Upcycled: Wool Sweaters to Felt Flowers

You would not BELIEVE how many perfectly good, brand new wool sweaters I’ve ruined in my washing machine. Dozens. Maybe hundreds. Until I started knitting and learned to actually appreciate fiber I always saw those “HANDWASH COLD ONLY” and “LAY FLAT TO DRY” rules more like…guidelines. I was too lazy and forgetful to separate stuff before throwing it all in the wash. And yet I was always shocked and devastated when my previously human-sized sweaters came out of the dryer doll-sized and stiff.

That shrinking process is called “felting” and this week I did it on purpose so I could turn wool sweaters into crafty felt flowers.

Since all the sweaters I’ve ruined recently are black, I went to Goodwill to hunt through the racks.


Cardigans are a double score because you can repurpose the buttons in your flowers.

The trick is to find sweaters made of 100% WOOL. Not 70% acrylic, 30% wool or some other synthetic blend. You also want to watch out for items that have “machine washable” on the tag or say anything like “Super Wash” or “No Shrinking!” That sort of defeats the whole purpose here. In theory, you could use other animal fibers – the light pink sweater is actually 100% cashmere – but I found it didn’t felt up as nicely as the wool ones.

I did pretty well with what I bought – the white one in the front didn’t have a tag and I suspected it wasn’t real wool so I wasn’t shocked when it didn’t felt. But it’s clearly hand made and was only $3 so I’ll just wear it. The scarf didn’t felt either, but again, not big loss. New scarf for me!

Now you’re going to shrink the sweaters on purpose to make felt you can craft with.
Follow these steps:
1. Throw sweaters in the washing machine with a little detergent.
2. Set machine to Hot Wash/Cold Rinse and push start.
3. Walk away.

And you’re done.

I found a lot of instructions online that wanted you to put the items you were felting in a mesh bag or pillowcase or toss in a tennis ball or some other heavy item but I had the best luck with the straight up washing machine. Since the goal here is to make the fibers as dense and stiff as possible so you can cut it up, you can even toss the whole mess in the dryer on high when they’re done washing. If you’re not happy with how felty they look after 1 wash, repeat the cycle.

If your sweater wasn’t wool to begin with it will become very clear right about now, because they will not look like this:

Post-felting. You can see how they've shrunk.

Now comes the crafty part. If you’re creative on your own just stop reading and go do something awesome with your new wool felt. The rest of my project isn’t that impressive. But if you want some ideas, read on.

My first thought was to cut out actual flower shapes and sew them together. I found flowers to use as templates online, traced them onto cardboard, and cut out the cardboard shapes to trace onto the felt:

Why yes, that is the box from a cereal that is kid tested and mother approved. It was the only thin cardboard we had in the house.

Unfortunately, tracing the shapes onto the felt was WAY too much work for me, especially with a toddler trying to crawl across the table every two seconds. If you can think of an easier way let me know (Maybe I should pin them? Maybe I can cut with an X-acto knife to avoid the tracing?) but I recommend stick to shapes you can free-hand. I have the cutting skills of a second grader so flowers and stars come out as lopsided blobs – but since you’re a grown up you can definitely do better.

Luckily, I can do a lot with just one or two fancy shapes and a few easily cut circles and leaves.

It helps if you have some buttons hanging around - these are all from the Goodwill sweaters or my stash of lost buttons on the dryer.

Cut out different shapes in different colors...

Stitch them together with a little thread and one of those buttons...

If you're feeling lazy, just stick to cutting out circles...

Or if you're feeling REALLY lazy, use a little yarn to make a loopy flower on a leaf (the button makes it fancy!)...

And you're done! Now you can glue them to pins, barettes, headbands, or sew them right onto a boring purse or scarf.

I’m sort of ridiculously pleased with my flowers. For the record, I made all these from just the bottom part of one sleeve from each sweater – I still have a LOT of felt left over. You can use it the same way you’d use acrylic or nylon felt from the craft store, just remember it is wool so it might be a little scratchy on bebeh parts.

Happy Crafting!

p.s. These are the stretchy cuffs from a couple of the sleeves. I’m thinking they’ll make great headbands for a tiny baby girl – especially with a little felt flower sewn on.

To be continued...

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32 Responses to “Upcycled: Wool Sweaters to Felt Flowers”

  1. You lucky cold weather people with your wool sweaters in thrift stores. I’ve been looking for 4 months to find a single all wool sweater to try and make a pair of longies. That said, I ADORE the leaf with the yarn flower.

    • bebehblog says:

      Ha! I had a friend give me ALL her sweaters the year she moved to L.A. I guess you guys don’t have the huge overabundance of wool we do around here. If you’ll accept boring colors like black and gray I will totally send you a sweater or two.

  2. Meg says:

    This is so awesome! I’ve been feeling super crafty lately, too, but I’m more into the paper crafts end of things. Still, your flowers are adorable and if you were to sell any cute adult-sized stuff, let me know!

  3. fantastic job, crafty mama! your flowers turned out great! i just loaded up on sweaters at my favorite local thrift store. may have to make some cute flowers from the leftover bits after sweater hats are finished! (;


  4. Abbie says:

    be careful if you felt too much not using the mesh bag/pillowcase technique. The lint from the sweaters can clog up washing machines. Luckily I only know this second hand :-). I like your flowers!

