Cashmere is sooooo soft - but the cost of buying even a scarf can make it out of reach for my pocketbook. Several other projects I am working on gave me the idea to use thrift-store Cashmere sweaters to make a unique Cashmere scarf to wrap myself in luxury at a more reasonable price.
Step 1: Supplies You Will Need
- A "pile" of Cashmere sweaters from the thrift-store.
- Washing machine
- a paper pattern (that you will make)
- straight pins
- Sewing machine - one that has at least a forward and reverse - zigzag stitch is also nice to have
- Steam iron & ironing board
- sewing needle
- thread - matching to the majority of the sweaters
- Rotary cutter
- Cutting board
- Rotary cutting guide
I had 6 or 8 Cashmere sweaters from local thrift-stores that were purchased for between $2.99 and $4.99 each. When picking them out, I didn't think about how the colors would look together, but that is something you might want to pay attention to when picking out your sweaters.
Preparations before you can start cutting/sewing your scarf:
When you have your Cashmere sweaters home, the first thing you need to do is wash them. In the washing machine. I know it says on the care tags to hand wash and lay flat to dry. That is because Cashmere will felt - if you wanted to WEAR the sweater, you wouldn't want it to felt. But for this project, you want the sweaters to be felted. Use hot water, a little soap, and set the washer for the longest time it will wash. When the cycle is complete, take the sweaters out of the machine and shake out. I hang the wet sweaters across my clothes lines to dry, but you could lay them flat or put them on hangers to dry if needed.
Step 2: Paper Pattern
Scarves are many different sizes. I wanted my finished scarf to be 8 inches wide by at least 66 inches long.
When making a pattern, include about 1/2 inch on each side of your pattern for the seams of your scarf. For instance - if you want the finished scarf to have pieces that are 8 inches wide after sewing - the width of your pattern will be 1 inch bigger - making it 9 inches wide (to accommodate a 1/2 inch seam on each side).
The paper I used was for the pattern was standard 8-1/2" x 11" computer printer paper.
I cut a rectangle from that paper that measured 9" x 7" - which would make my scarf rectangles finish out at 8" x 6". Perfect for the width - and for the length.
You can choose to make your scarf any width and length - adjust the pattern as you see fit!
Step 3: Your Sweaters Are Dry - Your Pattern Is Made - It's Time to Get Started!!!!
Lay your sweater on a flat surface. If you cut out all your scarf pieces with the knitted fabric laying in the same direction, your scarf will have a better drape when completed. So - try to determine which way the knitting stitches lay and cut the pieces from each sweater with the stitches laying in the same direction. Also - there is a "back" and a "front" to knitted stitches - most of the time we see the "v" shape stitches (far left picture) as being the front and the "bump" shape stitches (middle picture) as being the back. If you care which side shows on your scarf, you will want to take care when cutting/laying out your pieces so you have the look you want!
Beware of moth holes in these Cashmere sweaters! (far right picture) They may not show up until you have washed the sweater. They are not a problem since we are cutting up these sweaters - just avoid them. You don't want a hole in your brand new scarf!
Step 4: Maximize All the Softness!
When cutting out your rectangles, avoid the seams if possible. Utilize as much of the sweater as you can - Throwing out any of this much softness is a shame!
Step 5: Rotary Cutter Alternative
Using a rotary cutter will give you very nice even rectangles. I usually cut off the ribbing at the bottom of the sweater first because it causes the body of the sweater to pull in just a little. Using the cutting guide with the pattern placed under it on the sweater, the rotary cutter makes quick work of cutting out the sweater rectangles.
Step 6: Layout
I needed 22 rectangles (9" x 7") for my scarf. Once you have your pieces cut out, lay them out in a pleasing (to you) order. You may find you have a few pieces you won't use - especially if you have a color that just doesn't go with the rest of the scarf. (I did not use the baby blue or fuchsia ones!)
Lay the pieces out so you know how you will sew them together (Picture to the left.)
