Weave New Life into an Old Sweater with a Simple Ribbon Accent

comments (3) January 15th, 2009     

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Tina_Hilton Tina Hilton, contributor
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A simple ribbon weave makes a stylish sweater makeover.
The rich ruby color offers a perfect creative palette.
A vintage ribbon makes all the difference.
A simple ribbon weave makes a stylish sweater makeover.

A simple ribbon weave makes a stylish sweater makeover.

Photo: Tina Hilton

You can easily take a plain Jane sweater and convert it into a sweet and sassy empire-waist top with just a few yards of ribbon and a little spare time.  A sweater with a loose knit will work the best since you will be able to simply weave the ribbon between the stitches and still see bits of color peeking out.

The rich ruby color offers a perfect creative palette.

I am constantly amazed at what I find at the thrifts. My sweater was scored at Goodwill for $3.99. It's a mohair/nylon blend, so I gave it a little swish in a wool wash before beginning the process. Although it's not my size, I will gift it to a friend. Maybe next time I hit the thrifts I will find one for my version, as every trip yields a wondrous surprise!

A vintage ribbon makes all the difference.


  • Ribbon: 3 yards will be plenty. Choose a width that will comfortably fit in the stitches of your sweater. I used a 3/16-inch 100% polyester ribbon I had on hand. Optionally, you could substitute the ribbon with a strand/s of yarn! Make sure that the fiber is compatible with the care requirements of the sweater (i.e., washable or dry cleanable).
  • Tape measure
  • Tapestry needle
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Tailor's sleeve roll (optional)

Step by Step

Measure the sleeve where you will be weaving your ribbon and add 12 inches. Cut two pieces of ribbon to this length.

Check to make sure your ribbon wrist placement is correct.

Thread the tapestry needle and begin weaving in and out, starting at the point where you would like your bow. End at the same stitch you began, making sure you were weaving in a straight line. (Kind of an oxymoron, but you know what I mean.)

Weave the ribbon in just a few threads at a time to avoid putting strain on the knitted stitches.

Make your bow and trim any excess ribbon. Repeat on the other sleeve, checking to see that you are positioning the ribbon at the same place as the other sleeve.

Position the ribbon and mark with a pin to ensure a flattering fit.

Try on the sweater and audition the ribbon position around your torso. When you have it where you want it, hang a safety pin there and evenly around the circumference of the sweater. You will be glad you took the extra time to do this as you can ribbon-weave with ease instead of worrying about if you are straight or not. (Again, maybe not the best choice of words.)

I placed a tailor's sleeve roll under the sweater while pinning to prevent pinning the other side and to provide stability. Any firm, cylindrical item would work, too.

Measure the sweater at the safety pins, double that number, and add at least 20 inches for your bow. Cut your ribbon to that length.

Measure the circumference of the sweater and add 20 inches for the amount of ribbon you'll need.

Begin by taking a stitch at the middle back pin line, and find the midpoint of the ribbon. Pin the midpoint of the ribbon to the midpoint of the sweater back.

Pinning the ribbon to the center back of the sweater will stabilize it as you weave the ends to the front.

Take one end of the ribbon and weave to the front center and repeat with the other ribbon.

Tie your bow and trim any excess ribbon.

Try it on and applaud yourself for your clever sweater makeover!

 Pretty and uber-fem!

A special thanks to my beautiful and talented model, Nikki Caruso. Photographed at Unwound - Unique Yarns and Accessories.

posted in: Ribbon weave sweater, sweater remodeling, thrift store sweater make over

Comments (3)

rainwolfe writes: So simple, yet such great results!
Heading to the thrift store now!
Posted: 12:30 pm on February 2nd
Tina_Hilton writes: Sounds like fun! Next time try this technique on a knit cap with some yarn. It looks so cute.
Posted: 10:44 am on February 2nd
SMVG writes: Tina,

Another winner. I showed this to my daughter and we remodeled two sweaters on a wintery afternoon. Lots of girl talk and hot chocolate. Great way to dress up a wardrobe without breaking the bank.

Posted: 4:54 pm on January 30th
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