Crafternoon – Skirt Made from a Wool Sweater – Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Now that we are home and have all of our crafting tools at our disposal, the sewing machine has come out and the knitting needles have slowed (not stopped, just slowed).  Of course there are tons of clothing items that one can make with re-purposed wool and wool sweaters, some of which I’ve shared in the form of fingerless mittens, cowl, and felt-decorated sweaters.  Last week I came home from a school event and shared with Chloe the idea of a snappy wool skirt a student was wearing over leggings – cool boots too, of course.  As I worked my way through the crowd and closer to the skirt (the student I mean), I realized that it was actually the bottom of a felted sweater inverted so that the hem or lower cuff of the sweater had become the waist band of the skirt.

The next morning Chloe comes down wearing one of two skirts that used to be wool sweaters hanging out in the crafting pile ready and waiting to become something.  The second was prepped for a short spin under the sewing machine.

Recycled sweater skirt Photo by Rocky Coast Photography

Directions for How to Make a Skirt from a Wool Sweater
Felt the sweater so that the fibers connect and the ends don’t fray by washing in hot and rinsing in cold water.  Stop the washing machine occasionally and check to be sure that you aren’t felting it more than you want.  The fabric will just become thicker and thicker with changes in temperature and agitation so slower is better.   When the fabric of the wool is the thickness that you’d like, spin it to wring out most of the moisture and then hang or lay flat to dry.  Sometime I’ll roll an item between two bath towels and then press or even step on the roll to squeeze out any excess moisture.

To determine the length of the skirt, measure vertically from where it will ride – waist, belly button or below belly button – to where you’d like for it to end – knee, thigh, mid-thigh.  There is no hemming necessary with this project, so therefore no need to adjust the measurement for hemline material.

When dry, lay the sweater out on a cutting board.  With a yard stick or measuring tape, measure from the bottom of the sweater (waist of the skirt) to the hem of the skirt.  Make a horizontal, straight cut across.   Note:  If the wool is the washable sort, then a quick zigzag stitch along the hemline takes care of any unraveling that might occur.  It also can add a design element if you use a contrasting thread color.

Who needs the mall?

Canning Pear Nectar

This fall, I was the surprised recipient of a beautiful bushel of pears from what we think is a Seckle Pear tree. That gift, however, did not come co-bundled with an abundance of time. I was determined that this gift would not sit too long while I put it off until the pears were passed perfectly ripe and had moved into “uh oh.”


To hustle along, I decided to not can them as whole pears, but as nectar. Making nectar is a much easier process than canning whole fruit, as it does not require peeling. It begins with making a loose pear sauce much the same way one would apple sauce by bringing to a simmer pear quarters and water and cooking until the pears are either tender or falling apart. Pear varieties will differ in whether they stay together once they are fully cooked or fall apart – just like apples.

With the addition of lemon juice and sugar plus a hot pack canning process, pear nectar emerges. I’ll use it all winter long in smoothies instead of honey, as a juice for brunch, a foundation for mixed drinks, combined with ginger ale for a special drink for the girls and, well, I let you know what else I come up with!

Thank you, friend Glen. I’m glad we are both good at sharing.

Currently Reading – The Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

This book is an original way of viewing our global eating habits.  Husband and wife team (photographer and writer) team up to photograph 30 families with their entire weekly intake laid out on their kitchen tables.  An unusual family portrait to be sure and much easier to arrange than an earlier project which involved photographing families with all of their worldly possessions laid out in front of their homes.  And an NPR interviewed Faith d'Aluiso and Peter Menzel the authors of Hungry Planet:  What the World Eats.  The interview is great and the book even more so.

Pondering the bigger picture

© 2008 Anne Mahle

Hay House – What Could be so Hard?

Hayhouse My research for a simply constructed hen house lead me to straw bale houses.  They seemed simple to build, required little carpentry skills and they were cheap.  Most all other options involved about $500 of lumber and materials to build AND I worried about the time it would take for me to do it by myself.  I needed these chickens OUT of my house. 

I can now share that the material for a hay house is cheap. 

But they aren’t easy to build. 

We had the hardest time figuring out how to stabilize the walls.  Rebar, stakes and poly twine – all of the materials suggested by the books I was reading on how great these straw bale houses are – just weren’t working.  We finally got the roof and walls up after two days of work by four people.  I thought perhaps the structure just might last one year. Two of those people were paid, by me, making the labor costs close to $500.  Perfect.  We now have the most expensive free-range, organic eggs a person could buy.

What the folks who recommend the straw bale houses fail to let you know is the hens peck at the straw to the point of making huge holes in the walls and the bales fall over once they get wet no matter how you stabilize them.   Unless of course you start to nail up boards to keep the bales up, in which case, why not just sheath the thing in wood to begin with!

This picture was taken right after we finished construction.


© 2008 Baggywrinkle Publishing

Desperately Needing a Hen House

There were now 28 ugly teen-aged chicks living in my house.  They were dusty, scraggly and smelly.  We are talking wood shop dusty because they constantly scratch the sawdust bedding put down for them in the kiddie swimming pool in which they occasionally stayed.  The rest of the time they spent flapping their wings, hopping up on the edge of the pool and doing what they do best – pooping.  I hardly need to say – hence the smelly.

I desperately needed a hen house for these creatures.  I have a very handy husband.  He can make almost anything and often he does, but we have an agreement about the chickens which I think is only fair although at the time I realized I was now desperate for the hen house I sorely regretted making this agreement.  The bargain was, I could get chickens IF Jon didn’t have do anything with them.  No building, no feeding, no cleaning, no getting wood from the hardware store in his truck for the hen house, absolutely no nothing.  You know when you are a kid and you want that puppy so badly you will promise almost anything?  As in, "You’ll never have to do a single thing, Dad.  I’ll always walk the dog, pick up the …. in the yard and feed him."  And then, you go to college and your dad is stuck doing all the things he’s been doing for the past 10 years with the dog anyway. 

It didn’t happen like that for me.   My husband is soft spoken, but he’s no pushover.  When he says something, he remembers and he doesn’t go back on it.  So now I had to figure out how to build this ridiculous hen house by myself without spending gobs of time doing it because it’s now four weeks before our sailing season starts and life is starting to get really busy.

So I pulled the crew off the boat and made them help me for two days on the hen house.  Which they of course loved.  If you think two men who came to Maine from southern states to sail and have a grand summer adventure were happy about the boss making them build a hen house…. hmmm.

In any event, it got done.


© 2008 Baggywrinkle Publishing