Tagged: felted sweater

Apr 14

How I gave up clothing

 

 

Six Items Challenge

My Six Items Challenge

 

A really big thank-you to all who sponsored me to give up most of my wardrobe for the Six Items Challenge, a ‘fashion fast’ for Lent. You raised a rather wonderful £114.31 for Labour Behind the Label, an organisation working hard to highlight the perils of fast fashion. So thank you. Over on my Instagram feed I’ve posted a few rather monotonous pictures charting what I wore: @Scrapianagram. If you thought about sponsoring me but didn’t get around to it, there’s still time.  And it’s for a tremendous cause. Here’s the link.

 

What is fast fashion?

The Six Items Challenge is an annual event organised by Labour Behind the Label to highlight the problem of ‘fast fashion‘. And what a problem it is. Our increasing reliance on cheap clothing makes it almost a disposable commodity – we can afford to wear this stuff once and pitch it, not even bothering to to give it a wash. One of the hidden impacts of such cheap clothing is the meagre earnings of many garment workers worldwide, living on so little (£1.50 a day isn’t unusual) that they don’t have sufficient money even to eat properly, let alone clothe themselves – oh, the irony. Organisations such as Labour Behind the Label help garment workers worldwide gain fair conditions and a living wage.

 

Why did I take on this fashion fast?

Well, it was the least I could do, really. Coping with a pared-down wardrobe from Ash Wednesday till Easter isn’t a major deprivation. It wasn’t as if I was committing to working a 100-hour week. Or earning £1.50 a day. Or starving. I hoped to challenge myself, and to help raise a little awareness, maybe.

 

How did I feel about this before I began?

Honestly? As a relatively pampered Westerner, I was quite daunted by the prospect of limiting my wardrobe to just six essential pieces, excluding underwear, accessories, sleepwear, performance sportswear etc. It seemed so restrictive. I anticipated feeling hemmed in. I expected to find it difficult, to fantasise about what else I might be wearing. I thought I’d miss my jeans. I imagined I’d run into personal hygiene problems. Yes, the prospect didn’t exactly fill me with joyful anticipation. Who on earth enjoys giving anything up anyway? We all want more, right? Why am I even doing this with problems of my own? Charity begins at home and all that. That’s pretty much how I felt.

 

So, what was it actually like?

Well, the 6 weeks were full of surprises.

( Read more )

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Mar 04

Come to a Craft-Tea Party!

 

 

If you’re pushed for a Mother’s Day/Mothering Sunday* gift and live in Bath, I can help.

The Craft-Tea Party happens in Green Park Station this Saturday 9th March, 2-5pm. It’s organised by Oxfam Bath and timed to celebrate International Women’s Day (8th March).

Craft-Tea Party poster

 

I’m running a series of mini-workshops at 2pm, 2.45pm, 3.30pm and 4.15pm (half an hour each) to make a gorgeous flower brooch from upcycled felt. The £5 fee will go entirely to Oxfam as I’m donating my time and materials.

Here’s the felt we’ll be using. It’s lovely thick stuff, culled from endless sweaters, cardigans and scarves gleaned in numberless charity shops then boiled in my washing machine and steam pressed. Yes, a complete labour of love!

Felted garments

Part of the Scrapiana upcycled felt library

 

And here are samples of some of the loopy brooches we’ll be making. They can be loosely sprawling, dense and tight, single colour, variegated, buttoned or not buttoned, but each holds a charm.

Loopy corsages

Loopy flower brooches

 

Best of all, these loopy flowers are surprisingly simple and fast to make. They just need a little careful cutting (I have various sizes of scissors for big and little hands) and require a little hand-sewing, though I minimise this for those who find needle-and-thread stressful. I made these (and some other felt flowers) with the Bath WI last week and we had a really fun, highly productive evening. Here’s a write-up from fellow craft blogger and WI member Sue. I’m so glad to have pepped up her week and brought a smile to her face – that means such a lot.

