Breasts have such a nice, round, comforting shape. It just seemed a natural logical step to make breast hand warmers from the cashmere sweater.
Step 1: Obtain and Felt Cashmere
Comb the local thrift stores and look at the labels. I avoid the synthetic fiber blends. If you're lucky enough to score a 100% cashmere sweater in a flesh tone, take it home and wash it in hot water. Sure, the care label will say ridiculous things like "dry clean only" or "hand wash in cold water" or "lick clean," but just ignore them. I was unimpressed when I first touched 100% cashmere; it just didn't feel that soft. After it was felted, though, I was smitten. Washing wool in hot water with a little soap makes the fibers get crinkly and cling to each other. This makes the holes in the knit smaller and fluffs out the texture quite a bit.
Cashmere takes longer to felt than other types of wool. Check the sweater after you've washed it once. If it hasn't shrunk much and isn't very fuzzy, wash it again. Most people have to run cashmere sweaters through at least 3 hot water washing machine cycles.
Step 2: Trace and Cut Pattern
It's difficult to trace a pattern onto any knit. I use powder to transfer the design. I could've used flour, but this time I scraped some of the kids' sidewalk chalk, dabbed it onto the cashmere around the foam pattern, and used that as a guide.
If you felted your cashmere properly, it shouldn't unravel when you cut it.
Step 3: Sew and Fill
I wanted these to remind women to do their monthly breast self exams (early detection of breast cancer is key), so I filled them with lentils and rice. I used a cut off soda bottle as a funnel, filled the boob, then used a ladder stitch to sew shut the opening by hand without much thread showing. I tied a small knot to finish it off, then poked the threaded needle through the boob, pulled it out the other side, and trimmed off the excess so that the thread tail was inside the boob.
Step 4: Sew on the Nipple
Roll up a small piece of fabric. Tie a knot in your pink embroidery floss, then push the needle through the center of the small roll of fabric, pulling the thread taut with the knot on one side. Push the needle through the center of the circle of pink wool.
Hold the pink circle over the cashmere boob. Stitch down into the boob and back out the pink circle to secure it. Stitch the pink circle to the cashmere base all around the raised center. The raised center with the roll of fabric under the wool will form the nipple.
Stitch around the areola so the threads form lines like spokes on a wheel. Once your stitches go all the way around the areola, make some random running stitches through the spokes around in the circle to make the areola look a little puckered. Make a blanket stitch around the perimeter of the pink wool circle.
Once the areola is embroidered, it's time to make the nipple stand out. Poke the needle through the nipple, making a small stitch and poking it through again close to where the needle entered it. Keep going through the center (see pictures for reference), pulling the thread tight in order to draw the nipple in.
If you want the nipple to look more finished, sew spokes inward to cover up the wool, especially if the knit was pulled enough to show the spaces.
Once the nipple sticks out as much as you'd like and the areola has the stitching you're pleased with, tie a knot in the thread, poke the needle in through the nipple, through to the other side of the boob, then trim off any excess so the tail of the thread is inside the hand warmer.
You can throw these in the microwave for 30 seconds, put them in your pocket, and they'll stay warm for a good amount of time.