How to Make Hats from Recycled Sweaters

comments (28) October 26th, 2012     

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CalPatch cal patch, contributor
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Give an old favorite sweater new life by turning it into a hat.
The shape of your pattern should look like these.
Using a tiny zigzag stitch will give more stretch than a regular straight stitch.
Give an old favorite sweater new life by turning it into a hat.

Give an old favorite sweater new life by turning it into a hat.

Photo: Cal Patch
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Everyone has a favorite old wool sweater that's been shrunken and felted in the washer. But you may not realize what a bounty of craft material a shrunken sweater is! I've used them to make rugs, mittens, dog sweaters...and the most versatile gift item of all: hats. I'm going to show you how to make recycled sweater hats for the entire family, and everyone else on your list, too!

Felted knits are great to work with because the edges won't unravel, they're stretchy (as opposed to felt), and you're saving them from the landfill. You can get a second life out of stained or moth-eaten sweaters, too; just shrink them and then cut around the holes or stains when you cut out your pattern.

You'll need one felted sweater (you may get two or more hats out of one sweater, depending on the size of the sweater and the hats you're making). If you don't have any handy, a thrift store usually has loads of shrunken knits or ones you can felt yourself. Just throw them in the washer and dryer. Most sweaters will felt, as long as they are made from an animal fiber, like wool, mohair, cashmere, alpaca, etc. Avoid cottons and synthetics.

1. Measure the head of the intended recipient. You'll need circumference (around the fullest part of the head, just above the ears) and height (from the top center of the head down to the bottom of the ears, or however long you want the hat to be).

2. Make your pattern. This hat is made from five panels sewn together. To determine the width of your panels, divide the head circumference by 5, then add 1 inch for seam allowance (1/2 inch each side). My head measures 22 inches around, so dividing it by 5 gave me 4.4, which I rounded up to 4-1/2. Adding 1 inch gives me 5-1/2 inches. Add 1 inch to your length measurement. Mine was 8-1/2 inches, so I have 9-1/2 inches for my total length. Cut a rectangle out of cardstock or paper that measures the length by the width (mine was 9-1/2 inches by 5-1/2 inches). Fold the pattern lengthwise in half, and holding it with the fold on the left, trim the upper half of the right-side edge so that it curves toward the fold, ending in a point at the fold. (See the photo of my panels to get an idea of the shape.) Unfold the piece and you should have something like a beehive shape. Use this pattern to cut out five pieces from your sweater. If you want a binding on the bottom edge of the hat, you'll need another rectangular piece that measures (head circumference + 1 inch) by 2 inches.

  The shape of your pattern should look like these.

3. Sew the seams.Pin two pieces together, with right sides facing, along one of the long sides, and sew using 1/2-inch seam allowance. Start at the bottom edge, and stop 1/2 inch from the point at the top. I used a tiny zigzag stitch (1.5mm x 1.5mm) to give the seams some stretch. Repeat to connect the remaining three pieces, then sew the first panel to the last.

  Here's a close-up of my tiny zigzag stitch seam. This gives more stretch than a regular straight stitch.
  Here's the hat, inside out, after the five seams are sewn.

4.Press open the seams, and trim away some of the bulky seam allowances at the top of the hat to flatten it out. Then topstitch every seam from the right side, stitching through the seam allowances to make them stay flat. For this I used a wide (7mm) three-step zigzag, but you could use a straight stitch if you prefer.

  Topstitching both sides of the seams from the right side helps the seam allowances lie flat.

5.At this point you could just hem the bottom edge and the hat would be finished. I chose to add a binding using one of the snowflake stripes from my sweater. First, seam together the short ends of your binding strip. I overlapped them to minimize the bulky layers. Then pin the binding around the bottom edge of the hat, folded so that the hat is sandwiched between the two layers of binding. Be sure that the inside layer is at least as long as (or longer than) the outside layer so that both can be caught in one seam. I used the same wide three-step zigzag to sew on the binding, as this seam definitely needs some stretch.

  Seam together the short ends of your binding band.

And there you have it! There are lots of possibilities for variations and embellishments, so be prepared to get addicted to making these. Try cutting the pieces along the bottom rib of the sweater, and you won't even need to hem the hat. Make appliqués out of the felted sweater scraps, or make a hat where each panel is from a different sweater!

  The finished hat with binding.
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posted in: gift, women, hat, baby, children, men, gifts for men

Comments (28)

Gift_wrapping_ideas writes: what a lovely idea for the winter. I've just made a summer hat last week.here: http://tinyurl.com/dyzz9m9
Posted: 4:22 am on April 23rd
3lloyd13 writes: I had to read the comments to find out what "felted" meant. Would boiling water do the trick?
Posted: 3:05 pm on December 9th
RushDAPHNE23 writes: I had a dream to make my company, nevertheless I did not have enough amount of cash to do this. Thank God my friend told to utilize the loan. Therefore I used the commercial loan and made real my old dream.
Posted: 8:40 am on October 11th
HatfieldTWILA writes: Make your life more easy take the credit loans and all you need.
Posted: 6:51 am on October 10th
Kerstin_R writes: @Mari8 - I think the half inch refers to the seam allowance. If you close all seams up to the seam allowance, but not one stitch further, all seams will end at the same point and there won´t be any opening. :)
Posted: 7:19 am on September 23rd
Mari8 writes: Thank you for this great tutorial! I felted my favorite sweater so I am making lemonade out of lemons. Or more like, hat out of child size sweater.

