do a good job with the neckline. I also wasn’t in one of my better life stages when I made it so the memories associated with the sweater weren’t all good. I was pleased with my overall knitting workmanship, but the moths had been working on that. And besides, in pillow form I’d still be able to appreciate my work. If what I was really upset about was losing the feeling of a large job well done then finishing these blog projects should give me plenty of opportunities to feel that again.

So I cut it. In fact, once I started cutting the task became kind of cathartic. I launched into it like I needed to prove something to my younger self. It wasn’t until I sat down to sew and the needle pushed through those thick layers of wool that I felt at peace. I took a photo at the moment that happened:

Sewing the pillow

Finally the pillow cover was done. I had purchased a new pillow form earlier in the week rather than try to put an old and lumpy throw in what I was sure would become my favorite couch pillow. As I shoved the pillow form into the small opening I left for it, something beautiful happened — my old, ugly sweater transformed into something squeezable and soft. It still has a bunch of holes but it is new and useful again, and if I don’t stop now I’m going to end up using it as a metaphor for life. I’ll leave you with a photo instead:

Beautiful new pillow

Tomorrow: couch pillow photos before and after and my lessons learned for the week.

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Project 1: Fear and Felting

January 5, 2011

If you’ve been reading along then you know that this week I’m felting sweaters and making pillows out of them. The goal is to felt the first sweater I ever knitted so I have a keepsake of it that doesn’t need to live in a dark closet.

Earlier in the week I bought a few wool sweaters to try felting for the first time. A friend told me that felting can ruin your washing machine, so I put each sweater in its own pillowcase and secured the end with both a knot and a rubber band. Then I hesitated. Even though I had no sentimental connection with these thrift store sweaters I was afraid to put them in the washing machine. What if I ruined them? What if my knots didn’t hold and I ruined my washing machine? Why am I doing this crazy blog project, anyway? In the end I tossed them in and turned it on. 40 minutes later I opened the washer door to find that one of the pillowcases had split open and left balls of felted fuzz everywhere. Time will tell if the machine is ruined.

However! Despite this one (hopefully) minor setback the sweaters turned out great. The blended lambswool tank was least changed and the huge Gap sweater shrunk the most. All four of them look like matted versions of themselves.

And then… I sewed! For the first time in a decade, probably. My big sewing weakness is the cutting. I cannot for the life of me figure out how people cut precision lines in sewing or in anything else, for that matter. I also realized after I started disassembling the red sweater that it was cut for a woman and had very few straight lines. Still, I did it! I cobbled together my first pillow cover and it has already passed the husband test.

Is it time to try my goal sweater now?

Sewing

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Project 1: Finding sweaters

January 4, 2011

Thrifted sweaters

Felt is made from wool and is a result of two properties of wool fibres: they are kinked and they are covered in tiny scales.
– Ruth Atkinson, botanist and feltmaker

I have worked with yarn off and on my whole life, but I still cannot reliably tell the difference between wool and other fibers by sight or feel. That is how I came to be checking the label inside every sweater at the Goodwill store yesterday morning. There was a harrowing moment when it looked like another shopper was going to pick up a sweater that I had temporarily put down, but she eventually passed it by and I snatched it up again.

Out of all of the sweaters in both the men’s and women’s sections, the only 100% (or close) wool sweaters I found were the four in the photo above and two more in colors that wouldn’t have worked for me. The rest were mostly cotton or acrylic. I may run out to another store later in the week if I need more material.

From top to bottom:
– A lambswool/angora/nylon mix tank (who wears those?) with ribbing from Old Navy
– A 100% wool sweater from Benetton
– A 100% lambswool sweater with a patterned stripe from Structure
– A 100% wool sweater from the Gap that is so big I may have multiple plans for it

A source online recommended putting sweaters from thrift stores into the dryer for 30 minutes to kill any possible bedbugs or their eggs, so I did that first. I had previously thought that it was the drying process that felted sweaters, but it turns out it’s actually the hot water and the agitation in the machine that does it. You can also felt by hand via multiple different methods. Since this is my first time I’m going to stick with the machine.

Tune in tomorrow to see if it works!

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Project 1: Felted Sweater Pillows

January 3, 2011

My first sweater

The first thing I ever knitted was the sweater you see above. I made it in the winter of 1997 when I had a lot of free time and lived in a very cold city. By the next winter I was in North Carolina and I never got cold enough to wear it again.  This sweater has been sitting in my closet for 13 years suffering neglect and developing moth holes. It would probably have stayed there for another 13 years if I wasn’t doing this blog project.

Felting is: “a process by which knitted wool is soaked in hot water to shrink and tighten the fibers and create a dense fabric.” [Source: DIY Network] That dense fabric can then be sewn like any other kind of fabric. I like the idea of felting this sweater and making it into a pillow because it means I’ll still have evidence of the work I put into it, but it will be around in a more useful form. I can finally bring my guilty sweater out of the closet.

Of course, since I’ve never felted anything before I’ll make a few test runs on some thrift store sweaters first. I hope you’ll stick around this week as I learn to felt (hopefully without destroying my washing machine) and make beautiful recycled pillows for my home.