First, a few guidelines for working with old sweaters for the following projects:
When cutting a sweater, be careful to keep it from unraveling. Most small-gauge machine-knits, like thin store-bought sweaters, will probably be fine, but for big and chunky, you’ll want to use the existing hem or cuff as an edge when possible. If there’s no way to avoid a raw edge, you can fold it over and secure it with hot-glue. If you’re more craft-oriented, sew a firm line of stitches about half an inch or so from the cut edge. There are some good tips for crafting with old sweaters here, and they don’t just apply to sewing projects.
For nearly all of these ideas, it’s easy to swap out sewing for hot-glueing when the instructions call for it. And felting — when you shrink something woolen in the hot washer and dryer, the way you’ve probably actively avoided doing your entire life — will make the fabric thicker and much less likely to fray.
Bonus pro-tip: do not use a sweater somebody handknit for you or they will never speak to you again.
1. Sweater cuffs:
Check out the full instructions at Organize Your Stuff Now and keep your wrists warm through the winter.
Or try these directions, which require some sewing, here.
3. Sweater mittens:
Instructions from A Beautiful Mess; you can use a glue gun if you don’t sew (and if you’ve always wanted to learn how, this is an awesome, easy project to start on. Plus, if you mess up, you’ll still have a ton of fabric to try again with.)
4. If you prefer your mittens fingerless:
Learn how to make these here, but an even easier method would be to simply cut thumb holes in the cuffs of two sleeves you’ve cut to your preferred length.
5. Sweater pillows:
Instructions available at BrassyApple. Prepare to never leave your couch again when these are done.
Super easy and perfect for Halloween. Find out how to make them here.
7. A simple sweater-wrapped wreath:
Crafty Little Gnome provides the instructions, and you can embellish it (or not) however you want.
8. Trick boot socks:
Just cut the sleeves off of an old sweater and secure the cut edge. These are great when worn over tights because they give the look of big knit socks without the added bulk. (Not that I’d ever knock the value of big knit socks.)
9. And legwarmers:
You can accessorize these tons of different ways.
10. Cup or jar cozies:
Keep your coffee, tea, or Hot Toddy warm with this project.
11. A floppy tote bag:
From Perched on A Whim. Use it as a reusable shopping bag.
12. Felted basket:
Use it to hold all of your yarn, of course. This idea comes from the master of all crafters Martha Stewart.
Not sure how much of a fire hazard this could be, but check out the instructions at Country Living.
15. Pet bed:
This project definitely requires more time and effort, since it calls for felting and sewing. But the payoff — a delighted dog or cat or iguana or whatever you happen to have — makes it all worth it.
This version doesn’t require felting, although you’ll still have to sew. BUT JUST LOOK AT THAT FACE.
17. Hot water bottle cozy:
A recycled turtleneck sweater will fit a hot water bottle perfectly.
19. Laptop cover:
Find out how to make it here. If you’re planning on hot-glueing instead of sewing, use a second layer of glue to reinforce the edges and make sure it’s as strong as possible. Either way, this won’t keep your computer safe in the event that you drop it or something equally terrifying; it’ll just keep it extra cozy. You could also size down to turn this project into an iPad, iPhone, or other iThing cover.
20. Wine bottle cozy:
This awesomely simple project comes from Grey Likes Weddings and doesn’t require anything besides cutting and pinning (and drinking.)
Learn how to do the almost-as-easy felted version at Apartment Therapy.
23. Gift wrap:
Cut off a cuff and slip it around a small box.
This video shows you how to make a pom-pom out of yarn.
25. Surprisingly easy chair cushion covers:
All this project takes is some tacks or a staple gun.
If you’re feeling really ambitious and your chair has a cushion on the backboard, you could try covering that as well.
27. Make these sweater sleeve slippers:
Amy Morby has a tutorial for these.
28. Or just cut out felted insoles for shoes you already have:
29. Infinity scarf:
Instructions from b. organic; again, hot-glueing or iron-on hemming tape can stand in for sewing. You might even be able to get away without finishing the edges at all, especially if you’re going for a slightly deconstructed frayed look.
30. Cozies for mugs, vases, ottomans, table legs, pillows, and dogs:
This site looks promising but unfortunately it is in Finnish, and Google Translate is proving woefully inadequate. (Sample line: “Now is the time to make shirts to something useful, so I’ll take a pair of scissors in your hand, and the plan for making it.” It’s actually quite poetic.)
Use the site for visual inspiration and apply some of the tricks above; the ottoman, for example, looks like it could be easily covered with the body of a huge sweater if you hot-glue the unsightly cut edges underneath. Or if you happen to speak Finnish, a legion of crafters would be forever grateful for your help.