10 Ways to Craft with Old Sweaters + 5 New Ideas
By: Caley Walsh
You likely have some sweaters thrown in the back of your closet, damaged with a stain, moth hole or two. Instead of tossing old and unused sweaters, turn them into something new and completely loveable. You can also look for inexpensive sweaters at the thrift store. Crafting with old sweaters saves money on craft materials and helps to reduce your household waste.
- Yarn- If you knit, crochet or even weave, salvage the yarn from an old sweater to use in a new project. Find a seam in the sweater and carefully snip one of the seam stitches with a pair of very sharp scissors. Use a blunt needle to lift out the seam stitches, snipping the seam yarn for each. For a knit sweater, you want to unravel the yarn from the cast off edge, generally at the top of the sweater since sweaters are made from the bottom up. Start ripping from the last cast off stitch and carefully wind the yarn into a ball as you go. You should end up with four or more balls of yarn from the different sweater pieces. Here’s how to wind an easy center-pull ball of yarn.
- Felt- Sweaters that are at least 20% wool can be felted in your washing machine. 100% wool sweaters will give a sturdier felt for different crafts. Make sure the sweater has not been treated to make it washable, such as “superwash, ” as these will not felt. Throw the sweater into a zippered delicates bag and wash on high heat. Dry on high heat, cleaning the lint trap frequently. Some sweaters require more than one wash and dry to fully felt. The sweater will eventually shrink dramatically and will be ready to cut apart!
- Pillows- Use a pillow form to help you measure and mark the size for your throw pillow on the old sweater. You need a sewing machine for this project or a bit of patience with hand sewing. Follow this tutorial to create Recycled Sweater Pillows.
- Potholders- Stitch several layers of the old sweater together and add binding or trim around the edges to create potholders. You can also use thick quilt batting to fill the inside of your upcycled sweater potholder.
- Plastic Bag Holder- Have a dog you need to clean up after on walks? Use the sleeve of an older sweater to create a handy plastic bag holder to hang from a door. The stretchy wrist end is perfect for the bottom and you don’t even need to stitch it closed. Just cut the shoulder seam and sew a neater edge. You can add embellishments such as ric-rac at the edges or cut out “Dog Walk” in fabric letters and appliqué to the sweater sleeve. Loop a piece of elastic and sew to the top to hang from a door.
- Brooches- A brooch adds instant style to any jacket, sweater or bag. Either felt the sweater first to prevent unraveling or double-stitch a flower shape with your sewing machine. Use a fabric pencil to mark a simple floral design and double stitch over this design. Cut out the shape at least 1 cm away from the stitch line. Stitch and cut out another floral shape slightly smaller than the first. Layer the two flowers and sew together with an interesting button.
- Coffee Cup Sleeves or Water Bottle Cozies- Cut a band in your old sweater sleeve to make a coffee cup sleeve, or use a larger piece of the sleeve for a water bottle cozy. You can felt the sweater first to make a more solid material fit for embroidery and other embellishing.
- Paper Craft- Cut out small pieces of wool for embellishing scrapbook pages or handmade cards. Cut out letters or even tiny sweater or scarf shapes for autumn. Make a wonderfully textured tree with an old fuzzy angora sweater.
- Blanket or Quilt- If you have several old sweaters, turn them into lovely blanket or quilt. You can cut the sweaters into blocks or varying shapes, and even use the ribbing for the edges of the blanket. Check out this photo tutorial on quilt piece cutting for help. Some sweaters may be too thick for the sewing machine, so you will have to pin and hand-sew pieces together with right sides facing and ½ inch seam allowance. If seams do not lay flat after steam-ironing, hand-stitch seams to back of the blanket. Thinner sweaters can be sewn with the sewing machine and can be given a fabric backing.
- Toys- Whether felted or not, old sweaters are a great material for making toys or stuffed animals. Create a puppet with the sleeve of a sweater. Hem the cut edge to prevent fraying. To make the head of the puppet, you can simply sew the cuff together straight across or trim a curved line and sew. For a puppet with hair, gather a few inches of the cuff and weave the thread back and forth. Pull tight and secure the thread. Cut off some of the gathered cuff to leave fuzzy hair.
Plus 5 New Projects to Make with Old Sweaters:
Leg Warmers from Sweater- Leg warmers and faux boot tops are trendy, but can be expensive. Fear not, they can be crafted from a sweater found at home.
Recycled Sweater Mini Trees- Leg warmers and faux boot tops are trendy, but can be expensive. Fear not, they can be crafted from a sweater found at home.
- Felt Flower Mini Tote- Use felted wool sweaters to sew a mini felt tote adorned with felt flowers and other embellishments. Reinvent your old or damaged wool sweaters or pick some up from the thrift store for this clever sewing craft. Follow this sewing tutorial to make a pretty mini tote for spring.
Sweater Tote- Looking for unique free craft ideas? Try transforming your old sweaters into Sweater Totes with this step-by-step tutorial.
- Felting Wool Sweaters- Felting is the process by which animal fibers (wool) are fused together with the application of heat, water, and pressure to form felt. For a shortcut, felt a wool sweater in the washer with hot water and soap. Once felted, the sweater should have shrunk dramatically and you should no longer see the stitches of the original garment.
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