Repurpose, Recycle, and Reuse: Cutting Edge Creations From Cast-off Sweaters

comments (5) July 23rd, 2008     

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Tina_Hilton Tina Hilton, contributor
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This rainbow of felted sweaters are ready for a radical transformation through recycling.
It took less than 15 seconds for my cat, Bird, to claim this felting reject as her own!
This rainbow of felted sweaters are ready for a radical transformation through recycling.

This rainbow of felted sweaters are ready for a radical transformation through recycling.

Photo: Tina Hilton

One of the hottest craft trends going are creating gotta’ have items from abandoned sweaters. Neglected and discarded sweaters can be transformed into both practical and fanciful items for pennies. Giving these orphan sweaters a new life is good for the planet and a tonic for the creative soul.

Felting (also known as fulling) will serve a dual purpose. First, by washing in hot water, you will dislodge dirt and odor which is especially critical with the thrift store treasures. 100% wool sweaters is the way to go as you will have wonky results if it contains a blend of synthetic fibers. I usually throw the sweater in the washer intact but there are some who swear by the dismantling method. They carefully take the sweater apart by the seams (when there is a sewn seam) providing them with finished edges on the pieces which will not unravel in the process.

Pack rat that I am, I don’t get rid of stuff and I often haunt yard sales and thrift stores, consequently I have a good stash of sweaters to experiment with. Remember this is not an exact science and results will vary during the felting process. Keep an open mind when you drop your woolies in the wash. If you initially have a distinct purpose for a particular sweater, it may not felt the way you envisioned. Don’t despair, you will find a use for it. When all else fails, the cat/dog will be delighted to snuggle with it!

The items you can make with felted sweaters are only limited by your imagination. Handbags, book covers, hats, toys, throw pillows, even “new” pieced sweaterjacks. There is a wealth of resources to get you on your way to recycled sweater heaven. Try your hand at this hot new craft and you may never knit again. NOT!

Craft Queen Stefanie Girard’s awesome new book, Sweater Surgery: How to Make New Things with Old Sweaters, about repurposing sweaters has just been released. Check out the accompanying website for a free pattern tasting and all kinds of crafty goodness. For more on Stephanie check out her other awesome blog.

Even More Resources!


Knit well and often,

Tina Hilton

posted in: yarn, fulling, recycled sweaters, repurposing sweaters, eco crafts.

Comments (5)

ReFabulous writes: Oooohh! I love fulling those thrift store sweaters! I started making ipod/cell phone cozies from them last summer. I embroider little felt designs on them, and sew the edges with a cute blanket stitch. They're quick and fun -- and instant gratification! I've also made needle books from those sweaters, too. The felt is so much thicker and nicer than the cheap felt at the craft stores, so the needlebooks have a nice weight to them.
Posted: 12:06 am on August 22nd
Tina_Hilton writes: I love your ideas! Please send me pictures of your creations to kick start the repurposing inspiration. It has been a little toasty to work with felt lately but it's fun stockpiling sweaters for the frenzy of deconstruction/reconstruction I have planned for this Fall!
Posted: 10:57 am on August 3rd
Shelle writes: I love making purses/tote bags from wool sweaters. I get a thrill when I find a gorgeous 100% wool fisherman sweater! Love browsing Goodwill stores for wool sweaters. I have 2 HUGE tubs full now, of washed sweaters ready for re-purposing. If I could put my crochet hook down long enough...
:O Thank you for sharing your info. I'm off to try to contact Jennifer about the boleros - they sound intriguing!
Posted: 7:30 pm on July 24th
imjustso writes: I have repurposed at a few sweaters as cat beds. The cats sometimes chose to do the repurposing for me - like when a navy angora sweater fell on the closet floor and I didn't notice. I have some beautiful sweaters that I can't give away despite the fact that *ahem* they shrank. Doing something with them is on my list of things to do after I move.

Bird is lovely. That facial expression says "this one is mine."
Posted: 10:53 pm on July 23rd
JenniferStern writes: Hey Tina...I have a pile of sweaters waiting for me to do something with. I was on Nantucket this past week and I saw some really cool bolero jackets make from recycled sweaters (The whole open edge of the jacket was created from the oversized scoop neck opening of a vintage sweater.) They were incredible. As soon as my apartment cools off so I can stand working with all my hot sweaters, I'm going to give it a go.

Posted: 2:44 pm on July 23rd
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