A “Green” Crafty Gift Idea

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 16, 2008 in Crafts, Knitting, Other items, Today's Photo, Yardsale Finds

I finally finished the felted purse that I’ve been knitting since SEPTEMBER!  I had this great (but totally unrealistic) idea that I would whip up all these knitted/felted purses and give them as Christmas presents this year.  Well…four months later and only one purse is finished – not exactly productive.  Maybe I don’t have the patience for completing knitted projects – I seem to lose interest – especially when knitting something like the handle that takes FOREVER and is the same stitch and the same color yarn over and over again…

Anyway, here are the side panels after they were knitted (I added some brown fuzzy yarn at the top that will not felt for a little texture):


And here is the purse assembled, but before felting:


And after felting (I added a vintage brown button to help keep the top of the purse closed):


The thing is, I LOVE the felting process…but have little patience for the knitting part…

Then I came across a great idea in the January issue of Country Living magazine called “Sweater Recycling 101”. 

The article described how to take old, wool sweaters and felt them (no knitting required!!!!), then cut and sew them into cute little tote bags – perfect! 

I visited my local Goodwill store yesterday and picked up a variety of inexpensive 100% wool sweaters, all of which were $4.99 or less (yardsales would be great for this too, but there aren’t too many yardsales in Pitman in December – way too cold).

I took the sweaters home and ran them through my washer on hot with the greatest agitation level, then threw them in the dryer until dry.  Just a hint – don’t wash more than one sweater together or with other clothing.  The sweaters will lose an enormous amount of fibers that stick to everything when wet.  And make sure they are 100% wool – I think chunky wool works better for this project. 

After washing in hot and drying in the dryer, the sweater will be felted – the fibers shrink and blend together forming a nice, thick piece of fabric that is easily cut and won’t unravel.  The thing is – felting is a very unpredictable process.  There’s no telling how a sweater will shrink.  Some of those I tried shrank evenly all around – others ended up with a very short body and very long arms.  And in general, the larger the sweater size, the larger the bag.

Cutting the sweater is a matter of experimentation depending on the size of the sweater and the amount of shrinkage.  Country Living gives a pattern that is almost like cutting the sweater into a tank-top – the shoulder straps of the ‘tank-top’ become the handles.  This makes for a very simple project – just stitch a seam across the bottom and you have a sweet little tote:


The bag above started out as a purple ladies V-neck sweater from the Gap with a fair-isle pattern across the chest.

My favorite bag was a men’s extra-large striped sweater in blues and greens with a nice cable pattern and a rolled-neck.  This sweater had some holes in it, so I wasn’t able to use the ‘tank-top’ pattern.  Instead, I had to cut out the front and back panels of the sweater and stitch down the sides.  I then used the arms as the handles, cutting them apart and folding them over in half.  I stitched them in place and this is the result:


I wish I would have taken a photo of the sweater before I felted it – I was just so curious as to how this would work, I forgot to stop and take a picture of the ‘before’!   This is a very large, sturdy bag – but my little basic sewing machine did have some trouble stitching through the thick, felted wool – I just kept pushing and pulling it until it made it though.

I also experimented with adding some pockets.  Here is a women’s wool sweater from Eddie Bauer after I felted it:


Not sure if you can tell, but the body shrunk up really short but very wide.  I cut it into the ‘tank top’ pattern and stitched up the sides as well as the bottom:


The back of the bag was just plain red so I decided to cut the bottoms of the sleeves and add them to the back side as little pockets:


I’m telling you…this became addictive after a while!  You never know how the bag is going to turn out…

Here’s another one – this is an Old Navy sweater before felting:


I used the ‘tank-top’ pattern, but cut it into more a square, then added the unfolded end of one of the sleeves as a long pocket on the front:


I love this project because…1) there’s instant gratification – you throw the sweater into the washer and in no time, you have a brand new piece of felt that’s a surprise every time,  2) one entire project (once the sweater is felted) takes less than 30 minutes, 3) it’s inexpensive, 4) it’s a practical but still a really cute gift and 5) it’s good for the environment to re-use something in a whole new way – it can be fun being green!

