Friday, February 24, 2012

DIY Cardigan from Crewneck Sweater!

 eco friendly sweater tutorial tutorial for refashioned sweater  
Do you love the idea of DIY projects but are afraid to start?  Here’s a super-fast, no-sew project for the nervous refashionista.  We’ll create a customized cardi from a second hand pullover, incorporating flattering design elements. 

If you’re in need of the tools for the craft I have some promotional codes for Target here. 


  • felted crewneck or collared pullover sweater
  • sharp scissors
  • pins
  • measuring tape   
  • Kilt pin, available at fabric stores

The sweater must be tightly “fulled” (also called felted) so the cut edges won’t ravel.  If your sweater isn’t felted, here’s how to do it. 
Start with a wool sweater that’s at least two sizes too big.   
One-hundred percent wool is best, but blends with at least 80-90% wool are also good.  Pure cashmere does not felt well.  Pure merino can shrink up to 50%.  A lovely blend is merino/cashmere/angora 60/20/20. 

Machine-wash sweater in hot water/cold rinse.  Check halfway through for size and felting.  The fabric is felted enough when a tiny scissors-cut on a hidden seam leaves an edge that doesn’t ravel—scratch with your fingernail to test.  If the fabric isn’t felted enough, wash it again or dry it on high.  (This process is inexact, and you may end up with a sweater that’s too small.  If so, think “hotpads” or “dog bed.”) 

Also, if you’re going to be felting very many sweaters, get a filter for the end of your washing machine hose to capture lint.
Dry the sweater flat.  When it’s dry, put it on a person or lay flat on a large surface.  Midge the Mannequin is standing in for me.

 Step 1: Cut Front

My sweater has a clear central pattern to follow, but you can also find the center with a measuring tape:  measure across the front, underarm to underarm, and mark the center with a pin.  Do the same on the bottom hem. 

Following your central pattern (as I did), or using your pins as guides, carefully cut straight up the middle front.  If your cut edges are ragged, you can neaten them up later.  
felted wool cardi tutorial
The sweater will now look like this (put a cami on, Midge!): 
felted wool sweater cardi tutorial 
Step 2: Cut Neckline

This step makes the finished piece look neater.  If you’re using a collared sweater, this step will remove the collar. 

Trim away neckband, staying close to the seam that attaches the neckband to the sweater.  If you want a wider neck opening, trim away more, being careful to be even all the way around.
bolero tutorial 025
Here’s the finished neckline:
how to refashion a crewneck into a cardi
You could also cut a wide v-neck, like this: 
recycled sweater tutorial
 Step 3: Cut Hemline

This process is similar to shaping the neckline.  You’re going to remove any banding or ribbing at the bottom, and shorten the sweater if you want.  You can even take off several inches and make this into a cropped look. 

Just make sure you cut evenly all around.  Either carefully freehand it as I did, or use your measuring tape and pins to measure up 1”, 2”, 3” or whatever amount you’d like to remove.  I recommend shortening a little at first and increasing it as you go, trying on the sweater after each increment.   

Design note:  Hems that end three inches above or below the widest point of the hips are generally the most flattering. 

Next, trim the corners of the front opening to make a rounded edge.  You can freehand this, or cut around a teacup or other small circular item.
upcycled sweater tutorial
I removed the hem binding, and about 1” more all around. 

Step 4: Trim Cuffs

I like sleeves that are the same length as, or shorter than, the sweater’s hem.  I took off about an inch of the cuffs here. 

Removing the cuffs also makes the entire design consistent, since now all the ribbing has been removed from the sweater. 

Design note:  Three-quarter length sleeves are flattering because they elongate the line of the arm.
recycled sweater tutorial 
Step 5: Get Closure!

I love that the easiest way to close this sweater is also the most versatile.  Using an oversized safety pin called a kilt pin, you can close the sweater at the neck, bust, under-bust, or lower, depending on what you’re wearing under it.  You can find kilt pins at fabric stores.  Walmart has some very inexpensive ones. 

This way of pinning is my favorite:   
sweater refashion tutorial
Design note:  by nipping under the bust, you can create emphasis where the torso is slimmest on many women.  This would also be cute belted. 



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photos by B.Behan, all rights reserved.  If you like cute vintage clothes and altered vintage clothing, please check out my collection at Chronologie Vintage

Thanks to Imogen at Inside Out Style for sharing many of these design elements.


Zuzana said...

Very clever.;) I have a few sweaters that could use this renewal.;))

Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed. said...

How creative and greeeeen, in every way!!! Love it.

Anonymous said...

What a great idea, and beautifully illustrated. Stangely enough I seem to have more 'felted' sweaters that non felted, which means they only fit where they touch already. But you have given me a great idea and next time I go to a charity shop I shall buy the biggest mans' sweater I can find and try this out.

sallymandy said...

Thank you all! Moannie, a men's sweater is great. I used one of these for a custom sweater this winter and it turned out beautifully. Good luck!

Cynthia L. H. said...

Love it!!! Thank you so very much for going to all the trouble to share the great photos and details!!!

Darla said...

Fantastic! I wonder if DH has any wool sweaters hanging around, do you think he'd notice if I swiped one? Nah, not if I felted and altered it.


Frugal Scholar said...

This is a great tutorial! I see so many great XXL men's sweaters at thrift stores, which hang there unloved. What a great use for them

sallymandy said...

Cynthis and Darla: thanks! It was fun making this tutorial.

Frugal: You're right, there's a lot of great wool fabric to be had in those grandpa sweaters, and this is a nice way to re-use them.

Mervat said...

This is brilliant SallyMandy! I just love the end result. I am now thinking of all the perfectly suitable sweaters/jumpers I have given away over the years.


Kat Mortensen said...

I'm going to be scouring Goodwill for wool sweaters now. Great ideas!


aims said...

Finding old wool sweaters at the used stores is getting harder and harder to do. People are catching on to the things they can do with them once they are felted.

I love your cardi - and the colour too! Just perfect! Shame on Midge though....people are looking!

InMyOwnStyle said...

hi -

I have always wanted to know the exact science in the felting of creating a cardigan from a pullover. I tried it once, but was unsuccessful. Now I know why. I think a trip to my local Goodwill for a big sweater is in my future.
Your tutorial was fun. I found your blog thru Totallly Tutorials by Dotty.
Thanks for the inspiration and instructions.
My best- Diane

sallymandy said...

Thanks, Diane. I wish felting was an exact science, but it's not. There are certainly rules to follow that increase the chance of success though. Tops, of course, is using all wool.

Good luck!

Melissa said...

Put a cami on Midge!!!? I laughed and laughed, after I read it the second time! I was loving the sweater idea, but that cracked me up, sometimes, things hit ya ya know! Thank you