Tag Archives: Felted Wool Sweaters

Sweaters for Sale

Last fall, when I started making sweaters my hope was that I would create a small cottage industry. I would sell the sweaters in a couple of shops and do custom sweaters for individual clients. I thought it would take about a month for me to get this going.

Okay, I now know my time estimate was way off. Some time in March, I realized that this was actually going to take a lot longer to happen. I currently only have two designs I can produce easily. I do not have a fancy label or marketing materials. So I got real with myself. My new goal was to create six sweater designs, and then I would start to look for a shop to sell my work.

In April, my friend Ruth was visiting. We met at the Crow Barn in 2009 and have been friends since. Her son lives in Anchorage and every spring she comes up for a week to watch her granddaughters. When she is in town, we like to take day and go to lunch and shop downtown. Ruth is very fun and always has a good time talking to clerks and waiters.

When we walked into G Street Fox, Ruth announced to the clerk. “You should be selling my friends sweaters in your store.” The clerk looked at me–I, of course, was wearing one of my sweaters, and said “I think you are right”.

She took several photos of the sweater I was wearing. And I told her all the important facts about the sweater–it’s made of recycled old wool sweaters that have been felted in my washing machine which makes them fire retardant and water resistant and oh so soft to wear.

About a week later, Romney Dodd, the owner of the G Street Fox, called. Romney is a maker of beautiful painted things from clogs to dishes. Check out her amazing work.  From the beginning of our conversation it felt right. G Street Fox felt like a perfect fit for me and my sweaters. And Romney seemed to think the same thing!

We decided it would be fun to have them at their First Friday event for May. Well, that was just days away. I got busy. I finished up several sweaters that just needed collars and I made a three new sweaters.

Walt and I went to the First Friday event–these things are bit crazy. Lots of people checking out what is new in the downtown boutiques.

I was so excited about making the sweaters and getting them ready for sale, that I forgot to take pictures! Last week, I went back and took some photos. Here is what is for sale.

If you like these sweaters, I hope you will take the time to visit G Street Fox at 420 G Street Anchorage, Alaska. The store is full of thoughtful clothing, cool Alaskan art and craft, and Jim Sweeny’s books. You gotta like that.

Felted Wool Fun

Last Wednesday, I had ten home school kids and four moms over to my studio for an adventure in stitching. I’ve taught this class at O’Malley Elementary School, but this was the first time I had taught it in my home.

What do I teach these youngsters? They learn about how to felt wool and recycle old wool sweaters, they are encouraged to think originally about what they would like to make with wool, and most importantly (I think) they learn how to cut fabric, thread a needle, create a roll knot, do a stab stitch and a whip stitch, and sew on a button. I have found that it is rare for a young person to know how to do any of these things.

We started the class in my studio. This was a great experience for me. I need to practice talking about my work in front of people, and kids are great audience for that. We had a wonderful conversation about art, materials, technique, and inspiration.

From there we moved upstairs to our living room which had been converted into a classroom earlier that day.

I start all the students out with scraps of wool, a needle, and some Perle Cotton Thread. We practice threading the needle, knotting the thread, and stitching. Once they are comfortable with those skills, they are encouraged to make a headband or a wrist band.

After they make a headband or wrist band, they can create whatever they are inspired to make. I am always amazed at what the students come up with. There is so much creativity inside of them waiting for the opportunity to get out.

I make no mention of this being women’s work–because it is not. Everyone should  know how to sew, and everyone should cultivate their inner creativity. And I have found that many boys, just like many girls, love to sew.

Some students spend the entire class focused on making their headbands. Other students move quickly on to other ideas. Neither approach is right or wrong. The students who spend a lot of time on their headbands usually create amazingly intricate work.

Those who move on to other projects get their inspiration from some class samples I have made, a couple of books I have on the subject, and of course their own ideas.

