Recycle Sweaters: Make a Throw or Pillow

Old wool sweaters make great gifts when felted and pieced into throws and pillows.


What You'll Need
  • Old wool sweaters
  • Liquid dishwashing soap
  • Matching sewing threads
  • Seam stabilizer
  • Felted wool fabric (optional)
  • Pinking shears
  • Pillow form
  • Yarn and large-eye needle (optional)
How to Make It
Felt the Sweaters
  1. Gather sweaters that are at least 80 percent wool. The number of sweaters needed will depend on the desired size of the finished throw or pillow and the size of the sweaters after shrinkage. We used approximately 12 sweaters for a throw and two sweaters for a pillow. Use sweaters with patterns or designs for interest, such as the reindeer rectangles for the throw and the skier rectangle for the pillow.
  2. Sort the sweaters by color. Place sorted sweaters, turned inside out, into the washing machine set to hot wash/cold rinse; add a small amount of liquid dishwashing soap. Add a few lint-free items such as old T-shirts or jeans; they provide friction as the machine agitates to promote the felting. If desired, remove the sweaters two or three times during the wash cycle and rinse in cold water, squeezing out excess fluid; extreme temperature changes help to speed the felting process.
  3. Remove sweaters before the entire spin cycle is complete and roll in a towel to remove excess water. Shape and allow to air dry. Repeat the felting process until stitches are no longer visible. The felted sweaters should be dense and thick. If the knitting stitches show more than you like, repeat the process. If necessary, hand felt for additional firmness and smoothness by rubbing the item on a washboard with hot water and liquid dishwashing soap or rolling it between palms. Let dry; trim excess fuzziness with scissors.
  4. Remove the sleeves from the sweaters and cut along the inner arm seams to lay flat. Cut the body of the sweater along the side and shoulder seams. Lay the felted pieces on a flat surface to cut the shapes needed.
Assemble the Throw or Pillow
  1. Striped Throw: Decide on the colors to use for the stripes and short felted pieces into color groups. Our 42-x-55-inch throw consists of two horizontal rows of red-tone stripes and three horizontal rows of green-tone stripes. For each stripe, cut ten 4-1/4-x-11-inch rectangles from the felted sweater pieces.
  2. Lay the rectangles on a flat surface, making five rows with 10 rectangles in each row. When you are pleased with the arrangement, sew the rectangles together in rows. Sew with right sides up, slightly overlapping the first rectangle with the second. Cover the overlapped area with seam stabilizer and sew close the edge of the top rectangle. Remove the stabilizer. Continue adding rectangles in this manner to complete each row. Sew rows together in this same manner, alternating colors.
  3. If desired, bind the throw to help it hold its shape. To bind, use the pinking shears to cut 2-1/4-inch-wide strips from purchase felted wool fabric. Sew the short ends of the strips together with diagonal seams to form one long binding strip. Trim the seam allowances to 1/4 inch. Press the seam allowances open. Fold the binding strip in half lengthwise with wrong sides together and press. Insert the edges of the throw between the folded binding strip. Pin the binding strip to the throw, folding and mitering the corners. Sew through all layers 3/4 inch from the outer fold of the strip. Tack the open areas of the mitered corners to close them.
Pillows
  1. Measure to find the dimensions of the desired pillow form; add 1 inch to each for seam allowances. Use these measurements to cut a pillow front and back from the felted sweater pieces. With wrong sides facing and a 1/2-inch seam allowance, sew the pillow front to the back, leaving the bottom edge open. Turn the pillow cover right side out. Insert the pillow form through the bottom opening. Slip-stitch the opening closed.
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