DIY

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How to Refashion a Hat

a woman wearing a white and black leopard printed sweater and a black wool fascinator hat with a flower

Today’s post is a revamped edition of one I wrote several years ago as a guest post for Jessica of Chronically Vintage about how to refashion a hat. I came across it again recently and decided that I wanted to revisit it with some new photos and give it a home here too. And, since Easter is this weekend, it’s the perfect time to share these techniques and inspiration in case you have a hat that you’d like to refashion! 

I don’t actually own very many true vintage garments, and many of my “vintage” garments are actually ones that I have sewn myself or altered from thrift store finds. I mostly rely on making or refashioning clothing to give it a vintage vibe (whether that means adding embellishments, changing buttons, hemming to a better length or altering the fit) and then adding in accessories for the final touch to get that vintage look.

The sad, but true, reality of vintage is that there is a finite amount of it left in the world, and as time goes on it just gets more and more scarce and, thus, unaffordable for the average person. This definitely doesn’t mean that those who can’t afford or find true vintage have to miss out on this fashion style, though! Just as with any other trend or style, as in centuries past, women have made for themselves what they couldn’t afford to buy or couldn’t find in the shops, and I live by this principle today too. Thrift stores are great places to rescue cast off pieces of clothing or accessories and then refashion and embellish them so they’ll fit your own style. 

Hats are great accessories for really pulling an outfit together, but sometimes it can be hard to find good hats that are not in disrepair (shattered veils, stains, moth holes…) and putting together a hat collection, when a hat that is in good shape costs a lot, is just not feasible for many of us hat lovers. This is why I have turned to making and refashioning hats: so I can get that unique vintage look, without spending a lot. If you pick up mildly damaged or ugly/boring hats that have potential, and are willing to use your creativity to alter them, you can easily build a hat collection for a fraction of the cost. This also gives you a chance to try out different styles of hats and see whether you like them before investing in the “holy grail of all hats” (whatever that might be for you). When I first started getting into wearing hats, I invested in some beautiful vintage ones that I didn’t end up liking on me. For example, over time I’ve discovered that I like my hats to have a higher crown like 1960’s style pillbox hats, rather than the flatter Juliet cap style of the 1950’s. I learned this the hard way, after I had already bought several beautiful vintage hats, and I ended up having to sell them because I just never wore them…at least they went to new loving homes! Now that I have an idea of what kinds of hats I like to wear, though, when I see one for sale at antique malls or second hand shops, I have a good idea of whether it will make a good candidate for refashioning.

My checklist for hats that I would be willing to take a chance on or pass by would be:

  • A hat that is not smashed out of shape, unless you think it can be steamed back into shape. If the hat is very crushed, it’s not going to turn out well. If you decide to try and reshape it, you’ll need some kind of hat form to do so, depending on the style of the hat.
  • One that doesn’t have large stains on it, unless there is some way to cover them up with new embellishments without it looking odd. While I don’t mind some “character”, I don’t want it to look dirty.
  • If the veil is torn, which is very common, see if it could be removed entirely. Most hats will look totally fine without a veil. Also, you can still buy Russian netting at many fabric stores, so you may be able to simply replace the damaged veil with a new one.
  • If the hat is lacking in embellishments, or the current ones are ruined, you can definitely make new ones (one example I am going to share today).

an ugly hat

I picked up this little black felt hat for a song, from an antique store, along with a couple other hats that really needed some help. I remember seeing this hat several years ago in West Edmonton Mall (I recognized the label) so I know that this hat is not actually vintage. When I saw it new, I thought the embellishment on it was so boring that I passed on it. It seemed like they had a good thing going with the veil and the leaves. . . and then ran out of ideas, so they just plunked a little brooch on top. However, when I saw it for sale second hand, in good condition and at a much better price point than it was new, I picked it up thinking, like Lydia from Pride and Prejudice, “Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, and see if I can make it up any better.”

philip treacy's 2015 collection mint green hat with a chiffon pompom on top

Soon after buying this hat, I came across this image from Philip Treacy’s Autumn/Winter 2015 collection, and absolutely fell in love with it. In case you are wondering who Philip Treacy is, he is a UK milliner who counts the Royal Family among his clients. I absolutely love this hat: it is so outrageous and over the top, and really what’s not to love about mint? As soon as I saw it, I started thinking about how I could make something similar, and I decided that a large flower on this hat base would be just the thing.

