You will need
- An old, adult-sized, 100% wool, non-superwash sweater
- A scrap of patterned cotton fabric in a toning colour
- Matching sewing thread
- A Velcro (hook and loop closure) dot or short length of Velcro tape
- Paper, pencil and ruler to make a pattern
- Sewing machine
- Dressmaking scissors
- Pins, needles, tacking thread
- Chalk pencil or water-soluble crayon
- Washing machine
- Iron, preferably steam
- A ½” or ¾” (12mm or 18mm) bias binding maker (optional)
Step 1: Felting the Fabric
The Kindle cover is made out of an old jumper that has been felted (or, strictly speaking, milled). One wash in the machine at 90oC (195oF) will probably achieve this, but who washes at such temperatures nowadays? Instead, throw the jumper in with a wash of cottons at 40oC (105oF) or above. Agitation is just as important as heat in getting the fibres to matt together, which is why it needs to be a vigorous cotton wash not one for synthetics, and why it is best put in with other items rather than on its own. When it comes out, it should already have shrunk a little (if not, put it back in the next wash, or try a higher temperature) and you can cut apart the seams without fear of it unravelling. Separate it into a front, back and 2 sleeves. You will only need a front or back for this project, but you might as well felt the rest of it too.
Keep putting the sweater pieces back in the washing machine every time you do a wash until they are about half to two thirds the size they started off at and nice and thick and a little stiff. In between washes, hang them up in the fresh air so they don’t go mouldy through being wet all the time. Also, each time you remove them from the machine, check to see that they aren’t creased – if you don’t deal with creases they will get worse and be impossible to remove. Use a steam iron (or a damp cloth and a dry iron) to remove any creases after each wash.
It may take 5 or 6 washes at 40 or 50oC (105 or 120oF) to get the necessary degree of felting. Then dry the material thoroughly and press it flat with the steam iron. If the jumper is patterned (like the stripes in the one I used), you may need to tug the pieces into shape as you steam them to get rid of distortions in the pattern.
Step 2: Cutting Out
Start by making a paper pattern. For a 166 mm x 114 mm x 8.7 mm Kindle, draw a 7.75” x 11.5”(19.5cm x 29cm) rectangle on a piece of paper, leaving some space on the paper above the long edge for the flap of the cover. Draw a line down the middle (ie joining the centres of the two long edges) to indicate the fold line. For now, draw in a rough semi-circle above the left hand side of the long edge, protruding 2.75” (7cm) above it. This flap shape will be refined later. See the photo of the cut-out piece of fabric if this is unclear.
Decide which side of the felted fabric you want to be on the outside of your case – sometimes what was the inside of the jumper is more interesting than the outside after felting. Then lay it right side (ie outside of the finished case) up and pin the paper pattern onto it with the flap semicircle on the left. Or you may prefer to lay the pattern down on the wrong side of the fabric with the flap semicircle on the right and draw round it with a chalk pencil or coloured crayon instead of pinning it. Either way, cut out the shape with dressmaking scissors. It will be quite hard going as the felted fabric will be thick and a little stiff, but do-able as long as your scissors are reasonably sharp.
You also need to cut bias binding from the scrap fabric. I used ½” (12mm) binding, for which I had to cut a 1” (25mm) strip of cotton fabric, but you may need to use ¾” (18mm) binding if your felted fabric is very thick, in which case cut a 1.5” (37mm) wide strip. Experiment with both if necessary, to find out which is better. The binding strip must be cut on the bias, ie at 45o to the selvedge of the fabric, and you’ll need a length of about 15” (38cm). Draw parallel lines the correct distance apart on the back of the fabric with chalk or a crayon and then cut out the strip.
If you have a bias binding maker, the next step is easy – just use it to iron the creases into your binding. Otherwise, you will have to do it the hard way – not too tedious for such a short strip. Start by folding it in half lengthways (ie the 2 long edges together), wrong sides together, and iron in the fold. Then open it out (wrong side up) and fold one of the long edges in almost to the centre crease, and iron that fold all along the length of the strip. Do the same with the other long edge. Finally, fold it with both edges in to the centre and the strip folded in half along its centre crease and press it like that too.
Step 3: Trying for Size
Fold the felted fabric around your Kindle, wrong side out, and pin the side and bottom edges together so that the cover fits very snugly. The opening edge of the case should just come beyond the top edge of the Kindle, maybe ¼” (6mm). The position of the side and bottom seams will depend to some extent on the thickness and flexibility of the felted fabric, so this step is important and the paper pattern is on the generous side to allow for this. Once you have worked out where the seams need to be, mark them with chalk or a crayon (on the wrong side) and then take out the pins and trim the seam allowance to about ¼” (6mm) or the width of a suitable guideline on your sewing machine. Mark the fold line of the case with a pin near the top edge.
Now for the flap. Draw a curved shape, either freehand or with the help of some cylindrical object of appropriate size, on the wrong side of the fabric. One side of the flap needs to start at the fold line, and the other side at the seam line, and it must be symmetrical. Cut yourself a paper pattern if you wish, then it is easy to fold it in half and make sure both sides are the same before marking (but not yet cutting) the fabric on the wrong side.
Pop your Kindle back in the case (wrong sides out again), pin along the seam allowances and check the flap will look OK when it is folded over. Adjust its shape and size if necessary. My flap comes down about 1.75” (4.5cm) onto the front of the case, if it is much smaller than that you will have trouble finding enough space for the Velcro fastening. Use a pin to mark where the fastening needs to go on the front of the case, positioning it so that it is at least ¼” (6mm) from the top edge to allow room for the bias binding trim. Check also that the other half of the fastening will not be too near the edge of the flap, which will also be bound. You may need to make your flap longer than you were planning to achieve this. Cut it to its final shape when you are happy and then mark the position of the Velcro on the outside of the case front with chalk or a crayon.
Step 4: Binding the Opening Edge
With the case opened out flat, pin and then tack the bias binding in place around the opening edge and flap, working from one side seam across to the other. Apply the right side of the binding to the right side of the cover. Turn the end under to avoid a raw edge in the seam and do the same at the other end.
Because of the thickness of the felted fabric, you may need to position the binding with its raw edge slightly beyond the cut edge of the cover. After you’ve tacked a couple of inches of binding in place, check that it will fold over neatly to encase the edge and readjust if not. It may be, if you are using ½” binding, that this is the point where you realise it will need to be wider, but persevere with narrow binding if you can, it looks neater.
When you get to the two corners where the flap starts and ends, don’t pull the binding tight, try to use a little extra so that it will go around the corner when you come to fold it over.
Having tacked it all in place, sew the binding along the fold line using a very small machine stitch and pivoting at each side of the flap. Check it will fold over neatly and only then remove the tacking and fasten off the thread ends. Pin it over onto the inside of the cover with the free edge turned under along the fold line and tack it in place, pulling it quite tight. Then slipstitch the edge down on the inside. Press it, then machine the Velcro in place on the front of the cover – it is much easier to do this now than once the seam has been sewn. Use a short stitch for strength.