I love felting wool sweaters and making them into stuff. I’ve made tote bags, purses and patchwork blankets and jackets. Here’s a quick project that you can make out of a man’s sweater vest in about an hour! One of the neat things about felting your own wool is that you can control the density of the fabric by the amount of time it spends in the hot wash cycle. For this project, you want dense, substantial felted wool.
I used the “Whitest White” setting on my washing machine (about 60 min.) After a quick trip in the dryer, my sweater was the perfect weight to make an unlined bag. It’s important to start with the largest sweater you can find, because they shrink A LOT. My size large sweater shrunk to a small child size!
Here’s what you’ll need
- A wool sweater vest (I like lambswool or merino wool)
- A pair of sharp scissors
- Rotary cutter
- Small square ruler (I like Creative Grids because they don’t slip)
- YLI Jean Stitch Thread (or other heavy weight topstitching thread)
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- Sewing machine
- 4 decorative buttons
Start by cutting off the binding around the neckline – I save all this stuff for some future project that might need a little black edging.
Using chalk, draw an enlarged neck opening that is squared off at the bottom. The bottom edge of the opening should be level with the bottom of the armholes. With the sweater laying flat on a cutting board, cut along the chalk line through both layers. -The opening, together with the armholes, form the handle of the bag.
Lay sweater flat, with the side seams centered. The side seams are now the center front and back of the bag.
Create a box bottom. Using a small square ruler draw a 2 ½” square in each lower corner.
Cut the squares out. Pin the bottom edges together.
Sew bottom edges using a ½” seam allowance. Press seam allowance open and use a triple zig-zag to topstitch over the seam. This will reinforce the bottom of the bag and hold the seam allowances open.
“Pinch” the square opening closed so that the bottom seam is centered. Sew across the diagonal opening using a ½” seam allowance. Press seam allowances open and topstitch like you did the bottom seam.
Define the bottom of the bag by folding the bag and topstitching between the seams sewn in step 7. Using chalk, draw a line across the front and back of the bag connecting the ends of the seam created in step 7. Fold along the line and topstitch 1/8″ away from the fold. The fold is the very base of the bag and the fabric between the two folds forms the bottom of the bag.
Give the bag a unique shape. Form a box pleat centered on both sides of the bag between the armhole openings. The width of the pleat should be about 1 ½” and take up all the space between the armholes. The pleats should be facing inside the bag. Use Jean Stitch or other heavy topstitching thread to hand sew the pleat in place. I whip stitched over the top edge. Sew a decorative button at the center of the pleat.
To finish the shaping of the bag, form a smaller pleat at the center front and back of the bag.
Whip stitch the pleat in place. Add a decorative button to the center front and back.
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