Thursday, December 08, 2011

Peace, Love, and Save the Wool

It began so innocently, my obsession with felted wool, when I casually thumbed through a book my mom had checked out of the library:

Sweater Chop Shop

One Google search lead to another and I had soon amassed inspirations for dozens of felted wool projects. I was dazzled by the possibilities and ready for another bold textile endeavor, similar to my quilts from recycled denim. That was fall 2010, when I was still in the States, and soon after we returned to Jordan I began frequenting the Friday open market which specializes in used clothes from Europe and the U.S.

My good friend once referred to the used clothes market as her lily field, as in Consider the lilies of the field... But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you...Back in the day of raising small children with very few and then, expensive, imported clothes, we young mothers spent many hours at the used clothes market so as to clothe our families.

I knew that amongst the crowds, yelling hawkers, and pallets of old sweaters there were wool treasures to be found, and so the treasure hunting ensued. I purposed to spend as little money as possible so stuck to the cheaper stalls, buying my wool sweaters for approximately $.70 or $1.40 each. The fun of buying old wool sweaters to felt and repurpose (the new recycling ling0) is that they don't have to fit! I can use any sweater as long as it is made of good wool. A few especially fortuitous finds have yielded cashmere sweaters which actually do fit. My first cashmere sweaters. I found one for Dear Husband too.

I was perhaps a little enthusiastic about my wool treasures and by the end of the winter season, when the sweaters are no longer in the market, I had purchased and felted oh, about 100 sweaters--maybe a few more ? We don't own a dryer so felting the sweaters was done by placing each one in an old pillowcase (to keep fibers from mixing), secured with a strong rubber band, washed in batches of five or so in boiling water, and hung out to dry. Wool drys quickly and we have plenty of sunny winter days, so this was do-able.

Storage was a problem, sort of, so I temporarily stacked my wool (pressed and according to color) in our spare room. I can't really put my finger on exactly what I relished about this felting process, but I enjoyed it a lot and found a lot of satisfaction in gazing at and touching my colorful stacks--true confessions here. My kids thought I was a little nutty.

The purples and lavenders

the reds

and the naturals

But when I starting making things with the felted wool, my kids caught the vision. I began with a challenging project. Oldest daughter was home on her January break, thumbed through a purchased copy of the same book had set me off on felting and found something that she would dearly love me to make for her before returning to school. How could I refuse?

The design for this jumper came from The Sweater Chop Shop (link above) and was made with parts from four sweaters. The edge stitching and some of the piecing (waist band) was done by hand with DMC wool yarn. The side seams of the bodice and the skirt panels were sown by machine. (The author of the The Sweater Chop Shop, Crispina Ffrench, sells these sweater creations for a pretty penny on Etsy.)

I sent her back to school with a pair of wool mittens, lined and cuffed with cashmere:

Instructions and a pdf pattern for the mittens can be found at the Purl bee blog. Instead of knitting the cuffs, I use the ribbing of the cashmere sweater I use for the lining.

I made cashmere scarves, ruffling the edges with a simple zig-zag stitch, holding the wool taut as it went through the machine :

And more cashmere lined mittens for family and friends who live in cold places:

Next came the Kindle sleeves, so easy, inexpensive, and practical:

When Active Son was young, one of his all- time favorite toys was a cloth covered foam ball that he played with until it was falling apart. With his love for that ball as my inspiration, I made these wool covered balls for a sweet one-year old's birthday. Again, the pattern is found at the Purl bee:

Soon, Tayta got into re-purposing wool act. This jumper was a project we worked on together, loosely based on a design in The Sweater Chop Shop:

And then she was off and running on her own. Purses are her specialty. Here's one made for a young friend when a birthday present needed to be whipped up in a matter of a couple of hours:

And here is one of her favorites that she made for herself:

Now that winter is here, I have lots of projects in the works--too many, of course: more mittens, scarves, a cape for Tayta (almost finished), Christmas stockings, Christmas ornaments...What couldn't you make from felted wool? One young man we know ventured that well, you could even make a wool house--he lived in one growing up in Mongolia! Maybe next year...


Resweater said...

What a fun post to read! You are a good writer, as well as a talented seamstress! I look forward to reading more from you :).

Pictoria said...

Woman of so many talents! I love what you've done... have you considered selling your creations?! Has wool shopping gotten in your blood? Can't wait to see what you'll create next! (and I want a cashmere scarf... just sayin')

Seta said...

You have such beautiful models :-)

Woman of the House said...

Wow! That is so neat! love the things you've made!

Mrs. Edwards said...

I loved this! I confess that I didn't understand anything about felted wool and always wondered how it was done and what exactly it meant. You've given me a great gift idea for my daughter ("The Sweater Chop Shop") in the process!

Tina said...

Oh, my! Those are really your very own stacks? I want my own stacks. On second thought, maybe I'll just come right over ...

Jenny said...

I. Love. This. Thanks for sharing and now on to the thrift shops!!!

Quotidian Life said...

Chris, I need to do a follow up post and link your blog and Betz White's book for more inspiration.

Val, Don't you know, I have a red cashmere sweater here with your name on it! Seriously. Let me know if red will work.

Tina, Thanks for admiring my stacks. I do get a bit giddy over them. I'd love to have you come over!

Patricia said...

Oh, so very nice! How talented you are! Now I want to run to the thrift store (on 50% senior day, of course) and grab wool sweaters!

Dena said...

What a talented writer AND artist!

Everything But The Oink Recycled Fiber Arts

Jodi said...

SOOOO COOl! Great and inspiring post.

Terri purcell said...

Love all your designs!