I recently participated in two fall-themed swaps. If you have no clue what-in-thee-world I'm talking about, you can see this post over at Jonahbonah, my friend Melissa's blog.
Anywhoo, I wanted to make something for my swap partners...something crafty...something homemade...something quick.
I'd had this idea a long time ago...at least a year, maybe two years ago...to make coffee cuffs out of recycled wool (more about the wool later). Obviously, now it is no longer an original idea. I'm sure there are a hundred other good tutorials out there for making these things...Pinterest is probably littered with them (I avoid Pinterest like the plague). My project turned out so quick and easy, though, that I thought I'd go ahead and share it with you.
Ok...in all fairness, I have to stop myself here.
I made my cuff out of felted wool. I have felted wool coming out my nose. Literally. I have drawers full of gorgeous wool sweaters, suitcoats, scarves...you name it, if it's 100% wool, I've felted it.
Which then begs the question from many, 'how do you felt wool?' Here's the super-technical process I follow:
I use only 100% wool items. I've heard that the piece can be 70% wool or higher and the felting will still work. I don't know if that's true...and I'm too cheap to buy a sweater, wanting to use it for a project, only to discover that it won't felt. Thus, it's 100% wool only, for me...I've used lambswool, merino wool, "regular" wool, cashmere (that's a kind of wool, right?)...oh! And angora. I don't think that's wool. But angora is ok. It shrinks nicely. So does alpaca. But other than that, I only use wool or wool "variations".
I take my 100% wool items and turn them inside out. The felting process usually makes a lot of fuzzies...A LOT! I like to turn the pieces inside out, that way the fuzzies will be on the "wrong" side of the material. I still end up picking most of them off, but this way I don't have to be quite so vigilant about it.
Turn your items inside out. Put them in your wash machine with the appropriate water level, detergent, and the hottest water cycle your machine has. And the LONGEST wash cycle. This is very important. Most people assume (as I did for the longest time) that the heat is what shrinks the wool. Turns out that the friction caused by agitation is also a key component in the shrinking process. So...hot water, long cycle. Once the wash machine cycle is done, throw those babies in the dryer for a nice, long dry. Be prepared to deal with fuzzies left over in the wash machine, as well as a super-full lint filter once your dryer is done. And viola! You've got beautiful felted wool.
How do you know if your wool is felted enough? You should be able to cut it like a piece of felt...and have very little fraying...most times none. If your piece isn't felted enough, run it through the same process again and again, until your desired results are achieved. I have pieces that I washed and dried three or four times before they were felted as much as I like.
So...now back to the coffee cuff...
You traced your cardboard cuff on to freezer paper and cut it out. Now what?
Iron your cut-out pattern on to the fuzzy side of your wool. That's right! Freezer paper will act as an iron-on!!! SOOOO cool! Also, I showed you the contrast between the fuzzy and not-so-fuzzy side of the sweater I used. Now you see why I wash things inside out! All those fuzzies will be facing the coffee cup...no one will see them...so no need to pick, pick, pick.
Anywhoo...iron your pattern on to your wool. I used my iron at whatever setting it was already at (probably the hottest), and just ironed carefully. It doesn't take long for it to stick--no need to over-iron.
Once the pattern is stuck to the wool, go ahead and cut out around the pattern. Once you're done cutting, peel off the freezer paper pattern. DON'T THROW IT AWAY!!! Guess what?!? Freezer paper is so awesome that it sticks several times! I used my same freezer paper pattern four times this day.
So, you've peeled off the freezer paper. You basically have your cuff now! It's up to you to figure out how you want to embellish it and what you want to use for a closure.
I used the patterns above (shrunk down a bit) to cut out some little fall doo-dads for the cuffs I was making.
I used WonderUnder to "stick" the cut-outs to the cuff. Though I know this isn't necessary (since I was planning to stitch them, anyway), I always like the extra security of knowing that my pieces are going to stay. And since I used WonderUnder, I know the stitching wasn't necessary...but it is cute!
You'll want to have a coffee cup handy to "size" where you'll want to close the cuff. Keep in mind that felted wool stretches a bit, so you want to make your cuff fit snugly. Not tight, but snug.
I used three black buttons on the back of my cuff. These are not functioning buttons, although you certainly could make yours functioning. It's really kind of unnecessary...but then again, so was the stitching when I'd already used WonderUnder!
One very nice thing about felted wool is that if you do decide that you want a functioning button closure, you do not have to stitch button holes. Since the felted wool doesn't fray, you can simply cut small slits in your wool at the desired location. Caution, though, cut your slits smaller than you think is necessary. The wool stretches a bit as you pull it over the button. Usually only a very small slit is needed.
These would make very easy, but very nice gifts...for pretty much any time of year. I know I would always rather receive a handmade gift than a store-bought same-old-same-old.
Good luck! Let me know if you run into any problems! And by all means, let me know if you make any of these. I'd love to see pics!