At the end of the class each student shares their work in an oral and visual presentation. This is what my friend Jonny Gray calls the Big TaDa. We both find it is an important part of teaching. Being comfortable sharing your work in a public setting is a great skill to have, plus we all want to see what everyone else has been up to during the class.

If you would like me to teach your students about recycled felted wool and stitching, I would love to do so.

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie’s Off the Wall Friday’s. Check it out–lots of inspiration if you are looking for new fiber ideas to try.

Ms. March

Sarah Leonard and I met in the fall of 2009. Her son Jacob and my son Tripp quickly became best buds when they met each other in kindergarden. Over the years, Sarah and I have also become friends. We try and walk every weekend–which is a great way to grow a friendship AND be healthy.

Jacob is an only child, and Tripp is the youngest of three boys so their home environments are very different. Sarah makes sure Jacob brushes his teeth and eats his vegetables. I let my kids eat all of their Halloween candy in one sitting and don’t care what my kids eat as long as they cook it themselves. I call this seat of the pants parenting.

Sarah, on the other hand, strives for perfection in all aspects of her life whether it is her work–she is the new president and COO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association–or raising Jacob.

This makes for some funny stories, and I think both of our boys like this aspect of their friendship. Tripp gets to feel special when he visits the Leonard’s, and Jacob gets to be one of the guys when he visits our place.

From the very beginning of our friendship Sarah has been a super supporter of my work. Sometimes I don’t understand this, but I am always grateful.

She may even have been the first people in my life to say–I want a sweater! And finally after waiting for way too long, I finished one just for her.

Here is that story.

Sarah is my third model, so I am starting to get the process down. First, I invite the model over to my studio to discuss what kind of sweater they would like. Sarah is a busy mom who frequently goes from work to Jacob related activities. We wanted to create a look for her that could easily be worn with a skirt or jeans and make sense at board meeting while also looking right at a swim meet.

Next, I select the palette and start stitching.

And finally, a beautiful new sweater for Sarah. I love that it is a totally different look.

I’ve got four days left in April–who thinks I will get Ms. April’s sweater by then?

I’m sharing this post on Nina-Marie’s blog where you can check out what other artist’s have been doing this week.

Finally! Ms. February

You’ve probably noticed by now that I have a problem with deadlines especially self-imposed ones. Real-Real deadlines I usually manage to make at the very last absolutely possible minute. Self-imposed deadlines not so much.

I mean what is going to happen if I fail? The sun will rise, the snow will melt, and my road will turn into a river like it does every Break Up season.

But, now that I have created these self-imposed deadlines concerning sweaters, I’ve got a small problem. Each month there is woman who has committed to working with me on creating a new sweater design in exchange for a sweater. If I fail, they don’t get their sweater, and that just isn’t very fair or nice.

After I finished making my spring frock, I got down to the serious business of completing Ms. February’s sweater.  You can read about Ms. February aka Mereidi Liebner in the post I wrote about her back in February.

Yes, she has been waiting very patiently for way to long.

Here is the palette I selected.

Mereidi knit this hat and she wanted the sweater to be inspired by the yarn. This was a great idea.

Mereidi knit this hat and she wanted the sweater to be inspired by the yarn. This was a great idea.

Here the wools I selected. The brown actually didn't make the final cut. All the wools are lambswool which is thick but not too think--a perfect weight for someone who is outdoors a lot like Mereidi is.

Here are the wools I selected. The brown actually didn’t make the final cut. All of these are lambswool which is thick but not too think–a perfect weight for someone who is outdoors a lot like Mereidi is.

Kato liked the palette as well.

Kato liked the palette as well.

Then I started stitching. Everything was going great. I had adjusted my dress form to Mereidi’s measurements, and I was constantly checking my work on the dress form. Mereidi is quiet slender, and I was afraid I would get the proportions wrong. So I was trying to be super sensitive to measurements.

