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Repurposing Wool Sweaters 101 (Arm Warmers, Ear Warmers, Stuffed Animals)

This how-to on repurposing old wool sweaters comes from HOMEGROWN member Lindsey, a dirt-under-her-fingernails kind of gal from Jackson, Michigan, who writes: "With age comes wisdom and, at times, going back to one’s roots. That’s the driving force behind my own quest to live a better quality life, which includes greening things up." Well said, Lindsey—and please keep the good ideas coming!

I have a love affair with wool sweaters. They bring a sense of instant coziness with a purpose—warmth—and that’s something you need for Michigan winters. Brrr! After years of wearing and hand washing, however, my once-fabulous sweater collection just didn’t fit quite right anymore. Still, I couldn’t bear the thought of ending the affair. I knew there must be some way to repurpose them, but I was having a creative block until I saw an article in Martha Stewart magazine that advised turning old sweaters into hats, mittens, and stuffed animals. Genius.

I’m including directions for three projects below: a piggy stuffed animal, arm warmers/fingerless gloves, and an ear warmer/headband. Bonus: I made all three projects from one sweater, and you can, too!


I thought this little pig was just about the cutest stuffed animal ever. I had to make it.


» Felted wool sweaters (Felting wool is easy: Just wash it in the washing machine and dry it in the dryer.)

» Scissors

» Coordinating thread

» Pipe cleaner, cut to desired length

» Straight pins

» Sewing machine

» Needle

» Stuffing

» Pig pattern (Find it here.)



1. Once you’ve felted your wool, place the piggy pattern pieces anywhere they’ll fit on the wool sweater. Pin and cut. Keep in mind that you’ll need to cut two of most pattern pieces (think mirror image).

2. Start by making the piggy legs. Fold back each leg at the solid line on the pattern piece. Stitch along the line. Repeat for all four legs.

3. Now you’re ready to make the piggy body. Pin the side-body pieces together, right sides facing each other. Next, pin a side-body piece to the underbelly piece. Using a 1/8” seam allowance, sew one side-body piece to the underbelly piece from end to end, curving the underbelly piece to fit. Repeat with the other side-body piece. Once finished, the underbelly will be sandwiched between the two side-body pieces.

4. Next is the tail. Place tail pieces right sides together. Sew the tail together with a 1/8” seam allowance, leaving one end open. Turn the tail right side out. Insert pipe cleaner. Pin the tail to the side body, matching up the open end with the edges of the side body. Remember to place the finished end inside the pig body. Sew along the top of the body, leaving a gap for the snout and a gap on the top back. This gap will allow you to stuff your piggy. 

5. Pin the snout piece, right side facing in. Hand stitch the snout to the body.

6. Turn your pig right side out. Using the opening on the top of your pig’s back, stuff your pig. When finished, use a slip-stitch to hand stitch the opening closed.

7. Now for the home stretch: Place the ear pieces right sides together. Again, using a 1/8” seam allowance, sew the ear pieces together, leaving the base edge open. Repeat with the other ear. Turn the ears right side out then stitch the base edge closed. Hand sew the ears to the pig’s head.

8. Last step! Twist the piggy’s tail; the pipe cleaner inside will help it retain its shape. Add any embellishments, such as buttons for eyes, a collar with a name tag, or whatever comes to mind.



Who doesn’t want to show off that fabulous manicure without sacrificing warmth? With repurposed-sweater arm warmers, a girl can do both!



»  Arms from an old sweater

»  Thread

»  Sewing machine

»  Fabric marking pen

»  Seam ripper



1. Cut the arms off of an old sweater to your desired length. Using a three-step zigzag stitch on your sewing machine, finish off the cut edge of the sweater arm. Repeat with other arm. This will prevent the edges from unraveling.

2. Lay each arm out on a flat surface. Lay your left arm on the left sleeve (seam side facing toward your body). Make sure the cuff of the sweater sleeve meets up with your knuckles. Pay attention to where your thumb naturally rests. Mark where you want your thumb to poke through. Repeat with the right side.

3. Select the buttonhole setting on your sewing machine then sew a buttonhole where you marked your thumb opening. Once completed, use the seam ripper to open the buttonhole. Viola! Your arm warmers are complete.

4. At this point, you may want to add a decorative touch to your arm warmers. Now let those fancy digits shine through!



So, you made your piggy and your arm warmers, and you've still got some wool remaining? Way to be thrifty! Just as with last night’s dinner, you can always make one more thing out of your sweater leftovers. Here’s how I used wide sweater ribbing to make an ear warmer.


»  Wide sweater ribbing

» Thread

» Sewing machine

» Button(s)

» Needle

» Straight pins

» Measuring tape



1. Cut away the wide sweater ribbing if it’s still attached to the sweater. You should only need half of the ribbing (so, from the front or back of the sweater), so cut the sweater ribbing at the side seams. Measure your head then cut the ribbing to the appropriate length so that it will fit comfortably around your noggin.

2. At this point, you’ll need to finish three sides of the ribbing to prevent your ear warmer from unraveling; the very bottom edge will already be finished for you. On your sewing machine, use a three-step zigzag stitch (or stretch zigzag stitch). Stitch all three cut edges of the sweater ribbing to finish the edges.

3. Take the part that you cut away at the side seam of the sweater and make a wide accordion fold. Pin. Using a straight stitch, sew along the edge. Repeat on the other end.

4. Next mark out a buttonhole on one of the ends. Using your sewing machine, stich your buttonhole.

5. Hand sew the button on the other end. (Just a thought: You might be able to use a snap kit instead of a button.)

6. Adorn your headband with whatever suits your fancy and enjoy the sensation of warm, toasty ears!


Got another use for wool sweaters? Or a sewing question for Lindsey? Post it below and keep the conversation rolling. You might also give the Crocheted Wine Cozy, Homemade Apple and Pear Ornaments, or Knitting 101s a gander, and you might even be interested in joining the Homemade Clothes group. You can always find more things to make, craft, cook, preserve, plant, grow, and stitch in the HOMEGROWN 101 library.


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