Anyway, £5 isn’t much of an outlay to hit two birds with one stone, donating to the brilliant Oxfam cause and making something for your lovely ma. Better still, bring your mum along and keep her busy close by with some tea and cake (served on vintage crockery, of course) while you make her a surprise. You’ll have to tell her not to peek, but the sumptuous cakes on offer should provide sufficient distraction.  So, here’s how you book a space, to avoid disappointment. Hope to see you there!

 

PS If you don’t have a mum (and so many of us don’t), do please come make a flower for yourself, or for a lovely female relative or friend whose nurturing spirit you appreciate.

 

*which, in the UK, falls on 10th March 2013 this year

 

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Mar 22

Mend It Better review and giveaway!

My! We are Giveaway Central at the moment! And this isn’t even the last one, so do stay tuned.

It’s an exciting day when the book you’ve contributed to arrives. You open it at your page to feel a surge of recognition followed by mingled joy and disbelief. Small wonder that authors often refer to books as their children; the parallels with gazing at your own baby for the first time are obvious. Though I’m not really the parent here. More of a distant cousin. Anyway, that happy day came a few weeks ago when my contributor’s copy of Mend it Better (subtitled Creative Patching, Darning, and Stitching) by Kristin M. Roach plopped onto the doormat.

I was delighted to be picked for inclusion in Mend it Better back in the spring of 2011 because mending is a subject very close to my heart. There are issues on which the world divides cleanly into two mutually exclusive halves. We have the lovers and the haters of marmite, the watchers and the non-watchers of The Apprentice, and then we have the menders and the non-menders. It seems that you either get the concept of mending, thrift, recycling, conservation etc or you don’t.  Long ago I had a very interesting discussion with a friend who didn’t get it at all; in fact, she found people who upturn their washing-detergent bottles (in order to extract that last little drop) positively repugnant: “cheese-paringly mean” was, I think, the term she used.  As a fairly compulsive bottle-drainer myself, I felt a little jarred by the strength of her feelings on this point. I can’t quite remember how the conversation progressed from there, but there was probably a tumble-weed moment.

The rift between the two camps can be explained (at least partially) by the moral high-ground implicitly adopted by the thrifty, possibly imagined by the non-thrifty and felt by them as an unspoken rebuke. Most of us really don’t like shoulds and musts and uncomfortable being-told- what- to- dos, even if they are not actually uttered. Sometimes the mere presence of people doing-the-right-thing is enough to set off the won’t-do-it-and-you-cant-make-mes. Back in the old days, we used to call this ‘conscience’. Me, I quite like conscience. I think it can be telling us something useful. But I digress.

Into the gaping chasm between the thrifty and resolutely non-thrifty ( I see it rather like the Grand Canyon!) Kristin M. Roach rides, cheerfully a-whistlin’ a tune. Her panniers are full of  jaunty calico iron-on patches, prettily painted darning eggs, shiny skeins of embroidery silk and boundless enthusiasm. With these she can charm the birds from the trees (or do I mean cacti?) and persuade even the most militant non-mender that mending might be OK. Fun even.

The first thing that strikes you about Kristin’s book is how neat and tidy it is. The small scale — just 18.5cms x 21cms — is genuinely handy, perfect to slip into the mending bag. It’s purse-friendly too at just $18.95/£12.99. The book is laid out very appealingly; check out the perky appliqué fabric-letter graphics and the vintage sewing effects peppered throughout. This pretty book functions beautifully as a call-to-mend, with joy and creativity the main flavour and just the subtlest hint of virtue as an after-taste. As Kristin’s site says, ‘With Mend It Better, every garment and fabric repair is a chance for self-expression and fabulous creations.’  Yeah, the creativity card might just win it!

Title page

And now for the nitty gritty:

Who is the author? Kristin M. Roach lives in Ames Iowa, is a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Northern Illinois University) and she started writing her blog Craft Leftovers in 2006 as a way of keeping on top of her craft supplies — using up what she had rather than buying new. It’s a great source of inspiration for making the best of what’s already to hand.

