Thursday, March 18, 2010

Beers Need Sweaters Too

Yes, just the thing you never knew your beer needed -- a sweater! I had read that felted wool is a great natural insulator and I've seen other people make coozies out of felted wool so I figured it was my turn to try my hand at it. I was on a big sweater felting kick a few months ago so I have ridiculous amount of felted sweaters stuffed into my closet, begging to be turned into something incredible. I was able to whip up this quick beer sweater in just a night for a birthday gift. It's the perfect present for someone you know but don't know well but know well enough to know they like to drink beer.
First things first, you need a felted wool sweater. Felting a sweater is easy -- all you have to do is go down to Goodwill, find a couple of sweaters in colors you like, bring 'em home and wash them in hot water and a little detergent with a tennis ball for some friction. All the fibers shrink down and your sweater basically becomes felt. Here's a good tutorial for felting sweaters with lots of tips as far as what kind of sweater to pick and warnings about your washing machine and dryer. It's super easy. The hardest part is controlling yourself at Goodwill and not buying every wool sweater you can find. Well, that's the hardest part for me.
Once you have your felted wool, it's time to cut it up! I used one of Mr. Cakes's empty beer bottles that was sitting in our recycling bin to measure. I ended up cutting out a rectangle 10" long and 5" tall, giving lots of extra room length-wise. Keep in mind when measuring that you want the coozie to fit snugly around the bottle and that your felted wool stretches. I then cut out a circle for the bottom -- I used something just a smidge smaller than the beer bottle bottom, again because of the stretch factor.
Next I got out my needle and thread and sewed the two short ends of the rectangle together. I wrapped the felt around the beer bottle and pulled it tight (but not too tight) so I could see about where I wanted to put my seam. My piece of wool didn't have a "right side" -- both sides looked the same -- but if you use a sweater with a "right side" and an "inside-out side" then you want to sew the ends together with the "right side" on the inside. You get me? Because you'll be turning it inside out so the seam's on the inside and the "right side" is on the outside. Anyway, to stitch I used three strands of black embroidery floss, small stitches, and went over the seam several times to make sure it was tight since there'll be a lot of pulling at that seam every time someone slides a beer in. Trim the excess fabric along the seam, flip your little cuff of felt inside out and you can see your coozie taking shape.

Not flipped (see the seam on the left?)
Take your little circle of felt and stitch it on along the bottom. I was going to do it the same way I did the side seam so that the stitching wouldn't show but that made the bottom really bulky and lumpy which meant more potential for a party foul, ie a beer falling over which no one wants. So instead I stitched along the outside using a...I don't know what kind of a stitch this is called.
Now it's time to decorate! I used felt letters that I cut out using my Cricut and stitched them onto my coozie. Ta-da! Remember to trace the letters backwards so you don't see any pen marks when you stitch them on.
You can use so many things to decorate! Felt, embroidery, buttons, fabric paint, applique...I see myself making another beer sweater in the near future. One thing -- if I do letters again, I'll probably stitch them on at the very beginning, before I stitch the coozie itself together -- I think it'll be a lot easier. I also think I want to add little sleeves to the next one so it'll be a true beer sweater. A sweater for every beer!

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