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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Week Four - Recycled Sweater Mittens

This week's project was funded and inspired by my sister (thanks, Mellie!).  By funded, I mean she discovered holes in her nice, cashmere sweater while we were visiting, and made me take it.  By inspired, I mean she mentioned words like "Martha Stewart" and "mittens" and "crafty" as she forced the sweater into my hands.  The brute.

So under that considerable pressure, I looked up the actual Martha Stewart pattern  for recycled sweater mittens (Doesn't Molly Ringwald look scared?  Sheesh!), and a few others, and got to work.  I decided to try a bit from one pattern and a bit from another pattern.  Since I had an entire sweater's worth of cashmere to work with, I also decided to try out two different techniques, cutting straight from the cloth, and felting.  I have never felted, successfully, before.  Should be a cinch, right?

First Set of Mittens:

The first almost-pattern suggested using the sleeves for mittens, since they are already mostly sewn, and have a nice cuff built in.  The pattern just suggested edging out a thumb from the sleeve.  Minimal cutting, minimal sewing. 

This sounded great, but my sis is a good bit trimmer than I am, so the sleeves on her sweater are very narrow.

I decided to graft on a thumb.  The cutting was easy, but the grafting was difficult.  I had to invent a way to sew something onto a tube without closing the tube.  It took some time, but I figured it out.

I also had to work with my new sewing machine to find a stitch that wouldn't pull through the soft cashmere.  Thank goodness I read the manual!  The tension looked a little bit wrong, but it didn't pull through, and it didn't snarl.  Bonus!

The first mitten (the right one in the photo below) came out pretty great.  I hadn't anticipated the seam around the thumb.  (I'm an amateur.)  However, I actually like the look.  A little rustic edging.

The second mitten (the left one, above), however...ugh.  Look at that thumb!  Apparently I went a bit off when I sewed around the top.  And apparently there was a seam on that piece of fabric that also affected the shape. 

They are crazy soft, though!  And they fit like, well, a glove.  Without fingers.  Forgive me.

Second Pair of Mittens (Martha-esque Mittens):

I made this second set of mittens from the body of the sweater.  But first I also tried my hand at felting, since Martha recommended that in a different sweater-mitten pattern.  Holy Fluffiness, Batman!  In hindsight, I am not actually sure you can felt cashmere.  Perhaps all the warnings about washing it aren't so much because of shrinkage, as because of imminent fluff.  But I pressed on.

After the mistakes of the first pair, I simply cut along a pattern I made of my hand.  They should have turned out much more similar than the first pair (hello, thumbs!)

Much as I hate to admit it, Martha Stewart does know her crafts.  These sewed up easily and the two mittens actually looked the same.  Even after my inept sewing.

I definitely like the Martha Stewart ones better, even if the cashmere didn't truly felt.  They are consistent, comfortable, and very easy to make.  I am already thinking of other ways I can raid my closet for wool sweaters so I can make more mittens.

Lessons Learned:
  1. Thumbs require precision; if one is not careful they can become shockingly, hilariously funky.
  2. Cashmere doesn't felt so much as disintegrate into soft pieces of fuzz that stick to the inside of the washing machine (and everything else).  Running it through the dryer does not make that scenario better!  Just much, much fluffier!
  3. Patterns might possibly exist for a reason.
  4. You can make a lot of mittens out of one sweater!
Overall, I give this project...

Thumbs UP!

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