Here is how I created the flower, and how I styled the finished hat for an updated 1940’s look.

I made my flower out of chiffon, since we had a bunch left over from a past project. You could use stiffer organza too- which would give you the rounder pompom shape that Treacy’s has, or tulle or netting, which would be softer. I cut out a ton of circles, 5 inches in diameter. You will need 30-50 circles depending on the material and stiffness, and how full you want the flower to be. Don’t worry about being too precise, as the edges will be melted and the pieces will be gathered for the final flower. And definitely do cut your circles through several layers at once, to save yourself time!

singeing the edges of chiffon circles to finish them

I didn’t want the fabric to fray to pieces, so I singed the edges to finish them. Singe the fabric by CAREFULLY holding the material over a candle until the edges start to melt and curl. Be very careful with this, since you are holding a meltable material over top a flame!

You will need to hold the fabric about 6 inches away from the flame and slowly dip in and out and across so the heat starts to curl it. You don’t need to bring the fabric very close, otherwise the heat will start melting the entire circle, rather than just the edge. (Voice of experience. . . ) You should probably do this in a well ventilated area too, by the way. 

folding chiffon circles to make a flower

Once you have singed the fabric, you will be left with curled lily pad shaped petals. Take a circle and fold it into quarters. Stitch through the corner of the folded piece, catching all 4 layers, and loop to tie a knot so it won’t pull through the fabric. 

Continue to string together the folded circles using the same method, until the flower is at your desired fullness.

stringing chiffon petals to make a flower

Once you get a fuller shape, you can gather some of the centre petals so they are fuller, as the soft fabric likes to “flop”. If your fabric is stiffer, you can continue stringing until you get a pompom shape. For mine, with the softer chiffon, I gathered the entire flower together in my hand and stitched through the entire bottom of the flower to give it some shape. Just play around with the fabric and arrange it into a nice shape- there isn’t a hard and fast method.

gathering the chiffon circles into a petal shape

If your flower is softer and going to lay open, you can sew a button, a bead or other embellishment in the centre of the flower to cover up the stitching. If your fabric is stiff, you can just keep adding to it and you will get a lovely round shape and won’t need a button at all.
Sew a little round felt disk to the bottom, to keep the flower in shape. If possible, do not glue the flower onto your hat, since the glue may seep through the light fabric. 
sewing the flower onto the hat

Sew the flower onto the hat with cotton, or other natural fibre, thread. If possible, don’t use a polyester blend thread, as over time polyester can cut natural fibres, and you will be left with holes. You could also add a brooch pin to the felt disk, instead of sewing it directly to the hat, so it is removable, in case you want to use the same hat base for multiple embellishments. And then you’re done!

woman wearing a black felt hat with a large flower on it

I don’t have a before picture of this hat on my head, because it was severely unflattering, but here is the after! A giant flower is really what this hat was missing. Mine turned out a lot smaller than I was originally planning for and less pouffy because of the fabric I chose, but I think it works well for the style of the hat. By simply adding some embellishment, this hat is now completely transformed! 

Here are some other ideas for how to refashion a hat with a different look, which might work for you if a giant pompom/flower isn’t really your thing. 

Vogue patterns

From Chapeaux Élégants, 1942

  • Bows. I’ve seen this kind of hat with a giant stiffened bow, upside down bows, bows made out of contrasting fabric or coordinating, ribbon bows, right side up bows or a myriad of smaller bows…the sky really is the limit when it comes to bows. I’d really like to make a giant sculptural bow one of these days! 

  • Loops and twists made out of wool, or sculptural ribbons. This is a really simple, yet architectural embellishment. I’ve also seen where the wool is looped back onto itself in all sorts of different shapes. This is a much simpler hat decoration, but one with a lot of impact. If you can find a similar colour of fabric, or a contrasting colour, this is a very easy embellishment to create.

Sears Catalogue 1947/48

  • Feathers. You can use smaller feathers, or even large curled ones. I have a pheasant feather that I want to steam into a curled shape and attach to a hat, but I haven’t got a hat yet to put it on!

  • A cluster of artificial flowers. You could either group purchased flowers, or make your own ribbon or fabric flowers. I’ve seen so many different types of flowers on hats, it all depends on what you plan to wear the hat with.

