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Old Sweater Rehab: Felting is Fun

I have always wanted to try my hand at felting (also called fulling) an old wool sweater.  I’ve read how easy it was and due to the massive clothing purge I completed this weekend I had a few on hand to try.  I especially wanted to find a good use for a beautiful merino sweater that was a gift for Patrick.  The cable knit was so nice, but it was just too hot and didn’t quite fit right.  Patrick never wore it, but we both hated to just part with it.  Instead I decided to felt it and make it into a cable knit pillow that we can enjoy every day.

As a bonus The Granny was reading one of her home decor magazines today and it was discussing various cable knit decor for the home.  What a lovely coincidence for my super fast and easy project.  Even if you don’t have a sewing machine you could still make this pillow.  On to the tutorial!

Step One: Take an old wool sweater and wash it.

After washing a couple I would suggest putting it in an old pillowcase or lingerie bag (This cuts down on a wicked amount of fuzz in the washer and dryer).  Then wash it on hot.  If you have a front loader it may not felt thickly the first time, so I washed mine a couple of times with various other pieces of laundry.  If the wool is going to felt well it will come out feeling really thick and look like it could fit McClain a chihuahua.

You can thank me for cropping out the ancient bra that was drying in the background. Man, I can really frame a photograph.

Step 2: Cut your sweater along the seams.

I cut out all the seams and the neckline.  I left the bottom ribbing even though it didn’t felt quite as thickly as the cable.  I thought it might make a decorative touch to my pillow.  A man’s medium sweater (though it ran large) gave me a working area of about 18″ X 20″ which I eventually made into a 16″ square pillow.  Why?  Because that was the size of pillow form I had on hand…  Well I stole from the bedroom (it usually has a decorative sham on it, but I had them put away, so, this seemed like a good use until I go buy a new form)

Because I have craft hoarding tendencies (that I’m working on) I am saving the sleeves. I think they would be really good to make a coffee cup sleeve or maybe as part of some slippers.

Step 3:  Sew 3 to 3 1/2 of the edges closed.  Why not 4?  Because you gotta leave a hole for the pillow to go in.

Felting the sweater both makes the fabric firmer (i.e. won’t stretch out of place) and more importantly it will not fray.  This means you have a lot of leeway on how to sew your pillow.  I opted to make a mad dash into my freezing basement and sew three quick seams in what will be the inside of the pillow; retuning upstairs right before I would have frozen to death.  I didn’t want a fancy seam because the pattern of the sweater is pretty busy.  However, if you were using a plain wool sweater then you could leave the edges on the outside to curl back or maybe just finish the outside with a large colorful blanket stitch.  Whichever you choose you can then stuff in the pillow and sew up the remaining side.

I trimmed the seams up a bit before turning inside out, but the nice thing is that the fluffy-thickness of a felted sweater is really forgiving of any sewing/trimming mishaps.

Voila you have a pillow!

Sometime soon I want to reupholster this awesome chair Patrick found at Habitat for Humanity. It came from the Grove Park Inn.

Or do you? I decided to fancy mine up and make it a removable pillow cover.  I can’t imagine that in the middle of summer I am going to want to cuddle up to a merino pillow… Mmmm… Scratchy… Humid… Hot…

I had three buttons laying around and I sewed those on and made HAND-FREAKING-BOUND buttonholes.  The wool was too thick to make a buttonhole on the machine but the decorative ribbed part of the sweater didn’t felt thickly enough that I felt comfortable just cutting a buttonhole with no reinforcement.  Thank goodness there were only three because I forgot how much I dislike hand sewing a buttonhole.  Though, I love the way the pillow reminds me of a great cardigan now that it is complete.

Finally, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided to add some color on one side.  Plus the  pillow creation went so swiftly I had time before the baby got up from his nap to mess with it some more.  The color allows me to turn the pillow around for sophisticated or whimsy depending on the mood I’m in.  Adding color is the fun (and most time consuming part).  I have a simple needle felting kit and some colored roving from Moon Dog Farm.  Basically, you just take wool and poke it on wool.  Don’t worry the kit comes with basic instructions.  I decided to make a series of polka dots in the centers of the cables.  If I ever get this part done I’ll share it with you.  Until then I just flip the white side forward and enjoy!

Why must I always make things hard? Yes, now I have to needle felt over 160 dots…

Needle felting aside I can’t wait to try my hand a felting or fulling sweaters again.  I have plans to make some cashmere lined slippers for the house.  Maybe next snow day I’ll get that project done.

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Last Minute Christmas Dish or Gift

Need a last minute snack or hostess gift to bring to a holiday party in the next couple of weeks? Well I’ve got your answer right here. As we know I’m not much for cooking and a lot of times baking is just out of the question. My answer: Chocolate dipped pretzels.

