Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Almost Extinct: Old Wool Sweaters

I'll be announcing the Uniqlo jeans giveaway post-Google et.al blackout (updated to add: no Google blackout, look for their protest note). In the meantime, please enjoy a little weekend DIY project I was forced into during a trip I made with a sister this past weekend to my mom's in Iowa.

First, right off the airplane, we scoured Goodwill for old wool sweaters. I thought, "No problem, Goodwill in Des Moines, Iowa, will be packed full of wool sweaters." Guess what? WRONG. The DIYrs have taken command of all secondhand stores in Iowa. Wool sweaters, beware: you will be pillaged, felted, and remade into pillows, gloves, and, as in our case, toddler blankets:

This idea came from my sister, who found it in a magazine ages ago. Here's the deal: stakeout your Goodwill/Salvation Army and use your sample sale shopping skills to snatch those sweaters out of your fellow DIYr's arms. I'm hardly joking as I practically had to drag my own mom away from a fellow shopper's cart that boasted a particularly fine specimen of men's wool sweater. Be sure to heed this important sweater picking detail: buy sweaters that are at least 70% wool. They need to felt up so they've got to be mostly wool. Now go home, revive yourself with caffeine or wine, depending on the hour, and get started. 

First, wash those sweaters in hot water, preferably in a machine that agitates. I didn't really understand this part as I thought all machines agitated, but I've guess there's been a lot of changes in washing machine technology since I've lived in a house with a washing machine. Next put those sweaters in the dryer on the hottest cycle possible. Basically do everything you've been told not to do with wool. 

When they're dry, cut them into squares using a uniform guide. We put down sandpaper with adhesive to help keep the square in place as we cut (see above), but we didn't get rough enough sandpaper. Go for the really scratchy stuff.

Then lay out those squares and decide on a pattern. When you're with family, this will take a while. You'll argue about keeping the argyle and lavender squares in a neat diagonal pattern, you'll fight about whether or not to use the grey plaid, and then, finally, you'll all decide to make it bigger. So there goes the perfect diagonal pattern you fought for so dearly. After this grueling decision-making process, pin the squares in strips (but don't pin the strips together yet). Next, watch Downton Abbey online for about four hours and go to bed.

The next day you go buy the rest of your supplies, namely a nice cotton backing for the squares and a pretty patterned material for the back of the blanket. Joanne's in Des Moines was a great resource for this until we got stuck behind a couple of scrapbookers at checkout who were buying about 3,000 sheets of paper that had to be rung up one by one. Damn those scrapbookers. Also, what the hell is scrapbooking?

I'd tell you what to do next but we had a sewing machine malfunction which hindered the completion of our blanket. Instead we traded photos of our squares with another sister on the East Coast, who was also working on a blanket and had a plethora of perfectly square blocks (ours, not so much). She also had a plethora of sweater pillows she had finished, most likely while we were watching Downton Abbey or sleeping. She's the truly talented and dedicated DIYr in the family. Probably, as I'm typing, she's finishing our blanket for us. If you have any questions about this project, please leave them in comments and I'll email the sister whose husband is now plotting to throw away pillows.

We'll be back to our regular 34th Street shopping soon. Happy (maybe) blackout day.