    • bebehblog says:

      Thanks for the advice! But would a mesh bag really help prevent that? It’s full of holes. I was actually surprised at how little lint came off the sweaters in the dryer so I’m guessing it would take a LOT of felting before you’d have to worry about it.

      • Abbie says:

        honestly, I have no clue…. I agree a mesh bag wouldn’t seem to help much. All I know is that a friends Mom broke a washer after felting for a bunch. Maybe it was on purpose and she just wanted a new washer?? maybe?

  5. jill says:

    great idea! you are always so creative!!! i love all of the ones you made. also i love that you dont have to use a sewing machine!

    most of my fall/winter clothes are grey and black so these little pops of color would be really cute to add. plus im a button addict so i have lots of those too! hhhmmm…i feel a project coming on.

  6. Alena says:

    This is pretty dang smart. Hmmmmmmm I may have to keep this in mind!!

  7. Cheri says:

    OOOOOHHHHHH can I buy some of your left over sweater parts?!?!?!?!? I want to put felted flowers on my felted slippers and have been attempting to knit them, with out success…..This makes SO much more sense!

  8. michgal18 says:

    Your blog pics have really been great! I feel like I have been reading your blog for a little less than a year and it has gotten so much better, craftier, and funner! (and it was good, crafty and fun to begin with!!)

    • bebehblog says:

      This comment made my day. Seriously. After writing for so long I often worry I’ve gotten boring and lame with my eight zillion pictures and posts no one cares about. And it is GREAT to hear you like the photos – better pictures was my #1 goal for this year.

  9. This is so adorable!!! Go you! :)

  10. TMae says:

    I love the circles. So simple, and cute.

  11. tracy says:

    I have always wanted to do this. Last year a neighbor made the most adorable felt ornaments. I am now inspired by you.

  12. Audrey says:

    Ooooooh…and suddenly making little cutesy clips for Sea Monkey seems achievable on my own..hee!

  13. Amanda says:

    Very cute! I love all the flowers. I usually just use fabric or store bought felt but I think I need to hit up the thrift store now.

    Instead of cardboard, trace your pattern onto tracing paper and then you can just pin it onto the fabric to cut out.

  14. Fatima says:

    I have the perfect, worn-out blue sweater for this project. Thanks for the idea.

  15. Cole says:

    Remember how you said you weren’t creative? Liar. Those are adorable!

  16. bellegourmande says:

    Wow…..just, wow. You constantly inspire me to do *something* creative, especially to spruce up my home’s decor. Any ideas for fixing up a really ugly, boring wood desk, besides just painting it?

    • bebehblog says:

      Sell it on Craigslist and buy a new desk? Not helpful, I know. We go through a cheap fake-wood Walmart desk every 18 months or so because they are CRAP and yet I can’t bring myself to buy anything more expensive.

      If it’s real wood you could strip it and restain it, but I think paint would be easier and cuter. You could paint it and distress it. Or you could make a collage on top of the desk with pictures/colored paper/art and cover it with a big piece of plexiglass.

      • bellegourmande says:

        Ha! Your first suggestion is probably the better one. It is real wood, and it’s in our living room in a very prominent place. We bought it at a used furniture store when we moved here, never intending it to still be with us 2+ years later, but it is. I think I’m just going to have to break down and paint it. Or make my husband do it. If I send you a photo of my couch and the other colored items in the room, can you suggest a color for the desk?

  17. Jenn Smith says:

    You did a great job with your flowers. And you keep telling me that you are not creative. I have another great idea on how to use them. Use them on a card. Better yet make them into a barret or clip and then add it to a card for someone so they can use the flower when they are done with the card. Now for me to go find some wool sweaters and create a card for you as a sample. LOL

  18. Jenn Smith says:

    Oh yeah I forgot to add yes your pictures are absolutely great. That’s why I keep after you to start scrapbooking. I personally think your pictures are close to Professional Quality, you want to come to Ohio and help me with do a few SR Picts of my oldest. LOL

  19. Kat Rosati says:

    Love it! What a way to take lemons and turn them into lemonade! This is what I call a “happy accident”. Super cute!

  20. Laura says:

    Oh these are gorgeous. Come and post a link in my blog’s comments, I just made a felt flower project myselt and my readers would love this!

  21. Joanne says:

    I found your site while looking for used, mutilated, unwanted sweaters! I don’t care what the fiber content is as long as I can cut it up to upcycle into coats or jackets for kiddies/adults. I did felting for awhile but I’ll leave it to those of you that don’t mind cutting for hours…LOL. This is a new venture for me to help with our $$$. Still have an unsold house in GA and now living in Oregon among our 4 of our 6 children ( 3 homegrown/3 adopted special needs ) and 8 grandchildren. Our youngest plays wheelchair sports and want to help him out. Love your site and energy and I need to create one once I get started on my new venture. Back to looking for cheap sweaters in bulk besides the Goodwill/Value Village outlets.

  22. […] Upcycled: Wool Sweaters to Felt Flowers […]

  23. […] Upcycled: Wool Sweaters to Felt Flowers […]

  24. anne says:

    i agree that this is a great way to felt. i have been using upscaled wool for a couple years and i have made dozens of purses, eye glass cases, small pouches, etc. i also started making christmas stockings this year. and you are right about using 100% wool sweaters. cashmere, merino wool and wool blends just do not felt well. good luck!!

  25. suresh says:

    Wow its awesome..

  26. […] Helpful Resources Upcycled: Wool Sweaters to Felt Flowers – bebehblog […]

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