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Sweaters Blanket Tutorial

Sweaters blanket on railing

This is one of my favorite projects. I have one of these blankets in my living room, my mom has one in her television room, and I gave one to my cousin for her wedding this summer. It’s certainly a bit more involved than the last several days of tutorial projects that I have shared, but it makes for such a lovely finished project and is so easy to customize for anyone on your gift list (or yourself!).

You will need:
4 sweaters (see info below about selection)
Backing fabric (I recommend a curtain panel. The amount of fabric you need will depend upon your finished size of the blanket)
Thread
Fabric scissors
A sewing machine

Sweater selection – Here’s where you can really make the project fit your unique aesthetic by the sweaters that you select. I’ve sewn blankets made from sweaters of just about every fiber content and texture, so don’t worry about picking natural fibers versus synthetics. Don’t pick sweaters that are matchy-matchy. Once you put together the patchwork, it will be more visually appealing if there is some contrast between the sweaters. This can come from color, texture, or fiber content. 4 sweaters will make a nice size snuggly blanket for one person. 3 sweaters will make a lap blanket. 5 sweaters will fit you and your sweetie.

 

Note about sewing: I sew with a ½” seam allowance. If you’re more comfortable with a 5/8″ that’s fine too. I strongly suggest using a stretch stitch throughout. The stretch stitch will make the blanket sturdier and prevent the seams from ripping with use.

 

First, wash your sweaters. Wash them on hot and dry them on hot. This will get all of the shrinking that the sweaters might do out of the way so you don’t have to worry about washing your finished blanket.

Wind a few bobbins. I always wind several at the start of the project because I know that it will take a few and then I don’t have to stop sewing to wind another.

Cut your sweaters apart. I start by cutting off sleeves, collars and button bands. Then cut off all of the seams. It’s ok to leave ribbing on, it will just add more visual interest.

Now, chop the sweater into rectangles. Don’t make the rectangles too small, you can always cut them down further. I try and keep at least one side 5” wide.

Lay out your rectangles across the floor as if it will be your finished blanket. (Warn your boyfriend to stay out of the office for a while and kick out your cats so they don’t play in the middle and push your layout everywhere!) It’s okay if they don’t make an even line at the edges of the blanket because you can trim the edges after sewing.

Start sewing the blanket together. I find it easiest to sew together in strips or chunks and then to piece the chunks together into the whole. Your rectangles are very stretchy and it’s easy to fudge to get things to fit, so don’t stress about lining things up perfectly.

Once you have the top all pieced together, trim your edges even and run it through the dryer. Trust me on this one. It will help tame all the little fluffies that I’m sure you’ve noticed flying around your sewing space by this point in time. You can vacuum at this point too.

 

Now, measure the length and width of your blanket and cut a piece of backing fabric the same size. Depending on the width of your blanket, you may need to sew two pieces of backing fabric together to fit. It’s just fine to have a seam in the finished back. I’ve tried several different types of fabric for the back and found that they all work, you just get a different character. I’ve used t-shirt stretch-cotton, a woven cotton muslin, and a pair of synthetic curtains. I found curtains to be a great backing because they are often wide enough you don’t have to piece them together.

Lay your blanket and backing together on the floor, right sides together. Align one side and pin all the way down, every couple of inches. This is really important because the blanket top will stretch so easily. Repeat this for all sides, leaving a 12” gap along the fourth side.

Trim the corners and turn the blanket right side out through the gap. Pin the gap as if it had been sewn closed (tucking ½” seam inside) and topstitch right next to the edge to close it. Now topstitch all along the blanket 1/2” in from the edge.

Smile, you’re done!

Please note: I am not doing any custom sewing at the moment so I am unable to sew a blanket for you. Thanks.

Comments 46

  1. Excellent instructions….as a novice sewer( bit better than beginner), I need a few more pictures…
    The last part about sewing the edge is a little unclear for me.
    Thank you for putting this tutorial together…I start washing my sweaters today!!

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      Author

      The final step is to sew around the entire blanket 1/2″ in from the edge. This sews the top and bottom together so that as you use the blanket, the top and bottom stay in the correct orientation to each other. Hope that helps a bit!

      1. A friend of mine just died. Her father and daughter would like to make a blanket for each of them from her sweaters. Would you be able to do this for them? What do you charge? The father lives in Florida and the daughter lives in California.

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      Author

      After sewing the right sides of the blanket and backing together (but leaving a small gap), you remove all the pins. Then you turn the blanket right side out and sew the final seam as a topstitch around the whole edge of the blanket. Hope that helps!

  2. What a great idea! Thanks for the instructions. I’ve got my sweaters together and am about ready to start! When you stitch your squares together, what kind of stitch do you use to keep the sweaters from unraveling? Do you use a straight stitch or a zig-zag? Thank you for sharing.

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      Author

      I usually use my machine’s straight stretch stitch (also known as a lightning stitch) since it’s one of the sturdiest stitches and it has stretch in it. A zig-zag stitch will also work. Don’t use a straight stitch because you will find seams snapping as your blanket stretches around with use.

