Thursday, September 1, 2011

Toil and Trouble, Cauldron Bubble: Lessons in sweater felting

Knitted flowers

Sweater felting – sounds like fun.  I wanted to put felted flowers on a tote bag I was making.  I’ve only ever knit or needle felted flowers, and only felted things I’ve knitted myself.  But the prospect of buying several different colored skeins of wool for just a few flowers seemed expensive and, hey, felting sweaters sounds cheap and fun.  I read a helpful tutorial on Aunt Peaches’ blog, and figured I was good to go. 

Step one: Get some inexpensive 100% wool sweaters at the thrifts.  Easy.

Step two: Prep for the wash.  I had a little pang when I first began cutting up the sweaters.  Cutting off the ribbing and seams was like inflicting a wound, especially on a funky hand-knitted (in China) cat sweater.  I really was torn over that one, but it was too big for me, and Alfie would have wept little doggie tears to see me endorsing cats.  Easy. 
Step three: Shrink the sweaters in the washing machine.  Now that sounds like the easy part, but . . . .  Let’s just say that buying a high efficiency (read, low water and no agitator) washing machine sounded good last spring when the old washer pooped out.  I’d read the horror stories about felting in HE machines, but I had fair success felting the tote bag, so it would work, right?  After several washes, not so’s you’d notice.  Frustrating.

Step four: Take the sweaters to the laundromat for a spin in a machine with an agitator.  A little shrinking, especially the blue Eddie Bauer sweater.  Easy.

Step five: Drag the lobster pot out of the attic and boil the sweaters for an hour or so.  Stir periodically with a long bamboo spoon and keep adding boiling water from the tea kettle.  The red funky cat sweater faded to a rosy pink, and some shrinkage did occur.  Hot.  Tiring.  Messy.

Step six: Wash several more times in the HE washer and dry several times on hot.  Finally – Success!

Overall, the resulting flowers make this a fun project, but if I added up the cost of water, electricity, natural gas, and sanity, it might have been just as cheap to buy the wool and knit the flowers.  

But as Bette Davis said, “The key to life is accepting challenges.  Once someone stops doing this, he’s dead.”

Still kickin'.

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