And now even though I didn’t actually knit them as I intended, I have all these cute felted purses to give as gifts – plus I may make a few more after a visit to another local thrift store this weekend…


Knitting – Trying Something New

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 27, 2008 in Crafts, Knitting

Mike and I have a long commute to work every day (one hour each way – yes, that’s TWO hours in the car together every day!) and I’ve decided to take advantage of that time in the car to work on some knitting projects.  Obviously, he’s the one doing the driving – I am in no way recommending knitting while operating a motor vehicle.

After the success of my felted purse, I decided to try to make another to give as a gift.  I saw some beautiful multi-colored wool yarn in blues and browns and thought I’d give it a try.  I have no idea what this is going to look like once it’s felted…but that’s part of the fun, I guess. So far I’ve completed the two side panels and am working on the handle:


I also added some fuzzy brown yarn at the top of the purse – when the rest of the yarn felts, it should really stand out (or at least that is the hope, anyway). 

The purse handle is simple, but is REALLY boring to knit (which is perfect to do in the car).  But I think I want to branch out and try some new techniques on a different, slightly more complicated project that I can do at home while watching all those reality TV shows (by the way, did anyone watch Project Runway this week?  What did you think of Kenley’s ‘hip-hop’ outfit??!!!??).

So I picked up some cashmere yarn the other day and am trying the pattern on the package – a scarf with some cables.  Here’s the project so far:


It may be tough to see in the photo, but there’s a pretty cable-knit pattern throughout the scarf.  This is the first time I’ve ever tried knitting cables – they’re not hard to do (you basically knit stitches out of order), but you really have to pay attention to exactly where you are in the pattern.  Not something to try while zooming down the Atlantic City Expressway…


Finally! A Completed Knitting Project!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 3, 2008 in Crafts, Knitting

Way back in January, I started to work on a felted tote bag – and tonight (in SEPTEMBER), I finally finished it!

Not that I’ve been working on it non-stop since then.  In fact, I stopped work on it altogether for a few months after I lost one of my size 8 knitting needles on my first trip to Alaska back in April.  A few weeks ago, I replaced the missing needle and then it was back in progress.  Unfortunately, I can’t find the book with the instructions…so I had to improvise a bit.

What I like most about this bag is the simplicity of the design – basically two side panels and one VERY long handle.  I should have probably made the handle longer, but I got really bored when it got to be around 6 feet long (it was supposed to be 7 feet, I think – part of the problem of losing the instructions!) and stopped.  The handle was just a plain garter stitch with the first stitch of each row slipped to make a nice, sturdy edge.

So after knitting the handle and side panels, I hand-sewed them together using the green yarn.  The handle acts as the sides and bottom of the bag – the seam is sewn together along the bottom.

Before felting, the bag was so big and floppy, I had my doubts.

But then I threw it in the washer through a entire cycle on the hot/cold setting…and it was like magic!  I couldn’t believe how fantastic it was after it was felted – you can barely see any of the individual stitches and the bag became structured and sturdy – now I can’t wait to felt some more projects!

To complete this one, I knitted some pockets (again, no instructions so I had to wing it) then felted them individually.  The result would have been okay…but I wanted to add some felted flowers and leaves.

I found this pattern for a simple ruffled rose from Y2knit online and decided to give it a try…here’s one of my roses before felting:


Just a simple strip that curls around itself as a result of increasing the stitch count.

Next, I wanted to add some leaves made with the green yarn.  But I couldn’t find a leaf pattern that I liked online – I tried several that I found, but they all seemed to end up looking lumpy.  So I made up my own pattern and made these (the photo is before felting):


To make these leaves:

Cast on 3 stitches and knit the first row.

Knit the next 3 rows, casting on an extra stitch at the end of each.

Knit the next few rows – I think I did three or four.

Then knit the following rows, decreasing the number of stitches by knitting two together once on each row.