What’s in the book? After a sweet introduction (in which Kristin pays homage to the significant sewing females in her family) there’s a brief foray through the evolution of sewing (which is possibly extra to requirements but enjoyable all the same) before Kristin tackles the basics. How do you assess if a piece is worth saving? What do you need in your essential mending tool kit? This includes instructions for a mending bag and upcycled tool clutch (see below). What basic stitches will you need? – both hand and machine. These can then be practised to make a cute needle book.

Mend it Better contents page

Next come all sorts of inspirational projects, each setting out a particular method or type of repair. As well as showing her own makeovers, Kristin has curated often bold and inspirational mends from other crafters, including Susan Beal, Rachel Beyer, Deb Cory, Carina Envoldsen-Harris, Crispina ffrench, Jennifer Forest, Diane Gilleland, Pam Harris, Marisa Lynch, Francesca Mueller, Cal Patch, Stacie Wick and Sherri Lynn Wood. Additional contributors are Caitlin Stevens Andrews, Maja Blomqvist, Cathie Jo, Ágnes Palkó, Megan PedersonLeah Peterson, Jamie Smith, and Yours Truly. Areas covered include: patchwork (including Leah Peterson’s  gorgeous reverse applique shown below),  seam fixes,  secret pockets, clever ways to adjust hems, waistband repairs, darning (by hand and machine, and an ingenious way to make your own darning egg using a wooden egg and a Shaker-style peg), fasteners, zip replacements, handling fancy fabrics, and decorative embellishments (including applying beads round a moth hole to create a flower motif).

Who will the book work best for? Kristin has clearly worked hard to make this an inclusive book, and I think it will work both for the absolute sewing newbie (who needs guidance through even basic stitches) and the more seasoned sewist (who can flip past that). Because it’s aiming to appeal to a wide audience, it crosses into the territory of some broader sewing manuals (such as this excellent one from Ruth Singer), but mostly includes what is relevant. I fear that it would frustrate someone expecting to find a lot of fancy hand-stitches as the ones included are fairly basic. I love the first few sewing projects which include a bag to hold your mending (upcycled from a damaged tablecloth) and a mending kit to hold your scissors, needles, marking gauges etc (upcycled from a felted sweater). Kristin conceived it as a book you can dip in and out of as necessary, whether you want to sew on a button or fit a hidden pocket.

Most inspiring mends? For me, it’s the reverse appliqué patching. I also liked the machine-darned jeans on the opposite page. Both are beautiful. There are a few other mends featured which go well beyond the purely practical and are aptly described as devotional. I also loved the crocheted sock darning done with oddments of yarn. It looks stunning, appears to be very robust, and I can’t wait to give it a try.

Mends by Leah Peterson and Jamie Smith

I must mention in passing that though I really loved Kristin’s make-your-own darning egg project (using a wooden egg and that Shaker peg) which she includes because she says they’re hard to find in the US, darning mushrooms etc are fairly commonplace  over here in the UK. You can also buy vintage ones at a certain Etsy store.

My contribution to the book was a mended apron (which you can see over on my In Print page). It wasn’t done for the book  – can’t you tell? – but was a favourite of mine I’d fixed. It’s not what I’d call exciting but its mother loves it.  And that’s one of the points Kristin makes; unless very ragged, something is worthy of fixing if you happen to cherish it, for whatever reason.

We may be stuck with a pretty dodgy economy for some time, and I doubt that spending our way out of it will be the answer — wasn’t that what got us all into this mess in the first place? Most of us will have to tighten our belts and take our dose of thrift as palatably as possible. Happily,  Mend it Better helps the medicine slide down.

OK, I’m convinced. Where can I buy it? Look for it at your local bookshop, and please ask, if you can’t find it. If you’re within spitting distance of me, I have a few copies available so email me. If you’re a bookstore or making establishment in the UK and would like to stock copies, get in touch with Melia Publishing Servcies. You can also get a signed copy direct from Kristin.

