make stuff

{make stuff} DIY Upcycled Sweater Cowl

November 5, 2012

upcycled sweater circle scarf :: stuff steph does

You’ve seen those jersey knit circle scarves, right? All they do is cut out the body part of the t-shirt and BAM! Circle Scarf.

Well, why can’t we do it with sweaters, too? Then you get the warmth of a knit scarf without having to knit it,. That’s an A+ idea in my book!

upcycled sweater circle scarf :: stuff steph does

Here’s the step-by-step:

1. Find your sweaters.

I’ve been scouring thrift stores for my sweaters. If your sweaters aren’t similar in size, make sure that the smaller sweater is big enough, because your scarf won’t be any bigger than the smaller sweater.

Once you get your sweaters, wash and dry them to get them all clean and ready to go.


2. Cut the body

upcycled sweater circle scarf :: stuff steph does

Cut out the main bulk of the sweater. Striped sweaters are great for easy straight cutting. You can always make it smaller if you want, so I cut the smaller sweater as big as possible to begin by cutting right under the arms and right above the ribbing.

upcycled sweater circle scarf :: stuff steph does

Repeat the process with the other sweater. In this case the gray sweater was longer than the striped sweater, so I used the striped sweater as the guide for how wide to cut both.

Step 3. De-Circle-Fy 

upcycled sweater circle scarf :: stuff steph does

Ugh, I know, doesn’t sound very intuitive? We’re making circle scarves, the sweaters are already in a circle! Yes, but we want a clean finish, so we need to de-circle-fy them before we can circle-fy them.

So, cut open one side seam on each sweater so you have two long strips.

Step 4. Make a Tube

upcycled sweater circle scarf :: stuff steph does

Pin the strips right sides together by lining up the two seams in the middle.  Cut off any excess on either side if one sweater is longer. This scarf we’re working on ended up being about 32″ long. You could make it longer if you wanted to be able to fold it once, or a little smaller if you want it tighter around your neck. Whatever you prefer.

Sew along both long edges, leaving the ends open.

Flip right side out. Now you have a looong tube.

Step 5. Circle-Fy!

upcycled sweater circle scarf :: stuff steph does

Fold the tube in half so the raw edges meet. Sew the ends together on the machine by sewing around the circle. Don’t just sew across all four layers of fabric. Only sew two layers at a time. You won’t be able to go the whole way around.


Disclaimer: There’s just a smidgen of hand sewing required.

upcycled sweater circle scarf :: stuff steph does

See? Barely any hand sewing needed. Hand sew that little hole shut and you have yourself a new circle scarf!

Step 6: Show It Off!

upcycled sweater circle scarf :: stuff steph does

I ended up making 3. The one on the right was made with one long sweater.

upcycled sweater circle scarf :: stuff steph does


upcycled sweater circle scarf :: stuff steph does

What an eco-way to stay warm!

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  • Reply Katainoi Hayward November 5, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    What a clever !!! I love the purple one. So classy (>w<)
    Love it Love it !!!!!

  • Reply Mable Kropog November 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    I have a bag of sweaters that I did not know what to do with so now you have given me my Christmas gifts, thank you,

    • Reply steph November 12, 2012 at 10:23 pm

      So glad to hear it, Mable! Have fun with it!

  • Reply roselyne November 16, 2012 at 11:13 am

    je vais tester merci a vous

  • Reply Chloe November 18, 2012 at 12:17 am

    love love LOVE the idea but could you tell me how to keep the more knitted sweaters from unravelling?

    • Reply steph November 18, 2012 at 9:21 am

      Thanks Chloe! To prevent unraveling, be careful not to stretch the sweater too much when cutting it. Sewing the sweaters together will ensure that they won’t unravel any more. Hope you try it out!

  • Reply Melissa November 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    I SO love this idea too! I have a cashmere sweater I’ve loved so much I’ve worn holes in the elbows…and now I can make it last even longer. 🙂 Thank you for this wonderful project. One question though…..what type of thread did you use?

