closeup of refashioned sweater

Refashioned sweater shrug tutorial

Cooler mornings are starting to set in here in Colorado, which means I’m starting to think more about refashioned sweaters. I’ve got several ideas rattling around in my brain, and today I’m starting with this refashioned sweater shrug tutorial.

All you need for this easy sweater refashion is an old sweater, a couple yards of trim (sew your own adventure choices below!) and about 30 minutes. Off we go!

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Refashioned sweater shrug supplies

  • Old sweater–raid your closet or thrift a cool one!
  • contrast knit for trim: sueded knit, rib knit, ponte, double brushed polyester knit
  • Basic sewing supplies: matching thread, sewing machine, scissors, pins
  • Microtex needle (if using suede knit), ballpoint, stretch, or universal needle using other knits for trim (learn how to pick the best needles for knits)
  • 1 decorative button
  • contrast embroidery floss + embroidery needle
  • turning tool (like the Turn-It-All Tubes in this list of 11 Helpful Sewing Tools)
  • French curve ruler
  • chalk

Tips on picking a sweater for this shrug tutorial

Before we get into chopping up your sweater to make it better, let’s chat about what kind of sweater will be best for this shrug tutorial.

Find one that fits you in the shoulders! Shrugs have an annoying tendency to fall off your shoulders. We’re adding a button to help, but if you have one that’s already falling off your shoulders, it’s going to be not super fun to wear. It’s also good for that sweater to fit you reasonable well in the bust. If it feels a little tight in the bust, this project can help add a little space to make the sweater wearable again.

before pic in refashioned sweater shrug tutorial

I found this sweater that something accidentally shrunk. Crazy enough it fits me perfectly in the shoulders, and the length is just right for a DIY bolero shrug thingy.

Even if you don’t have a sweater that’s magically the right length, do spend time finding a sweater that’s right in the shoulders. Everything else is fixable! Now it’s sweater transformation time!

Cutting the sweater

To get ready to cut the sweater, first fold the side seams and shoulder seams together. This will help you find your center front line. And also nobody likes a crooked front edge! I actually pinned my side seams together. This mohair/wool blend is quite thick, so the pins kept everything secure.

Cut along that front fold with your scissors. When you get to the neckline, round the edges in about 1/2″ or so. That’ll make the binding easier later.

cutting up front on a refashioned sweater

My sweater is a good length for that cropped jacket length that is that classic bolero length. If yours is not, cut away the bottom part of the body a few inches below the armhole. You can use a ruler and chalk to mark that line and cut away. Shrugs look great when they stop at mid-back to give you an idea.

Now we need to give the front edges some shape. With the side seams and shoulder seams still together, draw a nice curve with chalk from the middle of the center front down towards the hem on the front. Cut away below that line. Don’t throw away the extra sweater knit. We’ll save it for a little extra touch later!

Cutting binding

To finish up the cutting, grab your contrast knit fabric. I’m using a sueded knit. Sueded knits look really nice with heavier sweater knits. Other choices are ribbing. You could cut ribbing from rib knit yardage, or keep it in the refashion camp by cutting up a rib knit sweater.

I’m always on the look out for good rib knits when I’m thrifting because it’s often so much easier to find just the right color at my local thrift store vs. at a fabric store!

Whatever your choice, cut 2″ strips so that the stretch goes the length of your strip. You need about 2 yards in length, maybe a little less, maybe a little more depending on the sweater you’re using. It’s totally okay to cut a couple strips and seam them together to get the right length!

Now on to sewing our refashioned sweater.

Pinning the binding

6 thoughts on “Refashioned sweater shrug tutorial”

  1. Elizabeth you saved me from throwing out a sweater that I made from knit scarves I had purchased at Winners years ago at a Jan sale clearout. I had used the Jalie pattern Shrug sweater but after sewing on the band it just didn’t hang right – the fabric didn’t work well with the length of the sweater too and there were other problems besides 🙂 Your tutorial inspired me to get it back on the table again – cut it down to bolero length, remove the band and make it into a knit binding as you’ve shown here and I love it. It’s such a beautiful, soft double 100% cotton knit, it pained me to give up on it. You saved the day! I like the binding finish much better than a band and I think I’m going to use this technique whenever I have a sweater that needs finishing. THank you! Your bolero is gorgeous and what a great idea! So often I’ve seen beautiful sweaters in the Thrift shops that someone has mistakenly washed and shrunk 🙂

    1. Yay! I’m so glad you’ll be able to save it Kathleen. It’s so awful when those fabrics we love don’t work into the garments we exactly are hoping for. I’m going to have to add shrunken sweaters to my regular list of things I look for for refashioning!

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