  3. Pingback: 6 Ideas for Upcycling Your Old Sweaters - Everyday Inspiration from LTDEveryday Inspiration from LTD

  4. My Amazing cousin Julie sent me your link. My mom passed away a few weeks ago and she had 100+ cashmere sweaters. I want to make blankets out of her cashmere sweaters and your instructions are the easy and clear.
    Have you worked with cashmere sweaters? One tutorial said I should machine was and dry the sweaters. I’ve never machine washed cashmere and am nervous. What do you recommend?
    Thank you

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      Author

      What a lovely idea to make a keepsake and cuddly blanket from sweaters that were your mom’s. How nice to honor and remember her as you sew and use the blanket. I’m very sorry for your loss.

      I have used cashmere sweaters. I do recommend washing and drying the sweaters before you use them. They will most likely shrink (some or a lot) but by getting the shrinking out of the way first, you don’t have to worry about washing the blanket as you use it in the future. Think of them as material and not sweaters!

  5. Thank you for your help and kind words. The gentle reminder that this is material not sweaters was greatly needed Six loads of wash later, I’m ready to start cutting.

  6. Hi! My father passed away five months ago, and I came across your link. Is there anyway that I could ship you my sweaters, and you would be able to make something for me? I have asked all the sewers I know, and they do not feel comfortable doing it with the sweater material.

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  7. I am excited to create a sweater blanket also! Great instructions. Do you tie the blanket or stitch it so there is no movement with the front and back sides? I know my grandma used to do that when she made quilts. Thank you in advance!

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      Author

      I haven’t tied or quilted the blankets in any way. I find that the stitching around the edge is enough to keep the blanket together since I’m making lap size quilts. If you want to make it much larger, you might want to secure the layers together.

  8. I just found your site. I just lost my son a few weeks ago and he loved to wear cardigan sweaters. I would love to have a keepsake
    from those sweaters and a blanket would be a great use for his worn and beloved sweaters. I feel that way I can feel closer to him.
    Do you yourself make sweater blankets for people? If you did, I would cherish it forever.
    Thank you

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      Author

      I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. My thoughts are with you and your family. That’s a really lovely idea to have a blanket made from his sweaters. I don’t do custom sewing at the moment, but I will email you with the contact information of a woman that I know who does.

  9. What stitch length is best? Is a polyester thread good or should I use another type? Thank you for posting this great tutorial.

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      Author

      Stitch length depends a bit on the weight of the sweaters you are using and your personal sewing machine. A slightly longer stitch length will make it easier to sew through thick layers, but the shorter the seam length the sturdier the seam is, so it’s a balance. I suggest practicing on some scraps. See what sews easiest and then yank and pull on the samples and send them through the washing machine to make sure that the seam is sturdy. Standard polyester thread is fine.

      Happy sewing!

  10. My sister passed away and my niece sent me a bunch of clothes to make a keepsake quilt. When I got the package I found most of them were sweaters of different weights (does that matter). I am scared to death to cut them up and get started, also enclosed were a couple of t-shirts and cotton tops. I am assuming that it would be difficult to mix those fabrics. I am very experienced with quilting as I worked in a fabric store for many years, but this makes me nervous, knowing these were my sisters. I was thinking that after sewing the seams I could serge them to finish the seams to help with fraying. Also do you tie the quilt to keep the backing, batting and top together?

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      Author

      I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. Using sweaters of somewhat different weights isn’t an issue, although I would keep super bulky and laceweights out of the mix. I would suggest doing something separate with the t-shirts and cotton tops as they will both sew and wear differently.

      You can serge the seams after sewing, although I have found that I have never needed to as long as I use a very sturdy stitch or a couple lines of stitching. The raw edges are hidden on the inside of the blanket (like a typical quilt you are used to sewing) so they shouldn’t be too much of a concern. If you are worried, you can sew together scraps and then run them through the washing machine and yank on pull on them to see how the seams wear.

      I do not tie the quilt as I am usually making lap size quilts, although you certainly can tie them if you would like. I do sew around the edges of the quilt to keep it from shifting. I do not use batting as the sweaters themselves provide enough bulk, warmth, and loft.

  11. I want to try this with some old sweaters – 3 have quite a bit of cabling. Is there a special needle I should use in my machine?

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      I would probably recommend using a needle on the heavy end (even a denim needle). It will depend upon your machine and the sweaters that you are using what works best, so definitely practice on some scraps. But a heavy needle will be able to handle the bulk of sweaters with cabling.

  12. I am so excited about this project and was thinking of turning this into more of a baby blanket. I thought it would make a great shower gift. Do you have a suggestion on how many sweaters would work best? Could a sturdy/printed flannel material be used as the backing? Thank you as I used to sew a long time ago and am trying to reorient myself to the craft.

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      Author

      The number of sweaters really depends upon how large they are and whether you can get fabric out of the sleeves or just the body. But I would think you could make a baby size blanket out of just a couple sweaters. A flannel backing should work just fine and would be a great snuggly option for a baby!