And finally to the giveaway! I’m really thrilled that the nice people at Storey Publishing (here’s their Facebook page, by the way) have offered to send a FREE copy of Mend it Better to one of my fortunate readers. The offer applies to readers in the US and UK only so if you’re hoping to learn to mend elsewhere, I’m sorry to disappoint. To enter, please leave a comment below. You can tell me what you have that needs mending, if you wish. A detached button? A tear to a precious dress? The knees of your favourite jeans? I’d also love to hear about any encounters you’ve had with the non-mending, thrift-intolerant portion of the population. But there’s no right answer, and a winner will be picked entirely at random. Entries close at midnight on Sunday 1st April, and the winner announced here on the blog on Monday 2nd April. Good luck!

 

 

 

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Mar 08

Mother’s Day chrysanthemums

Here’s a quick-and-easy make for Mother’s Day: a chrysanthemum-style floral embellishment crafted from a couple of felted lambswool scarves.

Fringed felt flower

Upcycled felt chrysanthemum

Credit where it’s due, the original idea for this came from the mistress of wool remakery herself, Betz White. I’ve added a twist with my choice of fringed centre and the particular suggestion that you use a felted lambswool scarf for the job.

Here I must wave the flag vigorously for the felted lambswool scarf. In its raw and unfelted state this is the classic woven gent’s scarf with fringed edge, as sold in almost every trad menswear outlet in the Western world. When stuck in a hot wash (accidentally or by design) their weave forms a dense and really stable felt which is a joy for the upcycler to work. Even better, it’s still possible to pick these up in the bargain bin at the charity shop or thrift store (I snapped one up this week for just £1), but if grandpa or dad should accidentally wreck the one he got for Christmas, all is not lost! Catch it before he chucks it because this stuff is well worth rescuing.

I’ve used two scarves for this project because I wanted contrast colour (like Betz’s original design), but you’d be able to make this (and several more chrysanths besides) from just the one scarf, if that’s all you can get hold of. The other great thing about scarves is that they’re the perfect width for this project. Of course, you can use a felted sweater instead, or regular store-bought felt. All that matters is that it won’t fray.

Two scarves

Lambswool scarves

Once you’ve found your raw materials (and they’ve been boil-washed, dried and pressed – if they need it) this comes together very fast, so you still have plenty of time to whip up one (or more) for UK Mother’s Day next weekend. They make beautiful bold brooches or hat embellishments.

Ok, here we go.

This project uses the existing fringing on the original scarf. The purple scarf had a short little fringe which didn’t look especially interesting, but bear with it.

Short fringe, felted

Short fringe

If your scarf has a longer fringe, cut it back to about half an inch (just over a centimetre) using a rotary cutter, if you have one.

Then cut 1  1/2  inches (4 cms) from the fringed edge. Set this to one side.

Cutting off the scarf fringe

Now cut another piece, 3″ (8cms) wide this time.

Cut here

And cut a 3″ piece from your contrast scarf. See how scrummy and dense that felt is?

Felt edge

Felt edge

Now fold your strips and pin the two long sides together.

Pinning

Pinning

Sew those long sides together about a quarter of an inch (just under a centimetre) from the edge.

Sewing

Sewing

Yes, that’s Josephine doing the sewing! You may recognise her from an earlier post.

Sewn

Now take a pair of large dressmaking scissors (they need to be strong and sharp) and snip every quarter inch or so all the way along your folded edge, being really careful not to accidentally cut through the line of stitching.

Snipping petals

You end up with something interestingly flexible. Try twirling it up a moment, just for the heck of it; it got me day-dreaming about spiral staircases and DNA, but I digress…

Making a felt chrysanthemum

Now roll up that first piece you cut, the piece with the felted fringed edge. It suddenly looks more interesting, doesn’t it? Roll the contrast piece around that, and now the other piece (which matches the the centre) around that. You may need to insert a few carefully-angled retaining pins as you go. Now you have something that looks a little like a chrysanthemum. Hold it together with a pin while you eyeball it; your final section may look too long and unbalance your flower, so trim some away if necessary.

