This week’s project starts with the remnant of a felted wool sweater.
Years ago, my friend Fay and I used to spend Saturdays trolling the yard sale market in Marion County. This gorgeous woolly bully was one of a bonanza of sweaters that were displayed in the sweltering heat of August, going for $1 each. If I’d had $50 left I would have bought them all, because I love woolly sweaters, but I only had $3 or $4 left from my YS fund that day, sadly. Some had tags saying “Made in—” Iceland, Russia, Ireland, even some South American countries where our summer is their winter. I cut off the sleeves and made mittens from this in a previous blog post “Warm, woolly woollens for Fall,” I think.
When I looked at what was left, I thought “purse.”
More specifically, “gator purse.”
I know I’ve got some collegiate gator fabric remnants in the barrel.
The first step was to make the creamy white and brown look a little bit gator, by adding some orange and blue.
Here is what will be the purse body, cut on one side because there’s no way I could have effectively made this sit flat on top of the hoop unless I opened up a seam. No worries, once the knit has been felted in the washer and dryer, you can cut it up and the knit won’t ravel. To felt wool sweaters, throw them in the washer with a very miniscule amount of detergent, wash on warm, then dry in the dryer on normal. You can throw a towel in there with the sweater to give it something to agitate against. If the resulting felted sweater is not shrunk to your liking, you can repeat the washing and drying and it will felt further.
I chose to machine embroider “GO GATORS!” on the purse in an Orange and Blue Athletic font that was included in my machine software.
I used 2 layers of cut-away stabilizer with a spray adhesive so that the sweater would stick on the top layer. I didn’t try to hoop the heavy layer of felted wool; I had visions of the hoop popping off during the stitch-out–horrors! Then I added a Solvy topper and basted the design area with the machine so it wouldn’t have a chance to shift around during the process.
Would you believe there are over 27,000 stitches in GO GATORS! and it took almost an hour to stitch out.
I was running around monitoring the stitch-out like a crazed mother hen, because things kept going wrong: the bobbin thread was bird-nesting underneath, the thread was shredding as it came out and causing “check thread” messages every 5 minutes. Finally I switched from Robison-Anton rayon to Robison-Anton polyester, got another bobbin and needle, and the machine seemed more at peace. Funny, at the Viking store here, the proprietors recommend RA rayon thread but the guy at the Janome store in Ocala only sells RA polyester and thinks everything else is no good. Later, Glenn at A-1 found that there was a little rough thing inside the thread path, and I haven’t had any problems since (knock on wood!)
I cut out some gator fabric for the lining and for the tabs to attach the purse handles.
The handles came from JoAnn Fabric, using a coupon of course.
I sewed the lining to the sweater fabric with a machine-overlock stitch. I started with a straight stitch, but the fabrics kept slipping. The overlock reached out and grabbed everything in a very satisfactory manner.
Felted wool takes machine stitching amazingly well.
I did hand-sew the seam at the side and bottom of the sweater, with hand-quilting thread.
Maybe I’ll put a magnet closure on at the top; depends on how paranoid I feel about getting pick-pocketed while out at a game.
The blue ribbon and gator head fabric motif cut-out finished it off. It was hand-stitched on for a bit of whimsy.
You can also go to my studio on Burda Style and download a pdf that shows how I made this.