I finished the sweater, put it on the dress form and was pretty darn pleased. I then once again checked Mereidi’s measurements. the best way to express how I felt at this moment might be to let loose a row of cartoon expletives. While I had done an excellent job of referencing not the bust and waist measurements but I was a complete failure concerning the shoulders measurement.  Mereidi has very athletic shoulders, and this aspect of my dress form cannot be modified.

The only thing to do was to sleep on it. I was so upset with myself that I forgot to take pictures of the finished sweater.

The next day, I had a plan. I really hoped it would work. If it didn’t, it would mean that I would have to start over with a new palette, and I really did not want to do that.

Here is what happened.

It worked. Now the only thing left to do was to consider the neckline. Mereidi likes interesting necklines, and I was aiming to please.

I really wanted to try something like this, but I did not have the right about of felted wool in each color.

I really wanted to try something like this, but I did not have the right about of felted wool in each color.

I also like this idea too.

I also like this idea too.

In the end I decided to go with one color for the neck mainly because I did not want to get myself into another construction pickle.

The next day Mereidii visited my studio to try on her new sweater.

That was so much fun I think I will do it again.

It’s Friday so that means there are lots of fun posts on Nina-Marie’s blog about what other artist have been doing this week. Check it out.

A Spring Frock

My last post was all about my stalling out on sweater making.

Finally, I decided to do what I do with quilting–just start stitching pieces of fabric together. I know that if I do this for long enough, something will happen.

On Saturday April 6th, I decided to pick a pattern and make myself a little spring frock. I thought that if it were just for me, I might get over the perfection issues I was having with creating something for Ms. February.

I wanted something loose and short sleeved that I could wear over a long sleeve t-shirt. For many of you this might seem a bit strange– a spring frock made out of wool? But up here in the north, wool is comfortable year round.

Here is the pattern I selected to use as my sloper.

The former owner of this pattern has written on it "No Darts!" I like that about this pattern too. It was published in 1969 one of my favorite years in fashion.

The former owner of this pattern has written on it “No Darts!” I like that about this pattern too. It was published in 1969 one of my favorite years in fashion.

And here is my palette.

I wanted to keep it really simple. All the wools are medium weight which is very easy to work with.

I wanted to keep it really simple. All the wools are medium weight which is very easy to work with. This photo was taken after I made the frock.

I tried to make design decisions as quickly as possible–which for me is hard. I like to work slowly and methodically. I have found that slow stitching usually means less ripping. But I had been over-thinking these sweaters for too long. I just needed to do it. Be fearless even though I might be publically posting my failures on a blog for all of you to read.

And what do you know. It worked.

Since last Sunday, just ten days ago, I have finished FIVE new sweater projects! This is the first of those projects. It feels good to have something new to wear as the days get warmer.

If any of you are feeling timid this spring, I hope you’ll take my advice. Be fearless. Life is way too short to be a fraidy cat.

Next up- Ms. Feburary!

Queen of the North Goes to the Alamo

I’m sure some of you are wondering what happened to the sweaters? And I have to confess that my sweater making has taken a backseat to quilting since I made Queen of the North for Object Runway.

January was procrastination month–I just did not want to do the work to re-configure my studio. So, I shopped for sweaters, and I blogged.

February was all about getting the studio done.

March was catch up on quilting month. Did you know that National Quilting Day is in March? My youngest son was born on that day. I actually stopped making a quilt to have him.

This means April is the month of the sweater. As soon as I finish this post, I am folding my cotton fabric up and pulling my felted wool out.

To celebrate this moment, I’d like to share some good news.

Yesterday morning, I got an email from The Surface Design Association (SDA) telling me that my garment from Object Runway was juried into their member’s fashion show. The show called Fabricate will be held in conjunction with SDA’s bi-annual conference this June in San Antonio, Texas.

And to make good news even better, my model from Object Runway, Beth Nordlund, has agreed to rock the runway for this show too. (It helps that her grandmother lives in San Antonio.)