Felt chrysanthemum

The back will look something like this.

Felt flower - underside

You can apply a generous quantity of fabric glue to that back and wait for it to dry. Or just sew back and forth through the base of the flower (in one side and out the other, back and forth) with sturdy thread (buttonhole is good) and a long darning-style needle. The next job is to apply a circle of felt backing and a brooch back (not shown, but if you’re stuck, ask and I’ll do a follow-up post Saturday on that). Betz added leaves to hers too.

I attached this flower to a ribbon in order to dress up a slightly down-in-the-mouth cloche hat.

Two old scarves and an old hat

Hat makeover

Much better! Hello spring!

Millinery makeover

And Happy Mother’s Day!

Felt flower

 

 

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Feb 28

Scrap of the week #12

I’m sneaking in several scraps at once – again. Who wants moderation in thrift anyway? Where’s the fun… I present:

1) A Cecil Gee (previously moth-eaten) 100% merino wool men’s sweater in aqua,

2) A Sisley 80% wool sweater in a moss green/brown stripe, and

3) A Viyella 100% lambswool women’s cardigan in rusty red.

Felted sweater selection

A glimpse of the sweater stash

All were thrifted from Bath charity shops. All have been hot-washed, dried and pressed (where necessary) and are ready to go. The aqua one has that rippled texture which often happens to merino when I attempt to shrink it; it still has a degree of stretch too which limits the ways I can use it. I’ve tried eliminating those ripples by steam-pressing for all it’s worth but it can’t be done. So, much better to find a use for that feature. The striped Sisley (which I particularly love) is reasonably firm but is quite fine. The red one has been the perfect candidate for felting, forming a nice, dense, very stable felt.

What will I do with them? Unlike many of my featured scraps (which still languish, awaiting creative inspiration to strike) I’ve already transformed these into something else which has been great fun to make. However, I can’t show you the finished article as it will spoil a very special person’s birthday surprise. Here is a big fat hint though…

Can you see what it is yet?

Cutting out the mystery project

Come back tomorrow for the big reveal!

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Feb 26

Woollyherb

Woollyherb, Maggie Jarman

Woolyherb held by its creator, Maggie Jarman

I was really excited to see my friend Maggie’s quilt (above) featured in March’s edition of British Patchwork & Quilting. It’s in an article by Khurshid Bamboat about the Dulwich Quilters’ 2010 Exhibition. Here’s what Khurshid said:

‘Woollyherb’ by Maggie Jarman kept drawing me back. Maggie had cut small coloured felt squares, applied them on to black net and felt and sewed different coloured and shaped buttons on to the squares. It wasn’t a big piece – but it was beautifully proportioned and stunning.

Unfortunately, the images weren’t terribly clearly reproduced in the magazine, but I happened to have these shots in my camera, having met up with Maggie last month.

Woollyherb by Maggie Jarman

Woollyherb, flat

These weren’t exactly studio conditions: we were in a high-street pizza-chain restaurant and the garlic bread was on its way.

Woollyherb by Maggie - detail

Woollyherb close-up

I love Maggie’s delicate placement of colour, button and stitched detail. Maggie used all sorts of threads and yarns that she happened to have lying about. She also confessed to leaving in some of the tacking stitches (see above) which really adds to the charm.

Woollyherb by Maggie - detail

Woolyherb detail: felt, flowers & leaves

I also love that the felt used is ‘real’ felt – real to me being the home-fulled variety, rendered from old wool garments. And that many of the buttons are one-off vintage finds: a great way to empty that button jar. This would make the grooviest upcycled scrap project and is really quite achievable even for a beginner stitcher. There are no seams in it, for one thing. This qualifies as ‘a quilt’, incidentally, because it’s constructed of  three layers anchored together with stitching; to dyed-in-the-wool quilters these things matter. To make such a gorgeous piece it helps to have an impeccable artist’s eye, and Maggie has just that. As you may have guessed from the name, the colours of this piece were inspired by rosebay willowherb, a wild plant which you’ll probably recognise as a weed in your garden.

