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Gift Guides

How to Repair a Wool Sweater

February 22, 2013

Getting the opportunity to try uncommon products is one of the great things about working at UncommonGoods. While many of these product-testing experiments become gift labs, every now and then we find a new good with so many uses we can’t fit them all in one “report.” The Woolfiller Sweater Mending Kit is an example of just such a product, AND, since associate buyer Katie and community moderator Cassie both had their eyes on this winter must-have, we decided to diverge from the traditional gift lab format and see just how many uses we could come up with for this clever kit. Four are outlined below, but Cassie and Katie agree that the fun doesn’t have to stop there!

Katie: Having spotted the Woolfiller at a major New York trade show last year, I was anxious to get such a solution-oriented product into our assortment. A fun, hands-on kit to patch up an old favorite or add some flair to a basic sweater seemed like the perfect DIY project nearly anyone could adopt.To put this product to the test, I decided to tackle two specific projects, the first was to patch the embarrassingly large (and winter chill-inviting) elbow holes on one of my favorite sweaters. After completing the elbow hole patches, I wanted more – I had seen some fun images the company provided where people used the bright colored wool to add some creative patches as flair and I wanted to try this out, which lead to Project two: adding flair.

Cassie and I decided to each purchase one kit – a match made in heaven as this green-adoring girl, could partner with Cassie’s purple-loving self and combine to make a cornucopia of rich, jewel-tone wools mixed with solid staple colors (greys, blacks, beiges) which came in extra handy for my second project. But I would also say that one kit is entirely sufficient – each comes with bright color options as well as neutral, basic colors which should cover a range of sweater needs. And to that point, upon unloading our kits onto a communal table, we were both surprised by how much wool comes in each kit – we went about tearing each ball into half and divvying up our goods.

Project 1: Bold Elbow Patches

Katie: After some deliberation, I chose to patch the elbows of my dark, gray sweater with the natural beige wool – aiming for a contrast patch look – like your grandfather’s sweater.

After choosing the color of wool, I reviewed the simple instructions and went to work. I used a pair of scissors to make the first of my ragged elbow holes into a smooth, even oval to ensure my patches would be as clean-looking as possible. Next, I ripped a decent amount (maybe the width of a lime) of wool off the main piece, turned my sweater inside out, put the provided foam piece in the sleeve, laid the wool over the hole, and began poking!

After completing the first of two patches, I turned my sleeve right-side out to inspect my work. Herein I learned one of the bigger lessons of the project – while the instructions suggest turning your piece inside-out to use the product, I found that by doing that I was less aware of the exact line of the hole (because the piece of wool covered it) and as a result I ended up with what can only be described as a “halo” effect around the patch – one sold patch, with a light ring of excess wool surrounding it.

On elbow #2 I decided to try another approach – again I cut away the ragged edge to make a smooth hole, but this time I left the sweater sleeve right-side out, I inserted the felt piece, and lined the wool up perfectly with the hole and started poking away. I found when I did it this way, I was able to guide the wool into a perfect oval while poking and overall felt much more in control of the overall work. When complete, the patch appeared much more perfect and solid.

After completing the elbow patches, I moved onto my next experiment…

Project 2: Adding a Little Flair

Katie: I decided to do a simple trio of mini circles with bright colors. Having learned from my elbow patches, I left my sweater right-side out, tore of tiny circles of wool (about the size of a quarter), and started poking away! I found my technique was much-improved, I used my fingers to expertly guide the wool and before I knew it I had my little flair added in.

In the interest of science, here are my key Findings:

Finding #1:
This kit comes with a lot of wool. I was surprised by how little wool it took to patch up my rather large elbow holes. I have a lot of wool leftover and am just waiting for a quiet Sunday to get to patchin’ my slew of other well-worn sweaters.

Finding #2:
The more you poke – the more “felted” the wool becomes. Good thing poking is super fun.

Finding #3:
As mentioned above, the kit recommends turning the piece inside-out and then using the wool filler, however, I found this created a slight ‘halo effect’ around the actual patch, and when I tested using the kit the opposite way – with the sweater turned right-side out, I was very pleased with the results – I could control the pokes more and create a clean oval with no halo.

Finding #4:
The Woolfiller is a really easy, creative way to patch.

Having now completed two projects on one beloved, well-worn sweater, I can vouch for the usability and honestly–the fun– this product provided.I passed the DIY-sweater-patch torch along to Cassie.

Project 3: The No-Show Repair

Cassie: I also had a beloved sweater with a hole in it. Unlike Katie, I didn’t want my repair job to be super noticeable. My hole was just under the arm of a multi-colored sweater, so I hoped I could blend the new wool in and make the sweater look like new. Taking her findings into consideration, I began my exercise in craftology.

