How to Make a Recycled Felted Sweater Purse

Transform an old wool sweater into a beautiful, one-of-a-kind purse.

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Materials and Tools:

wool sweater (at least 90 percent wool, not acrylic)
coordinating dual duty sewing thread
skein of embroidery floss in a matching and accent color
felted wool scraps in contrasting colors
silk fabric scraps
5" x 15" felted woven wool piece for pocket
sewing machine
iron and ironing board
straight pins
sewing needle with large eye
cutting mat with grid
straight edge
rotary cutter
glass or other large beads (optional)


1. Felt the sweater:

  • Machine wash the sweater in the regular cycle in the hottest water possible, beginning with a long soak to open the fibers. Add enough dishwashing liquid to get a good amount of suds.
  • Rinse in cold water.
  • Repeat the cycle if thicker felting is desired.
  • Machine dry on the warmest setting.

2. Cut the sleeves from the sweater, making a perpendicular cut at the armpit. Turn the sleeves inside out and cut the sleeves open along the seam. These will form the purse's body. Cut seams from both sleeves and reserve for later use.

3. Press the sleeves with the iron, steaming and blocking into shape.

4. Cut nine squares, approximately 2-1/2 inches each from contrasting scraps of felted wool for applied design. Tip: For fun, allow variation in the design by not cutting perfect squares.

5. Cut nine squares of silk, approximately 3/4 inch for center accent.

6. Machine stitch a silk square in the center of each felted wool square with a row of machine stitching close to the edge. Allow silk edges to fray.

7. Using accent color embroidery floss, couch a border onto the wool square slightly larger than the silk square. Lay the embroidery floss on the wool and stitch in place with a narrow zigzag stitch. Repeat for each square.

8. Position all nine squares pyramid style on the front of one sleeve piece and pin in place.

9. Using a straight stitch, machine sew each square in place: first around the silk square, then close to the edge of the wool square.

10. Pin the body of the purse wrong sides together. Slipstitch the side edges by hand with matching embroidery floss.

11. Press the seams.

12. Cut open one side seam of the remaining sweater body.

13. Cut off the ribbed bottom edge of the sweater keeping it in one long piece. This will become the shoulder strap.

14. Position the bottom edge of the purse body on a cutting grid to determine the size of the wool piece for the bottom.

15. Using a straight edge and rotary cutter, cut a piece of wool from the sweater body to the required dimensions. Press flat.

16. On the purse bottom, use pins to mark center points on all four sides.

17. Mark the center points on the front and back of the purse body.

18. Place the purse body on top of the purse bottom rectangle. Line up the side seams of the body with the center mark on the narrow edges of the bottom piece. Line up the pins marking the center of the purse on the front and back with the center marks on the long sides of the purse bottom.

19. Sew the purse body to the bottom with gently rounded corners, while the corners of the bottom itself remain pointed and will extend beyond the purse body. With the purse body facing up, starting at the side seam machine stitch the body to the bottom, about 1/4-inch from the edge, gently easing the curve at the corners and matching up the center marks as you go.

20. To make a shoulder strap from the reserved piece of ribbing, fold both edges of the ribbing inward to the center, slightly overlapping, and stitch the entire length of the strap to secure. On each side of the center seam, stitch another seam along the length of the strap.

21. Fold down the ribbing on the top edge of the purse to the outside to create a "collar."

22. Pin the shoulder strap to the inside of the purse at the side seams. Adjust and cut to desired length.

23. Stitch the shoulder strap to the inside of the purse. Do not stitch through the ribbing collar.

24. Blind stitch the bottom edge of the "collar" to the outside of the purse.

25. Pocket:

  • Cut a piece of felted woven wool 5" x 15".
  • Fold down 1/2 inch on one short edge and stitch in place.
  • With right sides together, fold the seamed edge up 6 inches and pin in place.
  • Make a 1/8-inch seam on both sides of the pocket up to the seamed edge.
  • Turn and press.
  • Sew 1/2-inch seam along the top edge of the pocket.
  • Pin and blind stitch the top edge to the inside of the purse.

26. Tie a knot near the halfway point on each reserved seam cut from the sweater sleeves. Thread a bead (optional) on each end and tie a knot to hold in place.

27. Hand sew each tassel in place on the outside top edge of the purse at the shoulder strap, anchoring at the center knot with matching floss.

Lydia Dierwechter, Pennsylvania

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