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13 Ways to Upcycle Sweaters

Upcycle Your Old Sweater to Make Something Unique for a Friend


I like to reuse things as much as possible anyway, but these projects that are created from old sweaters are especially nice to see. The next time one of your old sweaters gets tossed in the dryer too long, you can take comfort in the fact that it can still be transformed into something useful. If you don't want to use your own sweaters for this, you can always get used clothes from places like Goodwill, the Salvation Army thrift store, rummage sales, or flea markets.

Dog Sweater

Bragi Thor Josefsson/Photodisc/Getty Images

I love the idea of turning your old sweater into a garment for your dog! Imagine the possibilities. You could buy two sweaters, one for you and one to transform for a dog sweater. Then you and your dog would actually match. Even if you're just reusing your old sweater for your dog, it gives you kind of a warm fuzzy when you see your pooch wearing something that was once yours. This is also a good gift idea for the dog lover on your list.

Stuffed Animal From an Old Sock

This project has to be one of the cutest (and easiest) I've seen. While the instructions use an old sock to create a stuffed animal, you could easily do this with a sweater too. In fact, I think a nice pattern on the sweater would make a very interesting stuffed animal.

Sweater Tote Bag

I like the looks of this bag, especially when you use a sweater with an interesting pattern. It's great for things like running to the grocery for one or two items, or to carry some lightweight materials from one place to another. Country Living suggests that the bag might be good to hold your knitting projects as well, and I agree!

Pillow Sweater

What a wonderful way to add some warmth to a cozy corner chair or couch. This project takes old sweaters and turns them into decorative pillows. I think the added embellishments on these (like the center button and roses made from sweater material) really add something special. In order to make the flowers, use the cuff of the sweater and draw your thread through the edge.

This project requires a bit more experience with sewing, but it's not difficult to the point that you can't master it. There are some wonderful instructions on the Brassy Apple blog that include step-by-step pictures, so you won't get lost. In fact, basic, straight sewing is all you need to do a plain square pillow. Start with that and then add the embellishments little by litte.

For this project you'll need some sweaters, a pillow form (which you can get at a local sewing or craft store), pins, and a sewing machine. (I don't think hand sewing would work for this project. Machine sewing is much better.) Other sewing oddities like measuring tape, scissors, and a sewing needle and thread will also come in handy.

Felted Holiday Trees

This is a great project to do with the kids. It involves taking felt or old sweaters and cutting circles that vary in size. Put the circles from largest (on the bottom) to smallest (on top), and stack the circles so you can see the edges of each layer. Use different colored sweaters and textures to create interest. Don't worry about getting the circles perfect, either, because part of the charm of this tree is that it has a handcrafted look.

The tutorial suggests using felted sweaters, which, if you've never done it before, is actually pretty easy. You basically throw your sweater in the dryer, so the threads can come together in such a tight way that it becomes felt-like. If you've ever accidentally shrunk one of your sweaters, you know what I'm talking about! The felted circles are placed over a wire, with a star or large beaded item at the top.

Recycled Wool Sweater Blanket

Another great gift idea for someone who seems to have everything. If you can recycle your friend's sweaters and then remake them into something like this, that would make this project even cooler. The Resweater blog advises that you use "sweaters that are made from 80% or more wool." They also remind us that what you're doing in this project is actually called fulling and not felting.

Child's Ruffled Sweater

I like the idea of reusing your old sweaters to create something new and funky for your little girl. This project takes an adult-sized striped sweater and repurposes it as a child's version, with a few ruffles thrown in for good measure. It's fun and frilly.

Sweater Bracelets

A great way to recycle old, wooden bracelets or use the cheap ones you find at the store, this bracelet takes an old sweater and helps create a soft but comfy look for your wrist. It's a beginning project that anyone can do. Get the kids involved on this one, too.

Sweater Snake

Speaking of kids, we can't forget the boys out there! This project from Dabbled.org turns an old sweater (or many different sweaters) into a stuffed snake. I like the versatility in this project, because you can make it as big or small as you want, and add little embellishments to personalize it.

Sweater Stockings

A great gift idea for the holidays! Martha Stewart's website suggests that "sweaters with unusual pockets, collars, or buttons make excellent stockings" and I have to agree. I like the look of a stocking that looks like it was once part of something else. I think a flannel shirt might also work well with this application.

This makes a nice present for the holidays because you can give it as a gift, use it as a special way to wrap a smaller present, easily send it to someone across the miles, or make several for decorations. Even novice crafters would be able to make this one easily.

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