My father wasn’t into having a lot of possessions, but he was very particular about the way he dressed. I never saw him wear flip-flops or sneakers—only lace up oxfords or golf shoes (both usually alligator) and always with black or charcoal gray cashmere socks.
When my father passed away in the early 90’s, we gathered enough cashmere socks to fill a hefty trash bag. My sister was ready to send them off to Goodwill, but I wasn’t ready to part with them (I’m a sentimental hoarder). They sat in the bag for some time—I wasn’t sure what to do with them. Some of the socks were well worn with a hole or two, while others looked brand new—but all of them were either black or charcoal gray...and very soft.
One weekend I sorted all of the socks by color (black or gray) and if they had any holes (usually on the heel). I started cutting the holes off and splitting the socks open, and realized I had a generous swatch of cashmere. I decided to patchwork them together—not sure what I would end up with...maybe a throw blanket. I decided to try and make a patchwork sweater out of my cashmere sock pieces.
Here’s how Mr. Peacock made his cashmere sock sweater. Whether you’re an experienced crafter or a newbie, this project is fairly forgiving—“mistakes” and haphazard stitching add to the uniqueness of the sweater. This sweater doesn’t have a neat and tailored cut, it's more of a bohemian loose style. I would plan on dedicating a weekend to finish this project. I hand stitched it, because I think it added to the style of the sweater, but you could certainly use a sewing machine.
Here’s the tools you will need:
• Needle & Heavy duty thread—I used a heavy upholstery thread
• Glue stick
• Sweater Shaver—you can get them for a few bucks at discount stores like Walgreens (my mom gave me one years ago, I though it was a joke, but this little tool is amazing—it “shaves” off any pilling or loose threads on wool or cashmere without damaging the garment)
• A bag of old cashmere or wool socks (you could also use a few old holey cashmere or wool sweaters instead of socks)
First you'll want to make a "pattern" for your patchwork sock sweater from a favorite existing pull-over sweater in your wardrobe.
Glue stick pieces of newspaper together and lay out on the floor. Place your sweater on top of the newspaper and trace with a sharpie pen.
The lines don't have to be perfect, but if you prefer you can use a ruler. Cut the pattern out along the lines and set aside.
Wash all of the socks in hot water and throw them in a dryer. They’ll shrink a bit, but the washing process will almost “felt” the wool or cashmere and deter unraveling when you cut the pieces. I don’t recommend cotton because it will tend to unravel and be problematic.
After you wash and dry your socks, carefully shave any pilling (little balls and bumps) or excessive fuzziness.
You can now begin cutting the pieces. I was somewhat methodical about cutting. First I cut the tops off (make sure to save 2 elasticized tops for your sleeve bottoms), then the heels, and so forth. The goal is to get large swatches of cashmere (or wool).
I stacked the pieces into like colors and textures (some were smooth, and some were ribbed). I then laid them out on the floor over my paper pattern, leaving enough to cover the pattern—until I was pleased with the arrangement of the shapes. It’s good to mix the colors and textures. I then pinned all of the pieces together, and repeated the entire process.
I used a basting stitch (above), with course upholstery thread. Baste all of the pieces together—leaving a ¼ inch seam allowance on the corners.
Above: A couple of patchwork sweaters from Comme des Garçons Winter 2009 season for inspiration. You can mix patterned socks with solids for your homemade patchwork sweater.
You should have 2 basted patch worked pieces of socks that fit over your newspaper pattern. Place the pieces together, with the basted sides facing out. Lay the pattern on top, and pin the 2 pieces together, using the pattern perimeter as your guide. Don’t pin the bottom of the sleeve openings or the neck opening. Baste these together, and remove all of the pins.
Above: Dolce & Gabbana featured a few patchwork sweaters in their Winter 2008 collection. It's the same idea as my sweater—I like the gray palette.
Carefully try on the sweater. Now is the time to make any adjustments, like making the sleeves tighter, the sleeves longer (I made my sleeves longer), or the body length shorter or longer (I left mine shorter).
Now take the 2 saved elasticized sock tops and baste each one on the end of the sleeves (inside out).
With the sweater inside out, go over all of the seams with a blanket stitch (above). Trim the neck to your liking. I chose a boat style neck on my sweater. Blanket stitch along the entire edge of the neck. Carefully remove any loose threads, and it's ready to go. I think the sweater looks equally appealing with the sewn seams showing, or turned inside with the sewn seams hidden—it just depends on your mood and style.
Above: Mr. Peacock loves the knitwear by Clare Tough—a couple sweaters from 2008. I like the addition of the asymmetrical zipper.
Depending on your sewing experience, you could add a zipper or buttons on the front of your patchwork sweater.
As I said, this project is fairly simple, even if you are a beginner crafter. Once you get started, the process will make more sense to you. This patchwork sweater would make a great gift too. If you start this weekend you can make one as a holiday gift...and one for yourself!