Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Recycled Wool Sweater Becomes Tote Bag

Last year my friend Dixie (happy birthday, Dixie!) introduced me to Betz White and the concept of felting wool sweaters for repurposing. I even picked up some sweaters at the thrift store for that purpose.

Then I recently saw Wendy’s sweater tote, subsequently found one at Canadian Living, and decided a tote would be my first felting project.

I found a men’s large 100% wool sweater on the dollar rack the thrift store. I liked the tone-on-tone stripe.IMG_4144

After two trips through the washing machine on hot with high agitation, and machine drying, it shrank down to this (use the couch cushions for size comparison).IMG_4186

I cut it apart:IMG_4187

The above linked instructions just used the shoulders as the handles, but I wanted longer straps to be able to carry it over my shoulder. So, I cut two basically equal pieces from the sleeves.IMG_4196

I pinned and sewed across the bottom (wrong side out). The instructions show turning it so that the sweater side seams are down the front and back; I didn’t do that since I was changing it up a little. I did sew a gusset, as shown on the Canadian Living diagrams.IMG_4197

After turning it right side out, I pinned the pieces of sleeves to the shoulder sections (which I had cut apart at the seam) and sewed straight across. There were two of these, forming two straps. IMG_4205

Felted wool will not ravel, but for a finished look, I turned all the raw edges under and sewed around.

Here’s the finished bag!IMG_4214

This was fun (other than the sewing machine giving me fits; I think it may be on its way out), and the end result looks pretty good, but I learned a few things.

1.The two wool straps are too thick and bulky to comfortably carry on my shoulder. Next time, I’m going to modify it to a single-strapped bag.

2. A lining would make the bag more functional, and neater looking on the inside.

3. Hand-sewing certain sections would make for less frustration while topstitching on the machine, and a nicer looking finished product.

I plan to try this again and will show you any improvements I’ve made.

Edit: Go here to see how I remade this bag.


Rachelle @ "Mommy? I'm Hungry!" said...

That's funny how much it shrank! Great idea to make a bag. I just love your blog with all the Thrift finds and crafts you do!

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Cute bag, Holly!!! :)

southerninspiration said...

I have always wanted to try felting something....I am going to look into doing this thanks to your inspiring me!! Thanks!


Miss Obara said...

Love this idea!! I'm on a sweater hunt now!
Check out my halloween blog at

Ali said...

VERY cute!! I love it and I think I will try to make one or two as well, one can never have too many bags/purses/totes lol! And the kind you make yourself are my fav!

Pam said...

I just made one of these last week. My machine gave me fits, too. I found the felt hard to sew. I zig zag stitch did help immensely - but, I decided to forgo stitching around the handles. I like the idea you had of making the straps longer. It turned out really cute.

dixie said...

I loved it yesterday and I love it today!! Thanks for the birthday wishes - it's been a great day so far!

Mandi @ Finding Home said...

What a cute and cozy bag. So perfect for fall!

Hey, I fiiinnaaally got around to making house numbers for the front of my door using contact idea I got from you. I used my cricut to cut the letters and No. out. Then because my door is white, I colored them in with a sharpie. They look so good! Thanks so much for the idea. I'm going to post about it soon and link back to you.

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

How cool is that! What a great idea. Thanks for sharing.


Country Dreaming said...


Love it! So you used a regular old sewing machine for this project?
Is the fabric too thick maybe???
I would like to do this too but I don't want any problems either.

Melinda said...

Very cute!!!

marmielu said...

This is great! I have always wanted to try making something out of felted wool. Your pictures have given me the nudge to try this. (I work from detailed pictures better.) Thanks so much!
Mary Lou

Pat & Ron Harris said...

I love it. Have several sweaters felted and am hoping to get to them this winter. You've given me inspiration to start!

Pam said...


Thanks so much for dropping by to see my sweater bag! It is fuzzy - but I only washed it on warm (with the rest of my laundry). Maybe, that's why yours is fuzzier. I have since added a really cute button in the shape of a flower to it. It looks a lot better. Can't wait to see more of your projects and thanks again for dropping by!


Christina said...


Amazing idea! I love it and the long straps are great. I have to be able to put a purse on my shoulder.

Audra said...

super duper cute! Love this, I have been wanting to know how to do this.
Thanks a bunch.

Barb said...

Great purse!!

barbara jean

J said...

I think I'm going to use old suit jackets to do the same thing. The fabric should be easier to deal with than felted wool!