The (sad) tale of a sweater

I had this idea for a felted coat for Clementine made from one of my old wool sweaters. I called my sister Elli who knits and asked her for some help. She explained that (and this is the gist of felting) you can basically wash the sweater in hot water repeatedly until it is the desired size, and that the wool fibers will tighten up so that you can cut Β up the sweater and not worry about it raveling.

So I got right to it. I stuck the sweater in the wash and then dried it on high and lo and behold it was just about Clementine’s size. Sweet.


{these two sweaters used to be the same size}

Next up was the hardest part. But I took a deep breath, and cut it right down the middle with the scissors.



Phew. Then I chopped the arms off:


Not too hard. Maybe even easy! Next I cut the neck ribbing out:


Easy peasy! I trimmed the bottom ribbing off.


Looking pretty good! I’m feeling pretty good about myself. I’m on a ROLL. On FI-YAH.

How about some pockets?




NO PROBLEM! See, I’m good at this, I’m making it happen, I’m a WHIZ. Watch me make a coat from a sweater in a snap, yeah???

OK, time to add a button tab and a zipper. Little strip of sweater = Button Tab. Trip to Joann = 12″ Sport Zipper.


So I hit my first bump with the zipper when the sweater started stretched way more than the zipper and looked weird. OK. But I can roll with that. A little unsewing, a little basting, a little try-it-again. The next attempt was better, but still a bit bubbly:



But not too bad. I could probably just put this under the iron really quick, just steam it up a little, just flatten it out a bit. Right?

So…I put it under the iron AND THAT’S WHEN IT ALL WENT HORRIBLY WRONG. As I lifted up the iron I saw long red strings like hot glue. Seriously? No, joke, I had melted the zipper SHUT. Unbelievable.


So that’s how that went. Learn from my mistakes.


On the plus side, I can still get the zipper partially open. She can just wear it as a pullover, right? Kidding, sortof. Time to start unsewing again. *sigh*

62 thoughts on “The (sad) tale of a sweater

  1. oh noes! that sounds terribly frustrating (esp if it means another trip out for a new zipper). I did this with an old sweater of mine several years ago and found that you really *really* have to hand baste the zipper in while it is laying flat if you want the zipper to not do that wiggly thing. yay for old wool sweaters getting new life & hope you have no more troubles along the way πŸ™‚

    • Yes. Definitely must hand baste first. I cannot tell you how many times I have been forced to learn that lesson the hard way. (Sadly, it is more than once. I am stubborn.)

    • B:

      Yes, I did use a walking foot…that in combination w/ the basting produced the “sortof wobbly” outcome you see here…so I’m thinking I’ll still have to put a facing of some sort on the openings first or handbaste it!


  2. Um, is that an old sweater from The Gap, circa early 2000’s? If so, I totally still have the same one!! And since it is ancient, pilled, and a biy short on me now, i will prob try the same thing you did (except try not to melt the zipper closed, of course) πŸ™‚

  3. UGH… the wretched iron! I haven’t melted any zippers, but I have melted those plastic round thingys on the ends of sewing pins.

    Great idea… now I gotta fish through all my old sweaters…

  4. So sad! But at least it’s not ruined! And, it’s going to be SOOO cute! What a great idea! Especially love adding the pockets…

  5. what if next time you use starch spray to make it stiff before you sew in the zipper? I dont know if it would work, but it does on knits!

  6. Use Wonder Tape to hold the zipper in place prior to stitching. It’s a two sided 1/4″ wide tape that dissolves in water after you’ve completed it.

  7. Try putting a washable interfacing on the wool before sewing on the zipper. May help keep the wool from stretching. Thanks for the tips though! I am hoping to try this soon. My boy needs a new jacket but don’t know if he would go for one.

  8. I work a ton with recycled felted sweaters. It might help to adjust the pressure of the foot so that it isn’t pressing so hard on the wool and stretching it out as much. also zigzag stitch works way better than straight stitch on the felted wool,and you can barely see it because it almost disappears into the fuzz. but zipper foot and zigzag are not very friendly with each other. how about buttons instead?

  9. So sad about the zipper.

    Randomly, I had this sweater in college and my mom felted it on accident. I can’t remember what we did with it, but she bought me a J. Crew sweater as a replacement.

  10. Oh man! I hate it when things like that happen! I’ve made several little coats like this over the years and a couple tips that might help for future projects:

    – even felted wool works better if stabilized so lining it with a woven fabric or at least stabilizing behind the pockets and underneath the zipper will go a long way to helping with the wobbles.

    -hand picking the zipper will eliminate the wobbles (also maybe a walking foot).

