Monday, May 14, 2012

Adventures in Upcycling: Sweater to Alligator

I've been dieing to felt up a wool (or animal fiber blend) sweater and make something from it but I just hadn't gotten around to the thrift store to search out a sweater victim.  I'd been meaning to (there's a realtively new Goodwill two blocks from my house I've been meaning to check out) but just hadn't gotten around to it.

Friday I finally went to the Goodwill.

I was on the look out for clothing I could upcycle and/or fabic sheets.

For $10 I scored a pack of small styrofoam balls (still in original wrap), a pair of mens corduroy pants (ear marked for wookie and/or ewok creations), a flat bed sheet in a ticking pattern (I've wanted some ticking print fabric so this was a great score) and as I was just about to give up the hunt (as all the sweaters were cotton/acrylic) a 100% wool Eye-talian sweater.

A hideously ugly 100% wool Eye-talian sweater VEST.  Honestly, it was so small I wondered if it was mis-hung in the adult section (or maybe it had already been felted accidentally?).

I didn't take any before pics but this gives you a great idea how heinous it was.

In case the pic doesn't do it justice, that's a dark green with alternating orange, red and pink stripes.

Did I mention it was a sweater vest?  SWEATER VEST.  (yeah, that just needed repeating).  It felted up nicely after only one wash (hot, "rough" cycle) with a few green towels (in case they made lint it wouldn't look too freaky agains the green sweater).  And after felting it was only a few inches smaller (no joke, the original size had to be a kids size--right before I took this pic I held the scrap up to my chest and it was just barely a crop top size, I bet if I actually put it on it would be more like an ample sports bra).

And you can see what I made from it, too.  Well, from only 1/4 of the front and one strip of the arm hole piping trim.


(oh, I did use one little scrap from the back fabric for the eyes).

It was a simple "make it up as you sew" pattern.  From the 1/4 of fabric still pictured you can see pretty much what I did.  I just folded the fabric over so the shoulder strap part became the tail (and the stitching would make the warbly back bumps).  When I got to the head/face I added a gusset at the top and bottom to get the flatness needed.  The eyes are from a bit cut from the back fabric (two pieces stitched togther for stability and to hide the stitche attaching the google eyes).

The eyes were from my stash.  Something I wasn't sure I'd ever use but they're spot on fabulous (if I do say so myself) here.

AND, s/he stands on her/his own thanks to WIRES.

Yup, my first real stab (pun intended) with armature.  My first idea was to make two side pieces (that included the side of the legs) and then two gusset pieces (for belly and insides of legs) but the fabric didn't lend itself to that.  I wanted to get the most from the fabric (in keeping with the upcycling theme).

After I got the body done was was pondering the legs and was almost ready to give up and just make floppy bean bag style legs (that wouldn't support the weight and would definitely compromise the alligator feel) and then I remembered I had some floral wire.

Ok, great.  I had floral wire but now I had to make a pattern for the legs.  Poo.  WAIT!  HOLD THE PHONE!  I spied the piping around the arms and neck and it was PERFECT.  Because it was multiple layers it hadn't felted as fully as the rest of the piece.  So I could just run one half of my scissors down into it to make tube for the wire. 


Take the wire and stab it through the body.  Bend up the ends (to keep pointy pieces from jabbing through).  Slide the piping over the wire and stitch top to the body and then take a scrap (from the trimmings from the body) to make a set of toes (each toe is not individual--that would be nuts).  Sew toes to the bottom of the piping tube leg and BAM, you have a leg.

Now since I was just eyeballing everything, the front legs are a wee bit longer than the back (did the back first) but that kind of worked out since alligators do kind of have uneven front/back legs.  AND I managed to get what I really wanted which was an alligator that not only stood on its own but got its full tail up off the ground (just a bit).  I really wanted this alligator to look somewhat realistic body wise (flat head, eyes popping up off head, stands on own, can hold tail fully off the ground).

I'm loving this alligator and. . .

I'm open to suggestions for naming (and what else to do with the rest of the fabric).

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