I’m astonished and delighted to calculate that Maggie and I have known each other for over 30 years. She was the first person I ever met who had a proper, vibrant sense of colour; she’s is also the only person I know who is utterly unafraid to wear orange. We always have exciting meet-ups: full of fabric talk, colourful observations, extraordinary recipes, and technical note-sharing. I came away last time with a small rotary cutter (thanks, Maggie!).

Maggie has also been known to teach screen-printing and other exciting artistic endeavours to both adults and children. If you’d like to contact her about that (she’s great fun!) or to a commission a piece, do drop me a line and I’ll be happy to put you in touch.

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Feb 19

Woolly confessional

I’m doing it again: wearing a charity-shop wool top that I really bought for felting (of fulling, or whatever I should be calling it) in order to upscale it into something else more wonderful.

I must confess that I often feel tempted to just slip on that cardigan or fair-isle tank top once I get my woolly trawl home. I’m often surprised by how much I like wearing what I find. There’s something so deliciously random about the process. Things I buy for shrinking need not be my size, they just have to be made (mostly) of wool. I’m small, so can fit into most sizes, and sometimes the big sizes look better than the small ones. Occasionally, something big shrinks to fit me quite well after felting in the washing machine: that happened with a gorgeous cashmere cardigan. I look for good strong colours for crafting projects, so end up wearing things that I’ve programmed myself to avoid in first-hand shops where my choices are often much more conservative.  I’ve (unconsciously) learned to limit myself over the years. I don’t know why I don’t buy new red woolens, for example, except that I’ve probably tried on the wrong red to suit my complexion at some point, or the wrong pink, or orange, which has set me against that entire chunk of the colour spectrum. As I grow older I’m hoping to grow bolder with colour.

Here’s some colourful wool I managed to locate on a recent charity-shop excursion, though I’m not planning to wear any of it. Mr Green, the tank top on the left, has been cut straight up the middle (why?) so is unwearable, and Ms Designer Stripes there on the right is is entirely the wrong size (too small) and shape. Both will hit the hot wash. Flashy Lord Kingfisher in the middle there is a vintage mohair scarf which just needs gentle sprucing before landing on my spring fair stall.

Do you operate different rules when buying new/second-hand? Have you any wardrobe or crafting quirks that you’d like to confess to? One artist friend, who uses felted garments in her work, told me that she can’t bear to buy second-hand sweaters as she finds them too ‘personal’. She doesn’t mind scarves though. Funny. The personal nature of second-hand doesn’t bother me at all, though I hasten to add that I do wash them before wearing.

Thrifted wool

Colourful charity-shop wool

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Feb 03

The Year of the Rabbit

We have a rabbit in our household. I don’t mean a genuine fluffy bunny but someone born in the last year of the rabbit. I anticipate that he’ll make giant leaps forward this year.

Mention rabbits and I always think of the lovely 1922 book The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. We have a beautiful 2005 hardback edition by Egmont which includes William Nicholson‘s original artwork.

The Velveteen Rabbit cover artwork by Nicholson

The Velveteen Rabbit

I love the way the rabbit’s feet are set over to one side in that picture, the result of innumerable huggings and sleepings-on by his owner. Such beautiful observation to accompany a very tender story. I have to admit that I can seldom read the scene between the Rabbit and the Skin Horse [Margery Williams’ capitals] without shedding a tear. For me, it really nails the fundamentally transformative qualities of love and motherhood, with the inevitability of aging thrown in for good measure:

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.”Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.”You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Despite feeling as if most of my hair has been loved off, especially in recent weeks, my mood is surprisingly perky and optimistic today. I have a decided spring in my stride and am really looking forward to what the Year of the Rabbit has to show for itself – if only my eyes will stay secured long enough for me to see properly.