If you’re looking for some hat inspiration, here are my favourite places to look:

  • Online vintage shops. This is a great place to look for true vintage inspiration.
  • Pictures of the Royal Family, the Duchess of Cambridge in particular, who are often seen sporting beautiful hats.
  • Allport Millinery is an Australian milliner with such amazing hats- her website is just full of gorgeous pieces.
  • A new-to-me designer, Rachel Trevor-Morgan Millinery, who I stumbled across while browsing on Pinterest.
  • Of course, we can’t forget Philip Treacy, where I got my original inspiration from.
  • And if you’d like to see more “hatspiration”, I’ve created a Pinterest board of the lovely hats I come across while browsing!

woman wearing a black wool skirt, leopard print sweater and a black hat with a veil and flower on the top

I love how this hat turned out; I’ve styled it in many ways over the past few years. This outfit I paired it with is one that definitely has a Classic vibe to it, rather than overtly vintage, but I’ve worn the same hat here and here before. It’s quite a versatile accessory! 

I hope this has inspired you to look at the garments and accessories you have, with an eye towards how to make them work for you. Maybe it will inspire you to pick up that ugly hat or other item you would usually pass up in the thrift store, and refashion it to become your new favourite piece. Maybe all it needs, like this hat, is a new embellishment!

woman twirling outside

woman walking away outside wearing a skirt, sweater and hat

Turn a Shrunken Sweater Into a Retro Wool Beret

turn a shrunken sweater into a felted beret

While we’ve been pleasantly surprised with a very warm winter this year, the weather has turned cold lately, and it is definitely feeling like winter in Alberta again. Since it is only February (which means we’ve still got a ways to go before Spring) this is the perfect time to share one of my latest projects- a felted wool beret. Berets are not necessarily the warmest of headwear, but they do add a great vintage element to your winter ensemble, so I definitely consider them to be a fall and winter outfit staple.

While berets have risen in popularity the past few years, I have yet to come across one in brown. So, if you can’t find one at the store and you can’t knit or crochet one for yourself, what can you do? You can easily turn a shrunken sweater castoff into a felted beret!

I would not recommend that you take a perfectly good wool sweater and felt it, because wool sweaters can be expensive and it always seems like a waste to cut up something in good shape that someone could actually wear the way it is. However, there are so many wool sweaters in thrift shops that are no longer in good condition. Whether it’s due to the previous owner accidentally shrinking them, or that they are full of moth holes or runs, or even that they have stretched out of shape due to improper care, the thrift shops are full of them. This project is a perfect way to recycle and refashion those sweaters that are completely ruined and useless into something new!

shrunken wool sweater perfect for felting

I found this chocolate brown sweater years ago, but hadn’t yet figured out what to make. Since brown berets have proven difficult to find, I thought that this would be the perfect way to get the colour I wanted.

To Make Your Own, You Will Need:

  • A 100% old wool sweater. Make sure it is real wool content, so it will felt for you. I know you can also use blends that have a high wool content, but I’ve never done that myself, so am not sure whether they felt differently or not.
  • Needle & thread/ sewing machine
  • Beret pattern- I used Tanith Rowan’s Grevillea Beret. (Tanith gifted me that pattern several years ago. You can see the first one I made here). Edited to add: Another free beret option is this style from Brittani of Untitled Thoughts. She has a free pattern download, as well a sewing tutorial. 
  • Button to cover, or a decorative button of your choice 
  • Elastic to make the hat fit tighter, optional

To Make the Hat:

My wool was already partially felted, so I cut the pieces out of the sweater and went from there, felting the final hat a little more at the end. After making this one, I was wondering whether you could also make it by cutting your pattern pieces out a bit larger and then felting the wool after you already have the hat sewn up. This might make the seam lines disappear a bit, and make the hat easier to form, but I haven’t tried it yet to know for sure.

But, in order to make the hat exactly as I have here, you are first going to need to felt your sweater, if it isn’t already shrunken. You can do this by putting the sweater into the washing machine with a little bit of laundry soap and washing it in hot water. It works better if you have a few sweaters in at the same time, so they can bump into each other and cause friction. You can also add a foam ball or flip-flop to help it felt even faster. Once you have washed your wool, take a look at it and see whether it has felted enough. If you want it to shrink a bit more, you can put it through the dryer, removing it before it is completely dry. Once the wool is good, let it dry.

wool sweater and sewing supplies

Once your sweater is dry, it is time to figure out your pattern. There are several different ways to make a sewn beret; I chose to use Tanith Rowan’s Grevillea Beret, since I already had the pattern. This hat is made up of segments, giving it an octagonal shape. Her pattern has a more vertical shape to it and doesn’t lie flat, but since I wanted the hat to have a similar flat shape and fit to a traditional round wool beret, I made a couple of changes.

adjusting the pattern to make a flat style beret

To adjust the pattern, I made a sharper angle on the bottom segments so they would be narrower at the bottom edge. This way the hat would lay flat back on itself.  I measured the inner circumference of a beret that I already had and made the opening of my pattern add up to 20″ circumference. I actually should have made the opening a little bit smaller, since the hat ended up stretching quite a bit, so I would recommend that you go at least an inch or two smaller than you want it to be, to account for stretch. The other change I made to the pattern was using a facing, rather than a hat band. (More on that in a minute)

Once you’ve chosen your pattern, it’s time to cut it out. Watch out for where the seams are in the sweater, you don’t want to accidentally cut across them, or you’ll end up with a bulky piece. Also, look for any areas that may have holes or other flaws, since they won’t have closed up during felting. I cut my pieces out of the sleeve and around the neckline to maximize the amount of fabric I would have left over to use for future projects. I also saved the bottom of the sleeve pieces including the cuffs, since I might make a pair of matching mittens in the future using this method here.

Once you’ve got your pieces cut out, it is time to sew them. Since the wool is felted, you won’t need to worry about it fraying, so you don’t need to finish the edges in any way. Sew together your pieces of the hat, excluding the hat band, following the instructions of your pattern.

sewing the felted pieces of the hat

Make sure to use a zig-zag rather than a straight stitch when sewing, since this is a stretch fabric.

Instead of making a flat hat band, I decided to made a round facing. The advantage of a facing, rather than a hat band is that it flips to the inside, so it is completely hidden. This is just a style preference, you could also use a flat hat band if you prefer. To make my facing, I measured the diameter across of the opening of my hat, then measured out 2″ and cut out the circle pattern piece. My sweater had a large enough section left to cut the facing in one piece, but you might need to cut it in 2 pieces and sew them together. If so, remember to leave seam allowances!

making the hat facing

With right sides together, sew the facing to the hat.

Once you’ve got the hat sewn, it is time to form the shape of the hat. To make a form, cut a piece of cardboard into a circle the size you want your finished hat to be. I measured the beret I already had, to figure out what size I wanted. Since your hat will be wet, you need to waterproof the form, so place the cardboard piece inside a bag. I was originally going to use a dinner plate as a form (it was the exact size needed!) but then I wasn’t sure I would be able to get it out after the hat had dried without having to stretch the hat completely out of shape…or smash the plate! The cardboard turned out to be flexible enough to remove easily and it worked well.

hat all sewn up and ready to form

Now, fill a basin or sink with hot water. Submerge the hat so it is completely wet, and then slightly agitate the wool. Once it is fully soaked, take the hat out and gently press the water out. Don’t wring it, or it will stretch too much- the wool will be quite floppy! Roll the wool in a towel to pull out most of the water.

soaking the wool hat to felt

Take your cardboard form and place it inside the hat. Smooth the seams flat and shape the hat around the form. The hat will shrink as it dries, so in order to keep the opening of the hat from pulling back too wide, sew a stitch around the inner edge and slightly gather it in. Once you’ve finished, it’s time to let it dry. I placed my hat directly onto my drying rack, which ended up leaving some marks from the rods on the wool that I had to steam out, so I would recommend either letting the hat dry on a fabric mesh sweater drying rack, or placing a towel across the bars of a drying rack for the beret to sit on top of.

putting the wool beret onto the cardboard form

Once the hat is dry, you can snip the gathering stitch from the edge and then take the hat off of the form!

Not all of my seams dried completely flat, so to help shape it a little bit more, I used a tailor’s ham (actually a towel wadded inside an old t-shirt) to steam press the hat into a smoother shape. Then I pressed it flat. Make sure to use a wet press cloth, dampen the wool and lightly go over with your iron while it’s on full steam, so you don’t scorch your wool and make it go shiny.

steaming and shaping the beret once dry

Once you’ve pressed the hat into shape, it is time to tack the facing edge down, sewing through the seams to hide the stitches. After I finished the hat and tried it on, I discovered that the wool was a lot stretchier than my other berets and was quite loose. One of my other berets has a soft elastic around the edge which works well to keep the hat in place, so I added a piece of elastic along the edge of this hat. Place the elastic between the facing and the top of the hat and stitch in place by tacking it through the seams in order to hide the stitches.

