Transform a Sweatshirt Into an Appliquéd Cardigan




Introduction: Transform a Sweatshirt Into an Appliquéd Cardigan

About: "Yes ma'am, I am an agent of Satan, but I assure you my duties are primarily ceremonial." I make things. I especially like to make wearable things. I also cook sometimes. :)

One of my favorite things to do is to transform outdated, badly-designed, or oversized thrift store finds into adorable, well-fitting works of Art that I can incorporate into my day-to-day wardrobe. In this Instructable, I'll show you how to turn a $3 oversized sweatshirt into a lovely, wearable, and versatile cardigan, complete with a unique floral "shabby chic" appliqué element. It's an easy and fun reconstruction!

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Step 1: Your Materials

You'll need:

One oversized sweatshirt with ribbing at the collar and bottom at least

A scrap of floral fabric

A well-fitting loose tee or existing cardigan

Tailor's chalk or your favorite fabric-marking utensil

Sharp scissors

Needle and thread (either matching or contrasting color)

Sewing machine

Ample straight pins

Step 2: Cut the Basic Cardigan Shape

Turn your sweatshirt inside out and cut off the sleeves as close to the sleeve seam as possible. If the sleeves have ribbing on the wrists, cut that away too. Set the sleeves aside.

Cut away the bottom ribbing of the sweatshirt and set aside.

Using measuring tape and a straight edge, cut a straight line through the center front, from the bottom of the sweatshirt to the top. Cut straight through the center front of the collar, then carefully snip the collar off, keeping your scissors as close to the collar as possible. Set the collar aside too, as you will be reattaching it later.

Step 3: Resize the Armholes and Side Seams

Lay your loose-fitting tee or existing cardigan (pattern piece) over the top of your sweatshirt, making sure to keep everything even and wrinkle-free. Make sure the collars line up evenly.

Place a mark with your tailor's chalk on your sweatshirt right at the top of the shoulder seam from your pattern piece, and another one at the bottom (underarm seam).

Step 4: Resize Your Cardigan

Draw a line with your tailor's chalk straight down from Mark B (your new underarm seam) to the bottom of the cardigan.

Draw a curved line, using this photo as a guideline, from Mark A to Mark B.

Cut along your drawn lines carefully, through BOTH the front and back of your sweatshirt. You may pin the front and back together first if you're more comfortable with that.

Step 5: Sew the Sides and Hem the Front Opening

Using a straight stitch on your sewing machine, sew along the straight line you drew in the last step, with right sides of the sweatshirt fabric together - DO NOT sew the armholes together!

Now, fold in the front opening of your cardigan by around 1/2", pin in place, and sew with a straight stitch to hem - or, if you'd prefer a rougher edge, you can skip this step, as the sweatshirt fabric will not unravel.

Fold up the bottom edge of the cardigan by 1" and pin in place, then sew a straight seam all the way around to hem it.

NOTE: If you are using a knit sweater, you MUST hem all edges, as sweaters WILL unravel!

Step 6: Reattach the Sleeves

For this cardigan, I chose to reattach the sleeves without narrowing them first.

With the sleeves RIGHT SIDE OUT and the cardigan body INSIDE OUT, slide the larger end of the sleeve in through the body of the cardigan until it lines up with the armhole. Line up the seam on the sleeve (if there is one) with the end of the side seam you just sewed. Beginning with THAT SEAM, use ample straight pins to pin the sleeve in place. When you reach the top of the sleeve, pleat or fold your excess sleeve as you pin, to get a "poofy" look.

Using a straight stitch, carefully and slowly sew the sleeve into the armhole. Take your time! Start from the underarm so if there is any excess remaining you can fold it into the underarm and nobody will see it. :)

ALTERNATIVE: For a bell sleeve, perform this step but instead of pinning the LARGE end of the sleeve to the armhole, pin the SMALL end to the armhole - you may need to stretch the sleeve a bit to get this to fit.

Step 7: Reattaching the Collar

You may find that the shoulders on your cardigan are too wide. This is fixable!

Take the collar you cut away in the beginning and begin pinning it to the neckline of the cardigan, starting on one side of the center opening and working your way around to the other side of the center opening. When you reach the center back of your cardigan, place two small pleats pointing towards each other and pin securely. Be sure while pinning to leave 1/2" to 1" of the collar hanging over the neckline of your cardigan to ensure that no raw edges show.

Try it on for fit. If you had to cut away ribbing from the bottom of your sweatshirt, you can use it as a belt to give the cardigan some shape.

Step 8: Add Your Applique

Take a piece of scrap floral fabric (or another fabric that has a print you like on it) and begin to cut out individual flowers that appeal to you and look fairly simple to cut out. The fabric I used is woven, so my pieces had a little fray on the edges, which is what I was going for! If you would prefer that there be no fray, consider adhering some iron-on interfacing to the back of your floral fabric before cutting, which should give you a somewhat cleaner edge.

Lay out the flowers onto your cardigan in a pattern you like.

Pin the flowers in place carefully and hand-sew around the edges of each flower. This is a time-consuming process, but can be done sitting comfortably on the couch. :) Use small-ish stitches and be sure to double-stitch over any edges that look like they might fray too much.

Step 9: Finished!

And you're done!

This reconstruction lends itself to a lot of different uses and is simple enough to be done in a single afternoon. You'll never pass up another oversized sweatshirt again!

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    11 Discussions


    5 years ago

    Very nice project. While I'm no seamstress, am envious of your ability. Thanks for sharing.


    5 years ago on Step 9

    That is super cute--and gives me some new uses for those over sized sweats I have purchased when unexpectedly freezing while traveling in a wrong season for coats etc! Hmmmm---toggle closers on one of these? Yes please!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    You cutie! This turned out great. I like the way you sewed the sleeves — fancy!


    5 years ago

    hola! this is some great work. I really like the finished garment. hard to believe you started with a sweatshirt. thanks for sharing.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you so much! I think my favorite part about it is that it's so totally wearable. And the sweatshirt was a nice comfy thick fleece, so it's super warm. It doesn't even look like sweatshirt material in person! I'm pretty thrilled with it.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Welcome to instructables-land. Your life will never be the same . . . you've been warned.

    What else have you got up your sleeves? Please share more great stuff like this!

    I know that I need this!

    I'm going to make a robe out of a blanket using this style!

    Ravenclaw robes here I come!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    That is an awesome idea! I actually need a new robe too...AND I'M A RAVENCLAW ALSO!!!