In Which I Make a New Handle for a Plastic Gadget using Silicone Putty

 

sugru handle 1

 

When my friend Becca introduced me to the site The Grommet, the thing I immediately wanted was this moldable, air-curing silicone putty called sugru.  It’s supposed to stick to practically anything, be formed into any shape, and be washable and permanent when cured.  Their motto is “the future needs fixing”—how could I not love that?

I got some for my brother for Christmas, and kind of hoped he might give me one of the little packets to try myself, which he did.  (Whether it’s nature or nurture, we definitely share a tendency to tinker and fix things.)  “I don’t care what color,” I said.  “Then you’re getting yellow,” he said.

I really didn’t care, because the thing I wanted to fix was this cheese grater.  It came with a handle that rotated, but the plastic clips which held it on eventually broke, meaning that the handle just fell off, leaving me with nothing to grab onto but the sharp plastic shards on the end.  Nevertheless, this is the kind of thing I can’t seem to get rid of, because all the other parts of it still work perfectly fine.

 

sugru handle 2

 

Working with the sugru is a lot like molding polymer clay, except it smells different.  It will hold fine details like a fingerprint, or you can smooth the surface with a light touch.  I could have spent a lot of time minutely sculpting it, but I tore myself away and mainly went for function here.  The contents of one little package were plenty to form the handle.  It cures up harder than I expected, more like the grips on my camera than like a silicone spatula.

The new handle is working well!  It doesn’t rotate, but it makes the grater nice and comfortable to use again.

A product that lets consumers fix more things themselves—yes please!  We need more of that.

 

sugru handle 3

 

(Full disclosure: I don’t have any connection to this product other than buying some, and I wasn’t compensated in any way for writing this post.  However, if anyone wanted to send me some free sugru, I would not say no … )

 

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A New Me-Made Upcycled Sweater

 

blue upcycled sweater looking side

 

Hello all!  I’ve been making and mending just about as much as physically possible around here (in between making hundreds of these little fuzzy hats) ever since I got back to my studio a few weeks ago.  Not much has made it up to the blog yet, and I decided to just start with the thing I’m most excited about: my new sweater!  I really, really need some more sweater layers for this winter, and I’ve had a plan to make a couple of upcycled ones from various bits and pieces since the spring.

So, here’s the first one!  The main part of it came from a deep navy blue, super soft, slightly felted, merino sweater that some friends gave me (on the right below).  The fabric is lovely, but the shape was classic sweater that doesn’t work for me—baggy on the sides, gathered in at the bottom—in other words the least flattering possible design for a small pear-shaped girl such as myself.  I also have this knit top which I love the shape of, it has princess lines (flattering—yay!) and interesting side panels, it fits me well and since it seems to be on its way out (the problem with thrift store finds) I had already traced a pattern from it.  So . . .

 

sweaters on line

 

piecing sleeveThe biggest lesson I have learned so far when recycling/refashioning something old into something new, is to treat the something old as fabric.  Unless the alterations you want to make are super duper simple, take the whole thing apart and press it flat and see what you’ve got, and it will be so much less frustrating.  You do end up with some odd shaped pieces of fabric, which can lead to interesting piecing and seams.  I folded the pattern for the new sleeve to accommodate the fabric from the old sleeve, leaving me two parts to cut from another fabric. I just have to remember to allow for seams when I cut the pieces to add on.  I had allowed 1/4″ seam allowances, so I cut the top and bottom sleeve pieces 1/2″ longer than the lines where I cut the middle piece, so there would effectively be a seam allowance on both sides.  Make sense?  I have screwed up the math on that before . . . but not this time.

It probably won’t surprise you if I point out that I have a lot of scraps of cashmere lying around here, plus old sweaters friends have given me, etc.  I chose a dusky purple for the extra sleeve pieces and extra at the back, which also didn’t quite fit on its corresponding piece of ex-sweater.

flat sockI chose the purple because it matched my material for the sides: socks!  My mom was nice enough to buy me these super soft alpaca socks at a fiber festival.  I loved the knitted pattern, I love knee socks, I carefully followed the instructions, which were to machine wash and line dry.  That’s my default washing mode anyway, so I thought I was good to go . . . but by the second wash they had shrunk to the point where fitting over my calves was no longer an option.  (Short strange tangent: this opened up sock reminds me of those animal pelts you see in museums, as if socks ran wild and were hunted for their fur.)  Once pressed flat, there was just enough material in each sock leg (including the ribbing) for one side panel of my sweater!

