Friday, December 23, 2011

Never Waste a Shrunken Sweater: How to Make Arm Warmers

arm warmers, repurposing a sweater
Loki models his new "armies", along with what remains of the shrunken red sweater after making three pairs of armies from it.
Over the years, I have somehow shrunken more sweaters than I can count. It might have something to do with my refusal to take anything to a dry-cleaner. I normally try to wash them in a sweater bag, in cool water, and hang dry, but still some come out of the wash much smaller than they went in. This is not, however, the end of their usable life!

arm warmers

One favorite easy sewing project of mine is to make "armies", arm warmers, or whatever you want to call them. I've been making them for years from busted shirts. It's always nice to have a pair around for when your wrists get cold ;) Actually they make a lot of difference if they're wool, and as you can see in the photo of my son, they make you feel a lot tougher.

arm warmer
They can make excellent presents as well, for those who like to do handmade holiday gifts.

I used to make them a lot shorter, so they were basically fingerless gloves, but these days I like them to be more like sleeves, up to my elbows. Then I can get away with tank tops in December.

There isn't much of a trick to them. They can be as simple and rustic or finished and embellished as you want. I tend to go for the quick & rustic look. I like the things that I make to look handmade, but I also like them to last, so I do a whip stitch around the cut edges to reduce fraying. I have heard that if you wash (read: felt) them after stitching around the edges, the stitches will just shrink up and the edges will be nice and clean.

I'm kind of ethically opposed to taking a perfectly good sweater and turning it into a project, when there are enough shrunken or stained sweaters out there to make arm bands for the world. You probably have a sweater right now that's past its prime, not really wearable but perhaps was once a favorite? Give it a new life!
arm warmers
These were made from scraps of a wool scarf.

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Never Waste a Shrunken Sweater: How to Make Arm Warmers
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May 18, 2012 at 4:38 PM

Great idea! Oh yeah, I will have reason to do this next winter at some point.

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May 19, 2012 at 6:25 AM

I love the idea of tank tops in winter! Ha! Last year I picked up a pair of these at the local feed store. I was impressed by how much I liked them. They were loose at the opening on my arm, though, so this is such a good idea, making your own! And unfortunately I've been known to shrink my fair share of clothes. :-(

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May 21, 2012 at 10:07 AM

If you make them long enough, they can be like a season extender for tshirts! Great for babies, who always grow into that cute t you were gifted in the middle of winter :-). You can make leg wrmers for little ones too. I also like to use felted sweaters to make soaker for people who are cloth diapering and totes.

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May 21, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Ooh, I like those ideas, thanks! We're done with diapers, but does wool felt really make absorbent liners?

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September 2, 2012 at 8:51 PM

Those are GREAT ideas. I have found sweaters at thrift stores that are (or were) truly beautiful until someone shrunk them. Maybe I could make leg warmers out of an extra large men's sized one.

I wash my 100% wool stuff in the washing machine all the time and haven't had anything shrink. (I also HATE taking my wool to a dry cleaners where it might be subjected to nasty chemicals and cost me money to boot). I don't use "cool" water, I use COLD water and I don't use a sweater bag though that might help with the pilling; I don't know. I just use a biodegradable liquid detergent made for wool and/or delicates, set the machine on its easy-does-it cycle ("gentle" I think it's called) and let it do its thing. When it finishes its cycle I throw in a towel or two and put it on a spin only cycle and the wool things give up a lot of their moisture to the towel. Lay them out flat til they're nearly dry and then hang. Always comes out perfect. Hope this helps you to not shrink anymore of your beautiful wool things. Glad you found a way to save and re-use--brilliant!

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September 4, 2012 at 7:27 AM

Thanks for the tips on washing!

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October 9, 2012 at 9:17 AM

I love this idea! I have a few sweaters that I have accidentally shrunk that would be perfect for this.

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October 13, 2012 at 12:45 PM

very fun. This would make a great post for my repurposed ideas weekly blog hop? Won't you join me?
http://repurposemylife.com/repurposed-ideas-weekly-9/

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October 13, 2012 at 5:16 PM

Thanks for the invite, I'll totally check it out!