Bind off when you reach a row that only has two remaining stitches – that’s it!  They felt up so cute – it’s just the final shape that’s really important after they are felted.

Here’s the finished tote completely felted (one side is blue, the other is brown):


I also added some blanket stitching around the pocket and top edge to keep the colors blending together.  I think it’s so cute – and I can’t believe that I made the whole thing myself.

Hmm…I think I may be making some of these for Christmas presents…and if I do, I’d better start now (or make smaller bags)!


Almost Time to Come Home

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Apr 11, 2008 in Family Stuff, Knitting, Uncategorized

Today is my last day in Alaska – and I’ve just finally adjusted to the time change.

It’s been a very productive trip, but I’m ready to come home.  There is a real lack of estrogen up here – the ratio of men to women must be about 5 to 1.  Now…if I were a single woman, this would be a good thing.  And I have seen many “Men in Trees” up here.  But after spending  a week with the same seven men in the same conference room…let’s just say I’ve heard enough hunting and fishing stories to last a lifetime.  I am a real animal lover, but kept quiet (a difficult thing for me)until I heard the statement, “I’m such a good hunter, I can actually get the deer to come up to me and let me pet them…” – then I had to chime in, “…before you KILL them??!!”.  Like I said, I think it’s time to come home.

I had a chance to drive around last night and see some of the local sites yesterday afternoon.  The mountain views are spectacular – I even got to see a moose by the side of the road.  I am also very impressed with the local food – two nights in a row, we went to the Glacier Brewhouse and had fresh halibut and king crab legs – yum!  I also had a creme brulee in a bowl the size of a small casserole dish – so much for watching my weight!

I also had a chance to do a little bit of shopping – I picked up some souvenirs for the kids.  But while I was at the local mall, I walked right in on an actual fist-fight between two young girls – very ‘Jerry Springer’.  I had to go to the mall to pick up some boots because Anchorage had an ‘unusual weather phenomenon’ for April – 6-12 inches of snow!  They even allowed the federal employees to go home early – they even close for snow in Alaska, apparently.  But the snow totally threw off my pre-packed wardrobe and I had to improvise.  Can I put those boots on my expense report?

I also stopped by the Qiviut Knitting Store right around the corner – I was hoping to pick up some of their unique yarn made from the undercoat of the arctic musk ox – but for a small skein, it was $80!  A little too much for me…

Well…it’s back to the office this morning, then back to the East Coast on the red-eye…


Knitting a Tote Bag

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jan 20, 2008 in Knitting, Today's Photo

I’m currently working on knitting a felted tote bag, and it feels like this project is taking FOREVER! 

It’s a color block bag design – the back will be brown, the front will be blue and the handle will be green.  So far, I’ve knitted the back piece and half of the front piece – next I’ll knit the handle and then assemble the bag.  After that, I’ll felt it, which is basically washing it in hot water until it shrinks and the wool fibers blend together.  It also has some pockets that I have to knit and felt separately.

I’m hoping to use it as my knitting bag – if I still want to keep knitting after all this…



Completed Knitting Projects

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jan 12, 2008 in Crafts, Knitting, Today's Photo

Now that I’m full-steam into knitting again, I’ve managed to complete two projects.

My scarf (just plain knitting – something to warm up my skills again):


This was the first time I’ve ever added fringe – it was fun and very easy to do.   You just take a crochet hook and pull the yarn through some of the knitted loops.  Too cool!

And…a dishcloth:


The dishcloth was my first attempt at trying the purl stitch, and now I’m hooked. It’s amazing how such a simple stitch can create such different effects with yarn.

Oh – and before you scoff – knitting dishcloths is apparently a big thing. I was at the craft store today and saw several books and pamphlets containing nothing but dish cloth patterns. Who knew?!?

So…now that knitting has piqued my interest again, I picked up a few pattern books and am going to try a few more projects. Next I’m going to try a felted tote bag. I can’t wait to play…

I figure knitting is the perfect craft to do while I’m commuting back and forth to work at my new job. No…I still don’t have a start date – but here’s hoping it’s soon…

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