Bonus: If you’re not a douche-canoe like me then you will really only need a measuring cup and spoon to create this dish. Low Cleanup!

Let’s start with some pretties:

Here’s the recipe (Makes around 24 rods):

1 cup chocolate Chips

1 tbsp butter or crisco

1 bag of pretzel rods

1 candy cane

1 glass of wine

The Secret Ingredients (Holiday Style)

Step one:

Get all the pent up family-Christmas frustrations out on the candy cane or 4 small candy canes by beating it into small pieces with a mallet or the back of a spoon. I put mine in a sandwich bag to keep the pieces from flying. At this point if you still feel stressed drink the wine and beat more candy canes with mallets.

Step two:

Open the pretzels and eat any broken ones.

Step three:

Give your baby kitchen tools (non-sharp) and/or a candy cane to entertain them while your being domestic in the kitchen.

Must…Entertain…The baby.

Step four:

Don’t be a douche-canoe when melting your chocolate chips. I was too lazy to read the directions and hadn’t melted chocolate in a awhile so I burned it not once, not twice, but three times both in a double boiler and microwave. Just don’t do that. Burnt chocolate is no fun. Put 1 cup of chocolate chips in a microwave proof cup or bowl with the tbsp of butter or crisco. Put it in the microwave for one, 1, ONE minute. Even if you have a crappy microwave start with one. Take it out and stir the hell out of it. Then if it still needs more try 10 seconds at a time.

Only I can make a one dish recipe take multiple dishes. I didn’t bother taking photos of the third time I burned the chocolate.

Step five:

Dip pretzels in chocolate and lay out on a piece of parchment paper/wax paper/ cookie sheet. I always make half mint by sprinkling on crushed candy cane while the chocolate is still melted. I leave the other half plain in case someone doesn’t like mint. Finally, just let them harden. If you need them completed in a hurry just put them on a cookie sheet and stick in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Just a few notes:

I always bring mine to a party the same or next day so I don’t bother tempering the chocolate. Also, they look really pretty wrapped in a small cellophane bag as a small hostess gift.

Anyone else got a quick and easy holiday recipe/gift they would like to share?

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Oh Christmas Tree

I thought I was done with Christmas and the Canton Christmas Charity Tour of Homes. However, I’ve had a few questions about the Christmas tree. I know, I know, it IS a bit odd to talk so much about Christmas and not discuss the tree. The tree featured mostly store bought items and because of that it was one of the least painful processes I went through (though I did add my own flocking). Maybe that’s why I didn’t give it the star treatment on our blog.

Since you’re interested (Who knew?) let’s go over some of the high points of the Metallic-Frosty Tree. Here she is with the matching mantel:

Oh yeah, here I am with the Babykins, too.

Just like the mantel the tree featured metallics, frosty colors, and pops of cranberry.

The star topper, red glass ornaments, and red glass birds all came from K-mart. I know K-mart isn’t the go-to big box store, but I think year after year they knock the Christmas decorations out of the ball park! Seriously, I could have spent a fortune, but I had a limited budget. Then I blew that limited budget by getting two strands of new LED white, crystal cut lights from Lowe’s. And boy howdy, those suckers are white.

I did splurge on 6 of these glass birds. I have a thing for glass ornaments, which, is proving interesting with a 1 year old.

Because of that limited budget I did use a lot of ornaments I had on hand and cheap glass balls. I just filled that sucker full of gold, silver, and a few glitter glass balls.

You can see some of the light flocking that covered the limbs.

To add some visual interest to the tree I added gingko leaves touched with gold, vintage gold birds (The Granny supplied those), golden bows, pieces of cut up crystal garland, small iridescent glass acorns, the list goes on and on. Basically if it fit my color pallet I stuck that puppy up there.

Top complete the look I wrapped the tree in a white ribbon featuring gold and silver snowflakes, an old silver tree skirt, and gold angel hair. To REALLY complete the look, The Granny, helped out by wrapping “presents” in gold, silver, and metallic cranberry paper to set around the bottom of the tree.

I felt like the tree was rocking, but leave it to the mouth of babes to bring me down a notch. One of the neighborhood children was admiring the tree but fingered some of the gold angel hair, looked over at me and asked, “Why do you have this stuff on here, it looks like knotty hair?”

Right you are!

Best picture I could get of the drain-clog angel hair. Oh, from the mouth of babes.

In conclusion, I had a bit of a snag with the angel hair and I am still not used to the lights.

This shiznit literally glows at night. Land a helicopter? Check! Signal alien spacecraft? Check! Light up your Christmas tree? Check!

BUT I did get an icy-metallic feel for my tree! We’ll call this one a draw.

