Thursday, October 22, 2009

Upcycling Wool Sweaters into Plush Animals

Have you ever accidentally shrink one of your favorite wool sweaters? It's so disappointing to ruin something so nice. But wait, don't toss it out! You can 'upcycle' it - that means turning it into something new and different. Not just reused, but repurposed. I love the idea of upcycling. Me, personally am drawn to all things small and cute, so I use old sweaters to create cute plush animals.

Don't know how to felt a sweater you no longer use? Ignore all the labels that say to handwash or dryclean only! Instead, just pop it in the washing machine with a little detergent and hot water. Some sweaters will shed A LOT, so first put the sweater in a mesh lingerie bag or pillow case (close with rubber band). Too many little fuzzies in your washing machine can cause damage to your machine. Choose the longest wash cycle. Check it once or twice during the wash to see if the fibers are getting tighter. You'll know if it's working, if you can no longer see the rows of knitting, and the sweater has shrunk. As the fibers shrink, they lock together. Heat and agitation are key. When it's done washing, check to make sure it's shrunk and then put it right into a hot dryer which will shrink it up even more. When it's dry, you are ready to work with your fabric.

I bought this sweater at a second hand store for less than a $1 because it had holes on the elbows.

Depending on what you plan to make, you may need to cut the sweater apart to create one large piece of fabric. To do that, cut up the side seams and carefully cut the arms off. The ribbing at the bottom and cuffs is handy and can add a nice detail to finished pieces. The fabric is wonderful to work with. Not only is it soft and fluffy, but the now felted fabric won't fray or come apart and it's thick and will hold it's shape.

I am thrilled with how this crazy Orge came out and I even made him a little buggy friend. This sold in my Etsy Shop a few weeks ago. This sweater had a zip up neck and a zip chest pocket. I carefully cut so that I could use the chest pocket as the critters mouth. I still have the long zipper that was part of the neck, but haven't decided what critter is waiting to be made from it.

I love the zipper mouth and the little bug friend!

If you have a sweater that is a mix of wool and another fiber, like cotton, you may still be able to felt the sweater. It just won't be as tight as 100% wool.

You can make pillows, a small case for your IPod or cell phone, purse, or a plush animal (my favorite). The felted wool also lends itself very well to hand embroidery and applique.

Here are some simple sweater blocks I made for a friend's baby.

I just finished making these totally cute baby rattles. I've also made this plush cat, plush mouse, a funny bunny, and another critter monster.

One of my favorite Etsy Shops is Pogo - so many adorable little animals all made from upcycled sweaters.

I found this really cute brown bunny plushie, from ChurchMouseStudio. It even comes with a little skirt.

This is the latest little critter I made, also with some silly hair and a rattle inside.

I love Owls and this stuffy from BlackBirdFashion is just adorable.

You can also create tons of other items like wallets, purses, handbags, etc. Here is a fun Halloween Frankenstein Monster Handbag from

1 comment:

Jedda said...

These are beautiful! I love upcycling too and am just doing my first felted project. Thanks for your inspiring words!