Thread your sewing machine with thread that will match the majority of your pieces. There is no need to try to match each piece of your scarf - most of your stitches won't show when the scarf is done.
Step 7: Ready, Set, Sew!
The settings on my sewing machine are easy - straight stitch, and a medium width. I also used a medium length of stitch (no picture.) Because these sweaters are felted, they don't stretch as much as regular knitted fabric, so you don't need a stretch stitch.
Step 8: Pin It Up
Pin two rectangles together and sew, using a 1/2 inch seam.
Step 9: Time for Some Steam!
Be sure to fill up the water chamber of iron and set it to steam. Lay the sewn piece on the ironing board and open the seam up with the iron - steaming the length of the piece so the seam lays flat.
Turn the ironed piece over and iron on the "right" side.
I also like to iron the pieces before I pin them together so they lay nice and flat and are easy to line up.
Continue pinning the pieces of the scarf together, sewing them, and steaming the seams open until you have one side of your scarf done.
Pat yourself on the back! You are more than half-way finished to having a velvety soft scarf to warm you up!
Now . . . repeat those pin/sew/steam steps with the other side of your scarf.
Step 10: Complete Sewing the Scarf Together
You should have two long strips of luscious cashmere - the same length and the same width. Because you used the same pattern for each rectangle piece, your seams should match up when you lay the pieces together. You can slightly stretch or shrink the rectangles to accommodate a small difference in size.
Lay the two long strips of scarf with the right sides together. (The right side is the one without the seams!) Pin the length of the scarf - matching the seams at the sides - if possible. It's not essential - it's just . . . . nicer!?
Start sewing the two long pieces together about half way down one of the long sides. Don't forget to lock your stitches in place by sewing forward and backward before sewing down the length of the scarf.
To create a nice square corner, (see the video) sew until you are about 1/2 inch from the corner of the scarf. Stop the machine with the needle in the fabric. Stop sewing - lift the presser foot - and turn the scarf 90 degrees. Put the presser foot back down and sew until you reach the next corner. Continue sewing until you have all 4 corners done and are starting down the long side, toward where you started sewing the scarf together.
Step 11: Almost Done!
As you can see in the video, I started sewing the scarf together on the tan piece of fabric. As I came back down the length of the scarf and I got about 3 inches from where I started, I locked my stitches in (reverse stitch then forward again), and allowed that 3 inches to remain un-sewn.
You will use this space to turn your scarf right-side out!
Before you turn the scarf right-side out, trim each of the four corners so there is not so much bulk and so the
corner will have a nice point when the scarf is done.
Step 12: Final Steps!
Turn the scarf inside out, using the "hole". Use a small dowel to push the corners all the way out and give the scarf nice, square corners.
See how the seams line up?!
Now - steam the entire scarf - paying special attention to the areas where the seams meet on the edges of the scarf.
Step 13: A Little Hand Sewing . . . .
Somehow you have to close the hole you used to turn the scarf. After steaming the edges of the hole should be nice and folded to the inside. Thread the sewing needle with a matching thread (or almost matching?!) and using the Bliind Stitch close the hole. Steam again, just for good measure!
Step 14: TaDa! and a Little More!
Your scarf is done!!!!
If you want to add a little decoration - like the heart on the gray square on my scarf - you have to do it before you sew the long pieces of scarf together.
I cut a heart shape out of a red sweater that was darker than any of the other pieces I was using for my scarf. Using the zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine, I set the width to almost 1 (the width I'd use to make a button-hole). I zig-zagged around the heart careful not to stretch it or the fabric under it. You can see in the "before steaming" picture it is still slightly puckered. If you do this - make sure to cover ALL the edge of the heart - you want it completely covered.
Steam it well! Then add it to the pieces as you create this uniquely-you scarf!
PS - you could use all the left overs to make another scarf - smaller pieces sewn together, like a patchwork quilt, to make larger pieces, sewn into larger pieces, and finally into a scarf. Or . . . you could cut your pieces like a Tetris! More sewing - but using up all that softness might just be that important!