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Canton Christmas Tour of Homes 2010 – Part II

I wanted to thank everyone that has started following our blog in the last few weeks! Also, thanks to those people that have followed us through the last year; even though we lost all of the gloriousness that was our blog. We have really appreciated all the comments and are planning on revamping and creating some cohesion to our posting… maybe… Well I promise some cohesion in 2011, but I can’t vouch for Patrick. Or McClain. You never know what the menfolk will get into.

“This heres gonna be tha lasta the Tour, younguns.” Just thought I would put that in my WNC mountain-talk for you. I’m ready to move on to newer things. What things exactly? Ask me tomorrow. Until then here are the last few images of the Canton Christmas Tour of Homes 2010. (Insert drumroll here)

Enjoy the details, and feel free to ask any questions your heart may desire or share a link to your own holiday decorating in the comments. I would love to check out your decor.

Living room and Christmas tree details
Dining room and Kitchen details
Bath & Bedrooms
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Canton Christmas Tour of Homes 2010 – Part I

We finally made it! We finished the tour today, Patrick just threw another log on the fire, and I’m getting ready to crack open some frothy goodness. I’m going to give you the run through the tour (we didn’t open the guest room, basement, or attic to tourees) which featured the main rooms of the house and tomorrow I’ll post detail shots of the tree, garland, etc. Unfortunately or fortunately it flurried all day to day. Sadly, it decreased the usual tour attendance, but the flurries really made it feel like Christmas. Let the tour begin:

In the immortal words of Bill Engvall “Here’s your sign.” or in our case here is our sign.

As you rapidly spring from your car and rush through the cold you might glance at the entry way. The little alpine trees had to be held down with bricks to keep from blowing away. Of course I only figured this out after I reset the damn entryway three times. I’m a slow learner at times.

Then we have split the living room into an entryway behind the love seat. On the console table I created a snowy vignette in a wardian case that Patrick gave me a few years ago.

Moving on to the living room.

Patrick and I had some helpers in the form of “The Granny”, Papaw (not pictured), and the neighbors’ kids. Their house was also on the tour so they went back and forth between houses. The often come by and are a real hoot. It is so nice to live in a town with fun, friendly neighbors. I’m not sure if they are posting pictures of their house but if they do it will likely be at their blog 21 Penn.

The fact that their house is so radically different than ours, makes the Tour of Homes worth participating in. I love their breezy whites, pennant garland, and covet their black bedroom. If only I had the ceiling height I would totally steal their ideas. However, what works for one house doesn’t for the next. It makes each stopn on the tour unique. Back to the helpers:

One of the features we love most is that the living room opens into the dining room through a double set of french doors (we found in the basement and rehung). I like the open floor plan, but it is a bit of a challenge to unify the public areas of the living room, dining room, and kitchen. We chose various shades of grey for the wall color and metallics for the decorations.

Personally, I would like to rip out all of the cabinetry, revamp the floor plan, and basically start fresh in the kitchen. However, we are on a modest budget, so after painting the walls (the life of the cabinetry has yet to be decided) we opted for a warmer Christmas feel after all the metallic and used springs of bittersweet and oranges to fill out the space. We did use similar greenery to tie it to the other adjoining rooms. For more sensory input we boiled a mix of cinnamon, cloves, and star anise to give the hint of fresh Christmas baking.

There is a nice sized hallway that separates the public areas from the private bath and bedrooms. We decorated the hallway just for us. One of our gothic/nerdy habits is collecting gargoyles (grotesques for the history purists). We picked the first one up in France in the form of this owl from Avignon. We haven’t looked back sense. We used them in the hallway topping our copious bookcases.

The best thing about having a child is getting to do child-like things again. I wanted color and fun in the boy’s room. Since we haven’t repainted it yet (next on the list) we have not hung pictures. It is hard to add color in a white room with white walls. The granny had a cute white Christmas tree we borrowed plus she managed to find colored Christmas lights on white wire (no small feat). Then we added a lot of figurative glass ornaments, plus the family ones. We also used McClain’s toys and some Christmas beanies for decoration.

The bathroom was so awesome that we actually put a sign up saying it was “Still under renovation. Unless you like it, then this is how we meant for it to be.” So, here’s you obligatory picture of the toilet vignette. Nothing says Christmas like a sparkly toilet topper.

The bedroom gets two photos. 1. Because I actually made the bed (We almost always pull the bed straight, but who actually uses this many pillows?):

Don’t you just love those beige-pink walls? Especially with the red bedding. Trust me one of the two is on the docket to change… 2. I used my collection of green glass to add a touch of Christmas to the bedroom dresser.

That’s all for now, but tomorrow you can see some of the closeups and a more in-depth descriptions of the Christmas tree and vignettes. Then, maybe, we can be done with Christmas until the 25th.

To see part II click here.