How to Make an Embellished Recycled Sweater Blanket

Sewing Patterns

Do you need a tutorial on how to make an embellished recycled sweater blanket to deal with that growing pile of sweaters and old clothes in the hallway?! Here it is.

Many of us have cleaned out our closets in this pandemic. Often, much-loved sweaters have worn elbows, while other parts of the sweater still have a lot of life in them. Anyhow, the result of our clutter-clearing is a stack of ‘old’ or sometimes even nearly new sweaters. To give away or to do something with. Here’s your DIY solution!

How to Make an Embellished Recycled Sweater Blanket – Tutorial

Create funky and interesting designs by simply pairing the materials you have. Look at this sample blanket made by Lee Meredith. She had only limited amount of that rusty orange sweater materials. So she let that color come back in the stitches that cover the whole blanket.

How to Make a Recycled Sweater Blanket

Step 1

Collect your (and your entire family’s) old sweaters. Put them side-by-side, to see if you can get a good color scheme going.

Your Materials for your Recycled Sweater Blanket

Note: For this blanket in the photo, all the wool was felted before made into a sweater. I don’t recommend this, as felted woollen sweaters don’t look good as their unfelted versions, usually. What the felting does do though, is create an ‘evenness to future shrinking’ of the fabric of your blanket, when you wash it later. I guess my recommendation would be to simply wash this blanket in cold water, like you normally would.

Step 2

Cut rectangles out of the sweaters you are deciding to work with. And lay them into a pleasing grid.

This is the time to be critical:
Do you really want that blue-striped sweater in there?
Would look better without it?

BTW. Some people call techniques like this ‘crazy’ quilting. For a full course on how to ‘properly’ make a quilt, see this free course on quilting, also on this website. (Treat that as a future project to use up recycled mens business shirts… ;-)

Step 3

Sew the blocks together.

Step 4

Embellish the blocks to personalise the blanket for the recipient.

Don’t go overboard on the embellishments, though! Be sure to stick to your limited color palette and a theme. And work with the motto: Less is more!

Step 5

Add a lining and a backing.

Step 6

Stabilise the blanket with lovely stitch work in a regular pattern.

Make some simple stitches that is to go through the front and the back
to hold the backing (and lining) in position.
Be sure to make these stitches in a TIDY grid.

Make some simple stitches that is to go through the front and the back
to hold the backing (and lining) in position. Be sure to make these stitches in a TIDY grid.

Alternatively, top stitch the entire blanket in pleasing patterns instead.

Design Tips

  • When quilting like this you wan to balance the ‘randomness’ from the fabrics and block sizes with the ‘order’ of these top stitches.
  • I suggest to limit your colors and fabrics as much as possible.
  • Consider using a themed embellishment that is repeated all over the blanket. This can be a simple shape like a square, rectangle, or octagon made from fabric. Or, use this free printable maple leaf to cut equal shapes from the arms of these same sweaters. It will help the project look like 1 piece.
  • Resist the temptation to use just any kind of recycled fabric for the backing, as it’s ‘only the backing’. Instead, pick a fabric that properly matches – not clashes with – your project. E.g. do not use a black/white zebra fabric unless your sweaters are all black and white also. And even then, make sure that the backing does not ‘compete’ with the front of the blanket.
  • And/or consider using a ‘stabilising color’ fabric to rim each of the blocks with. This is particularly useful if you have just too many colors and different styles of sweater motifs. That fabric will ‘glue’ the whole project together and lift the overall quality of the work.
  • “Sign” your sweater with your name or label. It’s a work of art!

Rewritten July 2020. Previously posted 2010.

Photos: by Lee Meredith, who’s passionate about recycling and yarn.

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