Introduction: Upcycled Sweater - to Arm/Leg Warmers W/Phone Pocket

About: Army Vet. I love learning & being creative. I am back!

If you want some arm warmers, boot toppers or leg warmers and don't want to spend any money - you can tweak an old sweater to make some great new things! That is what I did here with a sweater that was too small on me - I upcycled & transformed it into a pair of boot toppers and arm warmers with pockets for my phone!

You'll need a decent sewing machine, scissors or rotary cutter, elastic thread, regular needle, thread & buttons! If you were to buy the boot toppers or arm warmers in the store, they sell for $10-20 each - ridiculous!

Step 1: De-Construct the Sweater

The first thing you'll want to do is de-construct the sweater! Cut the arms off and if you like you can cut the rest of it apart at the seams. I ended up using the part of the sweater which had pockets (bottom front of it - sorry it's not visible in the photo) for the arm warmers with built-in pockets. I also cut the buttons off so I could use them on the boot toppers.

Since my sweater was a bit small on me to begin with, I could not use the arms which I cut off for the leg warmers (too tight). So, I used the back part of the sweater to cut out my pieces for my boot toppers. I will explain that in the next step & the measurement options.

I ended up being able to make two sets of arm warmers with the material - as I used the front part of the sweater with the pockets for one set, as well as having the arms which I cut off. You can make quite a lot of things from one sweater!

Step 2: Measurements & Cutting for Arm Warmers

The specific sizes will vary from person-to-person, but I will share the measurements I used on my arm warmers & boot toppers. First, I will say that my actual wrist measurement around the wrist itself is about 6 inches. My actual measurement around my arm where the arm warmer ends right before the elbow is about 9 inches around.

Arm Warmers:
  • Before you begin cutting sweater material out, please note that my arm warmers are a bit snug and you  might want yours a little more loose. If so, rather than adding an inch of material as explained in the directions, add 1 1/2 inches instead!
  • Cut out two pieces of sweater material 12 inches long
  • Top measurement of the arm warmer should be at least an inch bigger than your wrist measurement around (ie: wrist=6, cut it at 7) and bottom measurement of arm warmer should also be an inch bigger than your arm measurement there. Please view the image for clarification on how to cut this out - it will make sense once you see it

Step 3: Boot Toppers Measurements & Cutting

Now for the boot toppers! In this step you will need to cut out four pieces total - two for each leg. You can see the image for full details. Overall, please use the same method from the previous step to determine your correct measurements. These boot toppers hit my leg at the middle part of the calf - and my actual measurement around that part of my leg is 11 inches (so I've added an inch for leeway). If you want to make these more like leg warmers that go over your boots, then you'll need to make the bottom part of it wider around to accommodate for that. My sweater was too small to begin with, so these are boot toppers, not regular leg warmers that go over the boots.

Please see image. If you want to add cute buttons and make yours just like mine in the photo, then you'll want to follow the directions in the following steps. If you want something simpler, you could just cut out one piece of material per leg instead - and leave it at that.

Step 4: Sewing the Arm Warmers

Time to sew the arm warmers! First, please be careful sewing this sweater material on your sewing machine - you are doing this at your own risk! I didn't have any problems with doing it - but I took my time over bulky areas so I didn't break a needle or anything. I also tried regular thread and this wasn't a good option with the sweater material as it stretched it out and mis-shaped it. So, I highly recommend using elastic thread on your bobbin. I used the regular winding mechanism on my machine to wind the elastic thread onto the bobbin, then place it in its slot. Use regular thread on the other one. I then increased the stitch length to 3.5 and tension to 5 (slight increase as it's normally on 4). If you have any issues, you may want to check your machine's manual.

If you are just using the arms you cut off of your sweater, then this is super easy! The only thing you'll need to do is sew under one seam (the one that is probably fraying right now). Please see images for a clear understanding of how to do this. If your arm warmer is already in one piece but just has one end that was cut and fraying, you need to try to get that onto the machine so you can sew the seam down. If your arm warmer is too tight to do so and doesn't fit around the area of your sewing machine (see image 4), then you may need to cut it at its seam, then sew the top seam under and then re-sew the side seam. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments!

For my arm warmers, I took the pieces (which have the pockets on front) and first sewed their top seams under with the elastic bobbin thread in place. I then, folded the material the long way, inside out, and sewed the long side seam. Then, I turned it right-side out and it was done!

Step 5: Sewing the Boot Toppers

Now for the boot toppers! Once you've cut out the pieces of material (two per leg) - you will then want to take the main larger piece and place it right-side up. Then, take the smaller, yet longer piece and pin it to the main piece - wrong-side up.
  • After pinning the pieces together, sew along the area pinned - removing pins as you go along
    • Once you flip the smaller top piece up after it's sewn together, you'll see that it's right-side up with the right-side of the main piece
    • You'll then notice that it's an inch or so longer than the main piece - it's supposed to be
  • Next you'll want to sew the top & bottom seam under if those edges were cut and will be fraying
    • It's important to do this before you sew the final side seam & finish them up
    • You won't be able to wear these if edges on top and bottom are fraying apart
  • Now fold that sewed piece (wrongside out) so the seams line up so you can sew them together
    • The tricky part is here - you'll see there is an extra-bulky area at the top where the longer material is located
    • You need to fold that material in as well - please see the images for clearer explanation
    • Then, pin along the side seam and sew it up - go extra slow over the thick top area

Step 6: Finishing Touches - Final Pictures

The last thing you need to do is add the buttons. This step is optional. I hand-sewed them on - for both the arm warmers and boot toppers. I used the brown buttons which were on the sweater for the boot toppers.

You can also trim off any excess material near the seams to clean it up - and you are done!

I live in Wisconsin where it gets extremely cold in the winter so I need a lot of cozy accessories like these to help me survive!