Doodle’s Felted Wool Afghan

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

I feel kind of bad.  Here I am, third-place winner for Best Blog About Crafting and I haven’t put up a crafting post in an age.  Sorry about that.  But rest assured I’m working hard on two major projects.  They’re just the sort of long-term ones that don’t make for exciting blogging.

Two people who are very dear to me are getting married this summer.  My eldest brother, Krystopf, ties the knot in early July, and my high school best friend, Doodle, gets hitched in mid-June.  I am making both of their wedding presents, and both of them are blankets.

Doodle and her soon-to-be husband, The Cyclist, live in Portland, Oregon, a place with weather very similar to what it is here in St. John’s.  By that I mean, windy and rainy.  So an ideal present would be one that encourages cuddling and coziness, right?  And we know from previous experience that felted wool is the coziest of them all.

When we were in Ottawa over Christmas, the Pie and I scoured the local second-hand stores to acquire as many genuine lambswool, merino, and cashmere sweaters as we could, in a specific range of colours.  Doodle and I agreed on red, white, blue, and black, as sort of a combination of Canadian and American colours (and black goes with everything).  I wanted to do something a bit different with this blanket, and have the colours sort of blend into each other, rather than have a pattern of alternating coloured squares.  So it’s going to be a bit trickier than normal.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Here you can see our initial haul (and Gren).  This is the colour scheme I am going with.  You can see that the main colours are represented at the corners, and then they blend through the other colours in the middle.  Like a square colour wheel.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Now, if you feel like undertaking a similar project, I just want to give you a heads-up first.  A lot of up-cycling and recycling projects are economical and a good way to save money.  This is not one of them.  A 100% wool or cashmere sweater, even second-hand, will run you between $9 and $14, depending on the quality and size, and for this project, we will be using approximately 25 sweaters.  So you can do the math there.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

I felted all the sweaters while at my parents’ house (to take advantage of the fact that they were footing the power bill), and we mailed the sweaters back to ourselves in St. John’s.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Then I dismantled them.  I carefully cut out all the seams, so all the pieces of sweater lay flat.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

I’m saving the seams.  I think they would make good toy stuffing material.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Here are all the sweaters, officially laid out in their colour wheel.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

The sweater in the middle will serve as my keystone, if you will, and then I’ll use the rest of it to construct some baby toys for some wee ones I get to meet this summer.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Now I have to start cutting out the pieces.  I want to do it more as a puzzle or interlocking oblongs than as simple squares, so I’m going to have to work out some ratios so that all the pieces will fit together nicely.  I will keep you posted.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Cardigan Cozy

Cardigan Cozy

We know that I’ve done things with cardigans, and I’ve done things with cozies.  And now for something completely different.

My mother is an artist, and she spends many long hours perched in her chair, leaning over her drafting table. That can lead to a sore back after a day of drawing, and, in the wintertime, a cold backside.

In her living room, she has a new fireplace, and so spends a lot of time cozied up to the flames.  But upstairs in the studio she has no such luck.

Now, this sweater was knitted for her by my grandmother eons ago.  It no longer fit her, so she gave it to me, because it’s beautiful.  She even switched all the buttons for me and make all the buttonholes fit properly with the new hardware.

Cardigan Cozy

Alas, I’m a little longer in the torso than my mother and so the cardigan doesn’t suit me at all.

But here’s my idea.  We all know about “magic” bags, those sacks filled with buckwheat or rice that you microwave that keep you toasty.  The Pie and I use them nearly every night in the winter, to heat up the foot of our bed.

Why not turn this cardigan into a heating pad that will fit on the back of the chair?  It will slide over the back of most, and for the ones where it doesn’t, well, you can always use the arms of the sweater to hold it in place, right?

Cardigan Cozy

So first I had to come up with the heating pad itself, because I’m not going to stick this sweater in the microwave.  This heating pad is going to be removable, something I can button inside the cardigan.

What I need is a big, flat, rectangle, which I will fill with rice.  To keep the rice from falling to the bottom when the pad is in place inside the sweater, I’m going to sew it into little pockets.  I’m basically quilting, but instead of using batting, I’m using rice.

Cardigan Cozy

To make the bag, I measured (roughly) the inside of the sweater.

Cardigan Cozy

Then I cut out a square of folded fabric.

Cardigan Cozy

It was my goal to sew ribbon loops into the four corners to serve as button holes.  I messed it up, but I also fixed it later.

Cardigan Cozy

So here I am, sewing up three sides of the folded cloth, including the fold side.

Cardigan Cozy

Turn it inside out, and sew again to create the frame for the rice.

Cardigan Cozy

Sew up towards the opening, in equal spacing.  These will be the columns for the rice.

Cardigan Cozy

I scooped 1/3 cup uncooked rice into each column.

Cardigan Cozy

Then pinned each column shut.

Cardigan Cozy

And sewed it up — to make a quilted pocket.

