There are all sorts of reasons you might want to give a knit sweater new life, from accidental shrinkage or staining of an old favorite to a stash of feltable finds from the local thrift shop. If you have sweaters you'd like to bring new life to, Sweater Renewal: Felting Knits into New Sweaters and Accessories by Sharon Franco Rothschild has a bunch of good ideas for knitters and felters of all skill levels.
Of course these projects require the use of sweaters that can be felted, but beyond that the sky is the limit in terms of the colors and designs used in the sweaters and the embellishment you add later.
The book opens with an overview of felting, describing what sort of fibers (and therefore sweaters) will felt, different ways to felt (by hand, machine and getting your dry cleaner to do it for you), tips for choosing the best sweaters for felting and other tips.
This short section provides most of the information a new felter would need to get started on any of the beginner projects in the book.
The bulk of the book contains patterns you can follow or use as jumping-off points for your own felted designs, based on your needs and the sorts of sweaters you have in your collection. The projects are divided into beginner projects (small things that mostly involve cut out pieces of felt and lots of embellishment), intermediate (larger projects that are a bit more complicated) and advanced (felting sweaters into garments that still fit).
There are also a few patterns for knitting and felting projects that don't start with a sweater.
In all, Sweater Renewal offers 26 patterns: six for beginners, 10 intermediate, six advanced and three knit and felt projects (which are all pretty simple -- a purse, a phone holder and a scarf).
Projects range from knitting needle holders, a book cover and a camera case to hats, purses, pillows, scarves and toys. There are dog sweaters and felted and embellished sweaters for humans, as well as a sweater felted and turned into a skirt.
Some of my favorite projects include the Funky Felted Flowered Hat, a brightly colored hat embellished with flowers and cut out in a fun shape; the Fair Isle Purse, in which the patterns from the sweater are embellished with embroidery; Wooly Bear, a cute little toy with its own wardrobe; and the Flower Garden Jacket, a felted sweater embellished with crocheted flowers and tons of trim.
You're probably getting the idea that a lot of this book hinges on the different ways you can dress up felted projects, which is important for not making your projects look like they're just a bunch of old sweaters. If you like to stick to basic patterns without a lot of color or flair (and there's nothing at all wrong with that) this book probably isn't for you.
If, on the other hand, you love color, embroidery, finding uses for old buttons and adding a special touch to every project, you'll enjoy these ideas. Even if you don't have any sweaters to shrink in your house, it's sure to inspire a trip to the thrift store or a quick search for wooly wonders on eBay.
Publication date: August 2008.