Transform a Wool Sweater into a Felted Vest

comments (5) February 22nd, 2013     

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Tina_Hilton Tina Hilton, contributor
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Give an old sweater in your life a second chance with a little makeover.
Simply cut off the collar and sleeves of a felted sweater.
You can even reuse the sleeves.
Give an old sweater in your life a second chance with a little makeover.

Give an old sweater in your life a second chance with a little makeover.

Photo: Sloan Howard
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excerpted from the article "Knit Knack," in CraftStylish Restyle, p. 22

Sweater styles change, but sometimes, you can't bring yourself to toss out (or donate) an old knit garment that's a terrific color, made of wonderful fiber, or has sentimental value. Keep that sweater in your life: give it a style makeover.

One of my favorite ways to transform a sweater is to start by felting it. This means you have to start with a sweater that's 100-percent wool-or a blend of wool and another feltable fiber (no acrylic, please). Here, I transformed a huge men's Icelandic-style pullover into a cropped, ethnic-style vest-­­and a matching pair of cozy mitts. All this sweater really needed was a trip or two through the washing machine, some cutting and reshaping, and a hand-sewn trim-instant gratification.

Felt the Sweater

Although there's no sewing in this step, it's still one of the most transformative parts of the process.

1. Wash the sweater. Set the washing machine for its hottest cycle, and add a no-rinse wool-wash product. Start washing the sweater, but stop the machine and check its progress a couple of times during the wash cycle. This sweater was washed twice. When you like the texture, run the sweater through the spin cycle.

  Wash the sweater.

2. Dry the felted sweater. Use a hot setting. Machine drying removes any remaining loose fibers-so be sure to clean out the washer and dryer after you've finished felting.

  Dry the felted sweater.

Reshape it
You can cut and resize the sweater any way you like, and because it's felted, the edges won't ravel.

1. Remove the neck and sleeves. First, cut off the neck band. Then lay the sweater as flat and smooth as possible. To remove the sleeves, cut along the bottom of the yoke design. To widen the neck opening, cut along one pattern row. If you want to make the body narrower, pin in new side seams, and machine-stitch them, right sides together. Trim off any excess seam allowance.

  Cut off the neck band.


  Pin in the side seams to reduce bulk.

Add a decorative stitch
Chunky yarn and a simple blanket stitch make a trim that's in perfect proportion to this lofty sweater. Choose a contrasting yarn for a splash of color, and apply it to the neckline and armhole raw edges.

1. Start the stitch. Thread a tapestry needle with yarn. Bring the needle up from the wrong side of the sweater about 3⁄4 inch from the raw edge. Pull the yarn through, leaving a 3-inch tail on the wrong side.

  Start the stitch.

2. Complete the stitch. Working from left to right, carry the yarn over the raw edge of the sweater, and bring the needle up from the wrong side, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 inch to the right of where you started the stitch. Keep the needle over the loop of yarn, as shown. Pull to tighten. Repeat. When you return to your starting point, knot the yarn ends together on the wrong side, and trim.

  Complete the stitch.

Turn the sleeves into mitts
Don't toss the sleeves you cut off; they're perfect for a pair of toasty fingerless mitts.

1. Cut out the sleeve seam. First, try on the sleeve, and mark the length you want for your mitts. Shorten the sleeve there. Then, cut out the sleeve seam to open the side of the mitt as far as the
top of the cuff.

  Cut out the sleeve seam.

2. Open the thumb hole. Determine where you want the thumb hole, and cut open the cuff seam until the hole is large enough for your thumb. Hand-sew a few stitches at each end of the opening to prevent raveling.

  Open the thumb hole.

3. Fit the mitt. Turn the sleeve inside-out, and put it on, inserting your thumb through the thumb hole. Pin the sleeve seam to fit your arm. Machine-sew the new seam, and trim away the excess fabric.

  Fit the mitt.

4. Blanket-stitch the edges. Hand-sew around the top edge of each mitt with contrast yarn, as described above.

  Blanket-stitch the edges.


  Finished vest and mitt!
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posted in: sweater, felt, knit, vest

Comments (5)

TinaHilton writes: Hi from another Tina Hilton! You could be my clone, except for the fact that we look so different. I'm a craftsperson too, mostly weaving and spinning. Have you ever made a felted tote bag from a wool sweater? That's fun too.
Posted: 8:29 pm on December 14th
Tina_Hilton writes: One of the best parts of this process is scouring the local thrift shops for diamonds in the rough. I have a stack of reclaimed sweaters ready to be converted to hats, bags, pillows, vests, cat beds, hot pads, mittens, scarves - somebody stop me!!!!
Posted: 5:38 pm on October 7th
Sweet_Dee writes: Very cool! Love the fact that you reused rather than buy or trash. And I, too, love the red blanket stitch. the colour combos are awesome!
Posted: 3:08 pm on September 26th
VeryPrairie writes: I especially love the red blanket stitched edges, very cool project!
Posted: 6:14 pm on September 24th
theemptynest writes: LOVE IT!!!!! I have the same felting fetish. Great job.
your friend,
The Empty Nest
Posted: 5:21 pm on September 23rd
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