Have you ever found yourself standing in the laundry room, rather annoyed by incredible the shrinking and felting qualities of wool, staring down at what sadly used to be, a much, much larger knitted something or other? I have found myself there many times, although in more of a laundry corner than a laundry room, per se, and many of those times, I have been bummed because of shrunken sweaters. Alas, I have a solution! It would of course be most splendid to not shrink the wool sweaters in the first place, but if life hands you shrunken wools, make woolly mittens, I say!
Below is a step by step guide for making the most out of your laundry blunders to craft the sweetest pairs of woolly mittens for winter weather play. You don’t have to be an accomplished sewer to make these by any means, but you do have to have some washed wool on your hands. However, if you happen to find yourself shy in the shrunken wool department, head to your local thrift store, comb the racks for anything that reads “100% lambs wool” and start there. I, unfortunately (or perhaps most fortunately for our cold fingers) have a basket of shrunken things, so I started there. It truly makes no difference where or when you start, but you do need the following before beginning:
- 1 100% lamb’s wool sweater (a vest will work, too)
- 1 sharp pair of crafting scissors
- 1 sharpie or marker to trace
- 1 blank piece of paper for tracing
- 2 sewing needles, one for thread and one for yarn
- 1 spool of sturdy thread or embroidery thread, any color
- 2 feet of wool yarn, any color
Step 1: Procure a 100% wool sweater (from your laundry pile or thrift store) and make sure it has been pre-washed (aka: pre-shrunk). If you are thrifting said sweater and are not sure of it’s story, wash it in hot water before continuing on to step 2. The washing process ensures the fibers have been felted, which happens when soap + hot water + wool hang out in the washing machine for awhile together. Note: once you shrink a wool sweater there is no un-shrinking it! Look how cute this little vest was before…
Step 2: Place your left hand, palm facing down, on a blank sheet of paper. Trace it with a marker (your hand in a mitten-like position) making sure there is about 1/2 inch space between your skin and the line you drawing. Giving a little extra space will keep your mittens roomy and truer to size. If you trace right up to your hand, you may not care for the smaller result. Cut out your traced mitten hand, and continue onto step three.
Step 3: Lay your shrunken sweater on a flat surface and make sure the seams are all lined up, especially the bottom lines of the sweater. Lay your hand cut out on the far left side of the sweater so it is nearly, but not exactly, touching the side of the sweater. Pin the hand cut out to the sweater to prevent it from moving when you cut the wool.
Note: you will be doing nothing with the arms of the sweater at this point, which is why a vest will work perfectly fine.
Step 4: When your paper is pinned to the wool and where you want it, use a very sharp scissors and snip carefully around the hand cut out. You will be cutting through two layers of wool because your sweater is laying flat, so make sure to go slow. After cutting all the way around, remove the pins from your wool, take off the paper hand cut out, and trim and imperfections you see while keeping the set together. It is important that you keep each pair of mittens exactly the same.
Step 5: Flip your hand cut out over to the other side, and repeat steps three and four. Once you are finished with this step, you will have four pieces of the same size wool, two per mitten.
Step 6: Thread your sewing needle with whichever color thread you’ve chosen, and make a knot in the bottom corner of your mittens. Blanket stitch both pieces of wool together until you’ve reached the other side, and knot it as well. If your thread breaks off or you need another piece, simply knot where you’ve stopped, and continue blanket stitching your way around.
Step 7: After your mittens have been blanket stitched, turn them inside out, set them aside, and repeat step 6 with the other pair of mittens.
Step 8: Once you’ve stitched your mittens together and have turned them inside out, thread thicker yarn onto large sewing needle with a big eye. At the inside base of your mittens, thread the yarn through and tie a double-knotted bow. Give about two feet of slack between the mittens, and repeat on the other pair. The piece of yarn string between the mittens does two wonderful things: it keeps you from losing one + it keeps them on better. Tuck the string into your little one’s coat before buttoning or zipping, and that should do it!
So how ’bout it these little cuties? I confess, just this morning I dug up a few more shrunken sweaters that I’ll be turning to mittens for myself this week. I have an old L.L Bean sweater I thrifted forever ago that fits weird, most likely due to hot washing, yet I haven’t mustered the energy to donate it. New mittens for meee! And I plan on adding a piece of yarn to keep mine together as well, because I seem to have quite the problem of keeping anything that lives in a pair together. Do you think you’ll give these a try? I do hope so!