Last week I went pawing through the Goodwill Bins with my friend Sarah and came up with several colorful sweaters ripe for felting. They were just crying out to be made into handbags, and so they were. I thought I’d share the process for those who want to give it a go.
1. Find a sweater that will felt when washed. It should be as close to 100% wool as possible. Gap sweaters are especially good for this project, since they’re often stripy, colorful, and woolly like the pink multicolored one I used. The white sparkle-embellished sweater I used was angora, mohair, and wool, and did not felt as much so resulted in a less structured bag.
2. Wash the sweater in a hot sudsy wash and run through the hot dryer until completely dry.
3. Cut into two layers, halter shaped, as follows: If desired, cut the bottom band of the sweater completely off. Cutting through two layers of sweater at once, cut a line along each side of the body, close to the seam. Following the sleeve line, continue to cut the sleeves off as well. You’ll have two pieces of sweater. Trim so that the halter shape is steep.
4. Turn the sweater inside out, or lay pieces with right sides facing, and starting at one armpit stitch down the side, across the bottom, and up to the other armpit.
5. Still with right sides together, sew the collar front and back together, stitching across twice or more to make a firm handle.
6. Turn the sweater rightside out. You now have a basic bag, stitched around the sides and bottom and at the top of the handle, with two large and rather floppy side openings.
7. Turn under the raw edges around each handle opening and topstitch.
8. Turn them under again and hand stitch with a coordinating thread and large tapestry needle. The bag is finished! Mine took 30 minutes.
To make a flower using the bottom band from either the front or back of the sweater, thread a large tapestry needle, and knot the thread leaving several inches of thread hanging before your knot. Lay the sweater band out horizontally and starting with one short side, make a z-fold and run the needle through it. Pull tight. This is your flower center.
Now start wrapping the band around that center, keeping it tight and running the thread through every few wraps. Once you have rolled up the entire sweater band finish it by pulling the thread through one last time and knotting it together with the hanging thread from where you started. Knot tightly several times.
Attach to the bag and fold down the last outer wrap to make a stylish petal. Wool that is tightly felted won’t fray, so you can simply cut some leaves or other embellishments from the sleeves to add alongside.