03 March 2012

Weekend DIY: How to Upcycle a Wool Sweater

A guest post by Laurie Fortier - author of Kitty's Fiber Journey and owner of the online yarn shop Hands with Hearts.
Sonya and I met last fall, but I feel like we have known each other such a long time. I guess that is where the notion of "kindred spirit" comes from. We share many passions, one of which is felting. Sonya generously offered me the opportunity to share a DIY on felting with you. Thank you Sonya! It is a true pleasure for me to be here today! 

Photo by Kanelstrand
Being, as Sonya describes me, a passionate person, (it takes one to know one!) there are many things I love. But, felting offers me more creative inspiration than just about anything else I do! Felting is a two or three part process depending on what you are going to make. If you make beautiful bowls or bracelets like Sonya, then the first creative step is knitting the object.

The second step is felting. The look the object will have depends on how we felt it. Felting is basically agitating the scales on the wool fiber so they puff up and push together. We determine how much of that they do! 

The third step is what we do after the object is felted. We can decorate with embroidery as Sonya has or if we use flat knitting, we can create an unlimited number of things from bookmarks to bags. The only limit is our imagination! 

Today I am going to show you how to "upcycle" a sweater. (I love how society influences language!). This is a sweater that I loved. I love embroidery. Unfortunately, it has gotten too small for me (notice the nuance!). Before I knew how to felt, I would have given the sweater away. Never again! It has been sitting in my sewing room waiting for the right inspiration. Its time has come!

Sonya has told you about the Knit-a-Square foundation. She has joined me and many others (and you are all welcome!) in my challenge to send 500 squares to South Africa by June 1st. These squares are knit into blankets and given to AIDS orphans.

There are over 2.8 million children in South Africa and Zimbabwe who are orphaned by the combined ravages of AIDS and poverty. It was when I learned about Knit-a-Square that I knew what to do with my sweater! So, here we go: Any garment that is at least 80% wool will felt. If the label says "hand wash only" you're all set!

1. Place garment in washer with some soap. Many felting books recommend putting a sneaker or a towel in the washing machine with your garment, but it really isn't necessary. You can also felt by hand. It just takes more time and patience than the machine!

2. Wash on high agitation with hot water.
3. If you can stop your machine, you don't have to go the whole cycle.

4. Look at your garment. Has it shrunk? Can you still see the stitches? Do you like the way it looks?
A more colorful swatch to help you see the stitches.
5. If it needs more felting, go through steps 1 - 3 as many times as it takes to get the fabric the texture you want.
Felting is great for colorwork because it "locks" the color changes in place!
6. Lay the garment flat to dry. You can pull and flatten it into shape.
Felted sweater with my 8" square template.

7. Cut , yes, cut! It is so much fun! The wool will not unravel!

8. And voilĂ ! This sweater has given me 5 squares for the orphans' blankets a lot faster than if I had knitted them! 

I wanted to show you some of the other things you can create. The two sleeves become fingerless gloves!

No sewing, just a snip of the scissors for a thumb hole!

Wrist warmer or pouch or...  the possibilities are endless. The buttons from the sweater are still attached and, again, a snip for the button holes. Couldn't be easier.

So, if you would like to help Knit-a-Square or you just want to try a new craft, clean out those closets or head to a thrift store and try upcyling a sweater! I'm sure you will love it!

These are the pieces of my sweater that I have left. What would you create with them?