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October 20, 2012 at 9:21 AM

Great ideas! Thanks for sharing with Natural Living Monday!

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October 31, 2012 at 8:05 AM

Really good ideas for using shrunken sweaters! I've had a couple sweaters shrink up recently, but I've learned to stretch them a little bit when they're wet and drying and that seems to help a bit. However, it doesn't always work (or it goes wonky!) and this would be great to use those, along with other out of date looking clothes that have good sleeves!

Thanks for sharing this on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday :)

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November 4, 2012 at 7:07 PM

I am totally with you on not cutting up a perfectly good sweater just to make projects!!! I buy things from the thrift store all the time and I always have a specific thing in mind when I get them too! I found one thick mens shirt I hope to make into a comfy skirt for myself and, now after seeing this, I think the arms will become new arm sweaters for me since they wouldn't really be used in the refashion I was planning! :) I am one of those who likes to use as much as I can from each piece of fabric I have! Even the scraps lol.

Helen
Blue Eyed Beauty Blog

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November 4, 2012 at 9:37 PM

You're right, I've got a wool dress that I've managed to shrink, but I can still wear it if I stretch it out when wet, as you mentioned. There's still life in it! I love wool.

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November 4, 2012 at 9:38 PM

I want to see the skirt you come up with!

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November 4, 2012 at 9:55 PM

Okay! I will probably start working on it soon since I want it for this colder weather! I will stop back by and leave a link on this post once I write up a post for it!

Helen
Blue Eyed Beauty Blog

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November 7, 2012 at 1:28 PM

What a great idea. I'm with you on dry cleaning. I can't afford it. Yikes. Loki is too cute.

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November 10, 2012 at 9:44 PM

Great idea, Mellow! I have so many old sweaters sitting in the basement just waiting to be turned into a project - definitely adding this to my list! Thanks for sharing at Tiny Tip Tuesday!

P.S. Your son is such a cutie :)

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November 11, 2012 at 7:29 AM

Thank you Sarah! You can make leg-warmers with some of those sweaters too! I wore some today over my jeans for biking in the cold pre-dawn morning.

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November 14, 2012 at 7:05 PM

Interesting idea! I've made mittens from old sweaters, but have never done this...

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November 14, 2012 at 9:17 PM

I love the mitten idea. That'll be the next project!

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November 26, 2012 at 5:43 AM

I haven't done this with sweaters, but the kids often outgrow their long sleeve shirts in length so I cut the sleeves off and make them into wrist warmers for under their coats.

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Jen
November 30, 2012 at 8:27 AM

That's AWESOME! I can't tell you how many sweaters I've ruined and just thrown. Great tips!

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December 10, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Great idea! I'd love you to come link up at my Pin Me Linky Party.

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December 10, 2012 at 8:36 PM

Thanks Diana, I will check it out!

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December 21, 2012 at 3:20 PM

Thanks for linking up. My daughter needed some leggings for under her dress today and the tights I picked were too small. We just cut them off and cut out a thumb hole.

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December 29, 2012 at 8:52 PM

These are great. I would love these. I am going to have to make some this way.
Debi

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January 2, 2013 at 11:17 AM

What a great idea! And how Victorian! :) Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday! :)

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February 13, 2013 at 11:27 AM

I have a pile of sweaters in the craft room right now, so I see some armies in my future!

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February 19, 2013 at 10:56 AM

I love repurposing! Esp wool! Thanks for sharing your post with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday. Hope to see you back today! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/02/melt-my-heart-eco-kids-tuesday.html

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March 18, 2013 at 5:31 PM

This is such a great idea! I love it ~pinning to my repurposed board.

Thanks for linking at Project Inspire{d}~hugs, Mary Beth

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March 23, 2013 at 7:36 AM

Great idea! Thanks for sharing this on The Creative HomeAcre Hop! Hope to see your next project tomorrow at:
http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/03/the-creative-homeacre-hop-8.html

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April 6, 2013 at 4:37 AM

These would make a great set of Christmas gifts if you can hit up the thrift shops for some wool sweaters. Way to find a new use for the old sweaters. Thanks for sharing on Tuesday Greens!

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