For almost three years I let a gorgeous cashmere sweater intimidate me. It stayed folded up neatly among thrift store sweaters I had collected early in my repurpose/upcycle life with textiles.
Some cabled cashmere sweaters don’t “snug up” where they are cut, which means that they require more fabric, more time, and more effort to repurpose. But the sweater that intimidated me was worse than that. It didn’t feel felted at all. Had it not looked a little bit smaller, I would have sworn it hadn’t been washed in hot water and dried on the cotton setting.
Every so often I would unfold it, gently squeezing the soft cables between my fingers, asking, “What can I do with you?”
During the fall I tried something using just the sleeves, but it wasn’t right. I folded the failed project up, tucked it inside the body of the sweater, and said I’d be back.
In the quiet on the Sunday afternoon between Christmas and New Year”s Day (we are empty nesters, so yes, there was quiet at our house), I unfolded the caramel colored cables and decided I had waited long enough. The very worst I could do was have to cut up the end product and figure a way to use it piecemeal, disappointing for sure.
Because my mother taught me how to match plaids and patterns when I learned how to sew, I couldn’t just cut the sweater up and start sewing. I had to make the cable pattern match as best as possible. FYI- cashmere can be slippery. I must have used 200 pins to keep the pieces in place. Plus I basted things together before making it permanent (which means I sewed the whole thing twice).
It turned out just as I had hoped- super thick and soft, really far more extravagant than the rather simple things I make. There aren’t many things I decide to make for myself that I just won’t sell. I’ve learned that the hard way by posting a photo on Facebook and saying, “Look what I made in Guilford colors for Homecoming.” or “I’ve never repurposed silk before but now I know that I can!”
Two weeks ago I came home from work pondering how I might make a bright colored shawl or wrap, but I couldn’t work out the design. Facebook friends had suggestions but I didn’t have enough cashmere to repurpose for a final product.
This past Sunday night I screwed up my courage and decided the worst that could happen, if I used what I have in a fairly large quantities, would be repurposing a shawl into several smaller items. I sorted and moved things around until almost 12:30 Monday morning, but I had it figured out when I called it a night.
First thing Monday morning I got my shears out and started cutting. I had no pattern, so it was a slow-go to make sure the pieces would all fit together. Just before 1:00 I took a few pictures and then put the shawl, consisting of parts of five sweaters, into the wash to felt some of the newly cut edges.
It takes an hour for my washing machine to go through a full cycle. That’s a lifetime when sweaters it took forever to collect, and hours to put together, are being waited on to emerge.
This project was more than some thrift store sweaters though. One of the sweaters I repurposed, the lightest shade among the pieces I used, was sent to me by a friend who shares my love of clean water and air and healthy families. There’s a story and sentiment in this shawl. I’m firm on sharing this as a Not For Sale item.