sewing elastic along the edge and the facing into place

The final step is to add a button. You can either cover a button with wool, or use a decorative button. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to use a covered button because the wool was so stiff, but I actually managed to push the back/shank onto the button form. If your wool is too thick to use the shank to cover your button, you can cut a circle of felt, run a gathering stitch around the edge and gather it in around the button form. (Like making a fabric yo-yo) Since it’s not a functional button, it doesn’t need to have a shank on the back and you can just sew it on like that, with the raw edges hidden underneath.

covering the button and adding it to the top of the hat

Once the button is sewn on, your hat is done. There you have it- a vintage styled felted beret, without even having to know how to knit or crochet!

the finished upcycled wool beret

Have you ever made anything with felted wool before? It’s a lot of fun, since the wool is so easy to manipulate. We’ve got some more wool sweaters in our stash, and I am now wondering whether I should steal some of them to make some more hats….

Do you think you will try this and turn a shrunken sweater into something new?

wearing an upcycled wool Tanith Rowan Grevillea beret made out of a shrunken sweater

the finished beret

Last Minute Christmas Gifts: Homemade Body Butter

body butter gift under the tree, the artyologist

Is it really only one more week until Christmas?

I read a while ago that this year has kind of been like Rip Van Winkle and, for me, I would agree. While my daily routine has definitely slowed down, time seems to be rushing by, and it all feels a bit surreal. While we’ve already passed the halfway point for December, it still feels like this year has gone by so slowly. In some ways it does seem like I’m sleeping while the world continues spinning by…

Well, in case time has gotten away from you too, and you need some last minute gifts, today I am sharing a zero-waste inspired Christmas gift you can easily make in a few hours. The great thing is that it mostly uses items you might already have around the house! This is a bit different than the topics I usually discuss here, but I kind of like branching out into new topics, and this definitely fits into the “lifestyle’ category.

I don’t know where I found this recipe- I think from a zero waste blogger or Instagrammer, but you can easily find these sorts of recipes with a quick google search of “diy natural body butter”. This is just the one I make because I bought a huge pail of shea butter several years ago, and I am trying to work my way through it (slowly!).

Easy Homemade Natural Body Butter

1 part coconut oil

1 part sweet almond oil (or light olive oil)

2 parts shea butter

Optional: essential oil of your choice

I usually make this recipe with sweet almond oil, but since I used up all of my almond oil while making soap, I couldn’t find any more! Usually I would get it at the health food store, but they didn’t have any. After a bit of research it appears that light olive oil works as a substitute, and it seems to be working just as well. I would definitely recommend light, not regular oil, so there isn’t a strong olive smell.

Also, I used lavender essential oil, but you can definitely make it unscented.

I also saw several other recipes used cocoa butter instead of shea, so you could probably try that too. Basically the most important part is that you need to have equal parts oil to butter.

Heat your oils and butter in a double boiler until it is completely melted, then place in the refrigerator to cool. I forgot to take any photos of this process, but it is pretty straightforward. Once it has solidified (several hours depending on how much you have made), then take it out and immediately whip with a blender until it is white and fluffy. It’s like magic how quickly it beats up! Then add some essential oils, 4-5 drops, if desired and mix in completely.

I am sure there is a shelf life on homemade body butters (probably a few months?) but to be honest I haven’t had any problems with it going rancid. I keep mine in my nightstand drawer, and I have had this last batch for probably 9 months, and I’ve never had any bacteria growth or funky smells or anything. This is a very moisturizing (albeit greasy) body butter, perfect for winter dryness; I use it on my feet, or as a lip balm.

Once you’ve whipped up the butter, then you are ready to decant it into jars.

I have been collecting these face lotion jars for the past few years, because I hate throwing things out, and I was sure I could find a use for them, even if for just organizing/storage. However a few months ago, I thought of an even better use- to repurpose as gifts (a zero waste win!). I used nail polish remover to take the labels off, and then sterilized the jars by running them through the dishwasher and heating the lids with boiling water.

They worked perfectly to hold about 3 tbsp of body butter- the perfect amount to try it out, without having to commit to using for the next few years! Any small jar would work great, maybe a small spice jar? Or a tiny canning jar?

I also decided to include the recipe in with the gift. I purchased this recipe card printable in the spring from local-ish artist Jenni Haikonen, as it’s so nice to give people recipes written on a pretty card, rather than any old paper, isn’t it?

