Sweater Recycling, Part Two: Harvesting

*Don't fear the reaper….*

Step one is to felt your sweaters, if you haven't already. I did mine mostly all in the same load, in one of the big industrial sized machines at our laundromat. I always throw in half a dozen bouncy balls for quicker felting (and because bouncy balls are fun!) Like all things where felting is involved, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). One sweater, adult sized large, shrank down to something a preschooler would wear. Most of them didn't shrink all that much, but the fabric still fuzzed up and thickened. Perfect!

Now you're ready to cut!

At this point, I feel I have to confess in the spirit of full disclosure that it took me a loooong time to work up the nerve to cut into my beautiful sweaters. I took them out of the closet for petting from time to time. I spent many hours dreaming up futures for them. I wasn't sure I even wanted to cut them! It seemed so final! Of course, their ultimate purpose was to be used, and it's not really recycling if you just buy them to hoard. Still, I just couldn't bear to take the scissors to them until just a few days ago.

What finally motivated me? The need for blog fodder for my self-imposed theme of sweaters for the month of November! Nothing like blogging to force you into action!

If you too fear cutting up your sweaters, and don't have a blog to help spur you forward, I suggest reminding yourself that if you mess up, you can always find more sweaters. And there's no such thing as really messing this up, because even if you can't use your felt for what you originally wanted, there's always another use for it!

In my case, I wanted a throw for my couch. Just something big enough to cover one person (or maybe one big person and one little person) during the cold weather months. I was inspired by the Zigzag Sweater Blanket (Rav link) in Leigh Radford's Alterknits, but didn't want to use the actual pattern because it call for sewing together unfelted sweater and felting them after the fact. This seemed like a risky proposition to me, given the variable felting rates of sweaters! So I just used the design as a leaping off point, and came up with my own thing. 

So yeah, the cutting.

I think it's best to try to get the biggest pieces of fabric that you can, with the least amount of seams. Originally, I started cutting off the sweaters around the bust line, but this resulted in a lot of waste. After a little experimentation, I came up with a more efficient harvesting method.

Dis1 

Here's my work area, aka the dining room table. Two helpful things here, besides (obviously) the sweaters.

1. My "garbage bowl", ala Rachel Ray. Save your scraps! I'm sure we can come up with a dozen uses for them, at least!

2. My Gingher shears. I consider these totally integral to any sewing projects. I guess you could use any old scissors you have laying around, but a good quality pair of scissors will last pretty much forever and cuts through thick layers of fabric like a knife through warm butter. You could also use a rotary cutter, if you happen to have one laying around. But I love my shears!

So here's the sweater we'll be operating on today:

Dis2 

Mmmm, cashmere. I wish we had some kind of touchy feely thing through the internet so you could experience the softness!

First, I cut off the sleeves. Just follow the seam line, or cut just around it to eliminate the seam altogether.

Dis3

Next, cut up the side of the sweater in line with the deepest part of the armhole cut. If you wanted to, I'm sure you could get out a ruler and draw a line with chalk to get a nice straight line. Me, I used the ancient technique of Eyeballing It.

Dis4 

Good enough! Repeat for the other side and you'll have something like this:

Dis5 

Then you can just cut as close to the collar as you want. I did the front and back separately because the neckline was lower in the front.

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Voila! Two big fabric rectangles, and lots and lots of scrap pieces.

Dis7 

I neglected to photograph them, but don't write off the sleeves! If you cut them down the seam, they unfold into a pretty large piece of fabric.

Stack1

Part Three: Blanket Scheming will be coming up soon!

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3 Comments »

  1. Holly said

    Loving the colors. Can’t wait to see how it all comes together.

  2. Jessie said

    You’re about thirty seconds away from your own TV show…seriously. You’re so good with your how-to explanations!

  3. itsjustmeghan said

    i actually thought about doing this for the little man! i can’t wait to see the finished product!

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