Friday, June 4, 2010

Recycled Sweater Purse

Awhile ago someone gave me a sweater, that someone had given them, that.....  

I liked the color, but it was just kinda shapeless, so I decided to give it a new life.  The sweater was 100% wool, which is great for making into felt.  (You probably don't want to felt anything that is less than 90% wool.)  After looking for some  felting ideas I decided that I wanted to make a purse with bobbles on it.  I wasn't sure how to make the handles- I thought I could maybe use some leather handles off a used purse for a more professional look, but I didn't have any old purses laying around, so I decided to just start the project and see what happened.  

First I laid out the sweater and got a feel for how I wanted to shape the bag.  I decided to have the bottom ribbing as the top of the bag, and to leave the sweater side seams as the sides of the bag.

For the bottom of the bag I cut the angle by the armpit area and then across. 

First I sewed the long bottom seam and then I sewed the angular portions the other way (at a T to the first seam) to make a flat bottom to the purse. I was a little worried because the seam was a little wavy as the sweater stretched slightly when I stitched it, but it all pulled together tight  in the felting process.

Next I got my glass pebbles and rubber bands ready.  I bought the glass pebbles where they sell fish tank supplies.   I found the  rubber bands in my daughters hair supplies.   

Next I took the pebbles and spaced them apart across the purse on both sides.  Each side ended up having three rows- 2 rows with 5 pebbles and 1 row with 4 pebbles. 

The cut of the sweater was such that the top of the purse felt much too open, so I stitched a seam curving in on the upper corners and cut off the extra.  

Then I took one of the sweater arms and cut out two strips each approximately 4 inches wide.  The sweater was already slightly pre-felted, so I didn't have to worry about the edges fraying.  I tied the cuff's together and sewed the ends into the sides of the purse.  

Next came the felting.  I filled up the washing machine with hot water and a few drops of dishwashing soap.  Then I let it agitate for somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes.  I checked on it every 10 minutes or so to set the washing machine dial back so the water wouldn't drain and also to make sure none of the pebbles fell out.  I had two pebbles that fell out.  One I found early and was able to replace it again, the other one was along the edge and I didn't notice until it was too felted to re-insert it.  

After the purse was tightly felted I rinced it out in cold water, spun it out in the washing machine,  and streatched it over a cake pan while it dried to give it a bit of shape.  

I decided that the ribbing was still to big for the opening of the purse, so I hand stitched in two rows of thin elastic.  That was really an improvement- it stretches open when you reach in for something and then it pops back closed. Later I colored the elastic with green permanent marker to make it blend in better.  I also cut the rubber bands and removed the pebbles.  You can see above that there is just a tiny hole visible on the backside where they were.  

You can see here that the bobbles didn't felt like the rest of the sweater as they were stretched tight, so there is some interesting textures.  

This project was one of the fastest, easiest, and fun projects that I have done recently.  I think it took me less than two hours to complete it, and I've already gotten lots of use out of it!  If I can find a good deal on more old wool sweaters sometime I think it would be fun to make some for gifts.


  1. Sarah, you're my hero!!! I can't get my wool to felt even if I stand on my head and whistle dixie! That is one seriously cute purse (I love re-purposing projects)....keep up the awesome work - and thanks for sharing!!
    Denise S.

  2. Denise- if you can't get wool to felt, it has either been

    1)treated with something called super-wash so that it will not felt,

    2)is very course wool(more like hair- which will not felt) or

    3) is not wool (or not a high enough percentage of wool).

  3. What a fasinating idea, & you made the instructions so lear. I'm going to keep this for futher reference.----- Virginia Adair (Ditto-- friend of your Aunt Ginny!)

  4. I want to show my 12 year granddaughter your awesome idea! She wants to be a designer one day.....this will make her happy to see! A new project to keep her busy. Thanks for your great instructions my dear!