I experimented with sewing the seams flat, and I really like how it came out.  I overlapped the two pieces I was sewing together by 1/2″ (the same seam allowance as if I had sewed the seam 1/4″ from each edge, see what I mean?), feeling with my fingers for the edge of the layer underneath, and pinning in place.  I sewed a narrow zigzag close to the edge of the top layer, and then again about 1/4″ away, using parts of my machine foot against the edge as guides.  I used a walking foot, which I nearly always do for knits.

This method turned out to be only just slightly trickier for the curved seams connecting the sides to the front and back, so I did it there too.  I really like the slightly deconstructed look this gives it.

 

flat knit seams

 

I didn’t do the flat overlapped seams running down the sleeves, it would have been too much scrunching the sleeve up under the machine.  I did do it to attach the sleeves to the body though, and because of the raglan construction (not having to put in the whole sleeve in the round) it was pretty easy.

For the neckline, I kept the “v” of the original blue sweater, although in future I might add in some there just to make it a little cozier.  I knew that a section of scrap cashmere ribbing wouldn’t do anything much to keep the neckline from stretching all over the place, so I attached 1/4″ clear elastic first, stretching it to ease in the extra fabric and get the neck to lie flat, especially across the top of the shoulders.

 

sweater neckline

 

blue upcycled sweater back(By the way, I think the colors are truest in the two pictures above.  I’ve had trouble getting my white balance and purples to get along.)

So, I zigzaged on the ribbing at the hems and bottom of the sleeves as well, and there you have it.  I actually cut pieces for another purple section around the bottom, but I decided that I really liked the sock ribbing as the hem, and I liked the length when I tried it on, it allows another layer to peek out below.  And winter is coming, so I’m going to be wearing lots of layers!

I think the saddle shoulders may be my favorite part.  I’ve got plans for another franken-sweater using something I knit years ago.  I’m really pleased with how this came out, and looking forward to a DIY cozy winter!

 

blue upcycled sweater front

 

 

 

All’s Well That Ends Well, but Please, Don’t Put Your Wool in the Washine Machine

 

 

 

viola outfit 2

 

At one point, I considered not writing this post at all, because I’m pretty embarrassed about how this skirt got to the point where it needed remodeling in the first place.  But in the end, there was no way to not write about it, especially since I ended up wearing this once-shameful skirt to dressy Flagstaff event (maybe the only dressy Flagstaff event? We always joke that people here wear jeans to everything) . . .

I made this skirt, as near as I can figure, about 10 years ago!  This was a time before I knew much at all about wool, other than the basics; it comes from sheep, it’s been used since ancient times, people say it’s lovely, etc.  It may be worth pointing out that this was also years before I had felted anything, on purpose or otherwise.  You probably see where this is going.  I put a sample of the fabric though a normal cycle in the washing machine.  Nothing happened, the fabric looked just about the same as when it went in.  “Great!”  I thought.  I made up the skirt using the Folkwear Walking Skirt pattern, one I love and have used a lot.  And, I continued to wash it in the machine.  It never went in the dryer, thankfully, or what happened next probably would have been a much shorter process.  As it was, the fabric continued to look like nothing happened, for many years, for dozens and dozens of washes.  But eventually, all that agitation inevitably started the fibers felting together.  By last winter it was impossible to ignore.

 

pinstripe skirt remodel 1

 

Since I now know quite a bit about felting, once I could look past my obvious horror since I had ruined some lovely fabric, I found it fascinating that the places on the skirt where small parts of the fabric were stitched to each other (the waistband, hem, and back placket) were still unfelted, while the big skirt pieces were noticeably felted, thicker and fuzzier.  Actually, it was the contrast between the two parts that made the skirt look weird, especially the unfelted hem, which looked almost gathered against the felted skirt.  My current theory is that since the hem and placket fibers couldn’t move as much, they couldn’t interlock to felt like the others did.

