Now that the excitement of Christmas and New Year is over we thought it would be fun to find some winter wool crafts to keep us all busy through the long, dark evenings. There’s something rather wonderful about being quietly ensconced on the sofa, curled up under a cosy wool blanket and being creative rather than just passively watching the TV. Here are some ideas for things to do with wool that will not only keep you entertained whilst you craft, but that will make lovely new things for your home and wardrobe.
Latch-hook rug making
With the recent resurgence in all things 1970s in fashion and interior design how about embracing the trend and having a go at latch-hook rug making? Popular as a hobby since the 1930s rather than merely done out of necessity (as it had been for hundreds of years), latch-hook rug making became super fashionable in the 1970s with the introduction of cheaper acrylic yarns. It’s a brilliant way to use up and recycle old wool, whether oddments left over from other projects or unravelled wool from old sweaters.
Rugs are made by pulling strips of yarn through a base fabric (usually hessian or canvas) using a hinged hook to create a knot. You can follow a painted canvas if you want more guidance, or work on a blank background from a pattern. There are instructions on how to do latch-hook rug making here, along with lots of interesting historical information. It looks like the perfect craft to do on a rainy winter’s day.
(pic and rug design by Sarah Hartwell)
Another great way to recycle old woollen garments or blankets that have seen better days, wool felting will remind you of school science lessons when you magically turned something into another substance. Wool is composed of scaly fibres which, when heated and rubbed together or washed in hot soapy water, will shrink and bond together irreversibly. Think of your favourite cashmere sweater, turned to a doll-sized accessory by an accidental hot wash, or the angora socks that found their way into the tumble dryer by accident. The stiffness and matted feel comes from this binding of the fibres into wool felt.
To create felt deliberately you simply apply this same principle. You can knit something in wool and then machine wash on purpose to turn it into felt. You can ‘wet felt’ by hand, teasing and then rubbing the fibres together vigorously in soap and water. Larger scale operations produce felt by using a barbed felting needle. Once you’ve got the felt you can make endless lovely things, from purses to teddies, brooches to Christmas decorations. You’ll find some ideas and more suggestions here.
Once you’ve learned the basic technique knitting is a fantastic craft. You can click away whilst cozied up in front of the TV, or use your commute to develop a new skill and make something for yourself. Scarves and hats are good things to try first, and then you can build up to more complex patterns once you’ve mastered the basics. It is relaxing and calming too, and a lovely way to make personal gifts for loved ones. Head over to this beautiful blog for inspiration, and check out Ravelry for ideas and patterns. There are lots of tutorials on Youtube, and your local library will have pattern books that you can borrow.
Quicker than knitting and just as fun, crochet is a great way to make things, from cushion covers to rugs, as well as scarves and gifts. Using yarn and a crochet hook you simply learn the appropriate stitch for the project, building up to more complex patterns once you are confident with the basic stitches. This is a good place to start.
If you want to take your wool crafting out of your home and meet other creative people this is the time to take up making. There are lots of lovely-looking craft cafés springing up all across the world, where people can meet and make things as they drink coffee and talk. An international community that is growing around creativity and wanting to learn something new, and where you can find inspiration for all sorts of projects. For readers in the US this website has lots of resources about wool craft, as well as a fun podcast. Just search online for ‘craft cafés’ in your local area and you will come across places like this in Leeds, UK.
Whilst a full-size wool throw might be a bit ambitious, there’s nothing to stop you whipping up something easy and beautiful, as well as learning a new skill. The perfect way to start a new year.