How I Store Felted Wool Sweaters

Living in the Midwest, this time of year always feels to me like a big gift: The cold, the winter, the lure of the indoors provides a luscious lull for doing projects. (The Luscious Lull! I may coin that.)

In previous winters/early springs, in addition to working on many, many blankets, I also…

This year, a welcome burst of energy has alighted upon me and I’ve tackled household painting projects—trim, doors, bathrooms. It’s a task I actually love to do. I get to put on old clothes, turn on some funky music, and take my time at making something old into something new.

But you know what? I’m still dreaming about sewing.

What dreams, you ask? Well, first, I have two custom blanket projects I’m ruminating upon. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked before about how I enjoy this stage: looking at the sweaters, mixing and matching them, mulling over stories the client has told me. So that’s one sewing thing I’m dreaming about.

Second, for my birthday (it’s this month and it’s a milestone one), I asked for a fitting system for adjusting, designing, and sewing clothing. I caught the bug last year with Brooks Ann Camper’s Skirt Skills course and want to learn more. We’ll see what dream-worthy sewing projects I can fit into this season along with the household painting.

But all of that to say—
♥ THIS SEASON MIGHT BE YOUR Luscious Lull TOO ♥

And if in your lull you are working with wool sweaters, you might be wondering about storage.

First of all, you need to know: I will never win an award for being either terribly organized or fastidious. The ranking motivators for my storage choices are:

functionality and efficiency
with an margin for laziness.

Thus, my outlook on wool storage may not be the one with which you’d align yourself. There are certainly other great resources and opinions online. (Google “felted wool storage.”) However, if you’d like to know what my own experience has taught me, keep reading.

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My 5 recommendations for wool storage:

Start with clean wool. Wash and felt your sweaters before storing. Any food or other organic residue left behind on a pre-worn sweater will invite pest damage or stains. (For neat stacking in storage areas, I also cut my sweaters apart prior to felting.)

Allow wool access to air. I don’t store my wool in anything air-tight. There are opposing views about this online. Some believe air-tight plastic is the best protection; others have found moisture inside of plastic bags with their wool. I choose to provide some air. A lidded plastic bin likely still allows the wool to “breathe” as long as the bin isn’t air-tight. But even in bins, I recommend nestling a paper-wrapped bar of lovely-scented soap inside with the wool. I don’t like how felted sweaters smell if they are closed up.

Keep wool away from insects and critters. A garage or a dark, quiet basement may allow unwanted creatures to get to your wool. Store the felted sweaters in a clean area where there is some human activity.

Don’t expose wool to direct sunlight. Over time, the whites/creams will yellow and the bright colors will slowly fade. I learned this from experience.

Don’t use mothballs for storage. At least, I don’t recommend it. First of all, there’s their toxicity. Second, it can be very difficult to get rid of their odor.

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How I apply the 5 recommendations in my own studio:

Because I love to have both easy access to and inspiration from the wools I’m working with, I store most of my working sweaters where I can see them. My studio is a loft space in our home: a large open area above our living/dining room. I have a west-facing window and, nearby, shelving that was once an enclosed closet. Years ago, prompted by a daughter headed toward interior design school, we removed the closet doors and had lovely wood shelves built and installed by a friend. It’s been occupied by wool ever since. The shelves are inset and protected from the sun, and the wool has done very well here.

This shelving alone is not enough space for all  the sweaters I have. Let me just say, I have a very patient spouse who tolerates The Green Sheep business spilling over into other storage areas, all in neat stacks and easily accessible to me.

I store most finished product in clean, fresh cardboard boxes also in the loft area, where the wool can breathe, be kept clean, and be protected from sunlight. I include a bar of soap in each of these (just as I recommended above with plastic bins).

I store scraps worth keeping in plastic bins, stacked without lids in an unused closet, also where the wool can breathe, be kept clean and protected from sunlight. I occasionally organize the scraps into neat piles according to color shade within their bins, but it all quickly becomes disorderly again when I go searching for the perfect match for a project.

Pretty much, that’s it! That’s the system I’ve decided upon through my years of working with wool. It has worked very well for me and my situation.

Did I forget anything?
Do you have any questions?
Especially, how do you guys store your wool and what have you learned through trial and error?

An interview with Marina, blanket-maker

The Felted Wool Blanket Master Class begins Tuesday, October 1! If you’ve been wanting to learn how to make a felted wool blanket of your own or for a gift, now could be the time. To learn more or to enroll, click the button:

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Last week, while in the midst of settling the final pieces for launching the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class, I got an email from Marina.

