Friday, 30 May 2014

Making a Standing Wool Table Mat out of Felted Woollen Jumpers

M&S make machine washable 100% wool jumpers, but it is possible to felt them. The grey green one in the picture had shrunk from its original 42" chest. The red one had oil stains on the collar, so I put it through a cottons hot wash on purpose. The multicoloured one from a charity shop completed my collection. Another fascinating display at Wonderwool showed a technique called standing wool, used by Rosemary Stowe and Gill Curwen to make rugs and mats. 

Gill's big rugs are fabulous, but I got these jumpers to make a table mat, as practice. Cutting the front panel of each jumper into strips, the edges frayed a little despite the felting and keeping a straight edge is not so easy when clothes have warped over time to fit their wearers. Double width strips can be folded over so the visible edge has no loose ends and accurate cutting is less critical.  Starting with a strip of each fabric folded in half along its length, I rolled them up together like a Chelsea bun, leaving long ends attached, then stitched across the diameter of the circle, going round like a cartwheel, to hold the roll together.

It takes a long needle to push through the width of a single roll, longer still to sew two rolls together.  I used a long darner and linen thread for strength.  Starting off, I was aiming for symmetry and matching rolls in the three combinations.  As the result was uneven looking and increasingly awkward to work with, I switched to making individual rolls with whatever strips came to hand.
These rolls used up the fronts of all three jumpers. They got sewn on to the central piece wherever they fitted, some just as they were, others with the loose lengths wrapped around their outsides.  I thought this would help hold it all together and give the random design a bit of coherence.  The finished mat is fine flat on the table, though it splays apart between the individual rolls if you pick it up by the edge.  Tighter rolling and firmer stitching next time.
Just for once, Elinor Gotland approved.
"Firm and supportive, this, Beaut.  It'd make a lovely yoga mat."
"You do yoga?  Evening classes, is it?"  My incredulity must have shown.
"I'll have you know I was taught by the Mumbai Guruji.  The movie business out there is all chalo, chalo and no time for chai, Memsahib. Us Bollywood actors were glad of a bit of pranayama to fall back on."
Elinor was up unusually early next day.  Coming out with my cup of tea, I found she had taken the mat outside and was in the Hatha Yoga Asana 'Standing Wool'.  I won't say she was only scoring a point, because no-one could balance on one hoof for that long without a lot of practice. I slurped tea noisily, Elinor remained poised.  
I suspect neither of us were that sorry when it came on to rain.
"Oooh, best not let your lovely mat get wet, Beaut!"
Back in the house, I conceded defeat.
"That guru wasn't wasting his time with you! Do tell, what Bollywood films have you been in?"
"You might have heard of 'How Shanti was my Valley'. Made that with Amitabh 'The Man who put the Ram in Ramayana' - total superstar in India.  Still, it was my wet sari scene that got all the publicity.  Film was barely out of production before we started on 'How Green was my Karma.' but I never finished that one."
"Didn't you want to stay?"
"Course I did. Cracking people, lovely food. Problem was one Bombay Mix too many. What with that and the monsoon season, I got struck. Nothing for it but the first plane home. Fly strike can be fatal, you know, Beaut."  Elinor exhaled gustily.  I left her in peace to open her bottom chakra. 


  1. Hi Fran, digging your blog (Susan here from Pembs Guild). That Elinor is so damn cute. How things? Had a fab yesterday eco dyeing, stuffing fleece, handspun yarn and
    silk velvet into jars with layers of plant dyes. i just need to sit and wait.. for 2 months.
    I'm running a madder workshop on 21st June, using recipes from our summer school,
    hopefully acheiving a good selection of reds, rusts & peaches.

    1. Oh, I would have loved to come to your workshop, I have yet to try madder. The only cheering thought is that I will be on spinning camp that weekend!