I started out the same way, by finding the hole, turning the sweater inside out, and inserting the foam block. Then I picked out a couple of colors that I thought would mix nicely with my sweater’s pattern.

I placed the wool over the holes and started poking. It was really fun, and, because the sweater is 100% wool the new wool took almost instantly. I pricked at the wool with the felting needle for less than a minute before the patch was completely attached, but I kept at it for a little longer, just to make sure it was blended well.

I turned the sweater back inside in and gave it a few more pokes, just to give the wool a smoother look. The finished product looked good, and the patch feels just like the rest of the sweater.

While I agree with most of Katie’s key findings, I found that starting with the sweater inside out worked great for a small, blended patch. She preferred the look of the patch when she placed the wool directly over the hole without turning her garment inside out first. I’d recommend doing a test on your own piece, by woolfilling just a small section of the patch, before completing your own project.

Project 4: Super Star Style

Cassie: Giving my sweater a quick fix was fun and easy, but after seeing Katie’s bold patches and the little bundle of flair she added to her project, I was a little jealous. I wanted to give my own colorful creation a try, so I decided to add a little shape to an old cardigan.

First I drew a star shape on a small piece of scratch paper. Then, I cut out the star, leaving an outline. Next, I placed the outline over the elbow of my sweater. (Remember to insert the foam block first.)

I didn’t turn the sweater inside out this time, since I wasn’t actually making a real “patch,” I was just covering up the existing material with new wool.

I put a little ball of bright pink wool in the center of the star shape, then started stretching it out to fill the cutout as I poked it with the felting needle. I didn’t secure the star before starting this process, which made it a little trickier than it had to be. Next time I’ll hold it in place with some fabric tape or a safety pin.

I gradually added more wool and pulled it into the shape of the star as I worked at it with the felting needle. Once I had the outline filled in I removed the paper and then poked carefully around the outside edges of the star to give it a sharper shape.

Since the cardigan isn’t entirely wool (it’s a blend also containing nylon and cotton), it took a lot longer for the woolfiller to adhere this time than it did with the 100% wool sweater I’d used it on before.

The star turned out well, but there was one problem. I was so focused on creating my shape that I forgot to move my foam block the whole time I was poking. The wool (and the sweater) got stuck to the block, so It was somewhat difficult to remove when I was done. Make sure to readjust the block several times during your project to make sure this doesn’t happen!

I’ll definitely try this again next time I want to give an old sweater a new look. Next time, I might try a heart, a triangle or square, or maybe even a letter.

Through our multiple sweater patching projects, we learned that the Woolfiller Sweater Mending Kit is a great way to repair a damaged sweater, give old wool a new look, or add a personal touch to your favorite pieces.

And, bonus, it’s not just for sweaters. It works on any pretty much anything made of wool!

The Uncommon Life

Can Diana F+ Come Out and Play? by Alli of Kisses & Chaos

March 28, 2012

Photographer and blogger Alli wrote about her Diana Camera on her blog, Kisses & Chaos, not too long ago. We loved her tips and stories so much that we asked her if she would kindly share her experience with you.

I have recently had the pleasure of partnering with Uncommon Goods…purveyors of all things quirky and awesome. If they don’t have it then you don’t need it… there’s a little something for everyone. They have amazing gift ideas for women. Have a hard to shop for man in your life? They’ve got you covered with great gifts for him too…but I’m getting away from the point and my point is a good one…

A few weeks ago they were kind enough to send me the Diana F+ camera kit (which I have been wanting for ages) with some Lomography 120 black and white film (I already had the color film), asked me to go play and then tell you guys what I think. Seriously? You don’t have to ask me twice, no sir. So play I did.

The instruction manual was actually helpful! Say what? I know! A helpful instruction manual? Bust out your ice skates ’cause hell froze over. It’s short, sweet and to the point. That’s my kind of instruction manual. No long explanations – just quick and easy. It explained the settings and (surprising) features. A toy camera with features? Yup. You heard right. It has the basics you find with any toy camera with one exception: it has a pinhole setting. It’s like someone getting their peanut butter in my chocolate. This camera is Bruce Wayne by day and Batman by night…your average toy camera with vignetting and saturated colors but then BAM! it also has this secret pinhole identity which creates dreamy photographic goodness. This revelation brought about the infamous “Alli Happy Dance-Dance-Dance of Joy and Happiness™.” +1

property of Kisses & Chaos
(Good god, I’m an idiot.)

