How to Make Purses Out of Wool Sweaters

    by Susan Brockett

    About the Author

    Susan Brockett worked in the computer industry as a technical writer for nearly 20 years at companies including Motorola and Dell Computer Systems. In addition, her articles have appeared in Society of Technical Communications publications. Brockett has a master's degree in English composition and communications from Kansas State University.


    Recycling is more than just collecting plastic bottles and cans -- it's taking any item that would otherwise be discarded and turning it into something useful. Old wool sweaters can be recycled into many things, including purses. Felting the sweater first creates a solid wool fabric that you can cut with no fraying. Whether you use sweaters that have languished in your closet or finds from a thrift store, re-purposing wool sweaters is an easy and creative way to make something new out of something old.

    Things You'll Need

    • Pillowcase
    • String
    • Washing machine
    • Laundry detergent
    • Tailor's chalk or felt tip pen
    • Ruler
    • Scissors
    • Needle and thread or sewing machine

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    Remove any buttons, ribbons or other accents on the sweater. Put the sweater in the pillowcase and tie it securely with string.

    Wash the sweater in hot water with a dash of detergent, using your machine's hottest temperature setting. The pillowcase adds friction that helps to felt the wool and captures loose fibers that may clog your washing machine’s filter. Depending on the sweater and your washing machine, you may have to wash the sweater more than once before it is fully felted.

    Air dry the felted sweater if it is the right size after felting, or use a dryer if you want it to shrink more.

    Turn the felted sweater inside out and lay it out on a flat on a work surface. Smooth the sweater out as much as you can. Iron the felted sweater if it is very creased.

    Cut the sleeves off the felted sweater, cutting along the seams that join the sleeves to the body. Put the sleeves aside for a future craft project.

    Draw a horizontal line across the body of the sweater from armpit to armpit, parallel to the lower hem.

    Draw two sets of vertical lines on either side of the neck, from the shoulder seam down to the horizontal line you drew across the body of the sweater. The lines represent the straps for the bag. Make the sets of lines 2 to 5 inches apart, depending on how wide you want the straps to be.

    Cut the bag shape out, cutting the shoulders away along the outer strap lines and the outer sections of the horizontal line; and the neck part of the sweater away along the inner strap lines and the middle section of the horizontal line. Leave the shoulder seams intact at the tops of the straps.

    Sew the bottom of the sweater together securely, by hand or machine. Turn the bag right side out.

    Add a lining or embellishments like buttons or embroidery, if you wish.

    • If your sweater is not 100 percent wool it will not felt. Try taking it apart and unraveling the yarn to knit or crochet a new purse instead.
    • You can felt more than one sweater at at time, but put each sweater in its own pillowcase.
    • Use the cut-off sleeves for fingerless mittens or can cozies.