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...
...like 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 differently...to match the personalities of both fabrics and human who will be wearing it!