Monday, December 20, 2010

This blog needs smell-o-vision

The tree is up:

and it smells amazing.

In other news, I have been blanketstitching fingerless gloves like nobody's business and I have a whole lot more to go. More in fact than I need for gifts. I'm not sure why I have given myself this task - unless I want to have backups in case people really hate the ones I chose for them, enough to tell me so, and to demand another option? This seems unlikely. The last two parts of that equation, anyway.

Perhaps because I'm already going totally overkill on the fingerless gloves business but probably because I am essentially selfish, I took a break from giftstitching to finish a pair for myself:

I mean, you gotta test these things out, right? Just like a cookie tasting before you hand out cookies you miscounted the sugar scoops for. Which I might have done this year to advantage, unlike the time I made a pumpkin pie and forgot the sugar entirely. Urg. I hope the cookies are better than that but I won't know for sure till I try one of the non-burned ones, which almost taste good, which bodes well for my not having to make another two batches.

But back to this glovewarmer business. They are both warm and attention-getting. I like them. Probably that explains why I am making so many - that and the procrastination problem.

And while nobody with a stash of scrap felted wool is likely to be visiting here for last-minute crafty gift ideas that will be viable for this year's Christmas gifting, I do plan to break from cookie-baking to pull together some images of how I've been doing it.

In the meantime, the one pictured above is the cop-out version, useful when a sweater felts perfectly to the requisite width:

cut the bottom 6 - 7" or so off a felted sleeve

cut a slit in the seam for your thumb

stitch the raw edges with complementary yarn or embroidery floss.

(in the next easiest version, the only further revision is to machine stitch the bit from the top of the thumb to the finger opening at a bit of an angle so it tucks in closer to the shape of your hand, rather than moving further outward as when its job was to protect an arm.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Felted wool fish

Time for another installment in my series of Before and After moments:

The all-reddish orange one is baby alpaca, and the green trimmy one is super soft merino. Both were dotted with a ton of moth holes, making a big project impractical. It was however the obvious choice for the smallest of my extended family members who likes sea creatures.

I should have done a proper tutorial for this project but I didn't have much time - it only took about 90 minutes start to finish, which is about what I had, and in less than stellar lighting for photography purposes. But I can tell you that I simply cut out two layers of a fishy shape and opted for topstitching, so as to maintain said shape. It would have been a lot cuter if I had bothered to get red thread into the machine but - did I mention the 90 minute time limit?

Most of that went to improvising and then lining up his features, and to a lesser extent the side fins. I sewed all those bits onto one side of the fish, then used it as a template and put the other side of the fish nose to nose with the first to make sure everything lined up well. After all that was securely in place, I pinned in the top fin and topstitched all but a 2" span of belly, through which to stuff the stuffing.

Here's a tip: if asking the opinion of other children about a project that you think may be lame for the person you intend to give it to, be prepared to have to make more of said project. Seriously. This fish is going to a 7-year old boy not because I think 7-year old boys like handmade stuffies but because he is severely disabled and has difficulty even holding onto something. I figured anything in bright colours and supersoft fabric was a good idea. On completion I panicked, but unnecessarily as I discovered when I took the finished project to be judged by boys of similar age. Far from scathing, they were all - "make another one for him and give that one to me!" and "I want mine to be green!"

There is still a lot of fish-sized fabric left in each of these sweaters, so maybe I can make those boys some fish of their own. But not until my Christmas tree has had its moment and gone back out for composting, because the sewing machine is all tucked away behind it for the rest of the season.

(that doesn't prevent me from handstitching, of course. Stay tuned for one more project next week!)

Monday, December 13, 2010

From three felted sweaters to one fabulous skirt

On Saturday I finally had time to fix a skirt I botched in the fall, and it's so cool I thought somebody else might want to know how to make one. Sorry this isn't a real step-by-step pictorial, but it's such a dead easy project you probably don't need one anyway.

This is one of those lucky find kinds of projects. You need at least three merino wool sweaters because they tend to be thin and felt softly - ask me how I know a sweater that felts to the thickness of board won't work - of which one has to have a torso that felts to exactly your hip size.


One merino sweater with a torso that felts to your hip measurement and a ribbed cuff around the waist

At least two merino sweaters with a folded or flat (as in, not ribbed or gathered) hem, buttons and pockets a bonus


First, you will cut the flat-hemmed sweaters off at the armpits, thereby freeing yourself to use the flat hem as the hem of the skirt.

Next, you will cut both bodies at one side, at least, to make a long strip of fabric. One of my two was a button-up vest with pockets, and I wanted to save one of those front pieces for a different skirt later, so I cut it in three pieces leaving the back of the vest intact and separating the button band for use elsewhere.

Now you want to stitch these sweater bodies together into one long strip, which when complete you will sew into a tube (leaving the upper part, where the armpits were, free to stitch onto your waistband later.) Because I had had to cut my vest, I cut the other sweater into two pieces so that I could have a grey-black-grey-black repeat. That sort of decision is entirely up to you; just make sure you get the hems lined up as perfectly as possible.

At this point you will address moth holes. My grey vest had several, but thanks to clever use of the button band, they became design features. (That's part of the button band over there on the right; the buttonholes are more obvious in person.)

I stitched my fakery over panels where possible, which is why I waited until I had a tube, but you may prefer to do this job before you join the strip.

Now you are ready to make your waistband. Cut the cuffed sweater across, just below the armpits, and turn it such that the cuff is now the waistband, and the torso the hip. Start pinning the hemmed tube to the hip section with eventual wear in mind, pleating the fabric to fit.

For my skirt, I wanted the pocket at the front of my right leg, as shown above. I also wanted pleats primarily on my left hip, so in addition to the one at the back part of my right hip for balance, I put deep ones there with two falling at the front and two at the back. Each set faces the other to make a flat patch at their centre.

Run one row of stitching close to the edge with the right sides of your hip and hem sections facing, then open it up and topstitch the seam along its hip side.

And - you're done! And I dare you to take if off again once it's on.

Monday, December 6, 2010


As promised, I have before-and-after pics of one sweater's journey past my sewing machine.


This sweater was in perfect shape which does make me feel a bit guilty, but also makes me click my heels with joy because I don't lose any fabric to month holes. You usually can't tell about moth holes until after the felting, have you noticed this? and sometimes the end result is more patch than project.

In this case I got not only a full set of metal buttons but enough fabric for two pairs of mittens:

I cut the second pair's back from the sleeve cuffs, and the palm from the upper back of the sweater; that of course meant no cuff, but I was able to cut extra cuff from unused parts of the sweater's body and stitch them on. I don't think it looks too bad.

That sweater was definitely worth the three dollars it cost me, wouldn't you say?