When I moved from chilly New York City to balmy Atlanta, I dragged along a huge sweater collection, which has been gathering dust in my drawers ever since — even in January, there are few days here that justify wearing a chunky, wool cardigan. So after a decade of storing my beloved sweaters, I’m finally ready to make room for more warm-weather appropriate attire.
But what to do with all my unwanted sweaters? I thought of donating or consigning them, but when I looked through the pile, I realized that many of them have little stains, missing buttons, or holes, making them less than ideal for donation.
I didn’t want to throw them in the trash, so I did a little research and discovered that you can do some really fun projects with old sweaters. My collection, and a little creativity, should keep me busy for months to come! If you have your own stash of un-wearable sweaters, these projects promise to prolong their usefulness in new and thoughtful ways.
1. Throw Pillows: My sweaters that are brightly colored, or that have interesting cable knits and other details, would make great throw pillows for my sofa or bed. All it takes is a few snips and a few easy seams, either on a sewing machine or by hand. I might even use a few folded sweaters to fill the pillows with, rather than a pillow form!
2. Felted Wool Handbag: I’ve always wanted to try my hand at felting, and using an old wool sweater as a starting point is a lot easier than having to knit up the fabric first. This tutorial gives step-by-step instructions for felting as well as for cutting and sewing the bag. FYI — make sure to check the label before trying to felt a sweater; synthetic fibers will not work.
3. Coffee Sleeves: I love the idea of making a coffee sleeve using the arms of a sweater. Not only are you upcycling a sweater, but you’re also creating a reusable sleeve, so you don’t have to use the wasteful disposable ones. (Plus, you can use the torso of the sweater for another project.) Of course, if you’re eco-minded, you probably drink from a reusable travel mug rather than a disposable cup. I plan to make a larger coffee sleeve to slide over my metal travel mug, which gets unpleasantly cold to the touch!
4. Pet Bed: My cats love to curl up on my clothes anyway, so I thought this pet bed, made of an old sweater or sweatshirt, would be ideal. I love how the torso forms the middle of the bed and the sleeves form the sides — so clever! One of my sweaters would work for my little cats, but an extra-large men’s sweater would be better for a small to medium-sized dog.
5. Throw Blanket: I can never have too many throw blankets — they are the perfect thing to curl up under while watching TV, reading a book, or taking a nap. And I love the idea of paying tribute to my collection of sweaters by giving each a place of honor in a new patchwork-style blanket. An old flannel bed sheet would be a good option if you want to sew a back onto the blanket.
6. Basket: Martha Stewart turned an Aran-wool sweater into a felted knitting basket, but I like the idea of using this basic plan to turn sweaters of different sizes and colors into a whole assortment of baskets that can then be used to corral remotes, store toys, sort mail, or function as other organizers around the house.