I’ve been wanting to make a traditional soft toy bunny – in velveteen, velvet or even corduroy – for ages. I’ve found some rabbity inspiration here in this curiously aged and lugubrious bunny by Northfield Primitives (Oh, scoop him up and love him someone, please!) and by Betz White‘s gorgeous cashmere bunnies: who would not want to love those button-eyes off? Now, they don’t look hard to make. And with Easter late this year, time is definitely on our side.

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Jan 14

Scrap of the week #9

I keep forgetting to post a Scrap of the Week. I usually do this on a Monday, but as the weather is just as miserable as Monday’s was (grey and drizzly) I’m sure nobody will notice the difference. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to present… [cue drumroll] my first scrap of 2011!

C&A sweater label

C&A felted sweater

This is from the bag of felted sweaters given to me by the very generous Becky Button.

Its particulars:-

Item: gent’s v-neck long-sleeved sweater

Fibre: 100% lambswool

Colour: marled grey

Make: C&A [By the way, this label looks like the old C&A to me, but I’m no expert. Anyone have any insight?]

Size: originally large, but now substantially smaller

You can see the slippers I made with this in my last post. I used this sweater because it was about the thickness of felt recommended in the Martha Stewart pattern: 1/8 of an inch. That pattern is one that’s freely available on her site. Given that it’s offered free, it would be unreasonable to expect a huge amount of detail or hand-holding. I’ve made some observations on how best to approach this pattern later on.

Working with felted garments. It can be tricky, when working with reclaimed garments, to assess whether you have enough material to meet your pattern’s requirements. This started out as a large gent’s sweater, and I was surprised that it took most of the front and back to make these size 8 slippers. The arms and some useful scraps – including the ribbed edging – are left to use on other projects. Something else to bear in mind is that some felted garments have a radically different appearance on the right and wrong sides, so it’s wise to be consistent in using one side or the other. In this case, I decided that there was a nicer texture to the inside.

Sweater to slipper

Deconstructing the old garment

My notes on the pattern:-

Enlarging. First you have to enlarge the little templates of the two pattern pieces to the required shoe size. Helpful enlargement guidelines are given on the pattern. Bear in mind that it’s in US sizes. Another word of caution: don’t take the enlargements listed as gospel; I found that they came up very small. It could be that my photocopier isn’t as good at maths as Martha’s is. Fortunately, I had a proxy for the slipper recipient at home (with same shoe size) so was able to test it before committing to cutting out. I had to enlarge by 400% in the end to achieve a size 8; that’s the biggest enlargement my photocopier extends to, by the way. But I’d recommend drawing around the slipper-wearer’s feet, just to double-check for errors. Remember to factor in a small seam allowance of 3/16 of an inch all round the sole.

Cutting out the side

Cutting out an instep

Pattern adjustments. In terms of the shapes of the pattern pieces, I thought they could do with some light revising. I liked the shape of the sole, but the instep curve (that seam on the top of the foot) could be just a little more shapely and have a more graceful sweep. I’d also like to try lowering the cut of the entire instep to make the slippers easier to get into, allow a snugger fit, and maybe a prettier shape for a female foot. But I’m not really complaining. Martha offers another slipper pattern, made from a single upper, which seems to check the boxes on the prettier girl shape.

On to the sole, the instructions advise using two layers of felt for the sole, and that worked fine. You could try using a single layer of really thick felted garment instead. Or maybe put some padding between the two felt layers of sole; Vintage Violet had a very precise product suggestion to that effect in the comments of my last post (Thanks, VV!).  I’d also like to try making it with other materials: a suede or leather sole, perhaps, as this slipper is really a house-with- immaculate-carpets slipper, not a cold-stone-floors slipper (which is really what I need).

Cutting out. There’s something very pleasing about cutting out felt with a nice sharp pair of scissors. I’d liken it to walking on fresh snow. Do keep your wits about you as you cut, though. If you have felt with a pronounced right side, pinning little paper labels to that side of the fabric leaves nothing to chance. Otherwise, it’s so easy to get confused.

