Reusing trash and recyclables is great for the environment, and frugal as well, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. In this series of articles, I will be examining the possibilities of reuse available for a number a different items, including crafts and other possibilities.
When shopping at thrift stores and rummage sales, sweaters are a great item to buy, especially if you enjoy crafting. There are many possibilities for crafting with sweaters found secondhand. This will save you money on materials, reduce consumption of newly processed goods, and keep the sweaters from wasting away in a landfill. Giving new life to an old sweater is a great green crafting project, and here are some fun ways to do that.
-Reclaim the yarn for another knitting or crochet project. When buying a sweater at a rummage sale or thrift store, you can end up paying as little as $.50 for a sweater’s worth of angora, mohair, Shetland wool, silk, or other luxury fiber yarns. What a way to save money and get something great! Sure, it takes a little time to get that sweater turned into knittable yarn, but there are a few things to look for that will make it much easier.
First, make sure the sweater does not have cut seams. If the seams have been serged, all the yarn will come apart it short lengths, making it pretty hard to reuse. Also, check the underarms, sleeves, and sides for lots of wear and matting. If the sweater is very old, the fibers in these areas may have felted together, making it very difficult, if not impossible, to get them apart again. This site has a wonderful tutorial on how to reclaim yarn from secondhand sweaters.
Even sweaters with serged seams can be reused though. Especially if they are wool or another easily felted fiber. Check the tag to make sure that the sweater isn’t machine washable. Then break the rules, and throw it into a hot water wash. This will felt the fibers together, and result in fabric that is thick, firm, and won’t ravel when cut. Felted fabric is the perfect fabric for crafts like slippers, mittens, hats, and throw rugs. You could even make a patchwork blanket or pillow covers from felted sweater squares. Tea cozies, hot pads, appliqués are all fun projects to make from reused sweaters.
-Pet beds are a great reuse for a worn sweater. Turn the sweater inside out, sew straight up the armhole area with a short stitch a few times, do the same at the hem, cut the sleeves off the sweater, and then turn it right side out. After stuffing it to the desired firmness, just sew the neckline closed. These are so warm and cozy, and look adorable in pet beds, particularly in the winter time. The bright and gaudy Christmas sweaters look a lot cuter as a pet pillow than they do on a person sometimes.
The money that can be saved on luxury fibers for knitting alone makes secondhand sweaters a great candidate for reusing, but there are tons of other fun things that can be crafted from them as well, limited only by the imagination.