Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Gifts: Some Made Out of Wool Sweaters

I'm still working on Christmas gifts a week before the big day.  I'm gifting two wraps:  foliage wrap and the cabled capelet.  I taught classes for both and I hope my class members finished their projects.  Most seemed to enjoy learning to knit cables without a cable needle.  I'm also giving my Italian Moped Cap to a very special person, my 16 year old granddaughter.  BTW, I have sold quite a few copies of my moped cap pattern and am eager to see some finished projects on Ravelry.

I'm also making some scarves, hats and cowls, of course.

I decided to begin making use of the wool sweaters that I purchased at the Salvation Army last month.  I've been asking people what color their kitchens are and have been trying to find wool sweaters in the right colors.  My plan is to make felted oven mitts and potholders first, and then move on to other projects, such as felted slippers or handbags.  

Here is what you do to make the potholders.

  1. For felting, 100% wool is best.  Look at the label closely and ensure the garment is not washable.
  2. I looked in several Salvation Army and Goodwill stores and found that the more upscale the neighborhood, the more likely you can find wool.  99% of the sweaters are acrylic or cotton and neither will felt.  Sweaters with 3 - 7 stitches per inch will work better than those with a fine gauge.
  3. Once you buy some sweaters, be cautious where you store them, as you don't want moths in your knitted goods or stash.  If it's winter, you may be able to store them in a garage or shed.  If not, consider putting them in a large, airtight plastic bag until ready to use them.
  4. Make a paper "pattern" using your own oven mitts or potholders to judge the size.  Be sure to make your pattern a LOT larger to allow for shrinkage in the felting process.  Your fabric can shrink 25 - 30% or more.  It's better to make your pieces too large rather than too small.
  5. Lay your sweater flat, pin your pattern to a single thickness and cut.  For the oven mitt you will need four thicknesses.  For potholders you will need two.
  6. For potholders, pin the two pieces together with right sides facing.  Using your sewing machine, sew the pieces together on three sides with a 1/4 " seam.  Turn the potholders right-side out, turn in the raw edges on the 4th side and pin.  Machine stitch.
  7. For an oven mitt, pin the pieces together so that your finished product will have right sides on the inside and outside of the mitt.  Machine stitch around all edges except the bottom.  Turn right-side out.  Stitch all around the bottom (two thicknesses).
  8. Felting:  Use a top-loading washing machine.  Fill the machine with hot water, a drop of detergent, and an old pair of jeans (to help the felting process).
    Run the machine without using the rinse cycle.  Turn it back to the start of the cycle as needed.  Now is the important part.  Keep checking your pieces to see how they are felting.  This is a bit uncomfortable since you have used very hot water, but important.  Felting will likely take from 15 to 45 minutes, but fabrics will felt at different speeds, so this is not an exact science.
    When your pieces have felted as much as you like, take them from the machine and hand rinse in cold water.  Blot with towels to make them as dry as possible.  Stretch the pieces as needed and leave them to air dry.
  9. When dry, sew an unfelted bottom (cuff) to the oven mitt.  The ribbing from the same sweater works well.  BTW, I find that the fabric is so thick that I need to hand sew this part, first the inside and then the outside.  
This is one kitchen set and I will post more later.

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