Sunday, February 15, 2015

Felted Sweater Into Tote Bag Tutorial

What does one do when a loved sweater accidentally ends up in the wash and shrinks? There are so many options out there for felted crafts, that it's no longer an issue! During my Christmas break, I scoured Pinterest and came across this great tutorial from the inadvertent farmer and I thought it was a great idea! I didn't have any 'ruined' sweater, but luckily ARC Thrift Store is always close by...and such a treasure trove for project's raw materials. I started out with a men's sweater size L. It was in very good conditions and it was almost sad to shrink it...

...but it was necessary in order to keep the knit to unravel when cut. The technique I used is actually not called felting, it is called fulling. But I figured most people would know better the term felting, so I am going to use this term for this tutorial's purpose. In order to felt, a garment needs to be made of animal fibers (wool, alpaca, merinos, angora, etc...), synthetic fibers (acrylic, polyester, etc) will not felt, neither will natural plant based fibers (cotton, rayon, etc). I prefer the percentage to be 100% animal fibers, but a garment with HIGH animal fiber ratio (90% wool, 10% poly for example) can also felt. 

The other thing needed are a washing machine and a dryer. The process is very easy, all I did was place the sweater in the washer (I have a front loader) with laundry soap and set the machine on a long hot cycle. When the cycle was finished, I placed the sweater in the dryer...again on a hot cycle. Every sweater will be slightly different when it comes to felting time. This has a lot to do with the fibers themselves, but also with the density of the knit. You will know that the garment has felted when it shrinks CONSIDERABLY, but also when the garment becomes stiff and no longer has any elasticity or stretchability. This particular sweater took 3 washing and 3 drying cycles. When I was done the sweater had shrunk to half its original size and looked like this:

I begun by chopping off the sleeves. Chop-chop.

I then folded the sweater in half to make sure both cuts were symmetrical and made adjustments were needed.

I tried to be as precise as possible...

...I then measured across the front to decide how low my scoop neck cut would be.

I folded the sweater again on itself to help draw a similar swoop as the sleeves... so. Then I proceeded to make my scoop cut around the neck.

...I made both openings (underarms and neck) the same depth.

And here it is flattened out and with arm holes and neck hole cut out as I wanted.

I then cut a rectangular piece (that would become the BASE of my tote) from one of the sleeves. I used a ruler to guide me and keep my cuts straight.

...The rectangle (BASE of the bag) must be long enough to fit the hem of the sweater. Note that I have turned the sweater INSIDE-OUT and folded it side seam to side seam.

I pinned (right side to right side) the base to the hem of the sweater.

Here is a close up view of the end piece of the base from above...

...and this is the underside of the base seen from underneath. You can see how the base does not match in shape the hem of the sweater. This is normal, I am trying to stitch a rectangle base to an oval opening. I just tried to make the shapes match, as closely as possible, by constantly checking the two while sewing. 

Here is the sweater with the base completely sewn in (I used a simple straight stitch).

...and a wide angle of the tote before I turned it inside out for the final touches. 

At this point I have many scraps, and small strips of sweater, left with which to embellish the tote. 

I simply hand stitched the rosettes (by securing one end of the strip-scraps to the tote) and securing it all around with simple stitches. 

I kept building up to the design with more rosettes, and leaves, eyeballing placement and design.

I stopped when it seemed like I had embellished enough. 

And this is the final product...

...pardon the bad photos, I used my phone out of sheer laziness! o__O
 I did however, make a second tote for another friend last weekend. So I will be posting that second tutorial soon. Hopefully that will give you a better idea of how easy of a project this can be, but also at how you can decorate the totes match the personalities of both fabrics and human who will be wearing it!

Happy Crafting!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

80's Cupholder to Jewelry Tree - Upcycle Tutorial

This post is somewhat a continuation of my last post, as this was part of the same gift for my friend S.'s birthday.  I wanted to give her something useful and personalized. She is very organized and she has a lot of jewelry, so I decided that a jewelry tree would be a good idea for her birthday 'set'. Here is how I did it. I went to ARC and got a very inexpesive 1980's cup stand. I am not going to sugar coat it; it was all FILTHY. There was a gross patina of dirt and caked-up oil all over it. So I scrubbed A LOT. But I think it was all worth it in the end! A bit of elbow grease and anything can be given a second life. 

After the intense scrub session, I waited for the tree to FULLY dry, before I sanded it down lightly. This is what it looked like after I sanding.

I then wiped it down with a damp cloth, to remove all dust, and took it outside for priming. 
I used my favorite primer, in spray form.

Photo courtesy of
I started by holding it upside down to get the underside primed first...

...then I flipped it right side up to spray it from above/sides. I sprayed light/even coats and let them dry as much as possible in between coats.

I let the primer cure for 24 hrs before I begun spray painting it. I wrangled a bit with the color choice. I wanted something modern yet classic. Something Fresh yet timeless. Something that S. would enjoy, something that was not overpowering. So in the end, I went with my favorite Krylon spray paint in JADE satin shade. I think that was a good choice. I find this hue very pretty and glamorous.

This is where something went wrong. I believe it may have been the temperature. 
It was pretty cold outside when I painted so, as a result, I got some paint bubbling. :((

I also got some paint drips. UGHHGHGHHGHHH. I hate when things don't go my way! 

All I could do at this point was sanding it down, and starting all over again. I guess the look was interesting, and I could have just distressed it more and left it like this, but I wanted a more crisp and polished look for S. she is always so put together that distressed really does not seem to fit her.  

...So back out it went, for a second coat of primer on all the spots where the dark wood was peeking through. Again I started from the under side first, and then I proceeded with the rest of the tree.

Again, I let the primer dry for 24 hrs and then I tried my second attempt at painting.
Gotta get it perfect! ;-)

I waited a full 48 hours for the paint to cure and then the tree was ready to use. 

It could still be used as a cup holder, if needed to, so I think that's a bonus!

I put the tree, the scrub and the shower tarts on a tray (that I also got at ARC Thrift Store) that I envisioned her putting on her bathroom counter. She seemed to like it.  

I wish I could have packaged the whole set with some clear gift wrap paper, it would have been so cute with a nice ribbon tied at the top. But we met at a restaurant, for the party, and it was unpractical to transport it as this. I would have been fighting with sliding glass containers on a metal tray. UGH. So in the end I wrapped all pieces in tissue paper, and stuffed it in a giant Sponge Bob gift bag. Yes. I know. Bob the sponge, how classy. But did I mention there is NO selection for large gift bags? :( 

Oh well. It's the thought that counts. Right? ^__^