11 Ways to Upcycle Old Sweaters
Find simple sewing and craft projects made from old sweaters.
©Ellen Luckett Baker
Photo By: unknown ©Denise DuBois
These sweater flowers bloom year round, make unique gifts for kids to give and are easy to put together. Ellen Luckett Baker, author of 1, 2, 3 Sew and blogger at thelongthread.com, fashioned these flowers out of circles cut from felted wool sweaters and glued to pieces of wire hanger. The leaves are cut from cereal boxes and coated with acrylic paint.
Whimsical fabric critters are the specialty of Kathryn Johnson (Dust in My Eye at Etsy.com). This smartphone/iPod cover is a slim 3”x 5” pocket sewn from a felted wool sweater — that is, a sweater washed in hot water and dried until the fabric tightens into felt. The fabric froggy is hand-appliqued to the front.
Kathryn Johnson offers a charming menagerie of plush monster characters at her Etsy shop, Dust in My Eye, all recycled from unloved sweaters. This fellow, called “Battyfly,” is crafted from an old wool sweater stuffed with fiberfill; his expressive face and diminutive wings are made from cotton fabric and buttons.
Continuing the holiday theme, pattern designer Betz White recycled a rainbow of candy-colored sweaters into adorable stockings and trimmed them with ribbons and other notions. The pattern is available in her sweater craft book, Warm Fuzzies: 30 Sweet Felted Projects.
This scarf mimics the look of a cowl sweater but is much less fussy. Linda Christian snipped up an outdated purple thrift-store sweater, doubled the fabric, and stitched together by hand into a soft, beautiful scarf. The rosette is made from remnants of the sweater — the petals are constructed in the style of traditional Japanese kanzashi (folded) flowers, and the center is simply twisted fabric. You can find this scarf and other repurposed projects at Christian’s Etsy shop, KeepsOnTicking.
Wool sweaters go hand-in-hand with the holidays, so give them a second life as part of your seasonal decorations. Author and pattern designer Betz White, who blogs at betzwhite.com, is an ace at upcycling old sweaters. She does so many projects, in fact, that she acquired a stash of odd leftover ribbed cuffs that didn’t quite fit anywhere. That is, until she made this wreath, which consists of 200 old cuffs rolled up and pinned to a 12-inch straw wreath form. White snipped the edges of some cuffs to create loops or fringe for added effect.
Etsy shop owner Denise DuBois (House on the Hill Quilts) loves making pillows from her old sweaters and her stash of fabric remnants and notions. “Cotton sweaters work the best for me,” she says. “They don’t stretch as much as polyester or wool and, best of all, they won’t pill!” Cable-knit sweaters in particular make smart-looking contemporary designs. Here, DuBois machine-quilted a panel cut from an old sweater to a piece of cotton batting and some fabric backing so that the pillow retains its shape.
Designed by the craft team at Michaels, this project is as simple as it gets: Cut off the sleeve of an old sweater, slide a wine bottle inside, and gather at the top using whatever embellishments you have in your box of notions. Great as a wine cozy for gift-giving, or you can also cover an empty bottle and use it as a vase for flowers.
To make this soft mini purse, Fiskars craft designer Kendra McCracken chose a thrift-store sweater with a generous rib that forms an interesting edge for the flap — far easier, she points out, than knitting a bag from scratch. The purse has a denim lining with a box bottom to create more room inside for must-have items, and the simple shoulder strap is made from braided yarn.
Betz White’s frilly take on an upcycled scarf is made of two layers cut from ultra-soft secondhand cashmere sweaters. The layers are shirred together, creating a ruffled effect and a gentle bounce when worn.
Christina Hibbs, who blogs about thrifty decorating at christinasadventures.com, crafted a too-short sweater into a custom piece of textured wall art. She distressed some frames she bought at a yard sale, hot-glued pieces of her old sweater onto cardboard backing and added a stencil design in a metallic silver.