Cardigan Cozy

Continue that way all the way up.

Cardigan Cozy

The finished pockets.

Cardigan Cozy

Then I sealed the top, added some more loops of ribbons to attach to more buttons, and sewed that under.

Cardigan Cozy

Now, because I’d made the loops too small, I used the loops instead as an anchor for another ribbon, which I tied around the buttons, which I of course sewed into the sweater.

Cardigan Cozy

I used extra buttons along the top edge because I was concerned about the weight.  All that rice is nearly 4lb!

Cardigan Cozy

Then I sewed a velvet ribbon into each of the sleeves so that I could tie them together and they wouldn’t dangle.  I figure if this cozy ever goes onto a chair where it can’t slide over the back, you can always use the ribbons to tie the arms to the chair.

Cardigan Cozy

So here it is on a chair.  Gren is not impressed. He’s a hard one to please.

Cardigan Cozy

My mother’s studio chair is a bit more substantial, more like my office chair.  So here is how it looks from the back.

Cardigan Cozy

And the front.  Cozy, huh?

Cardigan Cozy

Baby Boy Blue Blanket

Here is yet another project courtesy of the felted wool sweater.  It’s a present for the newest addition to Kª and Kº’s family.  We shall have to see what young Il Principe thinks of this.  Being an only child is pretty sweet.

Il Principe, in the flesh.

Here I took four sweaters, two gray, one navy, and one black.  These sweaters were of the softer, thinner natural fabrics, such as cashmere and merino.  They felt a bit differently than regular sheep’s wool, with less fuzz.  I cut those suckers up into tons of 3″ squares.

Then I laid them out into a pattern and, like in our other wool patchwork quilt, started sewing them together in long strips.

Because of the nature of the wool I had to do it all by hand, with a needle and thread, using the blanket stitch.

Then I sewed the strips together. 

It looks rather nice, don’t you think?

This is the back of it.  It’s kind of cool, too, but it will be hidden from view.This is the soft cotton I am going to use as the backing.  The blue and the gray match perfectly with the colours of the wool.

Then with great care I pinned the top to the backing.  

The backing is a grid pattern so I was careful to line things up properly. 

I folded over the edges of the cotton to guard against fraying.

Then, with great difficulty owing to the stretchiness of the wool, I machine-basted the two pieces together.  Next time I would probably do this by hand, just because of the way the wool bunched and stretched.

To bind it, I used blanket binding, which I folded in on itself to make smaller.  Shockingly, I had to actually PURCHASE the blanket binding from Fabricland.

It was a simple matter to fold it towards its own centre …

… and then iron a new crease.

My mother was kind enough to sew the binding onto the blanket for me, in exchange for my making of kumquat marmalade.  She has more patience for such things.

The corners are a bit tricky.  You can see here how Mum pins flush across the corner.

Then folds the fabric over the pin as a guide.

Then pins it in place before sewing it down.

Its pretty slick.

You can see at the end she just folded it under itself again before sewing it down.

Embellishments are always important when it comes to babies, but you have to be careful.  No buttons, or anything that babies can eat.  Colourful yarn is a good option.  I thought the orange would look great next to the gray and blue.

The yarn here also serves to anchor the top of the quilt to the bottom so it doesn’t shift around.

I threaded a tapestry needle with the yarn.

Poked it through and back out again.

Here it is back through.

And tied a double knot.

This is what it looks like on the back.

I did that at random points all through.

Here is the finished product.

All ready to be gifted away!

Scottie Cardigan Cushion Cover

This isn’t really a how-to kind of post.  I just wanted to show you one of the other things you can make with old wool sweaters that you have felted.  You may remember KDB, in whose house Kristopf and I made those amazing cocoa-caramel-pecan cookies.  This was a present for her for Christmas.

I found an image of a scottie dog on the internet and used it as a pattern to cut it out of a sweater.  I then blanket stitched it onto a red background from another sweater.

Then I took a cardigan that was slightly larger than the cushion I wanted to make out of it.  I cut out two squares, from the front of the cardigan and the back, making sure that the buttoned opening to the cardigan was in the centre on the front.

Then I sewed the scottie square onto the back of the cardigan (which will now be the front of your cushion) and then sewed the back and the front together.

Now you have your cushion.  The button-front of the cardigan now serves as a way to pull out your cushion when you need to wash the cover.  And it’s super cute!

Real McCoy Felted Mittens

Last week we had a little fun with the MacGuyver mittens.  This week I bring you the real deal.

Trace your hand (or someone else’s hand, it’s up to you, of course) with the thumb sticking out a bit.  Cut out your tracing, leaving about half an inch on the outside edges.  Use that tracing as a template and cut it out of both sides of your felted sweater, using the ribbing on the bottom of the sweater as the opening of the mitten.