I have a question so I hope you come back here in April: At what point do you sew up the top of the hat? Did I make my hole too big? I am going to hand sew the top shut now (after I have sewn open the seams) as it does not seem to be disappearing on its own. Did I do this right?

Posted: 1:48 pm on April 12th
madebykate writes: I like this how to!
I'd like to post it on my blog, can i translate it into italian?
Posted: 2:32 pm on January 13th
evechild writes: I very much want to make a cloche-style hat (with slight covering for my ears, and a brim that is slightly raised in the back at the nape of the neck) out of a slightly shrunk pure cashmere sweater.

I love the 20's style form fitting cloche hats with a curved brim at the nape of the neck. . The slight raise in the brim at the nape of the neck allows the wearer to tip the head back without the action 'lifting' the whole hat slightly off the head, as this action uncovers the ears a bit, and allows cold winds into the ear.

That is the problem with all hats, unless they have those dangling ear flaps!

Any one have a pattern, and tips on cutting precious cashmere?
Posted: 12:20 pm on January 11th
hairgoddess1 writes: I love the hats made from recycled sweaters!!
I am a cancer survivor and it would be wonderful if anyone
making these hats would donate them to a local oncology
center for those who are going through treatment.

Given your crafty idea this is something I am now considering!


Posted: 8:00 pm on January 4th
msskitty writes: that's a neat ideal. u can save money too. I might have to try this.
Posted: 7:42 pm on January 4th
sewstylingirl writes: I can't wait to try this!
Posted: 11:39 am on December 18th
quilties writes: Hmmm, maybe I can redeem myself for the sweater of my hubby's that I shrunk years ago...by making him a hat this year. Thanks for the great idea!
Posted: 6:15 pm on December 14th
SexyKolora writes: Thank you for share it. Is a very useful idea, specially for now. Im freezing here.
Posted: 12:18 pm on December 14th
Killdoomkid writes: Wow, I need to try this!!! :)
Posted: 4:17 pm on December 18th
szlata writes: I love this idea. As you can guess, I hate to throw away anything that can be given a new life. I enjoy thrift shops, now I can look at the sweaters tht are too small for me and see them as hats.
Posted: 11:45 am on October 25th
ringelpunkt writes: So lovely.
Posted: 10:42 am on September 21st
glittergrandma writes: Wonderful ! I have a sweater I did not want to part with, great directions thank you.
Posted: 6:10 pm on March 20th
billyjane writes: lovely!i'm making hats out of old tees and use cotton mostly,and i found one woolen and tried and it worked great,although mine is simpler,with only two pieces,but i like your pattern too,have to try it soon=]
Posted: 2:41 pm on January 3rd
cynergyplus1 writes: Thanks so much for a great idea! I made several of these as Xmas presents, and also made mittens with coordinating scarves. I came up with an alternate way to do the hat, if you have a sweater with an existing rib band that can work for the edge of the hat. I'll post the pictures. Thanks Cal Patch!
Posted: 1:07 pm on December 21st
scrunch writes: Thanks for this fabulous idea !!!!! I plan on making my brothers grandson one for the holidays !!!!!!
Posted: 10:01 am on December 9th
crafty1900 writes: I am going to make one of these!
Posted: 10:54 am on December 8th
ohnoshesews writes: This is such a great idea! Thanks for the well-written tutorial and pictures. This would be a nice club project to salvage old sweaters and turn them into hats for the local homeless shelters. You could get a standardized mens/womens measurement to fit most adults. I think it would be a nice way to help keep someone warm this winter and use up those shrunken wool sweaters that we all have hanging around in the closets. Can't wait to get started on this project!
Posted: 3:43 pm on December 6th
lilkiddos writes: What a great idea! I might have to consider it on my Christmas to do list.
Thanks,
Amy
www.CustomKids.etsy.com

Posted: 9:11 am on December 6th
Toffy writes: What a wonderful project. Excellent way to gift and use old sweaters. Kudos
Posted: 9:05 am on December 6th
granitatogo writes: I know what I'm going to give my daughters' boy friends for Christmas now! The only challenge: measuring their heads without their guessing why! thank you!
Posted: 5:43 am on December 6th
CalPatch writes: hi josefly! i do mean both; i use 1.5mm for the length AND width. it just makes a good stretch stitch without all the back-and-forthing of a real stretch stitch.
and for the shrinking, ususally only once is enough, but if you want it more felted, doing it two or three times may increase the felting (or it may not). every sweater is different, and sometimes the fibers are coated to PREVENT shrinking, so it won't work on every sweater.
thanks for your questions ;n)
Posted: 9:05 pm on December 5th
Josefly writes: Thanks so much for the idea and instructions. I have 2 questions, if you don't mind answering:

When you say "tiny zig-zag" do you mean tiny stitch length, or tiny zig-zag width, or both?

To felt the wool sweater, is it necessary to wash and dry more than once?



Posted: 1:35 pm on December 5th
LindaPermann writes: I'm going to try this one of these days. I have the sweater ready to go...
Posted: 6:09 pm on December 3rd
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