Operation Old Sweater: 10 Great DIY Rescues

sweater surgery

Is there a hole in the heart of that beloved camel cashmere from your freshman year at Stanford?

Don’t become unraveled! The crafty set – people like Stefanie Girard, who wrote Sweater Surgery – take the green approach to spinning yarns, reconfiguring new objects d’smart from those ratty pullovers that once warmed our bones.

Handwash your old sweater (I like to use baby shampoo) and treat it for unsightly coffee or red wine stains. Then circumvent those Jarlsberg cheese holes in the wool and make something cool!

Here’s a look at 10 reclamations, from Ugly Dolls to pretty petal pins:

1. Stuffed Toys


A favorite project at Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Francisco, parents are asked to contribute old sweaters for the students to conjure their own, arty Ugly Dolls. My own 10-year-old, Lauren, made this creature in just a couple of days and they instantly became BBF’s.

2. Bitchen Boatneck

dog sweat

Deborah Lindquist makes her groovy dog wraps from recycled cashmere sweaters, and you can do it, too. Just find a square without holes and make two for the front legs. Then your pet can walk the walk!

3. Beaded Cuff


I love this upscale take on the 70s tennis sweat band. The beaded cuff woven by Olive Brown is simple to make, by cutting your own elongated rectangle from your rescued sweater, stitching the borders and embellishing with beads or other hot glue glam.

4. Pet Bed

Lately, my pug has taken to sleeping in the laundry basket. Why not take your old sweaters and other scraps and make a patchwork pet bed, like Apartment Therapy suggests? Gather an assortment of old sweaters and a pillow and get working on that soft place for your pooch to land.

pet bed

5. Pullover Coasters


Olive Brown made these from a shrunken woman’s fair aisle v-neck pullover. The set of eight, sold at Etsy, is something you can also try to make by cutting the circles and top-stitching the front, leaving a zigzag stitch on the back. The edges are finished with an overlock stitch.

6. Snuggly Slippers

snuggly slippers

Follow the footsteps of Craft Stylish, and avoid booties made from yucky  synthetic materials. These old woolen slippers are stitched with love. All you need is paper, a pen, scissors, an old sweater, thread, a machine, a scarp of yarn and a crochet hook. Have fun padding around!

7. Doll Clothes


If you or your child can knit, this book from Amazon provides patterns and ideas. I always loved sewing my own Barbie clothes from discarded items that wound up in our rag box. Let your kids try their hand at Project Runway ensembles using old sweaters. Try some lederhosen for that Heidi doll!

8. Flower Brooch


Thick rose wool felt from a rescued cardigan is paired with a heavy vintage bronze shank button in this classic flower. Found at Etsy, you can arrange your own floral jewelry with scissors, glue and a pin from your neighborhood craft store. Add a center flourish and attach to blazer lapel. You grow, girl!

9. Cell Phone Cozy


Craftbits is calling! Pick up and read the steps for making your own, fetching felted mobile phone pouch with a key ring at the top for attaching to jeans or your purse.

10. Teapot Cozy

teapot cozy

We adore these at EcoSalon and even touted the beauty of the pot sweater for Mother’s Day this year. This one from Etsy is ideal because the pretty blue yarn is washable. Accented by a handknit multicolored flower with a vintage button for the center, it’s about 19 inches around and stretches over a 4″-to-6″ teapot. Not handy with a needle? Ask a friend to help.

Main Image: Amazon

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.