cushions from felted handknits

felted handknit cushion

My brother’s bedroom was very small. There was room for a bed, but not a chair. Beanbags had yet to arrive. So my mother made him two large crochet cushions to use as floor cushions. More than a decade later I adopted one of them. It was useful for sitting on the broad concrete back step, where I liked to read when the weather was fine. My mother would not have allowed any other cushion to be used that way (and I don’t blame her).

When I moved out, the cushion came with me. It was useful to have a floor cushion that was not in the least bit precious. Our couch is very uncomfortable. We try to compensate with cushions. This cushion was the best, so much larger and squidgier than the others. The modern polyester insert in cushions and pillows annoy me, as they can’t be squished about to the shape I want.

Last year I noticed that the crochet cushion was falling apart. Some of the crochet had disintegrated, and one of the seams on its horrible pink lining had burst and I was finally able to see that my mother had stuffed it with ‘thrums’, a collection of short synthetic fibres she had bought with the intention of my father making a latch-hook rug. These may have been a collection of horrible leftover colours, or he may have refused to use them after having used wool prepared specifically for latch-hooking.

Ideas tumbled through my mind last year as I uncluttered my way through the house, particularly my jumper collection and craft supplies.

1. I had a lot of oversized handknit jumpers I had loved, but did not wear anymore. Regardless of the self-talk, I could not get over the sentimental attachment to the jumpers. I did not want them to languish in landfill. I did not want some stranger to wear them or deconstruct them for their own purposes. However, the jumpers could not continue to exist as they were, taking up precious space in my small wardrobe.

2. I had a bag of dyed and carded fleece my mother had given me, one of those purchases she had regretted. The fleece was impossible to work with, slightly matted I think. Also, I did not like the colour much and she would have liked it even less. Neither of us would be spinning it, nor were we about to take up felting.

3. I had some cotton fabric with blue graduated tie-dye stripes, bought with the vague intention of making clothes, thinking that the low price would compensate for it being not-so-attractive. It had been following me around for 20 years or more.

4. I recalled seeing a garbage bag of more ‘thrums’ in my parents’ attic the last time I was up there looking for a suitcase. I could relieve them of the burden of their forgotten clutter. (Uncluttering can become an obsessive occupation.)

As I felted the jumpers (tumble drying was required, and the built up static electricity was a shock: be warned!) I wondered if I was taking things a bit far, being too attached to my clutter, unable to discard items that should truly be discarded. Cutting the jumpers was difficult, as was deciding how to assemble the pieces. It had been easy to cut the cotton fabric, sew it together and stuff it. Three ugly cushions soon appeared. So I stopped trying to make beautiful cushions that would have others drooling with envy, as the project was hanging about being clutter all on its own. I reminded myself that the crochet cushion had been more functional than attractive. I bought a large ballpoint sewing needle for the sewing machine, then settled in to make simple cushions. While sewing it seemed that the seams were stretching the fabric out of shape, but once draped over a cushion insert, they became flat. They are not bulky when I sit or lie on them. I am amazed.

Even more amazing is that the couch is now comfortable to lie on. I find if I wake during the night, I usually cannot return to sleep immediately. After 10 – 30 minutes I get up, do some yoga, read a little, perhaps have something to eat, and then sometimes I am able to return to sleep. However, it is now winter and the bed is usually too cold for immediate sleep when I return, and sometimes the coldness has me waking up again (even if I leave mohair blankets on top of it). So I lie on the couch. And now it is warm and comfortable to sleep on with the three large wool-covered cushions lined up on it. I have a few rugs I place on top of me, and soon I feel very cosy. Bliss!

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