Monday, February 25, 2013

Cashmere

I had never owned a cashmere sweater before I started digging through piles of second-hand sweaters in search of wool to felt. I don't think I had ever even felt a cashmere sweater until I found my first one, mixed in a pile with lots of other sweaters of various fibers, but when I felt it I knew that it must be something special. Cashmere is the unexpected luxury bonus of shopping for second hand wool: I now have seven wearable cashmere sweaters, and Dear Husband has another two. Tayta has one too, along with a silk/cashmere "sweatshirt" that she wears around the house. I've blogged about the a few ways I've used recycled cashmere sweaters: lining mittens, lining hats, and winter scarves. But, making a cashmere blanket is what I've dreamed of.

I have a Rubbermaid tub full of cut up cashmere sweaters, but I did not deem all of them worthy of playing a part in my dreamed-of cashmere blanket. Cashmere connoisseur that I am becoming, I've noted that all cashmere is not equal. Some cashmere is extra soft--"like a cloud", Tayta describes it. A few weeks ago I found two more large, like-a-cloud cashmere sweaters and hoped that I would now have enough to begin my blanket.

My blanket is made from my collection of  five like-a-cloud cashmere sweaters. I decided I would not concern myself with color coordination. This blanket is all about feel. I left pieces as big as possible so as to maximize the amount of cashmere I could use from the sweaters and make the blanket, really more the size of a throw, as big as possible.


Laying out the blanket was sort of like working a puzzle. The key was to arrange the pieces in rectangular blocks which can then be pieced together. At a glance the arrangement of rectangles might not be evident, but if you examine the layout you will see the rectangles of different sizes, first smaller, then larger.

And though I would never have planned  a color scheme of  red, black, navy, ivory, and pastel mint green, I like it. I'm finding one of the fun things about working with recycled fabrics is its limits, and sometimes limits force a kind of creativity that I wouldn't otherwise discover.



I've made two other recycled wool throws: one was pieced by butting together the edges of the wool and sewn with zig-zag stitching, and the other was overlapped and sewn with a double straight stitch. Since cashmere doesn't really felt the same way that wool does and because this was to be my dream blanket, I wanted to try yet another technique to piece/stitch this quilt together, a technique that I thought would be more secure. Cruising along Pinterest Avenue, I've kept my eyes open for different seam techniques and recently learned about the traditional Korean pojagi method on Victoria Gertenbach's inspirational blog. I simplified the method in the tutorial to accommodate working with wool rather than woven fabrics, and I was very pleased with the results. I anticipate using this seaming method for future blankets.

Per below, you can barely distinguish the front side from the back side--so it is in person as well.
To create this modified pojagi seam, I sewed two piece of wool together with a 1/2 inch seam, using my longest straight stitch. I then turned the sewn pieces to the back side, and zig-zaged first one side, and then the other, of the seam allowances flat, using a fairly long stitch length. I didn't even need to press the seam--I just held it down as I zig-zagged it. After sewing each seam, I used my quilting ruler, cutting mat, and rotary cutter to straighten up my pieces at the seam, as wool tends to stretch a bit when it is sewn, even if it isn't pulled.



front side




back side

After finishing my quilt, I experimented with this seaming technique using some felted Shetland wool, and again, pleasing results. As with the cashmere, the difference in the front and back is barely discernable.


front side


back side

Though I haven't bound my other wool blankets, I felt the cashmere needed it. I used the saved ribbings from the sweaters to create the binding, which I attached just as I do bindings on regular quilts. I had to use a scrap of cashmere to make the binding long enough, so the ribbings aren't enough, regular cashmere/wool scraps can be used as well.


I have (and will) share my cashmere blanket when I'm not using it, but its home is on my favorite reading chair.

10 comments:

Woman of the House said...

I love what you do with recycled wool and cashmere! I also like the limits imposed by the parameters of the materials chosen. I am always more creative when working within set limits. I remember one of my college professors saying Igor Stravinsky felt the same way~ he preferred commisions with limitations in instrumentation, or length, etc. With no limits it's harder to decide what to do, which direction to go . . . Anyway, all of your blankets are just beautiful!

Laura A said...

Totally agree with what Woman of the House said above. Was going to say much the same thing! You have a real eye for quilting style.

Pigtown*Design said...

So delighted I found this post. I've been thinking about making some cashmere blankets as christmas presents, as i have cornered the market on thrift shop cashmere sweaters. i have tried a few different ways of making ones, and didn't want to back the soft cashmere with fabric, so this is the perfect compromise. i tried some pieces and they look fabulous. thanks for sharing!

Jane Kilpatrick Schott said...

Terrific. Found you through Meg at Pigtown and will be in pursuit of my own cashmere collection. Keep warm! Thanks.

heather said...

i love your blanket and thanks very much for sharing it with us. i'm inspired to make my own. Do I need to wash the sweaters in very hot water first?

Quotidian Life said...

I washed my cashmere in hot water with varying results: some shrinks/softens more than others. I've heard it said that cashmere doesn't "felt", but I still wash mine in hot water (line dry as I don't own a dryer) as I like the texture that "shrinking" gives it.

heather said...

Thanks for your helpful reply, can I ask one more question? I live in England and I wonder what temperature hot is in your country. Could you tell me what the temperature is in farenheit please?

Quotidian Life said...

Heather, I live the the Middle East, so my washing machine temps are in centigrade. I use 90 degrees C for washing cashmere and and wool.

heather said...

Great, thanks, machines here are celcius too. I'm looking forward to this project, thanks very much for your help.

Laurie said...

I've made one quilt using felted sweaters...loved experimenting with the wool, gave it away. Now we have moved from Texas to Idaho and am contemplating another one. That one I backed like a quilt and quilted it...too stiff. This time I'll try not backing it.