Knit This

Do you have knitters in your family?  I do.  I am one.  Though not a very good one.

In any case, knitting needles are a remarkably easy thing to make (according to Martha Stewart) and they make a great little gift.

You can get doweling of several different thicknesses at any hardware or craft store. 

Saw the dowel to the desired length (my dowels were all 36″, so I cut most of my needles to 12″ lengths, though I did make a set of four 9″ double-ended needles).  Use a pencil sharpener to create a point.

Sand the dowels down to create a smooth surface that won’t catch on the yarn.  Make sure as well to dull the points a bit.  It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.  You can rub the needles with a bit of warm beeswax, just to protect them and let the wool slide a bit easier.

Then all you have to do is use a glue gun to put colourful buttons at the ends. 

And there you have it.  Tie them with some pretty ribbon and give them all away!

Or keep some.  Your choice.

 

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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.

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!

Touque-tastic Tea Cozy

Oh, this?  This is my favourite hat.  In Canada we call such a thing a touque (“tuuk”) but no one can agree on the correct spelling.

I knit it myself.  It was the first hat I knit (knitted?) that came out the size I wanted it, and the first hat I made with ribbing.  While not warm enough for the extreme temperatures of Ottawa, it got me through two long St. John’s winters, and I loved it.

But then I washed it.  Normally not a big deal, but this time.  THIS time.

I wasn’t paying attention and it ended up in the dryer, and, being wool, it felted a bit and of course, shrank.

Now it doesn’t fit on my head.  Unless I want to look like I’m trying to encase myself in a sausage.  A green and white sausage, yes.

But it does (with some encouragement) fit over my teapot (what does that say about the size of my head?).  And I could really use a tea cozy.  This way I get to keep my favourite hat, and so we all win.  It’s amazing that such a simple invention as a wrapper for your teapot keeps your tea warm for longer.

Before we go any further, I swear to you that I am actually twenty-eight years old.  Not ninety.  Honest injun.  Hot tea is important when you spend all day locked in your office doing graduate student-y stuff, and tea cozies save you from having to turn on the microwave for reheating, which accords with the starving student lifestyle.  It’s all really a very cunning plan.

Anyway.  The hat.

The hat, in its previous incarnation, was knit all in one piece, with one side seam.

It was a simple matter to unpick that seam with a crochet hook.  The selfsame crochet hook I used to stitch up the seam in the first place.  How convenient.

This is the side where the handle will stick out. I ran a string of blue wool along the seams, trying to make them as large and uneven as possible, to give it a homely look.

I did, however, need to actually create a seam on the other side for the spout where there was none before.  While the wool is slightly felted, I was worried about it unraveling when I cut it.  I was therefore quick to reinforce the seams after the cut so as not to encourage the weave to go to pieces on me.  I was also careful to ensure my scissors didn’t cut into the intricate top circle I had made when knitting the hat.  That would be bad.

I decided to cut all the way along the spout side, instead of just cutting a little hole for the spout, first for seaming symmetry, but also so I could get a more accurate idea of where the spout was supposed to go without unduly stretching the material and skewing my results.

I reinforced both seams in navy blue wool (using a plastic wool needle), to match the pot.

I measured the cozy on the teapot to see where the seam should open up for the handle and spout and I marked them with pins.  Some tea-cozies, I know, cover the spout and the handle (and are actually better at keeping the tea warm) but my head is really not that big.  Honestly, people.

Then I sewed it up.

I also put a line of blue along the bottom edge in blanket stitch for colour.

Then, flushed with my success, I attempted – wait for it – a pom-pom.

Again, I’m 28.  Not 90.  For real.

I went with the age-old technique I learned from me auld grannie (LIES – I got it off the internet).

Cut yourself two circles out of cardstock or cardboard, and cut a centre circle out of those circles to make rings.

Take your wool and start winding it around and around the rings.  You’re going to eventually cut this so you can use different pieces of wool if it makes it easier for you to thread it through.  You can even use different colours if you wish.

Keep going, overlapping your wool, until you can’t get any more wool through. 

It takes FOREVER, and about 80 metres of wool (exaggeration, people).

Cut your losses.

Take a pair of sharp scissors and carefully cut the wool around the edge of the circle.

Once you get all the way around, you should be able to see your two cardboard rings.  Tease them apart a little.

Take another piece of wool and wind it around your new bundle, between the rings, maybe twice.

Knot the wool a couple of times.  I left the strings from this long so I could integrate them into the weave of the touque (I mean cozy), but you can cut them to match the length of the other strands if you are planning on sewing it directly to something.

Cut into the cardboard to break the rings and remove them.  Don’t forget to recycle!

Fluff out your pom-pom and trim the strands so you get a nice uniform ball.

Blamo kablam!

A touque for my teapot.