I wrapped the gift up in some brown paper bags I have had for years, tied them with some recycled ribbons and twine (I always save ribbons and string whenever I get a package etc. in order to reuse them) and added some homemade Victorian Christmas tags. And there you have a lovely little gift for friends, coworkers or anyone else you want to give a gift to this season!

Well, I hope you enjoy making this recipe, if you decide to, and also hope that you have a very Merry Christmas season!

How to Make a Folded Heart Valentine Card

how to make a folded heart valentine card, the artyologist

Happy Valentines Day everyone!

Valentines Day is one of my favourite holidays in the year! It’s just so lovely to send people cards and notes to tell them how much you love them, don’t you think?

This year, I decided to try something a little different and make some folded heart cards. Years ago my sister made me a card like this (out of neon yellow paper!). I thought it was so cute, so I thought I’d replicate them this year to give to people…but not in neon yellow! If you need a last minute card, this is a nice and simple one that only takes a few minutes. It is similar to origami, but since you cut the paper, I don’t think it truly counts as origami. Nevertheless, it is a cute design and only requires a rectangle of paper and a ribbon if you’d like to tie it shut…keep reading for how to!

How to Make a Folded Heart Valentine Card

Step 1: All you’ll need for this card is a piece of paper that is twice as wide as it is tall- example 3” x 6”, 4” x 8” etc. You can make it as small or as large as you’d like! If you’re sending it in the mail, make sure you don’t make your card too big to fit in an envelope!

folded heart valentine card step 1

Step 2. Mark the centre of the paper. You don’t have to make a line all the way down like I have in the photo- a small tick at the top will be fine, since this will be the inside of the card!

folded heart valentine card step 3

Step 3. Fold one edge of the paper into the centre and crease

Step 4. Repeat with the other edge of the paper.

folded heart valentine card step 5

Step 5. Fold the bottom edge diagonally into the centre to form the bottom of the heart.

Step 6: Repeat on the other side, to finish forming the bottom of the heart.

folded heart valentine card step 7

Step 7: Take your ruler and mark where the middle of each side is. For example, this card is 3” wide, so I am marking at 3/4” and 2 1/4” .

Step 8: Fold the top edge diagonally where you have marked, to start creating the top of the heart.

folded heart valentine card step 9

Step 9: Repeat with the other side.

Step 10: Now fold down the flaps diagonally. You won’t be able to fold the back of the card yet, but we’ll do that in the next step! We will now cut where the dashed line is in the photo.

folded heart valentine card step 11

Step 11: Now that the back of the card has had a small cut, it will be able to fold diagonally to finish forming the top of the heart.

Step 12: Repeat on the other side.

folded heart valentine card step 13

Step 13: I had a hard time photographing this step, but open the card slightly and “pop” the folded parts inside out, so they are now folded inside the card.

Step 14: Now you are finished folding! Go along all the edges and crease them again, so you’ve got a nice crisp edge.

folded heart valentine card step 15

Step 15: If you’d like. You can tie a ribbon around the card to hold it shut. You could also seal it with a sticker (or a wax seal if you’ve got one!).

There you go: a quick, easy Valentine card to show someone you care!

valentine envelopes

Another special touch, is a matching envelope. I made these envelopes out of coordinating papers- they’ll add such a cheerful pop of colour in my friends’ mailboxes!

Do you like Valentines Day? What are your plans this year? Did you send cards or plan on giving cards to your friends?

How to Sew Your Own Mittens out of a Felted Sweater

Goodness, it’s been cold lately! It was -38 yesterday and this morning! I’m not used to it (am I ever used to the cold?) because we’ve had such a mild winter (so mild that I was wearing my raincoat in January, because my cashmere coat was too hot!)

But, this past week we got a huge amount of snow and chilly temperatures along with it- so it’s winter again in Alberta! All that to say- it seems like the perfect time to share a tutorial for felted woolen mittens! 

I made these mittens a few weeks ago for my best friend’s birthday gift (and I couldn’t post this tutorial until she opened them today!) I wanted to give her a pair of mittens, since hers have sadly reached the end of their life, but the only problem is that I don’t knit! I also didn’t think of giving her mittens a few months ago and looking at all the Christmas craft fairs, where I was sure to have found plenty. I didn’t want to give her “store-bought” ones, and I also didn’t have time to order any from Etsy or someplace like that.

So, what to do? Felt them! 