Compiling pieces

Most of a slipper, ready to go

Bear in mind that you need two right side insteps, two left side insteps (one for each slipper). You also need 4 soles (and possibly an inner sole for added padding, though two nice thick layers of felt weren’t bad). Do check and check again during construction that you are doing a pair, not two identical shoes. It’s an easy mistake to make; halfway through tacking on the 2nd sole I realised I’d done two left feet… Nyarg!

Attaching the sole

Pinning on the sole

Making up. Remember that the seams are on the outside; I know it sounds obvious, but some of us start sewing on auto and then get into trouble. The two top pieces go together easily; you can just pin them together at the back and instep and sew them straight off on your machine, leaving the recommended 3/16th of an inch seam allowance. Despite what you may have been told, you can usually sew right over pins on your machine, though you must have the pins lying perpendicular to your seam, and try to have the tips of the pins poking through the upper side of the fabric so that they don’t scratch your machine bed. When I stitched these, I removed each pin as my presser foot approached it as my machine just wouldn’t have made it over all that thick felt plus a pin too. The soles, though, were a little more fiddly and required careful easing, pinning (beginning at the centre of the heel) and tacking (at which point pins could be removed) to prevent the pieces sliding apart during sewing. I set my machine for a fairly big stitch (approximately 9 stitches per inch), and used vintage Sylko Dark Elephant thread on Josephine (a vintage Singer 99k). The use of vintage materials and tools is not obligatory, but I would obviously contend that it enhances the sewing experience. [winks]

Pinning the sole

Eased and pinned

Embellishments. I left these slippers plain. The instructions recommend embroidering a big “X” on each slipper, but the embroidery opportunities are endless. I’d like to try constructing the sole seams with hand-stitched blanket stitch instead of machine stitching, for a different effect. A pattern of punched holes around the top edge would also be a fun. You could add a label to the inner sole before construction (machine- or hand-sewing it in), or a loop of ribbon to the back of the heel at the end. Oh, the possibilities!

Sole close-up

Finished slipper sole

These were very quick and satisfying to work, even with all the fiddly pinning and tacking, so I hope you’ll give them a go. Just to remind you that there are more pictures of the finished slippers – which were a gift to my brother – over here. I can’t wait to make more. Little Scraplet has already ordered an orange pair, which should be quick and easy  to do as he has such little feet. Off to rootle through my stash…

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Jan 13

Sweater to slipper

I’m finally catching up on some of the jobs I meant to do before I got ill in mid-December. This is one I’m fairly pleased with.

Felt slipper

My brother's slipper

I’d promised my brother a pair of slippers for Christmas, and found this pattern which looked pretty quick and easy. I’ll post more about it tomorrow as a Scrap of the Week, including some work-in-progress pictures.

My raw material was a sweater which came from the wonderful Becky Button (who kindly donated me a huge bagful of sweaters when she came to Bath late last year, insisting she’d never use them).  This marled grey sweater made me smile as the label said C&A (I haven’t seen that name in years)  and was 100% lambswool. Becky had even pre-felted the entire bag of sweaters for me! How much do I love thee, Becky? Let me count the ways!

Anyway, the pattern wasn’t perfect but I’m fairly happy with the result. They turned out slightly too baggy for my liking, more loose than they strictly need to be, even allowing for the fact that they slip on. My sons thought they looked a little comical and dubbed them “elephant feet” (not helped by the fact that I used a big vintage spool of Sylko Dark Elephant thread to put them together), but I liked them.

Christmas slippers

Elephant feet?

The only problem is that my brother (who lives in care) has developed a habit of throwing away things which he finds annoying. Feeling annoyed can strike at any time, somewhat randomly. I took the slippers out to him yesterday and it’ll be interesting to see whether they have safely passed the annoyance test or hit the bin before my next visit in February.

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