One of my favorite sewing projects is upcycling thrifted, closet orphan, and previous me-mades that ended up not getting worn as much as I’d like. For my recent Wardrobe Capsule, I had a sweater dress on hand that was in the ‘to-be-upcycled’ pile that matched the colorway perfectly. It was a go!

The Forest Sprite Cardi

I bought this sweater dress in two colors (forest and cranberry) a few years ago from a Lane Bryant outlet store. My thought was they’d be comfy and warm with leggings for the winter. In real life, the giant cowl neck bothered me, I wasn’t in love with the silhouette and the arms were a strange length and width — super wide, but ending at the elbow. So the sweater wasn’t really all that warm — I mean, a giant cowl neck and short sleeves? Who designs this stuff? 

For the wardrobe challenge, I worked on the forest sweater dress. I wanted a nice sweater that will be cozy for summer nights and air conditioning. I also wanted a bit of visual interest as I have a lot of slipdresses and frocks that lack waist definition, so I like to fake some shape with the cut of my cardis. 

Here’s the original dress and resulting cardigan.
Upcycled Sweater by Patty Brower

Upcycled Sweater by Patty Brower

For this upcycle I cut away the cowl neck to create a scooped neck, reusing the ribbed edge from the cowl neck to finish the new scoop neck. I trimmed the ribbing carefully and stitched onto the raw neckline —  I used a zigzag stitch and attached flat by overlapping the new edging with the raw edge and zigzagging along. The fabric is so squishy it’s not noticeable. I also made the whole thing smaller (especially those crazy big sleeves!) by stitching along the sleeve and side seam as shown below and trimming away the excess fabric. I stitched with the sweater turned inside out. If you haven’t worked with knits before, you can usually just trim and leave the seam unfinished, it will be fine. 

For the enter front, I cut a straight line then turned and whipstitched to hem, but because of the cables (just look at those diamond cables!), I didn’t like how bumpy it looked — the front edges are flowy, so they show while I’m wearing the sweater.  I covered up the messy looking stitching by hand stitching some bias cut strips of linen I had in my scrap basket. The linen is the same lime green as my Patricia Tunic and I like the secret contrast and having some handstitching to do on the sofa, hanging with my husband and watching Downton Abbey, so it made me happy, but added a lot of stitching time and was probably not necessary. 

I added one vintage button I had on hand to the top of the sweater and fashioned a little loop out of some of my scraps. 

Upcycled Sweater by Patty Brower

The Elizabethan Sweater

I remade the red version in a slightly different style. I left longer ‘tails’ in the front and significantly shortened the back so that I can wear loose and open or tied. 

Upcycled Sweater by Patty Brower

Upcycled Sweater by Patty Brower

I ‘hemmed’ the cut center front edges by adding a little crochet scallop. I remember I used wool superwash sock yarn, but don’t remember the size needle I used. Honestly… this is the only thing I’ve ever crocheted in my life. I just found a You Tube video showing how to add on edging and followed that. It wasn’t that hard and only took an evening, but I’ve never really returned to crocheting except for a stint trying to work out crocheting lace-weight trim while Jeff and I were on our honeymoon a few years ago. 

My take on crocheting: paying $5 a yard for trim is a steal of the century compared to the time it takes to crochet my own trim….

Crochet Trim on Upcycled Sweater by Patty Brower

Here’s how I remade the red sweater. First I trimmed the hem as shown below (the cross-hatch area is what I cut away.) I used the part that I cut away to lengthen the sleeves. Since the sleeves are so wide, they are gathered into the ‘cuffs’ which start at my elbow, creating a very Elizabethan vibe with lots of puffy fabric from shoulder to elbow, then a very fitted sleeve from elbow to cuff. I made sure to cut the new cuffs so the ribbing that had been on the hem of the sweater created a finished ribbed cuff at my wrist. 

I cut the whole center front, including the cowl neck, which creates a sort of cape-like sailor style neckline as you can see in the photo. After I finished the center front crochet trim I hemmed the bottom edge of the sweater by turning and whipstitching. Unlike the green cardigan, I was dealing with the ENDS of cables rather than middles of cables (that will make sense to knitters) so it was much more tidy hemming that way and I didn’t need to cover up the stitching. 

Upcycled Sweater by Patty Brower

So that’s my sweater dress to cardi remake, two ways! What’s your favorite upcycle? Have you braved knits yet?? Really, I think they are the easiest upcycles because knit fabric is so forgiving, but share your upcycleventures in the comments!

Did you enjoy this post? Then please subscribe to my newsletter for a monthly missive filled with new projects, posts and adventures from our farm and bed and breakfast in northern Minnesota where we stitch, brew up soaps and candles and look after our flock of chickens, cats and Peppermint the basset hound. Also, check out my Circle Skirt Calculator — a super easy way to plot out the perfect size half, 3/4 or full circle skirt. 


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