No Sewing Necessary

I patently hate sewing. I do know how to sew. I sewed my own (blood red silk velvet) wedding dress. More recently I’ve been known to borrow a machine so that I could sew bridesmaid dresses in the middle of the night, in between nursing sessions, when the time came and it had to be done. There was even a brief liaison with an organic cotton toy “company” (who was I kidding?). For someone who hates sewing, I’ve done an awful lot of it.

The thing is that I love designing. I love dreaming something up. When I was 10, I stole away upstairs in my Aunt’s house and emerged hours later with a dress I had cut out and “sewed” with a desk stapler. As an adult, when it comes to the sewing machine part, I just bite my lip and force myself onward.

As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to a sewing project, the less sewing the better.

A couple of weeks ago, in the course of my cleaning binge, I came across a small stack of favorite shrunken sweaters (apparently I continue to believe that wool sweaters can be washed in the machine on cold, something which I’ve proven wrong to myself a number of sad times). One of the sweaters requires a long explanation. There’s no two ways around it. Here we go.

When I was traveling in New Zealand, oh about umm… 9 years ago, I fell in love with a wool hat at a gift store. It was red. It was mohair and possum fur. It was the softest thing I’d ever felt in my life. When I put it on I felt like I was getting the biggest, sexiest hug ever.

I’m not usually an impulse buyer, in fact I was somewhat infamously stingy. But, I had been recently– devastatingly– heartbroken. My love of 6 years whom I had left in Alaska for this two month trip had just broken up with me, over the phone, just after Valentines Day. I needed that big red sexy hug, and I didn’t really care how much they charged for it.

I returned to Alaska, found a new town to live in, and eventually (much sooner than I had expected actually) found a new love. I kept the hat though. For awhile.

Then, as hats go, it became lost to me. Where it went, I will never know. The town was small, our friends all accounted for. I searched high and low to no avail. Goodbye sexy red hat.

But I never forgot that hat, as you might notice. So when a friend held up a red sweater at the thrift store here in New Orleans last year and said casually, “Do you like this?” And when I had my hand on that softness and my eye on the tag that said 65% mohair 35% possum, Made In New Zealand, it was like homecoming.


Now, you are properly prepared for the rock through my belly when I pulled that shrunken beauty from the washer’s depths. Now you understand why I squirreled it away in the closet for some kind of use, later. Now you can understand why, even in the midst of a madhouse of purging, I could not let go that gorgeous red.

So, with my old shrunken sweater to baby clothes repurposing in mind (link takes you to a scanned article from my old zine, Subsist/Resist, posted on my last life blog by the same name. Ancient history!), I layed out two sweaters. I got my best scissors. I cut. Not for any baby this time, but for myself. Two classy punk sweater vests, one with an already installed zipper! And the red one awaiting some fabulous buttons. Even though they were too small as sweaters, they work perfectly as vests. The arms of the beige hoodie became leg warmers, the arms of the red possumlove became both armlets (ever so vogue punk-wear on the west coast) and two necklets. And if all that woolie winterwear seems an odd choice in New Orleans, read this. And know that I have worn and been thankful for all of it already.

so punk-vogue

The big bonus with shrunken sweaters is that the “shrinking” is also “felting,” the washer’s rough movements working all those errant hairs together so that cut edges do not fray! This means that sewn things like baby pants (two arms sewn together) do not need to be hemmed, and that things like grown up vests don’t need to be sewn at all!!! Oh yeah! A sewing project without any sewing. Now, that’s my kind of sewing project!

If you have a stack of sweaters in some dark closet, favorite beauties seemingly ruined by the wicked washing machine, I really encourage you to play around with repurposing. It’s some of the funnest and easiest sewing around. Not to mention satisfying. You might even start leading perfectly good sweaters astray, just for more material.

That adorable and super soft lambswool baby sweater was soooo easy. They have such big heads that the adult neck hole is already the right size. I kept the original buttons on, just recut the sleeves and sides to fit her. Those pants are the two sleeves sewn together concept. Fabulous.