Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A skirt from just one sweater

Check out this 'After' shot!

I've been wearing my original felted wool skirt so much, I decided I needed another. I found this sweater at the local thrift store:

It's your basic merino wool turtleneck, in size XL. Even felted, it was still super long, which is where I got the idea to make a whole skirt from this and nothing else.

First, I cut the sweater across the back and chest, at the armpits. It fit my hips all right, and it would have made a great miniskirt as it was, but I wanted to go as close to knee length as I could. So I cut a piece as wide as the front would allow...

...and then across the base of the turtleneck with my pinking shears, since I wasn't going to have the nice tailored hem I got last time. I did the same with the back, matching the length of what I got from the front.

Sewing those two pieces together wasn't going to give me enough coverage, so I cut open the sleeves and got two more, much narrower, pieces of the same length from each of them.

I made a long strip of those pieces, the pinked edges all on one end, and then I sewed them into a tube. Pinning right side to right side, I fit that wide frill onto the raw edge of the sweater's body and improvised pleats as I'd done with the original skirt. Only this time I had so much fabric I had to put pleats right across the back after making the little kick pleat I like on the right of center in front.

Once I'd sewn the frill in place and rather sloppily topstitched the seam from above (I tried it just below the seam first, but the pleats were too much for my machine) I took a look for moth holes.

Yep, front and center - the last place you want to put any sort of applique. So I improvised this geometric design to draw the eye over to the side. The hole is at the top left edge of it.

It still needs work. I've been eying the sleeve cuff for a possible pocket, and if you thought it looked a little wide in that top shot you weren't wrong - even though felted wool tends not to slip down over leggings, this baby could stand to be taken in a lot at the waist. But when I pressed the pleats under a wet cloth they looked downright professional, and at this length, it's so warm.

Plus, it matches the handspun cuff of my boot socks! Gotta love that.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Instant cowl

This winter, which has my house more full of freezingness than I remember in previous years, I finally get the point of a cowl. And now I have one:

Here's how it started, as a partially-felted Banana Republic sweater (90% merino, 10% cashmere, and boy can you feel that 10%):

I cut off the body just below the arms, not even very neatly:

and then I turned it wrong side out, folded the cuff up, and folded the cut edge down far enough to tuck into the cuff.

This sweater felted down to 34" around, with 11" from cuff to armholes; folded, it's about 4" deep.

I'll try this approach again with a sweater that felts narrower, because I think this one's gap is about as big as I'd want. In a floppier wool I'd only fold it once or maybe not at all, and blanket stitch the raw edge since it would show. This sweater was heavy even before it felted and doesn't drape enough to be tall for indoor use. (outdoor, folded into a coat, definitely.)

Even at this size though it's still deep enough to tuck my chin into and go all Veronica Lake-y,

so between that and the cashmere I'm happy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vehicles for blanket stitch

I find embroidery enticing but difficult, which doubtless feeds my supreme love for blanket stitch. I can do blanket stitch. And it's so. peaceful.

As a result I am always open to projects that can use a little blanket stitch in the finish. So while looking for stress relief last weekend I cut out some circles.

I used my rotary cutter and a bowl with a stainless steel rim for the job. It went really well and made me wonder why I hadn't used my rotary cutter before.

Seriously: last winter I became obsessed with putting together every possible tool for working with felted wool or needle felting fiber, and even after scoring the bigger pieces like that mat in some sale or other, I just kept sitting down with scissors to cut freehand. Rotary cutters are just very sharp and scary-looking.

In the event though, the cutter gave me much better edges for showing off future blanket stitchings, so I guess I can live with it.

This reminded me of another tool I bought in that particular frenzy and never used:

Must think about making a felted wool skirt with a pretty scalloped edge some time.

The circles are destined to be doubled up and used for tea trivets, or I guess pads for any hot bowl or pot that could damage another surface. I'll embellish them in some way since that will give me an excuse to cut out more felted wool with my scissors.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here are some rejects I started last year:

I didn't finish them in trivet form because the circles came out so bumpy. Perhaps they will be happier if I re-trim them with the rotary cutter? Or perhaps they will find themselves some other use.

Meanwhile, my basket of blanket-stitchable things is full again

and I am very happy.

Monday, January 17, 2011


In my experience, when the going gets tough, the tough get scissors.

Is there anything more relaxing than cutting out bits of things from felted wool scraps? And at this time of year, my preference is freehand hearts.

As you can see, I got carried away again.

After last year's drawer sachet extravaganza, I'm not really sure what I'll do with these. But they are nice to take pictures of in fresh snow.

Especially when you pose them in a pretty drift.

An older man I don't know strolled past when I took a break from shoveling on Saturday to take these pictures, and it was nice that he assumed I was doing it for some purpose. When I explained it was just that I just couldn't resist, he paused and said They do look very nice in the snow!

I should have made it Random Acts of Felt Hearts Day, and given him one. Perhaps I'll just fill my pockets next time I go out, and try to come home with none?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Another sweater's journey

It may take longer to get to post my fab feltable-sweater finds, but I do like being able to show off the finished objects too so - welcome to today's installment of One Sweater's Journey!

I had high hopes for this sweater - Fair Isle always gives you so much scope for picking up colour at the finish, depending on what you decide to make - but it was fluffy enough in the store that I didn't know how it would come out of the washer. Sometimes these things come out covered in whatever pills didn't get left behind on the sides of the washer and you can never quite get them flat again (I call these sweaters 'Lining' or 'Interfacing.')