    • Reply steph November 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      Thank you, Melissa! A cashmere cowl will be amazing! I just use normal thread on my sewing machine. I sometimes have to “walk” the needle for the first few stitches since the sweaters can be pretty thick, but otherwise it sews just fine. Good luck!

  • Reply Michelle December 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    What a terrific idea! I ran home and did this project with 2 sweaters my mother-in-law gave me because they don’t fit her anymore. My favorite part is I already know she’ll like it! One thing I needed to do (since one of the sweaters was fairly thick) was line the inside with fabric strips, like you would make bias tape with. That kept the sweater fabric from getting pushed into the feeder dogs. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply steph December 11, 2012 at 8:48 pm

      I’m so glad you were able to use the idea Michelle! and thanks for the tip!

  • Reply Diane December 23, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    My daughter cut 4 and I did the sewing
    So happy she discovered this it is great
    Will do some more
    Send me more ideas

    • Reply steph December 27, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      That’s great to hear, Diane! I’m so glad you put this idea to good use!

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  • Reply Tiffany Soelberg January 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Can you clarify how to do this part? This is my first time making two sweater cowl and I’m just not sure how to connect all 4 layers into one smooth circle? (Fold the tube in half so the raw edges meet. Sew the ends together on the machine by sewing around the circle. Don’t just sew across all four layers of fabric. Only sew two layers at a time. You won’t be able to go the whole way around.)

    Thank you!

    • Reply Paula January 12, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      I am very curious about this too. I went searching through the comments for an answer.

  • Reply Kirschcrumble March 3, 2013 at 7:03 am

    great idea! So far I made the loops with “normal” fabric…need to try!

    Best Isabelle

    • Reply steph March 3, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      Thanks, Isabelle! Glad you like this version!

  • Reply eh2o March 19, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Love your work! I have 3 questions from a non-sewer: 1) it looks like the finished scarf is approximately the same diameter as the original sweater, even after cutting and sewing…right?; 2) do you have to use 2 sweaters? what would happen if you just used one loop, other than not being as thick or interesting as yours? 3) what is your opinion of hand sewing rather than machine sewing? Thanks so much!

    • Reply steph March 19, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      Great questions! 1) Yes. The cowl is only slightly smaller than the original diameter of the smallest sweater. I would err on the big side because you can always make it smaller! 2) You could totally make this with just one sweater. Find a sweater that is long enough so you could fold it together. It doesn’t really work as well to just cut the sweater and wear it as is because the ends will not be finished and it will most likely fray. 3) I prefer to machine sew as much as possible because it is faster for me and is stronger. When I hand sew, I start to cheat and make bigger stitches so I can finish up faster and then the piece loses some stability. But I think it is very possible to hand sew this project if that is what you want to do! Good luck!

  • Reply eh2o March 20, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Thanks so much for support and advice, E

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  • Reply Laura November 18, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    This was sooooo awesome. I recently went from 248 down to 183 pounds. Which equalled out to ALOT of extra big sweaters!! FYI I used the sleeves and turned them into matching boot cuffs too!!!! I used 10 sweaters and paired them with shirts too!! Super cute Christmas gift sets this year!!!! Thanks 10 hand made unique gifts in just one day = awesomeness!!!


    • Reply steph November 24, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      Awesome Laura! So glad you tried it out!

  • Reply Diane January 30, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Headed to the thrift store…. thanks for the great idea!

  • Reply Vicki February 22, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Clever idea and looks easy enough to do. Thanks for sharing.

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    Very creative idea. If you are very imaginative, you can create something from one thing to another. You can create something old to a new one. Creativity is very necessary, and you showed it to your scarf. Thanks for sharing!

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  • Reply Robyn November 25, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    What would you say the width is of your cowl? thanks!

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    Turns out this post you wrote in 2012 is still living on in 2015. I made three of your cowls and blogged about it myself. I really enjoyed the project. Thanks for inspiring me. For years I claimed to not know how to wear scarves, but with these, it’s so easy!

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