Beth pointed out that she would be very HOT wearing all that wool in San Antonio–the things we do for art and fashion.

SDA is an international organization that supports awareness and appreciation of textile arts. Their bi-annual conference features workshops, lectures, and gallery shows about fiber and the artists who use it as their medium.

After I heard the good news, I decided I’d better check out what some of the other artists will be walking down the runway. I probably shouldn’t have done that as their work is AMAZING. Here is a look at what was shown at the 2011 show.

I should also tell you that I will be showing my quilts at the Gallery Nord in San Antonio as one of the SDA-Sponsored Exhibitions. I’ll be showing a collection of Color Grids.

All of this means I’ve got just a little bit of work to do between now and June.

Mo-Better-Sweaters will be coming your way soon.

The Year of the Sweater

In my attempts to knit I have collected a few old school patterns. I love this pattern book. I just wish all the patterns were for women!

In my attempts to knit I have collected a few old school patterns. I love this pattern magazine. It is called Spinnerin Volume 180. The really funny thing is that all of the photos were taken in Switzerland even though the company is in New Jersey. I guess sweaters just photograph better in the Alps than in South Hackensack.

After the joy ride complete with crash that the preparation for the Bellevue Arts Museum show was, I really–for the first time EVER–was not interested in quilting.

I wanted to spend some time on an idea that had been percolating in my head for a while. I wanted to get back to making clothing aka Fashion Sewing.

In the quilt world, we jokingly call it the F-word.

Once I discovered quilting, I stopped fashion sewing except for the random Halloween costume for my boys. Over the last decade, quilting moved center stage in my life and there just wasn’t any time for fashion sewing.

But I had this idea–or question really.

Could I use repurposed wool sweaters to create beautiful patch worked garments appropriate for a northern climate? I really wanted to know if I could do it.

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This one is from a pattern called Bear Brand Hand-Knit Cardigans Volume 354

These sweaters are from a magazine pattern book called Bear Brand Hand-Knit Cardigans Volume 354

I have a collection of vintage Norwegian sweaters–my favorite brand is Norse Knit. We keep our house quite cool, and I spend almost three seasons out of the year wearing these sweaters.

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I tried to do a little bit of 1970s style modeling., and I think I should keep my day job. But If I am going to do this, I will have to get a little better about being in front of the camera.

I tried to do a little bit of 1970s style modeling. I am not quite rocking the runway, but I do hope this adventure helps me become a bit more comfortable in front of the camera.

The problem is that they really aren’t that stylish. Maybe on a hip twenty-year-old, but on a 46 year old momma of three they look a bit anachronistic–like did I get this sweater in 1970 and never ever get another one? Or maybe I am living in the 1973 while everyone else is living in 2013 and no one has the heart to tell me that fleece and all kinds of mircofibers are out there.

The other problem with these vintage sweaters is that they are VERY bulky. And if there is one thing I don’t need more of its curves.

Still I couldn’t give them up. They were WARM.

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Aren't these guys amazingly groovy. The guy in the poncho is great.

Aren’t these guys amazingly groovy? The guy in the poncho is great–a serious trendsetter–a 1970s metrosexual.

So, I wanted to take the warmth of those sweaters and make good looking contemporary arctic clothing. I have tried knitting, but it isn’t my thing. People say it is relaxing, but if I am relaxing I have a glass of red wine in my hand not a knitting needle.

If I wasn’t going to knit how was I going to get the sweater of my dreams? Last summer while visiting family in Kansas, I found this great little store in Lawrence, Kansas called MADE. There I found these beautiful scarfs made from old sweaters that had been felted. And that is when my brain started putting the components of this idea together. Could I make sweaters out of felted re-purposed old sweaters? Maybe I could.

And so begins the Year of the Sweater. Of course, I will be quilting and teaching, and doing other stitch related things too. I hope you will join me on this adventure. I’d love to hear what you think about sweaters, and quilts, and all things stitched.