I have a pile of old knitwear items that are nice colours but are now way too small for me. They aren’t good enough to donate because some areas are worn and bobbly but most of the fabric is still good. Usually my first thought is to cut up and use old fabrics as embellishment in feltmaking but this time I decided to try something else first.
I’ve seen other people make scarves and jackets by patching pieces of old knitwear together so I decided to kill 2 birds with one stone and make a patched sample, but also take the opportunity to conquer my avoidance of my overlocker. I’ve only used it once or twice very briefly and not terribly successfully, and since then it has sat in the corner mocking me. It was time to be brave!
So I cut some small pieces from the knitwear and went for it. I like the way the fabric crinkles and goes wavy on the edges if you stretch it as you sew. Success – I had joined several pieces together. My next issue was that the overlocker was threaded with 4 cones of white so I decided to be brave and change the colours! Three YouTube videos, lots of eye drops and some careful administering with the tweezers later and I had 4 different coloured threads in the machine. Hurrah! You can see in the photo the first sample on the left is with white thread and raw edges and the second sample on the right has the coloured threads and also I cut sections from the sleeves so that there would be no raw edges to fray.
Now I have some new confidence with the overlocker and a decent sample that may well turn into an actual scarf one day if I can get in the right mood to cut about 100 more pieces! The knit fabric works well as it is cosy and is not itchy. I’d love to be able to wear wool, but my skin is too sensitive to it 🙁
You can see in the photo above that I got some nice scraps from doing this that I used in my next sample. Double bonus! I currently have some ideas in development for some artwork based around stylised trees and these scraps lent themselves to it nicely so I laid out some of the scraps on to a small base of white Merino fibres and began felting. For my artwork I often only take the felt to somewhere between soft felt and felt, but quite often not fulled depending on what finish I want and how much I want to distort the fibres and fabrics. I took photos when it was softly felted then carried on until it was well felted but in this case I preferred it at the halfway stage as it looked fresher somehow and not overworked.
For my next felt sample I used unravelled yarn from one of the old pieces of knitwear. I had been fiddling around with it and decided to pull it apart. Where it had been so tightly knitted the yarn kept a fabulous crinkle in it.
It only unravelled in short lengths, I assume that’s because of how I cut it on the seam. I laid a few strands down, then bunched a few up then also scattered some tiny pieces on. I think this could make an interesting addition to a landscape or a picture of a bunch of flowers.
I was intrigued by the unravelled knitting so set about fiddling with the knitwear I had been dismantling for the overlocking experiment. Cutting a ring or strip from some of the knit fabrics and then gently stretching them resulted in an interesting elongated knobbly bobbly string of fabric – not yarn, not complete fabric, but something in between. Magic!
I haven’t felted with these yet but will do and will report back. In the photo below the inner circle is a slice of sleeve before stretching, the outer circle is after stretching.
I also got carried away and began unpicking another piece of knitted fabric which has interesting potential, but haven’t yet had time to try felting with it:
I’ll come back to the knitted fabric experiments at a later date.
I wanted to do another thing other than my default feltmaking so I decided to try some more fabric applique on paper with free motion stitch, as I like the effect. I rummaged in my fabric scraps and found an offcut of upholstery fabric with birds on called ‘Birds and Berries’ by Sanderson.
I cut out a bird and a few other motifs then glued and free motion stitched them to some cotton rag drawing paper (approx. 20cm / 8inch square). Then I freehand cut some hearts from scrap paper, tea boxes, sweet wrappers and collage papers then glued some on and stitched the rest on.
I really liked the result so went on to make a card for a golden 50th wedding anniversary in the same way but much bigger, 30cm x 30cm (12″x12″). I loved the result but I regretted the size when I was cutting and attaching 50 hearts at midnight the day before the celebration!
Most of my textiles work involves feltmaking and much of what I use to embellish the felt is repurposed e.g. pieces of fabric cut from an old item of clothing or threads frayed from some old fabric. I enjoy making small samples to see how different fabrics and fibres will felt before making bigger projects. Samples are quick and easy to make and can’t go wrong – you just experiment and discover new things, both good and bad, what works and what doesn’t work quite how you might have expected.
I am looking forward to making many more samples – the more you make the more ideas you get! 🙂