30 minutes to a recycled sweater bag

by contributor on May 24, 2006

in Green Crafting, Whip Up Tutorials

sweater bags

Last week I went pawing through the Goodwill Bins with my friend Sarah and came up with several colorful sweaters ripe for felting. They were just crying out to be made into handbags, and so they were. I thought I’d share the process for those who want to give it a go.

1. Find a sweater that will felt when washed. It should be as close to 100% wool as possible. Gap sweaters are especially good for this project, since they’re often stripy, colorful, and woolly like the pink multicolored one I used. The white sparkle-embellished sweater I used was angora, mohair, and wool, and did not felt as much so resulted in a less structured bag.

2. Wash the sweater in a hot sudsy wash and run through the hot dryer until completely dry.

3. Cut into two layers, halter shaped, as follows: If desired, cut the bottom band of the sweater completely off. Cutting through two layers of sweater at once, cut a line along each side of the body, close to the seam. Following the sleeve line, continue to cut the sleeves off as well. You’ll have two pieces of sweater. Trim so that the halter shape is steep.

halter shape

4. Turn the sweater inside out, or lay pieces with right sides facing, and starting at one armpit stitch down the side, across the bottom, and up to the other armpit.

5. Still with right sides together, sew the collar front and back together, stitching across twice or more to make a firm handle.

6. Turn the sweater rightside out. You now have a basic bag, stitched around the sides and bottom and at the top of the handle, with two large and rather floppy side openings.
7. Turn under the raw edges around each handle opening and topstitch.

stitch edges

8. Turn them under again and hand stitch with a coordinating thread and large tapestry needle. The bag is finished! Mine took 30 minutes.

To make a flower using the bottom band from either the front or back of the sweater, thread a large tapestry needle, and knot the thread leaving several inches of thread hanging before your knot. Lay the sweater band out horizontally and starting with one short side, make a z-fold and run the needle through it. Pull tight. This is your flower center.

flower start

Now start wrapping the band around that center, keeping it tight and running the thread through every few wraps. Once you have rolled up the entire sweater band finish it by pulling the thread through one last time and knotting it together with the hanging thread from where you started. Knot tightly several times.

flower tie

Attach to the bag and fold down the last outer wrap to make a stylish petal. Wool that is tightly felted won’t fray, so you can simply cut some leaves or other embellishments from the sleeves to add alongside.

flower finish

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 persephone May 24, 2006 at 4:59 am

What an awesome idea! I love these… Time to get to the thrift store.

2 Kate May 24, 2006 at 5:50 am

Love this idea. Thanks.

3 craftapalooza May 24, 2006 at 8:17 am

Love it, nice work!

4 Kim May 24, 2006 at 8:29 am

Ding! Dang! Adorable! bags. Awesome creativity!!

5 Lina May 24, 2006 at 1:59 pm

Lovely!

6 gkgirl May 24, 2006 at 5:09 pm

this looks awesome!
and great clear instructions
for someone like me
who needs
great clear instructions
:)

7 cruststation May 24, 2006 at 7:19 pm

These are beautiful! Lovely work.

8 Marci May 24, 2006 at 9:05 pm

Great idea! I have a bunch of sweaters that I don’t have to throw out anymore!

9 Beekeebear May 24, 2006 at 9:34 pm

Awesome! Great idea. And great choices of sweaters. Thanks for sharing the how-to!!

10 admin May 25, 2006 at 6:08 pm

love this tutorial, great colours and pattern

11 austravi June 3, 2006 at 9:45 pm

thank you so much, they are very nice!!!!

12 Becky / Knitting Interrupted June 15, 2006 at 3:44 am

Oh the one with the faces is just DIVINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now why couldn’t that have been in MY thrift store? Great catch!

13 Helen October 11, 2006 at 10:37 am
14 Leslie November 1, 2006 at 1:43 am

I’m so impressed! How very, utterly clever!

15 SusanPI December 19, 2006 at 10:23 am

Thanks for the great idea:)

16 Mosae January 18, 2007 at 10:41 pm

This is great!

17 Michelle March 15, 2007 at 4:54 am

What a colorful, clear and fun tutorial, I’ll have to give this a try. Actually, my teen daughter would love it.

18 margie June 27, 2007 at 1:35 pm

i love these bags.. i am sure i have a couple of old jumpers to cut up …or recycle should i say … happy days margie

19 deliah January 7, 2008 at 9:14 pm

this is a great idea for all those sweaters that have been ruined by washing when they should have not been this is a great rainy day project for my daughters and me

20 dibadibu September 27, 2008 at 3:49 am

wew. nice.
i’ll try it at home, hho :)

21 Sunshine October 26, 2008 at 4:41 pm

I am going to my quilting room to give this a try. I have made 4 bags from recycled wool sweaters. What a fun way to spend the chilly days here in Alaska. How do I make a blog to show my crafting and help there. I love crafting ideas and sharing them is twice as nice!

Have fun felting!
Sunshine

22 Wedding Photographer Edinburgh July 28, 2009 at 5:49 am

What a great idea. You can never have enough bags!

23 helenasky September 28, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Thanks for the great idea. I am homeschooling my daughter and part of her textiles class is to do projects that involve recycling old clothing items into new things. This is a great way to teach her how to make something useful and help the environment a bit.

24 cloth diaper mom January 8, 2010 at 7:26 pm

so very cute! Thanks for sharing. I have a whole stack of sweaters I bought and felted. Time to get to making purses!

25 Deb Catello February 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Thanks so much for the info….I have been trying to get ideas on how to make handbags from sweater felting…..

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