Even if that did happen though, I knew it was worth spending the $3 for the hook closures:

In the end, this sweater turned out to be one of my best - thick but soft, with just enough drape to do whatever I wanted. With that lovely turned hem, what I wanted was mittens:

and of course, some glove warmers:

It cuts down on how many mittens I can produce, but I really prefer the two-piece pattern I came up with a year ago - it's so much more comfortable to wear, and soooo much easier to sew and fit! And the person who got them seemed very pleased too.

The glove warmers went into a brown paper bag with some of my grandmother's shortbread and a journal when I was invited, three days before Christmas when I had already moved on to the baking frenzy, to participate in a little exchange. Good call on my part, taking the time to make them Just In Case.

What's most amazing is that there is still a huge amount of sweater left for smaller projects - almost as though each cut makes it grow bigger, like every other sweater I use for something. Have you noticed that?

I'm finding some little uses for the scraps, of course, but that will have to wait for another day (with better photography-friendly lighting.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bean plant progress report

Just had to pop in with another pic of the bean plant.

Things I cannot believe my eyes about:

how fast these beans are growing

how slender and delicate the stalks are that are holding up those heavy beans

how the plant still hasn't died in my care

And further to that last point - is it bad and/or jinxy that I'm beginning to wonder how the beans will taste?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Memories in the lining

I've been accepting old linens from my mum for a while, some of them actually linen, others cotton and hand-embroidered by mum's friends 60 or more years ago. The idea was I'd use them in some way, but most were a little stained or ripped or worn and that meant

cutting into them

which is just unthinkable to me.

Then last week mum said she needed a messenger-style bag she could cart around in lieu of a pocket, something big enough for her reading glasses and some tissues but 'in a darker colour' - referring, I knew, to the bright red recycled juice box bag I was wearing at the time.

I did try to shop for one for her but there was nothing I liked, and it's not like I haven't been making little messenger bags for a while - see my hiking satchel tutorial - so I went home and pondered my stash.

The darkest option was a pair of coordinating Waverly fabrics I bought I think 8 years ago and have never found a use for, but what to use for lining? My white cottons just looked too bright, and the thrifted cotton sheets I bought last summer all had big prints the Waverly didn't like.

Then I thought of those old linens. My mum's aunt had left her some lovely placemats (can you imagine the luxury of dining over linen?) and they had made their way to me, complete with tiny breaks in the lace and small stains on the panels. But the colours - ivory and pale sage green - were right, and the size meant I wouldn't have to cut into them, and how can you beat that sentiment?

I chose the one with the darkest stains, and cut a linen napkin I'd bought elsewhere to stitch on as a pocket over the stained area, being careful to leave the square details exposed. Even the napkin had been so well-washed, it draped open; I had to stitch a line down the middle of the pocket to make two just so it would function as more than just a purse divider. It worked: either of them are deep enough to keep keys or lipstick from falling out.

It doesn't look like much and it photographed like a lot less than that, but when you put your hand inside and feel the linen: hello bliss.

I couldn't see mum fussing with a button or hook closure, so I weighted the front flap to help it fall shut naturally. And yes, I used buttons given me from her own button box.

She loved it. And that made me so happy.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bean plant

I'm up to my elbows in crafty stuff again, but in the midst of it all something really creative has been happening on my kitchen windowsill.

It's a bean plant.

It was a gift, and it's very important that I not kill it, which is extremely challenging given that this is the only window in my house that receives sufficient sunglight to keep a plant alive, while being sufficiently out of the way not to be knocked over.

In fact the only other plant in residence is some extremely hardy tree thing that has lived through about 16 years of neglect and dim light on my mantelpiece and still looks fabulous. I don't deserve it.

The bean plant came in a tiny pot where it had taken up residence as a seed, but outgrew it very quickly and then began actually to flower, so I had to scramble through the cupboard at the back of the garage for a bigger home for its roots. I'm pretty sure it's still not big enough, but it was the best I could do and not have the lot fall right into the sink.

Earlier this week it flowered, and a few days later the flowers began to wither and I thought, Well, I gave it my best shot.

I mean, it's crazy cold on the other side of that window, and it's got inches to go before it can wind itself around the silver sugar tongs I positioned as welcoming supportive arms for the vine I assumed must be scheduled to appear eventually.

Then I remembered that flowers do die before the fruits and veg appear, and I looked closer.

Tiny green beans, growing on a plant that's surviving my windowsill. Imagine!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Desk

I just had to take a picture of my desk overhaul before it returns to its usual bomb site status (which I predict will occur around 2:03pm on Tuesday.)

See those baskets, and the top of that three-drawer thingy? For the last 18ish months they've housed stacks of paper so tall they hung out over the shelves entirely. Not to mention all the bits and bobs that are always taking over the desk itself. You know how brains work - why have one idea when you can have three? and then you have to put the notes for the other two somewhere, which is usually in a pile of mail and magazines and brochures.

It took about five hours to do this job yesterday, my gift to myself for a new year with my thoughts collected. I found notes for 17 knitting patterns in various stages of near-completion, all but one or two of which were begun in 2010. And amazingly, there were some short stories and essays in the mix as well, almost as though I did any writing last year, which suggests I must have done without noticing.

I did something else last year too - took an outing to a pottery painting shop with some friends. Just last week in fact, and after I did the desk cleanup I picked it up from the shop that fired it so it could go straight to work as my new creativity mascot:

I copied the colours and flower design from a vintage apron that had belonged to my mum's mum, and while I wish I'd trusted the firing process and left a lot more white (I thought I'd end up with unglazed patches, which turned out not to be the case) I'm pretty happy with the result.

And so is my sheep-shaped tape measure.

Hope your new year is making as happy a start, and more importantly, goes on to be great!