Tagged: lambswool

Nov 11

Hotties

 

 

Lamsbwool upcycled hottie cover

Lamsbwool upcycled hottie cover

 

With her brusque but generous heart, Win fed me and brought me those English-homemaker panaceas – hot-water bottles and hot drinks.

From Ardent Spirits: leaving Home, Coming Back by Reynolds Price

 

My making this winter is indulging an affection for that great English cure-all, the hot-water bottle or hottie. Cosiness, warmth, comfort, consolation, care, motherly love – it’s all there. And for extra heart and soul, I’ve been upcycling soft cosies individually from old knitwear.

I start with an old sweater – usually fine lambswool or cashmere – that’s been shrunk (intentionally or not) and possibly developed the odd hole or other flaw. Happily, I’m keeper of what I laughingly refer to as ‘the National Sweater Collection’, having been compiling old knits for some time now. So, there’s plenty to pick and choose from. I meticulously launder and treat each source garment individually (often washing by hand in lavender-scented wool wash), dry it carefully, comb or brush it, then send it for a short stay in the freezer in a ziplock bag to ensure there are no unwanted visitors. By the end, I’ve completely revived and refreshed it, ready for its new life.

Sweaters for upcycling

Sweaters for upcycling

 

Then I make a bespoke pattern for the particular hot-water bottle as I want it to fit nice and snuggly. Each raw-material garment requires unique, thoughtful treatment.  It takes a little while for me to figure out how best to convert it – quite often I make the bottom of the garment into the top of the cover, for example. Then, once I have my pieces cut, I stitch each cosy together on a vintage Singer sewing machine. I’m now selling these rather sophisticated, soulful and sustainable hotties in my Etsy store. Each comes with a rubber bottle too so is great value, as well as being hugely cuddlesome. Perhaps using one will enable you to turn the central heating down a notch, so buying one may even save you money in the long run. This fabulously soft green cashmere hottie is available over here.  12/11/14 Just sold, but more are in the pipeline. Please get in touch if you’d like a particular colour or style. Thanks. – E x

 

Cashmere hottie with pompoms

Cashmere hottie with pompoms

 

And if you’d like a bespoke hottie, I can make something to your particular colour/style requirements from my stock of upcycled garments, or from a piece of knitwear you supply (perhaps something with sentimental value). So get in touch if you’d like one made especially for you. Convo me through Etsy, or take a look at my About page for my email address. There’s still plenty of time to get yours before Christmas.

 

 

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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 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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Jan 17

Scrap of the week #10

Another scrap so soon? I’m trying to stick to posting these on Mondays in future, so this week begins as I mean to go on.

Here’s is an object lesson in how to shrink a garment before upcycling. Or possibly how not to shrink a garment before upcycling. Let’s just say I was a little vigorous in my approach.

Originally a long 100% lambswool Dorothy Perkins skirt from my local charity shop, this item was bought purely for the pleasure of shrinking to make into something else. I had absolutely no intention of wearing it, and – knowing what wool skirts do to the average backside – I really didn’t think anyone else should be wearing it either. So that’s my excuse for indulging in a little garment genocide. Here it is before I got to work with my evil plan.

Wool skirt - before

Innocent skirt, minding its own business

And here’s a closer shot of its rather nice back-to-front texture (the right side of the garment looked like the wrong side, if you get me).

Wool skirt

Nice texture

And this is what happened when I put it through a hot wash in my unopenable-during-its-wash-cycle front-loading washing machine.

Wool skirt - after

Oh, the horror!

Yes, a little more shrinkage than I’d anticipated; about a third of it just disappeared. Nevermind. Let that be a lesson to you. On the plus side, I have a reasonably big piece of very dense felt to play with.

This textile vandalism happened a while ago but I dug it out when I was looking for something to use for Mimi Kirchner‘s wonderful Fresh Fish pattern. I’m not sure it’s what I’ll use for my first effort, but it’s there in my fish pending tray for now. It’s certainly big enough to make up the body of the fish.  By the way, I’d been toying with getting hold of Mimi’s fish pattern for months and was finally inspired to reel it in by this adorable version made by the reigning queen of garment-felting, Betz White.

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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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