The skirt sat in my to-fix pile until I figured out a plan, actually a pretty simple one, which I think is essential to not spending inordinate amounts of time remodeling something.  I would cut off the not-as-felted hem, waistband, and placket, fit the remaining felted skirt to a wider and lower waistband facing, make a new placket, and re-hem it.  Above you can see my chalk lines for what to cut in the back, I continued the line of the wider side of the placket down to the hem, and cut a symmetrical amount from the other side of center back, to keep the back pieces the same size.  I got little pieces of felted fabric to use for my new placket from the extra cut off below the old placket.

 

viola outfit 3

 

While I working on this project, I was also trying to figure out what I would wear to the Viola awards.  They’re Flagstaff’s yearly art and science awards for teaching, exhibits, and community outreach, and they throw a big Oscar-like party to give them out.  Bryan was nominated for one this year, for the exhibit of his In a Big World Wandering work, for which we also made the giant silk cyanotype.  I’d never been before, and I wondered what would everyone wear, what should I wear, should I borrow something, is it more like a costume party, should I wear something shiny?

I am not a shiny person.  In the end, I decided not even to go to my friend’s and try on formals to borrow, but instead to wear something that reflects who I really am.  Not only that, but I realized I could actually wear the lovely tailored skirt I was working on – if I went ahead and finished it!  I took the photos of my outfit right before we left, and I think you can tell I was pretty thrilled with my decision.  If what we wear tells everyone we meet a lot about who we are and where we stand, shouldn’t it be even more important, at an event where people are actually paying attention to my clothes, for me to wear something that shows my values and my heart?

 

pinstripe skirt and top

 

So I wore the rescued skirt, in it’s newly tailored glory!  Note the buttery folds.  And a nubbly cream silk tank top I made to wear to a wedding last year (same copied pattern as this linen one) which has proved more useful than I thought it might.  The shawl is something I started knitting for our wedding, realized would never be done in time, and eventually finished later.  (It’s a longer and wider version of the Fiber Trends Cocoon Lace Wrap, in a wool/alpaca blend lace weight yarn.)  It’s drapey and surprisingly warm, enough to keep me comfortable outside while I took the photos.  The pin holding it closed was my grandmother’s.  I didn’t make the tights or shoes, but I still love them . . . topped off with my winter coat, and I felt like I had stepped back to the ’40’s.

 

bryan and tasha viola photo booth

 

Proof that we went and I wore this outfit!  If you are curious what others wore, or what the event looked like, there are lots and lots more photos on the Facebook page for the organization.   We didn’t win (Bryan’s photo exhibit was up against the opening of the Discovery Channel Telescope!  And the winner, a recycled art exhibition that’s been going strong for 10 years here) but it was a really fun party, and I got lots of compliments, especially on the shawl.

 

pinstripe skirt remodel 2

 

But back to the skirt, and I might as well confess one more thing, I feel slightly guilty but I can’t help it; I like this fabric more now than I did in it’s new/intended state.  It’s so soft but with so much body, and it tailors like a dream.  In fact, making the new placket and waistband gave me the itch to sew with wool again, it’s just a pleasure to work with.  This has got to be the flattest-laying, easiest-pressed-in-place placket I’ve ever made.  And the buttonholes – I made them by hand with a single strand of waxed black cotton sewing thread, and it was as if I sealed the cut edges with a magic wand.  Not only can you not see the stitches here, I couldn’t see them in my studio while sewing in broad daylight.  Note the pockets!  Another benefit of me-made formal wear.

 

pinstripe skirt remodel 3

 

I also thought about how much I’ve learned in the last ten years.  I was able to add several refinements to this second round of the skirt, including using rayon ribbon on a lot of the edges to reduce bulk, adding a contoured waistband that fits my figure, and using catch stitches to secure the hem and placket so they wouldn’t show from the outside.  Now that it’s on a strictly hand-wash-only plan, the new and improved version should last me another ten years at least!

 

viola outfit 1

 

Morals of the story: please wear your heart on your sleeve, especially to formal events.  Sometimes a silk purse is lurking inside the sow’s ear of your mistakes.  And people please, no wool in the washing machine!