Once upon a time, I was given some coasters. They were glass with photos in them and they were good. But then time passed and they got manky. I did nothing about it. They got even more manky. I still did nothing about it. But then I was sitting on the Tube (the "subway", to those not of a British bent) and saw a lady wearing an interesting jacket and it inspired me to make new coasters. No, the jacket was not made of beer mats - don't get cheeky.
So here is the product of my inspired Tube journey: non-manky coasters. The best part is that they are made from a re-purposed jumper (that is "sweater" to the non-Brits) and strips of fabric from my stash. All made in an evening at no cost whatsoever and with no sewing. Yup, I'm feeling smug with my new place for my mug.
- a 100% wool sweater (jumper)
- 2 x co-ordinating woven fabrics. I have used quilting cottons but you could equally use other woven fabrics that fray nicely, but do think about the fact that mugs will rest on the fabrics and those fabrics which might become water stained or have dyes that bleed may not be suitable. The amount you need will depend on the number of coasters you make.
- marking pen or pencil
- craft knife or utility knife
- fabric glue
Here follows the how-to:
1. Buy or re-purpose an old chunky knit sweater (jumper in the UK) with 100% wool content. Be warned that sometimes even 100% wool does not full and felt properly due to chemicals being added in the manufacturing process that prevent shrinkage. If the sweater doesn’t felt it may not be your fault, try another sweater.
2. Prepare the sweater by cutting off the sleeves and cutting open the seams, so that the sleeves lie flat. Removing the sleeves prevents them from felting with a crease in them.
3. Wash the sweater in the washing machine on a hot cycle with detergent. Include some jeans in the wash to add friction. The sweater is properly felted if when you cut an edge, the fabric does not unravel. If the sweater does not felt to your satisfaction the first time, wash it a second time. If after the second attempt it does not felt well, try another sweater. Once the sweater is felted fully, air dry it or tumble dry it on a low setting.
4. Cut 4 squares (or 6 or 8 or however many coasters you want to make) from the felt so that each square measures 4.5" x 4.5" (11.4cm x 11.4cm).
5. Now we are going to cut slashes in the felt, through which to weave the strips of fabric. We'll begin by marking the first row of slashes. In the photos I have used a pink gel pen to mark these points to allow them to be seen clearly in the photographs, but I suggest you use a fade-away marker or other marking tool that is not indelible.
Make the first mark 3/8" (1cm) from the top edge of the square and 3/4" (1.9cm) from the side. From this point, mark a point for a slash every 3/4" (1.9cm), giving you a total of 6 points for slashes along one side of the felt square.
6. To create the woven fabric strips, ensure that the the fabric has been ripped across the width of the fabric instead of cut. This ensures that the strips will a) have lovely ripped raw edges and b) that the strips rip at an even width. If you have a cut edge, then clip into the selvedge edge of the fabric and rip across the width.
Now, clip into the selvedge edge 1" (2.5cm) from the ripped edge of the fabric to create a 1" (2.5cm) strip of fabric.
7. Using a craft or utility knife (I used my Olfa Rotary Point Cutter) cut slashes through the felt at the marked points. The slashes should be approximately 1/4" (6mm) wide.
8. Weave the ripped fabric strip in and out of the slashes in the felt with the ends overhanging the top edge of the felt. I pulled at the woven strip so that the fabric was not pulled tight, but was sort of puffed up slightly to show more of the fabric. Trim the ripped fabric edges so that they overhang the felt coaster edges by 1" (2.5cm).
9. Now to measure for your next rows of woven fabric strips. Mark 3 more points 3/8" (1cm) from the the top edge of the felt coaster with each point spaced 1" (2.5cm) apart. Of course if you are less picky than I am, you could just eyeball it so that the next three rows of slashes line up with the first row.
From each of these points marked along the top edge, mark 5 more points spaced 3/4" (1.9cm) apart, so that each row has a total of 6 points where you will position the slashes.
I chose to mark and slash one row at a time, weaving through the fabric as I went because with this thick felt it became difficult to see where I had slashed it.
Remember to trim the ripped fabric edges so that they overhang the felt coaster edges by 1" (2.5cm).
10. Flip the coaster over so that the wrong side is facing you. Fold the cut edges of the ripped fabric strips at 45 degree angles so that you create a mitred point. Apply glue to the folded edges.
11. Wrap the mitred end of the fabric strip over the edge of the felt and tuck the point of the folded end into the first slash. Hold down with your fingers to allow the glue to dry.
12. Repeat this process of folding, gluing and tucking in the fabric strips until every cut edge of the fabric strips is tucked away safely.
13. Repeat this process for each coaster until you have a full set. Then make a caffeinated beverage of your choice and enjoy the new place to rest your mug.
© Colleen Babcock 2010, All Rights Reserved
If you really love re-purposed craft projects like this, you'll love Betz White's books. I am currently in love with her book "Sewing Green". I adore the little draft excluder from re-purposed corduroy, the slippers from a felted wool sweater, and the lounge pants (trousers in the UK) from an old bed sheet. Don't you just love re-purposing? It makes you feel so virtuous. Get a hit of virtue and check out Betz's book: