Upcycled Purse From a Ruined (shrunken/felted) Sweater




About: I'm "retired", and now have time for all the creative things I've done since I was a child. I especially like anything with texture.....fabric, wood, glass, stones....even rusty objects. I have a LARGE fabr...

  I've discovered the thrill of making something WONDERFUL from a mistake! I washed a sweater a while back that I could have sworn said it was machine washable only to find out it was dry clean only. Before I tossed it in the Goodwill bag, I checked the Internet and found several ideas for turning felted/fulled (shrunken) wool sweaters into other items. 

  I didn't use a pattern, and in fact this is the result of me trying to "improve" on the bag I had made at first.......I really messed it up, and had to cut it apart, and start over. I'm really happy with the result, and more importantly so is my daughter!

  I went on to make a second purse from another sweater that I purposely felted (shrunk). Since I don't have (and I'd bet neither do you) any two sweaters that are alike, no two of these purses will ever be alike......that's kind of fun don't you think?

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Step 1: Step 1 Gather Your Supplies

First and foremost you need a wool sweater that you have "felted" (fulled or SHRUNK). Earlier I provided VERY simple INSTRUCTABLE on how to do this......just in case you haven't already done it by ACCIDENTLY washing, and drying a wool sweater.

OK, so now you have your sweater. You also need:
matching thread
ruler or tape measure
straight pins
purse handles (either new from the craft store, or handles from an old purse. You could also use a reclaimed belt

sewing machine, and/or serger
Fray Check or other product that locks thread

Step 2: Step 2 Take the Plunge and CUT

This was one of the hardest parts for me. I REALLY liked this sweater and so was a little nervous about cutting it apart.......Just take a deep breath, and cut!  Remember it will be a bit smaller once you sew the seams, so don't cut off too much.

Step 3: Step 3 Sew

With RIGHT sides together (that means the outside, or the pretty side) sew a seam on what will be the bottom of your purse. I used my serger, but you can use a regular sewing machine or even do this by hand. You will use matching thread.

Step 4: Step 3 Make Corners

To add a little more space to your purse, you can now add some nice square corners. Of course if you want to keep more of an "envelope" style bag just omit this step. This is really SO easy, and gives a professional look.

Keeping your bag right sides together, open your bag, and then turn it 90°. Lint the point of the corner up with the seam that you just sewed. Measure down 1.5 inches, mark and pin it. Repeat for the other side.

Now sew across each point at the 1.5 inch mark.  At this point I used a drop of the Fray Stop just to make sure my sewing did not come apart (even though I knotted off the thread) I'm just cautious.

With matching thread, hand sew each point in place on the main bottom seam.

Turn the purse right side out and admire your work!

Step 5: Step 5 Finish Top

You COULD leave the top with a "raw edge". It is not necessary to turn the top edge under or line the purse, unless you choose to. Once the sweater is "felted" it WILL NOT unravel.

I decided that I wanted to tun the edge under, so I just followed one of the stripes, and top stitched two rows by machine. Double top stitching adds a design element, that I will carry through on the bow, to give a more finished look.

Once the top stitching was completed, I trimmed off the excess fabric VERY close to the stitching

Step 6: Step 6 Create the Bow

I started out measuring the finished width of the purse (MINE measures 14.5 inches).  Because of the design on the sleeves I decided to only use the striped pieces, so I would have to piece the bow together.

I cut off the cap of the sleeve, leaving a straight edge. Next I measured, marked, and cut down 7.5 inches on each sleeve.....making sure that I cut on the same color of stripe on each sleeve. If you are using a solid color that won't be an issue.

I opened the sleeve with RIGHT sides together, keeping the seam in the middle, pin, and sew across to finish one end. Turn Right sides OUT, making sure that the corners are nice, and square (use a blunt object to poke the corners out).

Top stitch the double rows around each side of the bow. Overlap each side of the bow 1 inch. With your fingers "PLEAT/GATHER" the bows together for a uniform look. I tightly wrapped thread around it to hold this in place until I could more securely sew the gathers in place by hand.

I cut a small piece from the scraps that was long enough to go around the middle of the bow and overlap in the back.

Step 7: Step 7 Attaching the Handles

Before attaching the handles I decided I wanted to add "tails" to the purse, so it looks like the ends of a bow. I cut scrap fabric to fit, and did the double rows of top stitching. I made sure that none of the attaching stitches would show once the bow was applied.

 Once I determined where I wanted the handles placed. I cut 2 pieces (6.5 X 4) from the scraps of the sweater that would hold the handles in place with one piece on each side.

I determined the middle of both the bag, and the handle, then looped the attachment over the handle, and pinned it in place. I then sewed the piece in place making sure to remove the pins just prior to sewing over them (NEVER a good idea....hitting a pin can break the needle). Once I was happy with the placement, I repeated it on the other side. I trimmed the excess fabric from both sides.

I attached the tails making sure that none of the attaching stitches would show once the bow was applied.

Step 8: Step 8 Attach Bow

Position the bow to cover the "tails" and with matching thread hand sew.....or "tack" the bow in place. I like to only tack it in place enough to hold it from flapping, yet I want it to be more "fluid" and flexable. I did securely hand sew the center of the bow in place.

VIOLA  You're done!  Enjoy

Step 9: Step 8 Other Ideas

I'm posting a picture of another purse. This one was made from a sweater set, so I had much more felted wool to work with. I made the bow on this one more 3D because I had pieced together one big long strip, that I looped around to form a "real" looking bow. I attached the "tails" the same way as I did on the Instructable.

I also added a magnetic closure, and little metal "feet" that I purchased at the craft store.

Next time I will combine parts from more than 1 sweater to vary the look.

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    13 Discussions


    4 years ago on Step 7

    Ok tried to do this but I don't think it worked. I would like to TANK the lady who did these very clear instructions, I am going to do this as well. not that I don't have enough things I am doing, I will make one for myself and then maybe some for some friends. See how it goes and then maybe make some to sell. So to friends out there that a sweater they cant wear any longer pass to me and see what happens. The sweaters work best if they are 100% wool. I will post what it looks like when done.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    WOW! These are beautiful! I've been saving an awesome (but felted) Norwegian sweater (with the really cool metal buttons and colorful trim) that my mom shrunk and gave me to do something with. Until now I had no idea what to do with it, but now I'll make a beautiful purse. Thanks for the great instructables!

    Linda Lanese

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Mary,

    I posted your purse on Craft Gossip Felting and hope you stop by and leave a comment, lovely work :)

    Linda Lanese

    1 reply
    MaryT8MLinda Lanese

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you SO much for the kind words Linda. This is a first for me for sure! I Love, love, love working with wool, and fabric, and wood, and beads, and buttons......oh you get the idea! LOL

    Thanks again.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very fun, and easy idea! I'm not a purse person, but I think they would make great gifts! I'm glad you retired so now you can share all these awesome things with us! :)

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the compliment! I HOPE I can stay "retired", so I can continue as well!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks I DID have a reaaly fun day......everyone was gone, so I had a whole day to myself, and my crafting........I made a batch of soap as well! Look for yet another INSTRUCTABLE on that!

    Thank you so much. I found this sweater at a local Goodwill for $3.89.......can't beat that price. I think Wool sweaters are getting harder to find :-( It's fun to try to look at a sweater, and try to think about how it will look when felted, and how it will work with other sweaters, or fabrics.

    Next I plan on making a pillow!