S Luis on May 27, 2014
Love this gorgeous pattern!
Laura on Mar 11, 2014
Arrived & bought felt the next day! Adorable & easy to make.
Once isn't enough for most things
I've developed a fascination for wool over the past few years... more specifically, recycled wool.
It began, as most of my projects do, with a problem.
My three children - one boy and twin girls - are all on the autism spectrum. They have sensory challenges. My little boy couldn't stand wearing the stiff denim or khaki pants available at the store. I noticed how much he adored very soft things.
I grew up poor (dad was a middle school science teacher and mom stayed home with me and my four siblings), so thrift stores weren't new to me.
What was new, however, was the idea that I could find great quality materials there that I had no chance of affording otherwise. My first exposure to recycled wool was with 100% cashmere sweaters from the local thrift store. I could barely sew, having taught myself how to use a sewing machine only months before (in order to fill another immediate need in my family). There were some bumps along the way, but sewing soft cashmere pants for my little boy was rewarding and thrilling. I found other uses for the leftover bits of cashmere, then became interested in other kinds of wool sweaters.
I've worked with all kinds of wool from thrift store sweaters, in various stages of felting - from practically new virgin wool that almost unraveled into pristine yarn on its own, to incredibly dense, matted, felted wool that was so thick my scissors couldn't cut through it.
I don't always felt the sweaters I buy from the thrift store, although I do always wash them. Depending on the type of knit, some sweaters are a more valuable source of raw materials if I carefully disassemble the pieces without cutting the knit, wash them separately, and unravel them into wool yarn. Some sweaters have great unfelted yarn but are serged at the seams. Unraveling this yarn would leave a bunch of short lengths of yarn - not very helpful to most knitters. These pieces have tons of other uses, though.
I can't knit or crochet. I've tried. The last time someone tried to teach me, I cried in frustration. I do have a recently developed fondness for needle felting, though - something I first tried at the end of 2012. The needle felting kits at the local craft store seemed pretty pricey. After a little research and with the help of my husband (and some steel wire, a very sharp knife, and a blowtorch), I had a couple homemade felting needles. They weren't quite as sharp as the commercial versions, but they worked surprisingly well. I bought two cat slicker brushes for $4.49 each at the local grocery store to use as makeshift wool carders, and discovered I could easily turn bits of wool yarn into puffy wool roving, perfect for needle felting!
Some kinds of wool are wonderful for turning back into roving; other kinds aren't so great. I've learned a lot through my research and will continue to develop techniques. Hopefully soon I can publish a free online tutorial so other home crafters can recycle wool sweaters for more than just the standard felted clothing or accessories.
Time isn't so plentiful around our house, so it'll be a long process. I work on a little here and a little there whenever I get a free moment. Three high need little kids, one of whom is now on hospice care, require a lot of time and attention. I never forget why I do what I do. If I can solve a need using materials that would otherwise be discarded, I can make this world just a tiny bit less wasteful. If I can help others do the same, even better. Resources aren't limitless on our planet. I want to show my respect to the earth by trying to consume a little less of those resources and by reducing a little waste. Right now, wool is one of my favorite mediums for doing just that.
I'm a maker mom with ADD. I'm pathologically creative, curious, and always learning and trying new things. Check out some of my tutorials on instructables.com if you want to see the things I make that aren't for sale.
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