Thursday, 6 March 2014

A pillow, made of sweaters

I'm finally getting around to a few projects that I've been meaning to tackle.  One of which is turning some ratty old sweaters into something slightly less ratty looking.

When the boxes arrived from Paris, I was astounded at how much clothes I had to deal with.  Especially after living out of my backpack for two months, it really hit home how much in my wardrobe is unnecessary.  It seemed silly to have all this stuff shipped across the channel and then start purging, but being apart from it for so long put things in perspective and I was able to make a few of the local charity shops a few bags of goodies richer.


I think Bry has a harder time parting with things.  He doesn't want to throw away anything he feels is perfectly good, even if it looks a bit dog-eared, pilly and worn.  He really only wears the same five or six t-shirts, but he had loads of them- most from various marathons and road races he's run, piles of corporate-branded giveaways, but also a lot clothing from traveling to far-off lands.  Take these sweaters, for instance.

They were supposedly Cashmere- "pashmina" that he bought for very little coin in Nepal.  They weren't particularity soft or well-made, but he loved them and wore them to tatters.  The green one had a pretty big grease stain running down the chin-to-belly zone that I couldn't get rid of, and it ended up slightly shrunk and puckered from my efforts.  The brown one was so pilled, there was no way I could even begin to make it better.  It took a bit of convincing to get him to part with these, but finally, he relented.

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to hone some skills, so I decided to turn the sweaters into a pillow case for a throw pillow.  There are about a million tutorials on how to do this online.  Here is one of that I found helpful.  While I generally find upcycled things a bit too rustic for my taste, this seemed like a perfectly valid alternative to running out and buying something from a store.


First, I threw the sweaters in the wash with a pair of jeans, and washed them on hot to felt them.  Oh my!  I wanted the fabric to be nice and firm, without the pillow showing through and without a lot of stitch definition.  They pilled up and shed like crazy, and they ended up shrinking about 25%, giving me not a lot of usable fabric, especially if you take away the fact that the green sweater had that big stain, making the front useless.

I found a pillow form that I wanted to use, measured it, then cut out blocks of the sweater to fit, giving myself an extra inch of seam allowance just in case.  If you can't find the pillow size you are looking for, just buy a larger size, rip some of the stuffing out and sew it back up.  Being able to sew means you can get past all sorts of obstacles.

I hadn't sewn through knit fabrics yet on my machine- you need a special round-tip needle for the job or it will be a bunched-up mess.  I pinned the blocks of sweater together, zipped them together using a zig-zag stitch.  I found it a bit tricky to sew with stretchy knit fabric- I had to be very careful not to pull it along behind the dogs, or it would pull too much tension on the fabric about to be stitched.

The end result:


A perfectly lovely pillow for the couch.


I used the ribbing of the green sweater to pull tight the envelope of the case, rather than encase the pillow permanently.  I love to be able to throw things in the washing machine on occasion, and pillows are generally one of those things that will just gross me out if it's not given a spin with some soap and water every now and then.  


I probably could have sewn a bit more seam allowance, as it is a little loose on the pillow form.  Still, it's not bad-looking, and after a couple of careful passes with an electric razor to get rid of the forest of pills, it is unrecognizable, but a good memento of adventures in far-off places.

I'm looking for a little finishing touch for the pillow.  Maybe vintage pewter or leather buttons, or maybe a decorative topstitch.  Nothing too fancy or elaborate, but I will know when I find it.  The charity shops here are full of good stuff- I've routinely found real wedgewood pottery, tons of Burberry coats, and jars of vintage buttons and spools of thread.  I can't resist ducking in to each one that I come across- I've found quite a few little treasures and I'm filling up my notions box with beautiful, lovely things for pocket change.

The best thing is that the whole project took me about 20 minutes from the time I started cutting to the time I stuffed the pillow in.  Instant-gratification home decor, and it saved sweaters from going to a landfill, so warm fuzzies all around.  I could totally see doing one with a cable-knit sweater and having it look very fab, or layering a delicate lace sweater over contrasting woven fabric.  It almost makes me want to go out and haunt the shops for some more sweaters to recycle.

But I wouldn't do that.

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