As I was figuring out how to make them, through much trial and error, I had the forethought to take a few quick pictures to share with you, so today is a tutorial on making your own mittens out of felted wool!

This is the first project I have ever made out of felted wool (I think. . . ) so it was a completely new experience. When I had the idea to make some mittens, I started looking for a pattern, but couldn’t find one that seemed to work. Many of the patterns I saw had the bottom of the palm and the thumb as one piece with a seam across the palm. I made up a test version with this style, and I didn’t like how it fit. There was a lot of excess fabric on the palm and the thumb was not off to the side enough to fit well.

So, as I was scrolling through pictures of felted mittens, I found a pair for sale that had a separate piece on the side for the thumb. I decided to attempt making this style, so I took a scrap piece of fabric, sewed a test mitten, created a pattern from it- and here is the result! 

You will need:

  • A piece of 100% wool, such as an old felted sweater. Check out the thrift shop for wool- just make sure it is 100%  wool content, so it will felt for you.
  • Lining fabric- make sure it is stretchy. I used a scrap of t-shirt fabric. For extra “eco cred”, you could even recycle an old t-shirt! 
  • Needle and Thread

Optional: 

  • Woolen thread of the same colour, for handstitching
  • Elasticized thread for sewing in lining, if you are lining them

STEP ONE:

Felt your wool if it isn’t already felted. You can put it in your washing machine on hot, with a bit of detergent and then wash as normal. If you put in a few sweaters, they will felt faster, because of the agitation. Check your wool once washed, and see if it is felted enough- if not you can repeat the process until it is. Then let it dry.

STEP TWO:

I don’t have an actual pattern to share with you, because as I was sewing, I changed things along the way, and had to cut out excess fabric etc. but this is the original shape that I started out with. Measure and trace your own hand to create a pattern that will fit you. I made the underside/palm of my mitten slightly smaller, so the seam wouldn’t show as much, but once I made them, the wool was so forgiving I don’t know if it made any difference. If you include a 1/2” seam allowance and start out with pieces shaped somewhat like this, you will have room to tweak as you go along! 

ps- this is the size I made it for my hand. The measurements might be different for you.

STEP THREE:

Lay the wool out flat, and decide where you want your mittens to be. Look to see if you can use some of the existing elements, such as cuffs or collars in the design of the mittens. If you have a patterned sweater, like mine, choose where you want the pattern to run. I ended up placing my pattern pieces along the hem, so I could incorporate the finished edge as a cuff. I also made sure to line up the edges of the pattern along the bottom, so the pattern would be consistent from front to back and across the thumb.

STEP FOUR:

Cut out your pieces!

STEP FIVE:

Pin along the top curve of the mitten and sew, either by hand or by machine.

Once you get over to the side, you’ll have to feather out your stitching, like a dart. If, when you turn the mitten right side out, the curve isn’t smooth, use a thread to hand stitch the pieces and soften out the curve and pull the pieces together nicely.

STEP SIX:

Sew the curve of the thumb piece. 

Try on the mitten, to see how it’s progressing for fit. If you need to make any adjustments to size, do so now. It’s easier to make changes before it’s completely sewn together.

STEP SEVEN:

Turn inside out and pin thumb to the hand piece. Line up the bottom edges and then sew together. You probably won’t be able to sew all the way around with the machine, because the pieces are so small. Finish attaching the thumb piece on with a hand stitch. I found it was easiest to put the mitten on my hand, right side out and then hand stitch the pieces together.

STEP EIGHT:

Turn the mitten inside out! 

If you are not creating a lining, then you are done! Simply tack the seam allowances down at the edge of the mitten, and steam into shape if there are any bulges etc. 

STEP NINE:

If you are creating a lining, repeat the steps with the lining fabric, but don’t worry about shaping (as long as it’s not too big), as it’s going to be hidden inside the mitten. 

STEP TEN:

Once you have finished the lining, leave it inside out, and fit inside the woolen mitten. Turn under the edge and then stitch to the outer mitten with some elastic thread. 

And there you have it!

The nice thing about making mittens out of felted wool is that the fabric is very moldable, so it will soon conform to your hand.

This was a relatively quick project. I finished them in several hours- and that includes the trial and error of fitting them. Now that I have sewn with felted wool, I am thinking up other projects I can make. . . earbands, slippers, baby boots. . . what else?

Have you ever made anything with felted wool before? Do you think you’ll try making some mittens of your own? What other projects would be good to make out of felted recycled wool?