How to Make Hats from Recycled Sweaterscomments (28) October 26th, 2012
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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