  13. I recently bought sweaters for $1 at a thrift store with the intent to make a blanket. I was wondering whether while cutting the squares the sweater would unravel therefore using a muslin backing for each square would help keep it’s shape. After sewing the squares together I would use fleece for backing.
    What are your thoughts about using the muslin?

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      Author

      I’ve never found that I needed to back the sweaters before sewing them together. I wash the sweaters on hot before using them, so anything with wool will felt and therefore won’t unravel. For anything else, I suppose if you were to be handling the squares/rectangles a whole bunch you might need to worry, but I generally lay them out on the floor as I go and then pick them up only to do a tiny bit of re-arranging and then sew them together. You’re generally going to want to avoid a very loosely woven sweater anyway because it won’t make a cozy blanket. So really, I wouldn’t worry about it!

  14. Erin, thank you so much for your reply. After looking at my stack of sweaters half are not felted. Mostly acrylic and cotton cable. I’m thinking I may have to use a backing for each square and stitch over it to keep it’s shape. I hate to just discard those that are not wool. I will then use a light weight fleece or flannel backing. Will zig zagging the edges serve as a serger? I’ve learned a lot about using sweaters for blankets from you. I never knew what felting meant until now. Thank you-Elisa

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      Author

      I’ve made many sweater blankets now and have included many sweaters that are cotton or acrylic without a problem. Of course it can’t hurt to back them if you are particularly concerned, but they will behave like a woven instead of like a knit, potentially making it a bit harder to sew all the squares together since they will then be a combination of knits and “wovens”. I’d recommend giving it a go without backing.

      I haven’t used a serger to make any of the blankets, just a wide zig-zag or a straight stretch stitch (sometimes called a lightning stitch). If you have a particularly loosely woven sweater in there are it looks like it ravels easily, go ahead and reinforce the seam with a second line of stitching.

  15. I lost my father last year and I plan to use a few of his cozy cable knit sweaters to do this. I’d like to add a hefty cozy something to the back to make both sides snuggly – do you have any suggestions? I have basically never sewn anything besides a gym bag in home ec – Am I crazy? Should I just send my sweaters to you and pay you to do this??

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      Author

      I’m sorry to hear of your loss.

      If you’re not feeling confident about your sewing abilities, perhaps you could have a friend help you? It’s a pretty simple project so you should be able to do it with just a bit of sewing experience and some self confidence. Feel free to ask me questions as you go.

      I wouldn’t recommend using a thick backing as the blanket will end up very heavy and likely too thick to sew through both layers. If you want the back to feel cozy as well you could use a very thin fleece or even a cotton double gauze.

  16. I’m going to do this for an assignment where l have to reuse items of clothing. i was wondering what the back of the blanket looked like and if l could just use a sheet for the back since l have to reuse items.

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      Author

      A sheet for the back would work just fine. Sometimes sheets are very tightly woven, so I’d suggest making sure that you pick one that isn’t so that it doesn’t make it challenging to sew through.

  17. Hi Erin,
    My mom recently passed away. She has many crazy holiday sweaters that are cotton/ acrylic that we’d like to turn into blankets for my sister and I. We don’t sew. Is there a way for us to send you the sweaters and pay to have you do them? We would need two blankets/throws made out of the sweaters we have.

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      Author

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m not doing any custom sewing at the moment, but you are welcome to share my tutorial with with someone who does, and I’m happy to answer any questions you or they might have about the process.

  18. Hi, my mother recently passed away and saw your post and was wondering if you still did quilts/blankets out sweaters and how much you charged.

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  19. Hi Erin, a quick question: I enjoy the soft ” unfelted ” feel of cashmere. Would, making a blanket with ” unfelted ” cashmere, work well?
    Thank you for your opinion!

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      Author

      Unfelted cashmere will work with a few caveats. It will be harder to clean the blanket as you won’t be able to machine wash it. When you construct the blanket, you want to make sure that the cashmere won’t unravel while you are handling the cut pieces. Also, you will want to use extra sturdy stitching (e.g. two layers or a stretch stitch) so that your blanket doesn’t unravel with wear.

  20. I’ve never quilted before but would like to give this a try – do you have a recommendation for the size of the individual squares?

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      I don’t have a specific recommendation for size. I tried to cut the largest squares/rectangles I could get out of the sweaters because it makes it faster and easier to sew together!

  21. Thank you so much for the directions on making a quilt out of sweaters. My daughter is having her first baby and wants me to make one for Ella (the baby) out of her sweaters. I was skeptical, but now am confident that I can make one after reading your instructions. After looking at your pictures, I assume that you do not quilt any designs in the middle of the blocks. I was also wondering what do you charge for making one? If this one turns out well enough, I would think about doing this for others that don’t sew. Thanks again for the instructions.

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      Author

      That’s a very sweet idea to make a sweater blanket for a baby! I do not quilt anything in the middle of the blocks. I don’t have a price for making a blanket as I don’t do custom sewing.

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