    -ironing felted wool can be tricky too because wool will never be done felting (it just gets less dramatic). Be sure to only use a dry iron on the wool setting and proceed carefully. I totally expected your story to end with the sweater shrinking more!

    Good luck and don’t give up! These little coats are awesome. My kids have all had them as fully lined coats (flannel and rip-stop for warmth and wind) as well as unlined fall jackets.

  11. oh it’s sooo cute! you’re so close! i agree about trying to somehow interface the opening and/or going straight for buttons. i even have some cardigans where the button areas are reinforced with grosgrain ribbon, which would be pretty.

  12. So sorry about the zipper! At least it will be a quick fix at this point in construction. I hate doing things like that *after* completing the project. Ugh.

    Thanks for posting this! I’ve been wanting to do the same thing with a sweater that my husband, um, felted for me. But I wanted to see it done, first. Plus, the comments on this post are super helpful!

  13. Brings back so many memories of my own disasters. I bet that you wave your magic wand and it comes out wonderfully though! Maybe more of a duffle coat design a la Paddington Bear?

  14. I have done this too. I was working on a zip up sweatshirt, and I ended up turning it into a pullover, 3/4 closed and with a button to hold the neck closed.


  15. It’s going to be so cute! Sometimes a piece of typing paper under the garment can help make it more stable. Just tear away when finished sewing. Can’t wait to see!

  16. The SAME EXACT THING happened to me when I was making a backpack for my son from your pattern. I swore I’d never use those sport zippers again, but we’ll see. I like how they are softer for kids. But ya, never get an iron anywhere NEAR those suckers!

  17. With that headline I totally expected you to have ruined the sweater for good. But this looks fixable, don’t give up!

    On the bright side the melted plastic didn’t spread over the fabric, THAT would have been really sad! And I hope you didn’t ruin your iron. I once pressed some interfacing for about 15 seconds before I realized that I had the wrong (sticky) side facing up. Took me hours to clean that iron. You live and you learn, right?! πŸ™‚

  18. This made me giggle. I hate when you get a glitch when you are channeling the creative mojo. It was looking so cute too. Are you going to release a charlie dress pattern soon????? I have been loving the different ones you’ve made. I think you have some of the cutest patterns too! Thanks for sharing!

  19. The zipper part looks frustrating (and a mistake I definitely would have made). But, the the coat is adorable and a very smart idea!

  20. It is still ADORABLE!!! Melted zipper and all πŸ˜‰ Thanks for the post, I have had a horrible afternoon and your “I am on FI-YAH!” really made me laugh out loud. Smiles~Beth

  21. What a bummer. Who would have guessed that zippers can melt. I would have just had Clementine wear it as a pull-over….less chance of her losing it πŸ™‚

    Once I tried felting sweaters from the goodwill in a pot on the stove because they wouldn’t shrink in the wash. The whole house smelled like burnt hair. At least that didn’t happen to you πŸ˜‰ Good luck finishing.

  22. Well, the coat was off to an awfully cute start! And I’m sure you’ll get it fixed up. Those kinds of zippers tend to be kind of ripply themselves, which doesn’t help any. I came quite near to melting one myself recently, in a purse. I only somehow managed to transfer a little fabric color to the natural-colored zipper… and still haven’t figured out how that happened! But it wasn’t bad enough to have to do anything about it. I can’t wait to see your finished coat!

    On another subject…. for some reason, when I try to leave a comment on your blog from my iPad, it locks up my browser (Safari). Every time. I have to go to my PC in order to comment. I can’t imagine why it would do that, but if you have someone “techy” that can figure it out and fix it, it would sure be appreciated. πŸ™‚ And is there no way to subscribe to the comment thread to get responses without having to come back to your blog to read them?

    • Yes yes, true. I iron zippers all the time, so it never occurred to me that the sport zippers would melt!

      And thx for the feedback on the ipad issues, Grandma G. Will stick Mr Rae on that ASAP and see what we can do. I read blogs on Safari on my ipad all the time but I’m always too lazy to comment, so I guess I never noticed!!! πŸ™‚

      • It doesn’t do that on other blogs, though… just yours. πŸ™‚ Try leaving a comment here from your iPad and see if it happens for you. (?)

        • You know, I did try leaving one from my ipad last night. And it worked fine…WEIRD. I have no idea what the problem could be. BTW are you coming back for the responses to your comments or are they getting mailed to you?

          • I have to come back here to read the responses. I haven’t gotten any emails. I don’t see anywhere to subscribe to the comment thread. Did I miss something?

