How to Turn '80s Sweaters into Fashionable Floor Cushions

comments (16) March 5th, 2014     

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erika_kern Erika Kern, contributor
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The beloved Cosby sweater finds new life as a comfy floor cushion.
The bigger the sweater, the easier the cushion cover, but worry not if you find a smaller sweater that you love! Use patterns that complement each other and piece them together with basic quilting techniques. The front of this cushion is just a great big log cabin square.
Thrift stores are filled to the rafters with loud 80s sweaters. Since there are so many out there, you can get them for almost nothing. The average price of the sweaters in this pile was about $2. One of them cost a whopping 46 cents!
The beloved Cosby sweater finds new life as a comfy floor cushion.

The beloved Cosby sweater finds new life as a comfy floor cushion.

Photo: Erika Kern

It's confession time-I love a patterned sweater. Take a look through my photo albums and you'll see sweater after sweater with bright abstract patterns worn with leggings (of course!). . . I looked like the lost, secret, Cosby kid! I was quite the fashion plate. . . or at least I thought so. Today my personal style has calmed down a bit, but I'm still drawn to loud sweaters every time I walk into a thrift store. For ages, I just passed them by, but I've finally figured out a use for them. Cushion covers! 

I'd picked up these floor cushions on my last trip to Ikea and they've been sitting in my garage for months waiting for the right idea. It was during my weekly thrift store excursion when the idea hit me: Ikea cushions + Cosby sweaters = Awesome CraftStylish project just waiting to happen!

Here's what you'll need:

  • Sweaters (two to three if you want to do a patchwork cushion or one very big one, XXL or larger)
  • Scissors
  • Rotary cutter and cutting mat
  • Straight pins
  • Sewing machine or serger
  • Walking foot
  • Thread
  • Cushion (I used an 28-inch by 28-inch cushion from Ikea that is no longer available.)

First, find your sweaters! Look for large sizes and even larger patterns to make your cushions really pop!

  Thrift stores are filled to the rafters with loud '80s sweaters. Since there are so many out there, you can get them for almost nothing. The average price of the sweaters in this pile was about $2. One of them cost a whopping 46 cents!


Wash the sweaters as soon as you get home. Who knows how long they've been at the thrift store! As much as I love those places, they sure do smell sometimes, but with a quick tumble in the wash that stink comes right off. Once washed, take your sweaters apart at the seams and remove the collar.

  The dismantled sweater. If you're using one sweater for your cushion, use the back of the sweater as the front of your cover (it's the largest piece of fabric) and the front and sleeves for the back.


Use your rotary cutter to square off the sweater back for the front of your cushion. Do the same with the front of the sweater, cutting about 2 inches down from the dip of the neck hole, squaring off the sides, and leaving the ribbed bottom alone, which makes the perfect finished edge.

  Cut the sleeves into two rectangles. Sew the short ends together and finish the raw edges with a serger or a zigzag stitch on your machine. This will be the under piece for your envelope-style cover. The top piece will be the front of your sweater with the top squared off. 


  Use lots of pins to keep the knit fabric from sliding around as you sew. I placed mine about 1-1/2 inches apart.


posted in: sweater, thrift store, Cosby sweater

Comments (16)

Lilee writes: This is an idea which could help me build covers for some of our more than 10 floor pillows, which I've be beside myself about recovering since material and zippers are so expensive! Thank you for sharing, this could save me so much work and money, and acrylic will hold up better under regular washing than upholstery fabric & vinyl.
I have a Japanese-style diningroom, thus the high number of cushions which serve as chairs, and we have friends with baby boys! Every time the kids come over some of every food gets dropped and ground into the cushions. Any ideas on making them even more spill-proof, like some kind of lining?
Posted: 11:56 am on June 19th
SandyEvelynne writes: Erika - so well done - good on you. Instructions and photos excellent and the whole concept is a great idea. My dog would love them too! I wonder if that would keep her fur off the rest of the lounge, room, house!! Probably not - she's a lab.
Posted: 2:27 am on June 1st
sbell writes: The Today show had a segment on turning old sparkly christmas sweaters into cushions. Does anyone have the instructions?
Posted: 12:28 pm on January 6th
rainwolfe writes: Your post + beautiful sweater that no longer fits + $3.00 on clearance pillow from home store (+ribbon for accent)=
Beautiful new home decor!
Posted: 12:34 pm on February 2nd
erika_kern writes: lindesign53: Oh. . . sorry, I don't mean like an actual envelope, I just mean it as a style of pillow cover closure. The kind that doesn't need a zip or buttons.

