Upcycled Sweater Mittens (with Printable Patterns)

Give worn-out wool sweaters a second use by felting them into warm mittens for the whole family.

by Stephanie Staton
PHOTO: Alan Levine/Flickr

Difficulty: Beginner

Time: 1½ to 2 hours of active crafting, plus length of wash and dry cycles

Confession: I’m addicted to holiday movies. Stop by my house any evening between Black Friday and Boxing Day, and there’s an excellent chance you’ll find me curled up on the couch with a beagle at my feet and a glass of eggnog by my side as I work my way through the Christmas classics, old and new.

More often than not, these frequent movie nights also find me handcrafting a pair of mittens, repurposed from a 100-percent-wool sweater. And as someone who’s not a knitter but is a fiber enthusiast, this simple hand-sewing project is just the ticket, allowing me to give new life to an old garment, make use of a favorite yarn, and craft a Christmas gift as lovely as it is useful.

The best part? The time it takes me to whip up a pair of mittens for my husband is equal to the time it will take me to watch A Christmas Story for the third time this season.

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Materials and Supplies:

  • washing machine
  • dryer
  • laundry detergent
  • fabric or felt shears
  • mitten pattern in your desired size (Download it below!)
  • scissors
  • straight pins
  • steel yarn needle (size 16)
  • 100-percent-wool or 100-percent-shetland-wool sweater
  • worsted-weight yarn (Length will vary by pattern size—5 feet for child; 7½ feet for adult.)

Step 1: Select Sweater

For a thick, sturdy, ultra-warm final product, choose flat-knit sweaters made of 100-percent wool. (As a general rule, the thicker the sweater, the thicker the final felted product.) Shetland-wool sweaters tend to yield a thinner, more pliable final product. (Shetland-wool mittens are my hand protection of choice for scraping frost off the windshield on chilly November mornings.)

Regardless of the material you choose, steer clear of sweaters with rolled hems at the sleeves or waistband: A ribbed waistband will yield neat, warm and even wristbands on finished mittens for an adult, and you might be able to use the sleeves to craft a child-sized pair of mittens.

Step 2: Machine-Felt Sweater

Launder sweater in hot water on your washing machine’s “normal” setting, using an amount of detergent proportionate to load size—the detergent aids in the felting process. (The “delicate” or “gentle” setting might not provide enough agitation to produce desired results.) Dry on high heat. The result should be a significantly smaller, tighter-knit garment with visible felting.

Step 3: Trim Sweater Seams

Using shears, cut along both sides of the sweater’s seams to produce two easy-to-work-with pieces of felted wool.

Step 4: Arrange Pattern and Cut Out

Download pattern template  available below), cut out desired size, and arrange pieces on the sweater according to desired layout, lining up the palm piece and back piece with the sweater’s hem. Pin pattern pieces in place and use shears to cut out. Remove pins and flip pattern pieces to cut out shapes for opposite hand.

Step 5: Pin and Stitch Together Palm Pieces

With insides facing together, align each mitten’s finger and palm pieces with the thumbs pointing up. Pin in place. Using steel yarn needle and worsted-weight yarn, blanket stitch along seam where top and bottom pieces meet and around thumb, stopping at the base.When finished stitching across the seam and around the thumb, tie off your row of stitches with a knot tucked inside what is now the thumb.

Step 6: Pin and Stitch Together Palm and Back Pieces

With outer sides of fabric facing together, align palm and back pieces, and pin in place. Blanket stitch around the outer seam of each mitten. At the points where the top and bottom palm pieces meet, take extra care to ensure that your horizontal stitch (i.e., the yarn threaded through your vertical stitch) runs snugly over the beginning and end points.

Step 7: Tie Off Yarn

When you’ve finished stitching around each mitten, tie off your row of stitches with a knot tucked inside the wristband.All that’s left is to prepare the mittens for holiday gift-giving—I love gifting family and friends baskets of mittens in assorted sizes and colors for quick trips or guests in need—or you can slip them on your own hands as you head outside for a few farmstead chores.

Bonus Project: Mitten Catnip Toy

For your favorite feline you can use scrap pieces of fabric to create a catnip toy.

Materials and Supplies:

  • Felted-wool remnants
  • approximately 1½ feet yarn
  • 1-2 tsp. dried, ground catnip
  • batting


Download pattern and cut out the cat-toy size. Use the pattern to cut two wool pieces facing in opposite directions. Pin together with wrong sides facing together. Using a blanket stitch, stitch around the outside of the mitten, beginning in the corner indicated on the pattern, leaving the “cuff” open. Do not knot off the yarn when you get to the other corner of the cuff.

Unpin wool pieces, stuff with batting and catnip, and stitch cuff shut, knotting off and cutting at end.

The cat toy pattern can also be used to make holiday ornaments and Christmas gift toppers.

Downloadable Patterns

Below are the downloadable patterns, the first in a size for kids and the second for adults. The kids’ pattern has two pages, and the adult pattern has three pages. If you use Windows, right-click each image and save it on your computer. If you use Mac OS, press Control-click and then save the image. Print the pattern from your computer.

Here are the two pages for the kids’ pattern:

Here are the three pages for the adult pattern:

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2013 issue of Hobby Farm Home.

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