Further adventures in patchwork: felted cashmere blanket, part 1

Having spent the last ten years wrestling my way through The Quilt Which Would Not Die, I was feeling in need of some instant gratification for my next patchwork/quilting project. I also had a pressing need not to spend vast amounts of money, especially as I had just given myself a serious fright by looking at the prices of the Amy Butler fabrics in John Lewis. Fortunately, I had noticed that a lot of my jumpers were becoming heavily worn around the elbows and cuffs, but still had a lot of serviceable fabric left. I had heard of felted jumpers being a good possibility for patchwork, and hit Google to find a tutorial, quickly turning up this very useful blog post. Clearly, the knitwear and I had a date with the washing machine.

Now, in case you think I’m being all profligate and wasteful, I’d like to stress that these jumpers had been worn for years, and had already been repaired and darned (I’m very serious about the benefits of darning: I even have a much-used darning mushroom with a cheery red-and-white spotted cap), but there comes a point where even the most hardened clothes-mender has to face the fact that it’s just not worth keeping up the fight any more. I gathered up six worn-out cashmere jumpers and one lambswool one, all many years old, and introduced them to the 60 degree wash cycle.*

After running the jumpers through the wash a couple of times with some old towels, I decided they had felted as much as they were going to. The lesson of the week here is that cashmere doesn’t actually felt that much: the fabric was still pretty soft and drapey, even though the stitch definition had gone. The one wool jumper was much more obviously felted, and much stiffer, so this is worth bearing in mind for the future: no making bags out of cashmere! I opened out all the seams, and, using a quilter’s rule, I cut strips of fabric 12cm wide, with different lengths. I threw away any worn or bobbly pieces, sorted the rest into four piles according to length, and began to lay them out in a pattern on the spare bed.

Felt is delicious, apparently.

Eoin was supposed to be helping, but he decided to take a sneaky nibble of felt when he thought I wasn’t looking. He claimed it was too tasty to resist: if I was that bothered, I could jolly well go and make him a sandwich.

Quilt blocks, laid out and ready to be sewn together

I was surprised both by how much fabric I got (that’s a king-size bed), and also by how well the colours worked together. I had expected the red to be quite jarring, but it actually blends in well.

I won’t repeat the instructions from Michaela’s blog post, but I followed her process pretty closely. I’m diverging a little in the finishing, though: I am going to back the blanket, partly to hide the seams, and partly to add body, as my fabric is rather drapier than Michaela’s seemed to be. I may also add a border, or I may just bind the edges. Eoin and I conducted a fabric-buying expedition today: I found something which I think is going to work well with just the right element of surprise, and he spent the whole time flirting with a nice lady in a sparkly shalwar kameez (he was absolutely fascinated by the sequins), so the afternoon went pretty well for both of us.

I still have to do the final assembly, and I may do a little light quilting, just the keep the layers from shifting too much. Stay tuned for more patchwork-based shenanigans…

*In case you’re interested, they were all waist-length, V-necked and slim-fitting, so there weren’t reams of fabric there to begin with. They were all UK size 14: the cashmere ones were from Tesco (tsk, tsk) and the wool one was from Benetton, and came to hospital with me when Eoin was born. Don’t worry: I wasn’t wearing it for the delivery.

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6 thoughts on “Further adventures in patchwork: felted cashmere blanket, part 1

  1. “…I gathered up six worn-out cashmere jumpers and one lambswool one, all many years old, and introduced them to the 60 degree wash cycle.” Now, for a second you gave quite a freight there: “Did you want to convert them to doll size???” was my terrified first repsonse. Clearly, I was thinking in degrees centigrade (Celsius) and I quickly realised my mistake and I feel much better already.

    The patches look lovely all laid out on your spare bed! By the way, you might be delighted to hear that I am entertaining thoughts of joining the knitting community. So far, these thoughts have not turned themselves into action but are slowly developing from vague considerations to a more detailed vision of what I would like to do. I first got the idea when realising that shawls and scarfs made of quality wool are, in my view, decidedly overpriced. So I thought: “Why not do it myself? How hard can it be?” (I am aware though, that I am probably a little (or very) naive here and will find out that there is a lot more to it than just choosing the wool and needles and getting on with it).

    A cwtch from Wuppertal,

    B.

    • No, you were right: it was 60C! Felting requires heat as well as moisture and agitation, so the jumpers do shrink up a bit, but not too badly. I was amazed they didn’t come out doll-sized, though: I’ve been so conditioned not to wash knits in the machine, let alone at high temperatures.

      Do join the knitters: we’re good people! Germany is probably one of the most knitting-friendly places in Europe: all that lovely sock yarn, not to mention the sought-after yarns from Wollmeise. Do join Ravelry (www.ravelry.com): you’ll find masses of help, resources and free patterns, along with a huge number of lovely knitters. Come and say hello if you do: I’m LornaEllen there. xx

  2. Thank you for the encouragement and the warm welcome among the knitters! Today I went and bought 3 x 25g of Alpaca Superlight and needles size 8. The plan is to do a purple scarf, only garter stitches in order to keep things simple for a beginner like myself. Tomorrow a friend is coming over to assist me in my initiation to the great adventures of kntting! ;-)

    • Good for you! A scarf is a great starting project, as it really helps you to build up the muscle memory you need in order to knit “fluently”. Good luck with the project!

  3. Pingback: Cashmere blanket, part the second. | Biographia Domestica

  4. Pingback: Cashmere Blanket part 3; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Walking Foot. | Biographia Domestica

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