Marina was a Fall 2018 student and was writing to say she was heading back into the course materials (lifetime access!) to begin her third blanket. This made me do a little happy dance :)

As I wrote her back, I spontaneously asked if The Green Sheep could feature her in a blog interview to help people learn how the class might fit them. She generously said yes.

So here’s Marina, along with photos of the adorable blanket she made while in the class. Welcome, Marina!

• • • • • • •

Joan: Marina, tell us a little about yourself, what you value, and what makes you you.

Marina: I think of myself as a maker of things and a life-long learner. I grew up in France in the 60s when cooking from scratch and making things by hand was valued. Whenever I make something, whether it’s food or a garden bouquet or a quilt or a knitted gift, I want each thing to be something people use and gain joy in every day. Then I feel nurtured and alive!

I gladly share what I know, and I am grateful that I have found equally sharing folk along the way. I see a newfound respect for handmade things, I see a time when we will have less stuff and finer objects, made with love and caring, and that fills me with optimism!

Joan: What was your sewing background before taking the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class?

Marina: I have been sewing on and off since college, from making household furnishings to clothes, then simple quilts, at first. I am also a gardener, and like to pull my areas of interest together, like when I made pin cushions with the log cabin quilt design and filled them with lavender from my garden. (Gardening is, by the way, much like quilting and blanket making: color work, on a grander scale!)

Joan: Would the course materials be appropriate for someone who may have sewn a bit in the past but who considers themselves still a beginner?

Marina: I think the course materials are appropriate for anyone who has a basic understanding of how to operate a sewing machine and has had experience with simple assembly.

Joan: What caused you to choose to sign up for the Master Class?

Marina: I came across your work through Pinterest, I believe, and I was so impressed with the aesthetics, the quality and the thoughtfulness of your blankets that I started following this blog. I jumped on the opportunity to take the class because I love the idea of repurposing beautiful textiles. I think of it as a modern version of the quilting tradition to make do, to be thrifty and creative at the same time, and to create something new from something that has served a previous purpose.

I was particularly impressed with the concept that the master class would be available to use indefinitely, since I knew I’d need to refresh my memory after a hiatus when the garden, or knitting, or quilting, takes first place.

Joan: You described so well the value in being able to go back to the curriculum! I found that to be true in online classes I was in—that’s what caused me to offer the same.

In the course, I encourage class participants to not be afraid to experiment. With two blankets under your belt now, can you share what you learned from the process of doing and experimenting?

Marina: That is some of your best advice! Working with felted knitted woolens is at the same time more challenging and more forgiving than working with woven materials, with which I am very familiar. The only way to make progress and get comfortable with the process is to do—I think that is true of all crafts. Be brave and do it! Truly, what could seem daunting is not if you follow the step-by-step approach, get your first blanket done, and then plan another.

Joan: I’m so glad to hear you’re going back to the course materials as you start this THIRD blanket—it tells me the curriculum has longevity. What can you gain from the course again at this stage?

Marina: After the master class was finished I went through it twice more in the process of finishing my first blanket. What happens, as you get more familiar and comfortable with the process, is that little things pop up that you may not remember the first time. And I can assure you that I will refer to the master class video every single time I make the binding! I found with your method that everything you recommended matters, and if I follow your advice, I don’t steer too far out of line!

My first two blankets have a lot of graphic detail. They were gifts to newborns and I wanted them to be as much play mats as blankets, fun and cozy. The bonus appliqué advice at the end of the class was enough to give me the confidence to “do and experiment” there as well.

My third blanket I hope will recall my garden. Swaths of color, paths, a timber frame garden house, a huge hedge, a woodland in the back ground. Right now I think it will be a more abstract design, more impressionistic than literal. In that project I am going through the master class again to focus on improving my techniques: better seams, tidier corners, using some more challenging felts, such as thicker material and textures.

Joan: I’m eager to see what you do next! What attracts you to working with wool?

Marina: I have spent so much time handling material that I really value the hand feel of wool, especially felted wool. I also have an affinity for what comes from nature. One of my dearest friends raises alpacas, and working with fiber that I have seen literally seen grow is very inspiring.

Joan: Thank you, Marina, for spending this time talking to me and to the readers. It was a pleasure working with you in the class, and it’s been an extra treat here for me to get to know you better!

“What one thing in class surprised you?”

Tap here for class details and to enroll.

IMPORTANT: After this Fall 2019 session of the class, I don’t plan to open it again until fall of 2020. Even if you intend to wait until after the new year to start a blanket, you might consider signing up for this session. You can access it—and the group’s private Facebook page—ANYTIME!

