Sunday, January 10, 2016


I’d been reading craft blogs about making mittens as a great way to upcycle outdated sweaters. I like the results and had put that on my “wanna-do” list for gift-making ideas.

So, this past month I decided to make mittens from upcycled sweaters as Christmas gifts for all three grandchildren. My search for suitable thrift store sweaters didn’t produce such good results. But I did find several fleece pullovers that had the fuzziness and weight that seemed right for mitten making. Fleece also turned out to be a good choice because the cuts don't fray.

The fleecy children’s clothing I found turned out to be more colorful and cheaper than those for grownups. So, I bought three pullovers in children’s sizes. For the girls, a lavender (shown) and striped print pullovers, and a solid red one for the boy.

A day or two later I took the pullovers and sat down to cut out the mittens. I saw that I had enough material to cut the mittens out of the sleeves and that I would have a lot of material left over. I could turn these left overs into something else. That’s when I decided to make matching scarves – infinity type for the two girls and one long one - sewn together as two rectangular pieces - for the boy. I’ll be describing the design of the mittens and infinity scarf here and won’t elaborate on the boy’s scarf since it was simple one that wouldn’t present any particular problem. Time needed for this project was about two afternoons, one for the mittens and another for the scarf.

Materials for child-sized mittens and scarf

• child’s fleece pullover in good condition
• Marker or pen for tracing
• Scissors
• straight or safety pins
• colored medium weight yarn
• crewel embroidery sewing needle

Steps for mittens

Find a mitten size: The mittens need to fit the hands of the child that you have in mind. The best would be to have a trace of the child’s hand. But, if the child is at a distance and you don’t know how long it might take to get someone else to trace and send out a hard copy, then , you’ll have to look for a pattern – usually you can find one on a craft blog in toddler’s, as well as small and larger children sizes.

Flip over and trace: Turn the pullover inside out and lay it flat on a table. Begin by carefully cutting up the pieces of the pullover. Separate the neckline and sleeves from the torso. You want to save the biggest pieces possible. You will probably be able to use the sleeves for mittens. Trace the mitten shape around it with a marker or pen. Add about a half-inch all the way around your hand to allow for seams. Leave plenty of room for the thumb inside each mitten and an inch or two below the palm to cover the wrist. Make sure to have the bottom of the mitten wide enough so that the hand can easily fit through.

Pin it and cut: Secure the front and back layers with several pins. This will keep the two layers even while you cut and sew. Cut it out, following the shape of the pattern. You will need two pieces for each mitten. (I avoided using two pieces by folding the sleeve material in half and making a mitten that looked somewhat like a miniature kitchen mitt.)

Sew: Thread your needle with the yarn and do a blanket stitch along the edge – with the right sides on the outside. Then, if you like, crochet a slip stick in a second round to emphasize the decoration.

In case the pullover sleeve didn’t have a particular cuff finish or you were forced to use a portion of the sleeve that was above the cuff, you can make one. Do it the same way as you do the seams by sewing around the entire cuff and finishing off with a single or crochet slipstitch. (That’s what I did.)

Repeat: Repeat all steps on the other pullover sleeve for the second mitten. These mittens don't have a a particular left and right presentation.

Steps for the infinity scarf (One size fits all.)

Cut: Lay the pullover on a flat surface. You will be working with the body of the sweater. All you have to do is cut a straight line underneath the armpits of the sweater. Cut off the finished edge from the bottom of the sweater or leave it finished as is. You can also fold your piece to make it double weight. It's your call.

Stretch it out: Just stretch out the material a little bit and pull it apart. This helps avoid a stretching out after you’ve put an edge on it.

Sew and/or crochet an edging: Sew a blanket stitch to hem the pieces - both top and bottom. You can stop there or continue another round with a single crochet or slipstitch like that used on the mittens.

And, there, you have it – mittens and fleece scarf, ready to gift wrap.

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