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Planet-Friendly Crafts: Smart Ways to Upcycle Old Sweaters

Now that winter is here, we’ve started hauling out all our warmest clothes and stashing away the ones that we won’t wear again until spring or summer. In rotating our closets like this every year, we inevitably find some things that we won’t wear again and can either upcycle or donate. This year, we found quite a few sweaters that we don’t need to hang onto, even though it’s winter! We selected a few to donate so other people can stay warm this season too, but there are some that are simply too old so we’ve held onto them in hopes that we might transform them into something else for a new lease on life.

Just in case you love the idea of getting crafty with old sweaters just as much as we did, if not more, here are 15 of the best designs that we’ve come across so far in our search for inspiration!

1. How to deconstruct your sweater


Before we start giving you suggestions and project ideas for things to turn your sweaters into, here’s an awesomely comprehensive guide for how to successfully cut into them and take the pieces apart without everything falling apart and unraveling on you before you even get to make something fun! Get some tips and tricks on My Virtual Sanity.

2. Recycled sweater leggings


Are you the kind of person who gets very chilly indeed in the winter, so you’re always wearing lots of layers even indoors? Then we think you might get along quite well with something like this knitted leggings idea outlined step by step on Crazy for Crafts! They show you how to turn the sleeves of an old sweater into long warmers that you can pull up over your jeans to keep toasty.

3. Wintery white sweater lampshade


Have you found a sweater that doesn’t fit right anymore or is damaged so you know keeping it to wear isn’t a grand idea but you love the texture or finish of the sweater’s pattern itself and you think it’s a shame to put that to waste? Then turn it into a decor piece instead! We love the way A Cultivated Nest turned their bauble sweater into a cozy looking winter lampshade.

4. Upcycled sweater stocking


Have you been thinking about making your family new Christmas stocking for a number of years now but you’ve just never gotten around to it and now you’re looking at an old sweater and thinking about what to make of it? Well, why not blend the two projects and use the sweater to make those stockings you’ve been holding off on? A Pretty Life guides you step by step through the process of making a very simple version in just a few easy steps.

5. Recycled sweater head wrap


Just because the old sweater in question can’t keep you warm in the same way it used to anymore doesn’t mean you can’t wait it in any capacity at all! We love the way Ruffles and Stuff used pieces of their sweater to create a lovely ear and head warmer that will give you some winter style without leaving you chilly on days that you really don’t want to wear a full hat over your hair.

6. DIY cardigan cowl


Do you love the idea of making something that will still keep you warm but you’re just not sure you’ll wear leggings or a head warmer? Then maybe you’d prefer to see how E-How turned their old sweater into a buttoned cowl instead! This is a fantastic project for making use of old cardigans that already had a finished edge with buttons, making things nice and easy for you.

7. Sweater patchwork poncho


Perhaps you actually have several old sweaters at your disposal that you’re looking to upcycle but they’re in an eclectic range of colours that you can’t help wishing you could combine all together rather than making several separate things? In that case, we’d definitely suggest taking a look at how Sew Country Chick made this fantastic patchwork poncho that’s put together almost like a quilt!

8. DIY slipper boots


Did we catch your attention when we started talking about things you can make from older sweaters that will keep you feeling warm at home but your legs are what gets the chilliest? In that case, we’d definitely suggest taking a look at how Home Sweet Soul used the sleeves and shoulders of their sweater to make a lovely, slouchy pair of slipper boots instead!

9. Rugged sweater boots


Are you actually so in love with the toasty winter sweaters aesthetic that you wish you could incorporate warm fabric elements in just about any aspect of your outfit? Well, that’s possible for the most part, but not necessarily true for your footwear choices unless you feel like wearing your slippers to work. Imagine how excited we were, then, to discover this fantastic tutorial from Sincerely Kinsey that shows you how to cover the top of a pair of old leather boots in pieces from upcycled sweaters in order to make a wonderfully rugged and toasty looking sweater boot with a ton of unique charm!

10. DIY sweater box bag


Are you actually a sewing enthusiast with a bit of experience under your belt and you’ve been looking for little sewing projects that you’ll actually find useful, just to keep you practicing even though you’re pretty busy this season? In that case, we’d definitely suggest taking a look at how Truly Myrtle made this adorable sweater and patterned fabric lined zipping bag that makes a great case for art supplies, makeup brushed, or small jewelry pieces.

11. DIY sweater laptop tote


If you’re going to sew yourself an awesome sweater bag, would you actually prefer to make yourself something a little larger that you know you’ll use every single day? In that case, we’d definitely suggest taking a look at how It’s Always Autumn made a lovely laptop tote from a cabled sweater in just a few surprisingly simple steps.

12. Mitten Christmas ornaments


If you’re going to upcycle a winter garment, would you prefer to use it to make something else winter themed as well, since seasonal crafts are your favourite? In that case, we think you’ll get along very well indeed with these fantastic miniature mitten Christmas ornaments that Creme de la Craft made from pieces of old sweaters and buttons!

13. Comfy sweater cat bed


Are you the kind of devoted pet owner and animal lover who worries that your cat gets lonely while you’re out all day? Then we have a feeling you just might be the perfect person to give something like this  hilariously cozy looking sweater pet bed a try! iCreative Ideas shows you how to stuff, position, and sew a sweater that will make Kitty feel like they’re being hugged by you even when you’re not there for snuggles.

14. Kids’ sweater dress


Just because you’re not personally going to use this sweater as a piece of clothing doesn’t mean you can’t alter it so that someone else might! We’re huge fans of the way Cherish 365 used a pre-made kids’ dress as a pattern template for making an old sweater of theirs into a knitted kids’ sweater dress that looks adorable in the fall or winter with a long sleeve shirt underneath.