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knits that won’t felt–how to re-purpose

frygga | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

I’m beginning to work with restyling old sweaters. I’ve got quite a stash, in a wide mix of knit fabrics. All cotton, all silk, acrylic/nylon, acrylic chenille–all of these, of course, won’t felt at all. Any suggestions for reusing them? I’m thinking of turning some of them into knit skirts. How to cut the pieces apart without the edges ravelling? (I don’t know how to knit. Yet!) These are all sweaters which have shrunk out of shape in places, so that plackets are puckered and don’t button straight, and such. Can they be re-blocked permanently to shape? Or will the blocking just fall out when the fabric is rewashed?

And what about that labelled 100% lambswool sweater that I’ve thrown aggressively in the washer and it still won’t seem to felt?


  1. starzoe | | #1

    To prevent ravelling, machine stitch a zigzag row (or two parallel) and cut outside (or between) them. However, I don't think skirts would be the ideal solution for using this stash. A skirt takes a lot of fabric, knits in pieces like this would be would need some sort of stabilizer, like a backing. You have a large variety of textures and types of fabrics here and you would need to join pieces of like weight and follow the grain of each one faithfully.

    Have you considered making smaller items like vests, or tea cozies, pillow tops, small throws, handbags, hats, even single-layer scarves left to show the ravelled edge. Each of these except the scarves could easily be backed and even lined and weight would not have to be a consideration.

    Sounds like an interesting project, let us know what you decide to do with your collection.

    As for the lambswool sweater, have you tried rubbing detergent into the wet sweater, running it through the washing machine with very hot water? If it hasn't felted after the first hot water cycle (stop the machine before it starts the rinse cycle), pour some boiling water into the machine and go through the hot cycle again, take it out, plunge it into cold water and check to see if it has felted. Put something in the machine , something heavy that will accentuate agitation. I use an old, heavy fleece jacket, some use runners, or blue jeans.

    Edited 1/27/2009 12:39 pm ET by starzoe

  2. Palady | | #2

    Starzoe has offered you information on your wanting to recycle sweaters.  Just an expalnation as to wool felting.   There is yarn marketed as superwash.  Which, to my knowing, means it is treated and will resist any attempt to felt.

    If your sweater was purchased, it may have been been pretreated by the manufacturer.


  3. User avater
    JunkQueen | | #3

    I have a VHS tape (if that tells you how old it is) of a woman who makes sweater-jackets from old sweaters. She uses 3 or more sweaters to make them. She uses tricot as an underlining. She cuts the sweaters in pieces and sews them together in a coordinated or contrasted color pallet. Sometimes she makes a yoke, sometimes not. If I can locate my tape, it seems to be "temporarily misplaced" I'll scan the picture on the instruction sheet for you so you get an idea of what I am talking about. This seems to be harder to explain than I thought it would be.

  4. Ralphetta | | #4

    A serger will prevent them from raveling and when you sew the pieces together the seams will remain flexible. There may be better ways to do it, but I know that way works. In current interior decorating magazines I 've seen chair seats and ottomans upholstered with old sweaters. They looked good; maybe someone knows how well they hold up.

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