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In offering the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class again this fall, I want to provide useful information for anyone wondering if this course might be the right fit. Earlier this week you were able to read what things students have found most valuable in the course. Today I thought it’d be fun to hear what most surprised class participants. Here you go!

“What was the one thing in the class that surprised you?”

“I was surprised that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. You break every step into small, easy to follow segments. I wasn’t as overwhelmed as I thought I would be.” —Anonymous*

“Your wonderful design tips! This was an extra bonus beyond the mechanics of blanket construction.” —Annie

“How much fun it is so see everyone’s creations, and also how helpful it it to communicate with everyone through FB, on different issues we might be having making the blanket.” —Anonymous

*Some responses are “Anon” due to my experiment with one anonymous survey.

“I was totally surprised at how wonderful my blanket turned out, a testament to your organized way of instruction! I made a few mistakes along the way, but I was either able to fix it or it wasn’t noticeable. The wool was forgiving, especially on the binding.” —Linda B.

“I was surprised at how much I looked forward to seeing everyone’s work and questions.” —Sara

“How manageable it was!” —Anonymous

“The wonderfulness of the group. So much fun.” —Linda C.

“How difficult the design phase is! It’s also arguably the most important part.” —Timary

“Gosh, there were so many things. I have been making my own blankets for several years now, and I guess I was most surprised and delighted to learn from you some techniques for improving the quality of my blankets. This last blanket I made was a vast improvement in quality from some of my more recent blankets, and that thrilled me.” —Pat

“All of the practical tips and demonstration. The color selection and design section was a pleasant surprise.” —Anonymous

“How fun it was to be part of a group all doing the same thing, reading the comments, and seeing the pictures.” —Sally

“That there is such a thing as twin needles. I’ve had my mom’s sewing machine for 18 years. She had the twin needle in with the accessories; I had never even noticed it before. I will definitely use the twin needles again.” —Simone

Earlier this week I posted answers to the question, “What was the most valuable part of this class?” Later this week,  I’m excited to be able bring you a special guest interview with Marina, a student from an earlier session of the class. She is about to begin her third blanket!

Would you like to learn more about the course? You can find that info HERE. Do YOU have any questions you’d like to ask me about the course? Please contact me HERE. I’ll be glad to answer!

Enrollment now open!

Enrollment is
NOW OPEN

for

the Fall 2019

—  Felted Wool Blanket Master Class  —

 

Class begins October 1

 

—  Consider joining us!  —

Looking for more information about the course?

    • Read all about the course details here.
    • See what past students have said about the course here.
    • Watch a video with 8 reasons you just might want to make a wool blanket here.
    • Read about one method of finding inspiration for a wool blanket here.
    • Have any questions I can answer for you? Write me here!

■ ■ ■

IMPORTANT: After this Fall 2019 session of the class, I don’t plan to open it again until fall of 2020. Even if you intend to wait until after the new year to start a blanket, you might consider signing up for this session. You can access it—and the group’s private Facebook page—ANYTIME!

“What was the most valuable part of class?”

Tap here for class details.

IMPORTANT: After this Fall 2019 session of the class, I don’t plan to open it again until fall of 2020. Even if you intend to wait until after the new year to start a blanket, you might consider signing up for this session. You can access it—and the group’s private Facebook page—ANYTIME!

■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Each time I’ve taught how to make blankets, I’ve solicited feedback so I can be sure I’m addressing all the right things. And each time I’ve taken an online class, I carefully read what previous students say about that course. It’s really helpful in deciding if a course is a good fit.

So here for you are the thoughtful answers of past students to one particular post-class question:

“What was the most valuable part of this class?”

“There were SO many valuable parts—but I especially appreciated the discussion on design/color arrangement, the resources (books), using a color wheel, and making the binding. The advice on how to sew it on was so helpful!” —Linda

“The tips for cutting the sweaters!” —Annie

“The comfortable and non-dogmatic way you teach. You inspire confidence right away, you teach step-by-step so that it is never overwhelming. Your responses to any questions are prompt and most helpful.” —Anonymous*

*Some responses are “Anonymous” because I experimented with using an anonymous survey for one class session.

