It’s fun to make a new thing out of a worthless old thing, in fact sometimes I suspect it’s more fun than starting with new materials for the challenge involved. While I know better than to try making a silk purse from a pig’s ear (it simply doesn’t work…), I thought I’d try my hand at making a cute tote from a felted sweater like this one I saw a few weeks ago on Pinterest:
As soon as I saw this, I knew I had to try it with a hand-knit alpaca sweater I felted several years ago. I kept it because it hurt too much to let go of the hours spent knitting the fluffy worsted weight yarn into a sweater, not to mention the cost of the yarn. The Inadvertent Farmer’s tote comes from a smaller gauge knitted sweater- this means the fabric is relatively fine. This is the type of sweater often found in thrift stores.
Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto says “Are you listening? The fabric has much to teach us.” Indeed, as I followed the IF’s excellent construction outline for creating the tote, I realized she and I were working with very different felted sweaters. While my fabric is thicker, it’s also less densely felted than the sweater used in her tutorial. The cut edges of the fabric didn’t fray exactly, but they seemed less stable than the example sweater-tote.
I could have tossed the sweater into the washing machine for another round of felting. Instead, I chose to fold under the raw edges and stitch them in place with some bright embroidery thread. To me, the fabric looks rather “rustic,” and I thought the simple embroidery echoed that rough element. Also, while I love the felted roses on IF’s bag, my own felt did not enjoy pretending to be roses. In fact, it openly rebelled at the idea and I decided it was a battle not worth fighting.
I made two rows of “crafty” embroidery stitches in red before running out of that shade. I try not to buy new materials for recycled projects, not even new embroidery thread. The bag laid on my worktable in this state for a few days while I decided where to go next. I try not to rush a textile recycling project, but wait for the inspiration to come.
Eventually I got sick of waiting around and stabbed another row of pink stitches around the tote’s opening and handles. I like them, they’re rough and imperfect but not without their charm. Just like the felted alpaca. Though decorative, the stitches at these stress points helps stabilize the fabric and prevent it stretching ridiculously. They reinforce the folded edge of the fabric.
The bag still looked a bit plain, so once again I dug around on Pinterest and turned up a cute felted bow project. It’s all a bit “crafty” and kind of rough looking, but I don’t think it’s unpleasant. I like this bow and made a few of them from regular felt, too…
But somehow, despite its charm and my pleasure at making something useful out of a failure, I’m not sure this bag and I belong together. Look at me! All bright colors, cool cottons, exposed knees, a bit of a Tropical Lady. What do I need a fluffy, fuzzy tote for? For that matter, what possessed me to spend countless hours knitting a worsted alpaca sweater when I live in a place that doesn’t even frost in the winter?
I’ll tell you- I knit this sweater my second summer here. Yes, summer. My brain overruled my senses and said “Stephanie! It’s nearly Christmas- better start knitting something right now!” So without considering the actual winter weather in my new climate, I knit a virtually unwearable sweater in the middle of the summer. Yep. Switching hemispheres is fun. Even before I felted it, this sweater was doomed. The winters here are so mild, I had a mid-winter tomato crop this year.
I suppose the sweater is better off as my knitting bag. Not that I knit as much as I used to…
In case you were like me and the thought of turning a felted sweater into a handy tote never occurred to you, check out a few more nifty felted sweater bags I found:
Wow. So repurposing felted sweaters as bags is definitely a thing, and doesn’t require sewing wizardry skills. I like this especially because it seems to me most of us probably have a felted sweater lying around… Isn’t it amazing that the same source of inspiration (sweater to bag) allows for such a variety of finished projects?
In the lead up to the holidays, I thought I’d work through my hoarded Pinterest craft projects and share my favorites with you. Simple stuff, easy to make and gift or use as decorations. Christmas is a weird, weird time in Australia if you didn’t grow up with it. (Like the shop windows covered in paper snowflakes when it’s 100 degrees outside…) Several years of working retail in a shopping mall at Christmas as a teenager forever ruined holiday gift-shopping for me, anyway. This year I’ll try crafting my way through the Mad Times and we’ll see what happens!
..I’m also experimenting with a couple of ideas for decorating/cooking for a midsummer holiday (have you ever tried roasting a turkey in mid-summer? It’s so gross, ditto for gingerbread… nuts…), so it’s bound to get a bit strange around here…
I’m also stitching some new things for Lila, finishing the Lonestar Burst quilt, and launching the new Sewing Cake site very very soon! And I want to start sharing all the 1920’s swimwear ideas I’ve been playing with…