This weekend I decided to tackle a project I’d been putting off for a while.
I had somehow come across the idea of a recycled sweater blanket about a year ago (here’s the original site I found and then I saw this blanket in Leigh Adford’s AlterKnits and just fell in love) — actually, my friend Abby gave me some sweaters for the cause last April for helping out at her wedding, but I didn’t get around to working on it until now. I’m so bummed I waited. I really could have used this blanket this past winter! Also, because you have to constantly check on the progress of the felting constantly, and because our washer is OUTSIDE, and we’re having an “unseasonably” cold winter in seattle, this really would have been much easier to do in warmer weather….. but I digress.
All the sites I found didn’t really break down the actual process of assembling the blanket, so I thought I’dd write up a little tutorial here. (once I’m done I’lll even write up a tutorial at Crafster….)
7-10 100% wool sweaters (depending on final shape of blanket), preferably larger sizes, acuired on the cheap from large thrift stores
zippered pillow cases
thick cutting board
sewing machine, with fancy variegated thread (optional)
1. Scour your favorite thrift store for 100% wool sweaters (hint: lana means wool in Spanish).
2. Felt the sweaters in the washing machine by placing them in zippered pillow cases (I put 2-3 sweaters in each case) and washing them in hot water on high agitation for 4-8 minutes. Check the progress of the felting after 4 minutes and pull them out when they’re done. Don’t let them go through the spin cycle, or they’ll get all creased (see: pink sweater). I hosed them down in the shower and then chucked them in the dryer on high to get them nice and fluffy.
3. Cut them down to size with a rotary cutter (this is KEY! It makes it so much easier!!!) (But watch that you don’t cut yourself!!!). (Also, I didn’t have a fancy cutting mat, so I used a thick teflon cutting board from our kitchen.) I cut off the sleeves and then cut the bodies into different pieces, saving the cuffs and pockets when I could, as these add interest to the blanket.
4. Arrange the pieces into a quilt on the floor. You’ll probably have to re-cut to get them to fit. Or you can wait until you sew them to re-cut them, since they’ll probably move around a bit in the sewing machine.
This is where I am right now. I saved a few pieces and did some test sewing last night, but as you can see, I still need a little practice.
One of my co-workers (who’s a quilter) suggested first sewing the pieces to some fabric, to stabilize them so they don’t move around as much, and then sew the sweater pieces together, but in that case I’d have a “back” to the blanket, and I don’t know if I want that. I like the fact that this is reversible, even if it is “bubbly” at the seams. I’ve heard a hot iron can help flatten it.
Update: I went to Value Village today at lunch to get some more sweaters, because this blanket JUST ISN’T BIG ENOUGH YET. (I’m aiming for a twin size… small enough to snuggle with on the couch, and yet big enough to put on my side of the bed, since i get colder at night.) So I’m hoping, if my sewing improves dramatically within the next few days, to have this done by this weekend.