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The List: 6 Ways to Repurpose Old Sweaters

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If you can’t donate your old sweaters, use them for some of these cool projects, from home décor to handbags.

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.

Do you have other ideas for repurposing unwanted sweaters? Share them in the comments below.
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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

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  • Lucy T. 2 months ago
    Lots of ideas on the hometalk site - just use their search box. Here's one that looks very simple to do:
    http://www.hometalk.com/6091322/how-to-make-a-wreath-using-a-sweater
  • Diana R. 4 months ago
    Decorate them for an ugly sweater contest.
  • John B. 4 months ago
    Wool sweaters make great dusters!
  • Stephanie F. 5 months ago
    My mom makes mittens, hats, and leg warmers out of them. You can also decorate potted plants with them.
  • Melissa H. 5 months ago
    I crochet, so if I wear out the elbows of a sweater, I just make patches for them. I do some oval or round ones. My favorite black cardigan got a hole in the elbow and I crocheted a red heart for it- it looks so neat.
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