Sunday, March 26, 2017

Do-It-"Ewe"rself Graphic Fuzzy Sweater

For a long while now, I've been thinking it would be nice to have a graphic sweater or two. Sweaters are pretty great. They're flexible and comfortable, but for whatever reason, they have an office-appropriate vibe (even when adorned with graphics) that other knitwear like sweatshirts and tees do not. The sad thing about sweaters (at least mine) is they are pretty much always a solid color or a simple repeating pattern, leaving very little in the way of visual interest. I have seen sweaters with pictures on them—just never in the price range of an Unfashionista!

Finally a few months ago, I had an idea that I should keep my old sweaters for crafting, instead of trying to sell them (very unsuccessfully, I might add—why didn't I think of this sooner?). The plain white one with the grey flecks would be the perfect neutral backdrop for an add-on graphic!

Drawing on supplies and knowledge passed down to me by my late grandparents (my grandma was an avid knitter, and it was her multicolored yarn that I used for this project; while my grandpa taught me how to make hooked rugs), I fashioned myself a 3-dimensional sheep sweater!

It came out so well that I think I can make a proper tutorial out of it! So without further ado, here's how to make a sheep sweater for "ewe!"

You will need:

  • A sweater
  • Yarn, in at least two colors
  • Scissors
  • A latch hook
  • A tapestry needle
Create a template for the sheep's body and place it on the sweater. I would share the one I made, but I ended up modifying it so much as I worked that it's basically an entirely different shape! 

You can hold it on with safety pins for the time being.

Next, you'll need to prepare your yarn for hooking. You can use pre-cut rug yarn, but I think that will produce a little too deep of a pile for a sweater. I just cut my yarn on the fly, and had to cut more a number of times as I worked. I found 4 cm to be a good length for each strand. Cut a lot of pieces—I estimate I used at least a couple hundred on my sheep.

Latch-hooking on a sweater

Now it's time to get latch-hooking!

Even if you have used a latch hook before, you might have to modify your technique a little since most hooked rugs use a grid as the backing rather than a thick sweater knit. Here's how to latch-hook on a sweater.
With the right side of the sweater facing up, poke your hook into the knit and back up on the other side, very close to the original entry point. Try to get two threads where they twist together. If you only get one, you might snag it and start unraveling the knit. If you get more, you'll capture too much fabric, making your knot poorly formed. This means you'll have to go in at a diagonal, rather than a vertical as you do in a traditional hooked rug.

Now take one of your cut pieces of yarn, and fold it in half over the bottom of your hook.

Grab the tail ends of the yarn and close the latch over them.
Pull the tool back through the sweater. This will bring the tail ends of the yarn through the loop made by the folded part, effectively tying the yarn into a knot with two trailing ends! I call these ends "tassels"—I don't know if there is a better term for them.

Tug on the ends of the tassels to tighten the knot.

And that's all there is to latch-hooking on a sweater!

If you've never used a latch hook before and you're having trouble figuring this out, it might be helpful to check out a latch-hooking tutorial with a simple canvas backing, so you can better see how it works. Here's a nice written tutorial with pictures, or if you prefer, a video one!

Now you'll just want to do that same trick over and over and over again, forming the shape of your sheep's body!

Start by marking the sheep's outline. Instead of marking the fabric permanently with ink or chalk, I used knots of yarn to mark key points on the body.

Then fill in with more many knots! This stage took me about 4 days of working an hour or two at a time! You can use your own judgment as to how far apart to space the knots. I tried to work in staggered rows, with one knot sitting just above the space between the two knots below it, but in the end, the positioning wasn't very important, and I had to go in and fill in a few sparse spots later anyway.

As you can see, I started with blue, yellow, white, and pink knots. But I felt the blue stood out a little too strongly, so about this far into the project, I took out all the blue knots and replaced them with knots of the paler colors.

Fixing mistakes

When I had finished the body, I found that my sheep looked much more elongated than the original template. I'm not sure how it happened, but I had to make a few adjustments to get a fatter, fluffier looking sheep.

First I laid the template back on top of my work, noting that there were some definite areas of overflow on the left and right.

I stuck some pins into the pile at intervals around the outline of the template.

Upon removing the template, the pins marked where the sheep's body should be. I trimmed then removed the knots that were outside the intended borders. Then, for good measure, I added a little more volume to the belly area.

Embroidering the details

Once the body is done, the hardest (or at least the most tedious) part is over. Now you move on to the face and legs!
Use cut-out pieces of your paper template to position these elements, and pin them on temporarily.

Once you've decided where they go, it will be necessary to mark the sweater, because the borders of these smaller parts must be accurately defined. I used a yellow highlighter so it wouldn't be too noticeable. You can just barely see the markings of the face on the picture at left!

Thread your contrasting shade of yarn onto the tapestry needle and pull it through the sweater from the back.

Embroider the shape of the face in parallel lines. Make sure to keep your stitches very loose, because any pulling on the knit might deform it.

Use the same process to create the legs.

When you're finished, be sure to knot off all the loose ends in the back! I had a lot of loose ends because I only had very short lengths of blue yarn. Hopefully your sweater's backside will look a little neater!

Now you're done!

My sheep sweater made it out into the field for the first time with a pair of plain grey pants (so as not to steal the sheep's thunder!) and my new denim shoes.

In an homage to my latest vacation destination, New Zealand, where flocks of sheep dotted the hillside everywhere you turned, I also wore a pair of kiwi earrings!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful tutorial. I used to make readicut rugs as a child. Never seen this done on a sweater before, looks interesting.