Have you ever mistakenly tossed a wool sweater in the wash and wept over its transformation into something that might fit a 6-year-old child? I have. More than once.
I recently came across a great remedy for the shrunken sweater blues – a wonderfully informative crafting video by Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood of craftsanity.com. Jennifer presents super-simple instructions for making a cute hat out of a shrunken “felted” wool sweater. I was crazy to try this out but did not happen to have any “accidents” on hand, so I visited my local thrift shop on their 50%-off-everything day and came home with a bounty of wool sweaters for a song.
Here’s Minou checking out my first two tries, both of which used Jennifer’s technique. These wool hats are warm and cozy, but I have a problem wearing wool against my skin for any length of time – I cannot wear a wool sweater without something cotton beneath it. So I thought, why not recycle an old cotton tee shirt along with my shrunken sweater?
Which brings us to the following tutorial for making a cotton tee shirt-lined shrunken sweater wool hat (what a mouthful!) – you get to re-purpose two things rather than just one. Double green and double fun!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- a shrunken “felted” sweater (see note about felting toward the end of this post)
- a discarded tee shirt in a coordinating color
- marking chalk, pins, scissors, a sewing machine (or needle and thread and a bit of patience);
- buttons and/or fabric scraps for embellishment.
Lay the sweater out flat, inside out, and mark a 10-inch square with chalk from one seamed edge towards the center. This is for a pretty average adult head size, but you can adjust it to fit by measuring the circumference of your head, subtracting 2 inches, and dividing by 2. Since you’re including a seamed edge in your cut, you already have one seam sewn, so that will save you a bit of time.
And cut… Don’t fret about the sweater fraying – felted wool simply doesn’t fray. Cut the same size piece from your tee shirt. Result: two doubled rectangles, each with one completed seam.
Pin up the un-seamed side of each and stitch it up leaving a narrow seam allowance (about 1/4 inch). In the lining seam, leave an opening of about 2 inches towards the center.
After seaming, lay your wool piece out flat and chalk-mark two side-by-side triangles at the top edge. These should each be half the width of the piece (5 inches in this case) and about 2-1/2 inches high. Flip it over and make the same marks on the other side. Repeat with the cotton lining piece.
The next step is easier if you have a volunteer to model the hat for you, or you can also use a wig form like I did. Using the chalk marks as guides, pinch the top of the hat into 4 “petals” and stitch along the chalk lines. It’s easier if you have a head to model it on, so you can adjust the stitching line to a nicer fit, but it’s not all that critical. Follow the same step with the cotton lining.
Trim close to each seam – leave about 1/4 inch. Do the same with the cotton lining.
Turn the lining right side out, leave the hat right side in, and nest the lining into the hat. Pin the bottom edges together (matching side seams) and stitch completely around. Don’t use too small of a stitch length because a slightly larger stitch will lay neater with stretchy fabrics. You can opt for a zigzag stitch to maintain stretch, but I didn’t find that to be necessary.
Now that the hat and lining are stitched together, un-nest the lining and turn the entire construction right side out through the 2-inch opening you left in the lining seam.
Once turned, you can close the opening with a blind stitch by hand, or by machine stitching very close to the turned-under edge. I used the machine method and it came out nice and neat. Don’t worry too much – it’s on the inside and won’t be visible, but neater is always better.
Nest the lining back into the hat and turn up the bottom for a cuff. That’s it – you have just created an original, cozy, warm, itch-free wool hat! And not only is this hat itch-free, the additional layer of cotton fabric, although very lightweight, provides added warmth and insulation.
A note about felting: it’s fundamentally easy – just launder the wool sweater in hot water, or agitate it in a sink of hot water, then dry it in the clothes dryer if you can (although air drying will also work). But there is a pitfall to avoid which I learned from my own mistake and felt duty-bound to share – don’t wash multiple wool sweaters of different colors in the same wash load. If you look closely at my hat pictured above, you can see bits of gray fibers embedded in the purple wool. Oops! I spent some time picking out the most obvious bits, but this step can be easily avoided with a little forethought.
You might like to add a little embellishment – you can cut appliques from sweater or tee shirt scraps (as seen at left), or just sew some colorful buttons around the cuff. Use your imagination and you’ll create something completely unique and totally green to warm your noodle!
Happy crafting and stay warm!
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