Flip your cut out pieces so they are right-side in and pin them.Sew them up using a blanket stitch and turn them right-side out again.  It’s as easy as that.

 

If you want to be really clever, you can sew a loop of thread onto one mitten at the cuff, and a button onto the other mitten in the same place.  Then you can slip the loop over the button and keep your mittens together!

MacGuyver Mittens

As you know, I have been making things out of felted sweaters.

And, if you don’t know, MacGuyver is a television character out of the eighties who could engineer an explosive device using only a paperclip and some pocket lint.  I tend to use MacGuyver as a verb when I’m describing how I successfully completed a task with my own ingenuity and a little bit of elbow grease.

Such was the case with these mittens.  I wanted to do a practice run with sewing together the felted wool, just to see how well it worked and how they felt to wear, before I made them for real.  So I thought, why not use the sleeves?  And the sleeves of this particular sweater had a beautiful row of buttons on them.  It would be a shame to waste them.

So I cut off the sleeves.

Measured them roughly to my hand.

Cut them out.

Flipped them inside out.  You can see that I was able to leave the original seams on the sides. 

Sewed them together.

And tada.

Not the best fit, I grant you, but a decent first effort, considering I didn’t use a pattern.  “Real” ones to follow.

Felted Wool Chicken

Next on the DIY Christmas to-do list is the stuffed chicken.

Again, I borrowed a template from Martha Stewart, and she has some very good instructions on making a stuffed chicken.  And some other things. I will probably make the pig, too.

I photocopied the template to double its size and cut the chicken out of those two lovely orange sweaters I recently felted.I followed the instructions pretty carefully, save that I only cut out two wings and sewed them directly onto the chicken first.  I didn’t want them flapping around and possibly getting torn off.So first of course I turned everything inside out and sewed the bottom part onto the sides, as according to instructions.Before I got too carried away sewing up the rest of it, I filled a small wool pouch (scrap from another sweater) with dried beans and sewed it up before basting it to the bottom of the inside of the chicken.  This will keep the chicken from falling over.Then I carefully sewed on the wattle and comb of the chicken while doing up its head (be careful when you go around the beak, it’s tricky), and, with some small difficulty, sewed it the rest of the way up.It worked out surprisingly well, and was really easy to do.  I’m working on another, in opposite colours.Just don’t eat it.  This isn’t a recipe post.

Felted Wool Slippers

First order of business in our mad scheme to have an entirely DIY Christmas: the felted wool slipper.  You may remember this blue sweater that I felted recently.

I borrowed a template from Martha Stewart.  These were originally supposed to be felt slippers, not made out of old sweaters, but when do I ever follow instructions?

Anyway, I printed out the template and had it photocopied in the sizes I wanted.

To save myself time and to ensure my pieces were exactly the same, I cut through two layers of wool in cutting out my pieces.  I used two pieces for each sole to make them extra squishy and more durable.

I also took advantage of the shoulder seam in the sweater I was using to serve as the heel of the upper. 

It’s Ralph Lauren.  That’s what the pink blotch is.

I pinned all the pieces together and found that the upper actually was a little longer than the sole, so I did some trimming.

In the end it turns out my trimming job made them look a little funny, but I will fix that next time.

I used a blanket stitch with a contrasting colour of thread and went all around, making sure to get all the layers of wool sewn tightly together.

I also went around the open edge of the slipper for consistency.

Then I embellished them a little with some buttons.

Not the prettiest of things, but they’re warm and light and soft.

And they fit, which is always a bonus.

Felting Old Wool Sweaters

As you may know, I’m doing a DIY Christmas this year.

Many of the projects that have come to my attention recently have involved re-using and re-purposing old things you don’t want anymore.

Some of those particular projects involve making items like mittens and hats out of felted wool, which is easy to make and fun.  When natural fibres such as wool are washed and rubbed against each other, the fibres shrink and separate, tangling with other fibres, creating the thick, durable material we know as felt.

Take yourself some old sweaters.  Sweaters that are 100% wool (or merino, angora, cashmere, etc., all the natural animal fibre ones) work the best, but I experimented with two orange sweaters which were 90% wool and 10% nylon.  I picked up most of these at Value Village.Chuck them into your washing machine and wash them in HOT water.  Just make sure you turn all the knobs back when you’re done so the next person doesn’t accidentally shrink all their clothes in the next load!

I managed to produce a large ball of wet sweater babies when I cleaned out the washing machine.Pop them in the dryer when you’re done and when they’re dry they should be felted.  You may have to do this more than once if your sweaters are loosely knit, just to get all the fibres tangled up with each other. If you can cut into the sweater without it unraveling or fraying then you have successfully felted your wool.

You can see how much smaller the sweaters are now.  This used to be a medium-sized adult man’s sweater, and now it would maybe fit a two-year-old.

I removed all the stuck-on sweater babies with a fuzz comb.

Stay tuned for all the fun things I plan to make out of these!