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.
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.
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.