So your back will be made of 2 pieces of material, a larger piece and a smaller one. When you're pinning the front to back you'll place the large backing piece down on your front fabric and then the smaller piece. There should be an overlap, I usually overlap about 5". You should be able to see what I mean in the pictures, especially the shot of the pinned cover and the shots of the backs of the pillows.
Posted: 12:57 am on January 20th
lindesign53 writes: I'd love to try this as I can't throw anything away, especially those gorgeous sweaters. One thing I don't get about the construction: you say sew it like an envelope. You are seaming two sides, and one side is folded over. Once you turn it inside out, what do you do with the flap? Thanks.
Posted: 11:45 am on January 18th
erika_kern writes: SandieSews: I found mine at a local thrift where they always have green ticket or white ticket or pink ticket days. On the what ever color day you go in anything with that color ticket is half off. A lot of the smaller, non-chain, type thrifts have those days. Also lots of Salvation Army stores will mark down anything that's there a long time, and most of these sweaters are in the thrifts a LONG time.
Posted: 3:48 pm on January 17th
queenopearls writes: Thrift stores, Goodwill, Salvation Army... lots of sweaters. I found a much-too-small cashmere sweater ($2.99 at St. Vincent Charity thrift store) that will make a great pillow! The sleeves are going to be wrist warmers after I dye them with kool aid. (nearly boiling water in an appropriately sized pot, throw in a packet or two of your favorite un-sweetened kool aid or generic drink mix, stuff in your wool of choice and watch it soak up the color).
Posted: 8:52 am on January 11th
sandiesews writes: Please tell, where did you find sweaters at that price?!!!

Posted: 6:35 pm on January 10th
artlikebread writes: hahah! I love the pudding pop line! Great idea!
Posted: 10:45 am on January 10th
Jen1964 writes: Great idea! YOu know how many of those sweaters are turning up in garage sales, rummage sales, and the like... and in great condition too... Would a "sweater swap" party be another source? Just don't tell your friends what you're planning to do! Might even work for the shrunken woolies... for the pet beds. Our dog always goes for the pillows, when she gets up on the furniture. Oh, and she's learned to claw down any afghans resting on the backs of the furniture. Do all dogs love the feeling of yarn? Anyway the floor pillows would soon be her favorite spots in the house. I could live with that.
We love re-covering old pillowforms. It's more efficient than buying the new ones all the time. And the covers do wear out.
Once you've secured the edges, while I know you could sew them, you could probably crochet them together, with both sturdy and decorative stitches. Has to be tight enough or they'll stretch though. I liked the idea I saw somewhere that put knitting in log cabin quilt patterns... if the sweater itself isn't already loud enough for you. Anything's possible once you start cutting them up!
Posted: 8:01 am on January 10th
Kips writes: This is a great idea ! I need to do this!
Posted: 7:56 am on January 10th
Neddie writes: I love this ideal i have alot of sweaters
Posted: 9:09 pm on January 8th
croqzine writes: Awesome. I love Cosby sweaters. This is a hit!
Posted: 5:27 pm on January 7th
erika_kern writes: They are way comfy too!
I like to sit on the floor to work and it's getting harder now that I'm getting older. These cushions are just the boost my aging rump needs. AND since the sweaters I used are old acrylic ones they are completely machine washable!
Posted: 3:21 pm on January 7th
kaytet writes: so great! i need to make some floor pillows too and this is a good idea!
Posted: 3:13 pm on January 7th
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