“The videos were invaluable—watching you actually do what you were explaining made all the difference. For example, I had never put a binding on an item but easily understood with the video.” —Timary

“Your lessons were very well-organized and they were digestible bits of lessons. I often had only 30 or so minutes of time to spare, and your short lessons allowed me to feel like I was able to stay caught up! I loved that you had written notes in addition to the videos.” —Pat

“Learning how to handle the wool. It is vastly different from cotton. Wiggles and moves all over the place. Seeing the techniques you used to cut and sew it were helpful.” —Patti

“I loved that the course was broken down into manageable parts. It was great to get feedback from you and others in the group. By encouraging us to introduce ourselves, it really felt like we were there to support each other. Also, you know a lot and could provide references or additional resources to learn more if we wanted to.” —Sara

“I loved everything about the class: listening to you (you have such a soothing voice), seeing your creations step-by-step, seeing your recap segments, seeing others’ creations. It was a great investment.” —Anonymous

“I loved the section that covered making the binding. I’ve done some blanket making on my own and have never tried this method. I also loved the challenge of doing some math to figure this out.” —Stephanie

“I loved the ‘real time’ aspect of your videos and seeing you demonstrate all the techniques start to finish. I especially appreciated (and benefited from) seeing you struggle to find a layout for your blanket that you liked. It was helpful to see you arrange and then rearrange your blocks and in that demonstration, we were able to then understand that it is a process with no right/wrong answer. I also loved the practical feedback you provided people on their layouts.” —Pat

“The videos were the most valuable part of the class! I like to learn by watching, and they were very easy to follow. Also, the written instructions were helpful to go back to, so I didn’t have to rewatch the videos.” —Sally

“The wonderful instruction on every detail of the process.” —Anonymous

Later this week I’ll post answers to the question, “What was one thing in the class that surprised you?” And I’m excited to bring you a special guest interview with a past class participant who is about to begin her third blanket!

Do YOU have any questions you’d like to ask me about the course? Please contact me HERE. I’ll be glad to answer!

“Blessed are Those Who Mourn”

“For the Lamb…will be their shepherd,
    and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” *

Christmastime = joy, festivities, love, gatherings of great people. It also equals the baby Jesus, his captivated parents, and the unusual, fantastical events of that evening: a very pregnant young woman and her fiancé on the road and far from home, an extraordinary star, angels (!) with a message to shepherds that was actually for the entire world.

One angel, the angel of the Lord, went right up to those shepherds and said, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2). The angel’s glory shone all over those shepherds as he said this. 

Exciting, joyful, miraculous stuff.

But I know there are many for whom an undercurrent of heartache and loss runs through their days this season. People I love very much are right now dealing with cancer, suicide, and death. Ow! It wrenches my gut to see the depth of their hurt.

So maybe this is an appropriate time to introduce this particular blanket—because such a difficult mix of joy and grief is not only true for lots of people this time of year, but was also foretold for Jesus and his young mom, Mary. It happened like this:

Just weeks after his birth, when Mary and Joseph carried their tiny son to the temple, a faithful man named Simeon met Jesus and, after praising God, looked directly at Mary and told her, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2).

“A sword will pierce your own soul too”? How difficult this must have been for Mary to hear as she held her tiny, defenseless son. How could she take this in? We know a little: she stored up things in her heart. And she must have lived daily with a tension of joy and sorrow hidden inside.

That tension is what I see in this blanket. The sorrow. The joy. And the comfort.

This is “Blessed are Those Who Mourn,” part of my Beatitude Series.

It didn’t start out that way! This is the blanket I made on video for the master class I’m teaching, and I never intended for it to be about mourning! But at the design stage, as so often happens, the colors, the patterns and the wool itself spoke to me a ton in this particular layout and not in others—and I had to listen.

In this blanket, I see the weight and depth of grief in the dark colors around the edges—but then I feel the palpable relief of those creamy whites, a cocoon of healing and comfort in the center, and joy in those tumultuous, popping pink flowers, all spreading outward.

In its entirety, this beatitude says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Jesus himself said this, when he was just starting out on his itinerant ministry at age 30. Over the next 3 years (just 3!) Jesus would mourn the ugliness of hypocrisy and sin, the betrayal of friends and followers, and his own impending execution.

But in the end? Jesus beats death itself and becomes the One to wipe away the tears of those who turn to him. Wow! We’re so used to hearing this, but just…Wow!

In fact, Jesus becomes ALL the things. He is he sacrificial Lamb, the Shepherd, the Comforter, the King. The Alpha and Omega. All these names are his names.

So. Blessed are you if you mourn and seek comfort. Jesus doesn’t say the pain will leave. But he does say he will wipe away your tears. And he will comfort you. In my experience, as I have trusted this shepherd king, he does exactly that.

Welcome, Lord Jesus, this Christmas. Please don’t let us overlook who you actually are.

*Revelation 7:17

© Joan Olson
“Blessed are Those Who Mourn”
(55×68) Felted Wool Sweaters