Ok. Playtime details:

I have other toy cameras (Holgas, quad cams, polaroids, etc) but I have never had the chance to play with a Diana. Though really lightweight it felt sturdier than my other toy cameras. I was impressed that the back plate actually has a good locking mechanism so it doesn’t accidentally pop off and expose your film. (I have had this happen with my Holga -which is why it is now held shut with electrical tape- and it is very frustrating to have a roll of film ruined due to poor construction…I’m just sayin’…some people say it’s part of the “charm” of a toy camera…I think those people must have a lot of disposable income cause I get m-a-a-a-a-a-d when my film gets ruined in the name of “charm.”) Safe and secure film makes Alli a happy camper. +1

The film was easy to load (unlike my Holga, which you have to man handle and knock around) : +1. The locking back plate, lens and other accessories were easy to get on and off : +1. As I wound the black and white film I noticed that I had to strain to see the exposure number on my film and it was a VERY bright sunny day. I initially thought this was a flaw with the camera, but after shooting with a different brand of film I discovered the fault actually lay with the black & white film I was using. (The extremely dark paper made it impossible to read the film. Boo.)

So as I traipsed around the countryside taking photos of cows’ butts, camera around my neck, I discovered that the lens cap had fallen off somewhere amid the tall grass. I spent the next 5 minutes retracing my steps trying to find it (which I did). Loose lens cap: –1.

I decided to try out the pinhole feature using the bulb setting (which means the shutter stays open until you release it). The Diana comes with this little, well, to use the technical term, thingy-ma-bob that you pop into place to keep the shutter open for long exposures. Brilliant idea! I didn’t have to hold the shutter release manually which can cause camera shake. Fantastic! +1. But it was awkward to use and kept falling out…which subsequently caused camera shake. Damn! Hopefully it will be easier to use with practice but for now it counts as a –1.

above and below: playing with the pinhole settings

Since the camera is a toy camera, the film has to be advanced manually. This has its advantages and its drawbacks. Drawback? If you forget to wind your film you wind up with double exposures. Advantage? The film doesn’t wind automatically so you can have double exposures. I like to play with double exposures, so for me this was a total perk. +1

I would love to try the Diana with a flash and shoot indoors. The kit, sadly, doesn’t come with a Diana flash…it has to be bought separately (-1)…of course you can also buy a hotshoe adaptor which means you can a non-Diana flash if you like, but I think I will, since I am all anal & matchy-matchy, buy the Diana flash (and the adaptor because I’m a weirdo like that).

The kit did come with a hardback book – Diana F+: More True Tales & Short Stores, which is a collection of essays and images of, you guessed it, the infamous Diana camera. I doubt I would ever buy the book separately, but I enjoyed skimming it (even if I think the book’s claim of being filled with work by “Diana masters” was over-selling it a bit… Okay…totally overselling it. I think the “shoot from the hip” photo movement is absolute rubbish and an insult to photography. It’s best not to get me started). +1

So let’s tally up the score. The Diana F+ camera receives a grand total of…*drum roll please*… 4 points! What does this mean? Absolutely nothing. I have no point scale… but here are my final thoughts:

I will not use the film again… between the dark paper making it impossible to read the frame number and what I consider to be poor quality film I’ll be sticking with my Kodak 120 for all my medium format photographic needs. I must say, however, that I do love this camera to bits and it will likely replace my Holga as my toy camera of choice. It was fun and easy to use. Thank you, UncommonGoods for giving me such a wonderful new toy! (And to dear friends and family who are reading this: I know what I’m getting you for your birthdays… whether you think you want one or not. You’ll thank me later. The great and powerful Oz has spoken.)

Kisses & Chaos,
Alli Woods Frederick

image/video credits: image #1 © uncommon goods

all other images © 2012 Alli Woods Frederick. all rights reserved. use without express written permission is prohibited.


Which Bracelet Says it Best?

July 8, 2011

These hand-cast, sterling silver bangles are made with love by archeologist-turned-artist Mary Steratore. A clever way to brighten someone’s day or show off your personal motto, we want to spread the word about these bold bangles. Our buyers are asking: Which phrase do you love most?

Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.
Christy has her eye on At First Glance. “A very loving sentiment! I would be very pleased with this item as a gift!”

Terry is beaming over My Sunshine. “I want to buy this as soon as it’s available”

Regreet(TM) is sharing love for Outside the Lines on Twitter “(@regreet) @FezzyWog colors outside the lines RT @UncommonGoods: Do you color outside the lines?”

Do you love one of these fabulous phrases? Or, is To Thine Own Self or Be Bold a better quote for you? Visit our Community Voting App and speak up. We want to know which words you’d wear!

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