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How to Upcycle Thrift Shop Sweaters

Each year, in the fall and the spring, we go through our closets and do a small clearing out of our wardrobe. This fall, however, we’ve realized that we feel really undecided about a number of sweaters. We also have a small collection of sweaters that we picked up at thrift shops because we loved the colour or style but we’re still just not sure they fit quite right, so we haven’t worn them yet. After looking through them all, we’ve decided that altering them might encourage us to wear them more! That’s why we’ve been on the lookout for awesome sweater upcycling techniques.

Are you feeling just as intrigued as we were, if not more, about the idea of upcycling thrift shop sweaters in new ways that you’ve never tried before to give yourself some fun new things to wear for fall? Check out these 15 awesome ideas, designs, and tutorials that we’ve come across so far in our search!

1. Sweater to cardigan with t-shirt trim and patches


Have you got a pullover style sweater that you really like the colour or patterning of but you’ve always hated pulling large knits over your head and face? Well, if you think you’d wear it more if only it were a cardigan, then we think we might have found the perfect tutorial for you right off the bat! Check out how The Renegade Seamstress turned their sweater into a cardigan and then used pieces of an upcycled shirt to line the edging on the inside and add stylish little elbow patches to the sleeves.

2. Thrift store sweater crochet trim makeover


Perhaps you’ve got a sweater, of any kind, that you quite like but you can’t help feeling like it’s a touch plain for your tastes? Well, if you’re also a yarn crafting enthusiast with some spare yarn in the same colour in your stash and a little bit of crochet know-how, then we think you might get a kick out of the way Feathered Fibres added some awesome crocheted trim to the edges, around the sleeve cuffs or wherever you please.

3. Embroidered patch sweater


Perhaps we’ve really caught your attention with this talk of embellishing a sweater that you like but find too plain, but you don’t have any crochet experience and it’s not really the edges you’re hoping to work with? Then perhaps you’d get along a little better with something like this embroidered patch tutorial outlined in several very easy steps thanks to See Kate Sew!

4. Turtleneck to V-neck sweater remake


When we were going through our closets this fall, we came across the spoils of our turtleneck sweater obsession several years ago. Now, we find them a little bit uncomfortable and we love the colours and fit of the sweaters themselves, but we wish they didn’t have such high necks. That’s why we were so pleased to come across this awesome tutorial from Saga I Faver that shows you how to turn turtlenecks into V-neck sweaters instead!

5. DIY tie-back sweater


Perhaps you live in a place that’s slightly warmer than the average location in the fall but you’ve got a sweater that you actually find a little too warm? Try creating a cutout in the back that will cool things down a little, but also adding a stylish tie that will keep it from flopping off your shoulders! Sewing Rabbit has all the details for helping you make it happen.

6. Zip-back sweater refashion


Were you actually quite intrigued by the concept of opening a sweater up vertically like a cardigan, but you’re also a fan of slightly less conventional cuts than the average classic sweater style? Then maybe you’d rather create a cut up the back of your sweater instead! We’re in love with the way MyStyleDiary cut theirs and put in a zipper all the way up the back. You can adjust it to sit as open or closed as you please, depending on the weather and where you’re going!

7. DIY twisted back sweater refashion


Have we really piqued your curiosity with all these different ideas of how you can fancy up the back of your sweater, but you’re slightly newer to the world of clothing alterations and you’re looking for something a little easier? In that case, we’d be willing to bet that you’ll get along a little better with this tutorial from Tiffany Michey that shows you how to make a feature that looks like a complete knot at the back of your sweater, but that’s actually much simpler to do with a few pinch and a stitch or two.

8. Lace sweater cuffs


Has your favourite idea on our list so far actually been that of adding some kind of embellishment to the sleeve cuffs of your sweater but you’re still just not sure that the crocheted idea is the concept for you? Well, if you’d prefer something a little more delicate and feminine looking, then we’d definitely suggest taking a look at how Heather Handmade added lovely lace inserts to their cuffs quite easily.

9. DIY sweater neck refashioning and trim


Did you actually quite like the idea of bringing a high sweater neckline down because you think you’d wear it more but you’re also the kind of person who loves embellishment and fancy details? Then we have a strong feeling you’ll get a kick out of the way Flashback Summer adjusted their neckline and added a ruffled trim with some coordinating buttons.

10. Sweater to zippered cardigan jacket


If you’re going to turn your old sweater into a cardigan rather than a pullover, would you actually rather use that opportunity to create more of a jacket style rather than the classic button-down cardigan you might be used to seeing? Well, if you’re open to a bit of a challenge, then we think you might appreciate the way eHow shows you the steps for splitting the sweater down the front and putting in a zipper, similarly to the tutorial where you saw a sweater in the back.

11. Belted sweater refashioning


Do you have an open hanging cardigan that actually doesn’t button or fasten down the front and you like the colour and fit but you can’t help wishing that it did close in some way? Well, particularly if you’re looking for something rather simple, we think you’ll appreciate the way The Renegade Seamstress outlines the steps for adding a little belt piece that will let you buckle the sweater closed.

12. Old sweater turned into warm pants


Have you actually got your hands on a set of oversized and fun patterned old thrift shop sweaters that you know you’ll never wear the way they are, but that you’d really like to turn into something very fun? Then we have a feeling this funny tutorial from DIY Del Ray that teaches you how to turn an old sweater into funny knitted pants might be right up your alley! We can picture our whole family wearing these on Christmas morning.

13. Sweater turned hooded scarf


Does the sweater that you’ve got in mind for altering or upcycling have a hood on it, but it either doesn’t fit at all or the bottom edge is fraying and unravelling? In either case, we’d suggest repurposing at least the hood, and we really like the way Needle Nest outlines the process for turning a sweater hood into a hooded scarf!

14. Sweater turned easy cable knit pencil skirt


Have you come across a sweater that you adore the cable knit pattern of because it’s very well done but you simply don’t like the fit and you know you won’t wear the pieces as is? Then perhaps you’d get more us out of it if you turned it into a skirt! We love this tutorial from It’s Always Autumn because they show you not only how to make the right cuts, but also how to custom size it to fit you properly.

15. Thrift shop sweater turned boot leggings


If you’re living in a place that’s rather chilly and you’re looking for something that will help keep your legs a little toastier as you go about your day, rather than just your feet, but you’re hoping to make it happen in a way that’s stylish? Then we think you’ll really appreciate the way The Farmer’s Nest turned the sleeves of an older sweater they liked the colour of but didn’t wear anymore into boot leggings that are perfect for wearing under high boots so they stick out the top but keep your shins warm all the way down.

Have you made other kinds of awesome DIY garments from old sweaters that you were very happy with indeed and still wear but that you don’t see on our list? Tell us all about what you created and how you did it or link us to photos of your finished work in the comments section!