            I’ll have to try again from my iPad, I guess. I’ve ended up having to do a reset in order to get the browser back after it locked up when trying other times, though. πŸ™ I’ll let you know what happens…..

      • I still can’t comment from my iPad. I hit the “key” for the first letter, and it locks right up. I’ve gotten around having to reset the iPad, at least, but can’t figure out the rest. So if you don’t see me around here very often, you know why. ;(

  23. Oh man….sounds like how my week went with a tutorial I was working on that shall remain unnamed. I kept hearing my imaginary Tim Gunn saying “make it work Shannon, make it work” and sorry, Tim….I failed ya. I pulled a long standing project runway trick and scrapped the whole thing and whipped up something new. So you could always try that πŸ™‚

    How about no zipper and cute toggle buttons instead? Sometimes walking away and taking a different approach can help. And thanks for the tip..never, ever iron a zipper. I will try and remember that when the time comes that I sew my FIRST zipper. Yep..never sewn one…I know..I’m a chicken s&*t..muahaha.

  24. oh MAN! it was so cute! Sorry about that. She can totally wear it as a pullover though. Can you zip the top portion at all?
    I love refashioning sweaters. It’s such a great cheating method, compared to really knitting something (ugh)

  25. That little jacket is super cute! I didn’t know you could melt a zipper, but they are made of plastic so it makes total sense.. I was also thinking that you were going to say that it shrunk more, which would be bad. At least a zipper can be taken out (again) and replaced. πŸ™‚

  26. Ahh bugger!! But’s it so cute. Funny thing is just this past week I felted hubby’s good sweater, not once but twice by accident. First time it fit me (bonus!) next time, not so much. Was thinking of going again to get it to fit bub next Winter (Australian). Hope yours turns out!

  27. Sorry, I know that it was not your first goal when starting this project, but you really made me laugh at this gloomy (grey weathers in the Netherlands) morning. The project is a winner though, it looks really cute and I think I will give it a try myself. Lots of old sweaters to be turned into jackets. Thanks for the idea and keep up the good spirits!

  28. I LOVE this idea!! I have tons of old sweaters, and some that I’ve thrifted and I’m going to dig through them to find a new fall coat for my daughter!!! Awesome idea!

    • Thank goodness for the Frog Stitch! (Rip it! Rip it! Rip it!) What would I do without it?

      Another aid might be stay stitching areas before cutting. I’ve found that helps. Example, I sew 2 parallel lines, close together where the zipper will be added, then cut between them with scissors or rotary cutter. I also stay stitch above the bottom ribbing, around the neck, etc., first, before cutting.

      That is one good thing about metal zippers – they don’t melt like the plastic ones do. They have their disadvantages too, though.

      Love what you’ve done with this sweater!

  29. Put buttons and button loops on instead of a zipper! I’m definitely going to try this. I made a sweater dress from an old sweater, but hadn’t thought of a coat.

  30. Your trial an errors made me smile…sorry! Thanks for sharing.
    A once adult sweater turned little tiny secret sweater is hiding in my closet. A BIG laundry oops… I have yet to confess to my oldest daughter. Hmm, do you think she’ll notice her little sister wearing a refashioned zip up that looks similar to a sweater she once owned?

  31. Oh good luck with finishing that zipper. I have NO doubt that you will do it fabulously as you do everything. Too freakin’ cute. I’d love to shrink my daughter down to fit something like this.

  32. So, the wonderful thing about this post is besides making me giggle and read in anticipation, you made me feel better for all the “unsewing” I have done lately! As well as burning things with an iron or not opening a zipper before sewing a bag together. The good news is, we *probably* won’t do those things again! Great idea and always fun to reuse our fashions for little ones. Thanks for sharing.

  33. Nooo, that stinks! But it’s still fixable, right? What a great idea to shrink the sweater in the dryer. This little sweater is so adorable. I love the colors–I want one too!

  34. well, it was super cute! and will be again very soon! I’ve tried this before and it never worked. I can’t seem to chrink the ones I want to shrink!

  35. sadness! but it is looking so super cute and what a great idea!! i love making new clothes out of already-made clothes. it’s so much easier!!

  36. I have this same sweater and accidentally felted it a few years ago. I’ve been hanging onto it thinking I would make some sort of stuffed animal with it for my daughter, but now I might try to make one of these coats (although I think I’ll use buttons since I’m terrible with zippers).

  37. Trying to make a winterish jacket for Case and would like to line it. Found the jacket you made for E. with the Peter Rabbit fabric which is lined at Sara’s. Do you have that pattern or instructions for lining somewhere on your site. Otherwise I will have to wing it.

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