A Good Day at the Thrift Store – Wool Sweaters

I have been driving around with a bin full of donation items to take to the thrift store for about a month now. Today while I was out and about I decided to drop them off. It felt great to let that stuff go, however I just couldn’t pass up a quick stroll through the store. I had to go in and see if they had any “good” used wool sweaters for all my upcycling projects. I am afraid it is an addiction. An upcycled wool sweater is the best!

It’s not very often that I find a lot of “good” wool sweaters, but today was my lucky day. Not only do I rarely find a lot of nice sweaters to felt, but GREEN ones. I love green, and a green wool is even better! Shades of green just come in handy for so many of my upcycled projects and designs. Today I hit the jackpot.

The best time to pick up sweaters is in the summer at garage or tag sales. Stores will start putting them on sale in the spring.

So what defines a “good” sweater?

Well on my terms, a good sweater is:

  • One that has at least 70% wool content. (This allows them to shrink up real nice and tight).
  • Has unique, rich colors
  • The bigger the better (Men XL size sweaters give you more yardage).
  • Has fun stripes or simple designs on the sweaters.

Things to avoid when purchasing a wool sweater:

  • Look out for holes.  Especially when purchasing wool sweaters.
  • Really bulky sweaters. When you felt the sweater it will get even bulkier. Depending on your project, too bulky sweaters can be hard to work with.  However, sometimes there may be a need for a real thick nap).
  • Too thin of a sweater. (Again, depending on your project)  Cashmere sweaters are usually thin and very soft. This type of sweater is great for hand warmers and ponchos, but not so great for a pair of slippers.
  • Think about your inventory. Don’t overspend on colors you already have a ton of or on sweaters that are just so, so. Resist the need to buy every wool sweater you find or you will end up with bins and bins of sweaters. (Believe me, sweaters take up a lot of room).

If you are not familiar with how to “felt” (shrink and tighten the fibers of your sweater), here is a link to a FREE online course that I teach. You’ll love it!

This is such a great time of the year to get out your felted sweaters and make something fun. If you live where it is cold right now, like I do, there are tons of things to make with felted wool.

Mittens, HATS, Scarfs, HAND WARMERS, slippers, Valentine Heart Hand Warmers and HEARTS, Bunnies & Bears, Baby Toys, flowers, BAGS, and even birds.

Don’t forget to save your scraps when cutting out your upcycled wool sweater felted wool projects. There are a lot of fun things to make with this crafting gold!


So get out your wool sweater stash. (If you don’t have one yet, after one felted sweater project you soon will have one). An upcycled sweater is fun stuff to work with!

Get out your scissors, sewing machines and turn on some soothing music, or a good podcast, and enjoy a day of creation!

The patterns to make most of these projects can be located in my Etsy shop or here on my website.

here are some more sweater upcycled wool sweater posts you may be interested in.

Let me know if you have any questions or any great tips to share.

How to Felt Wool Sweaters

How to felt wool sweaters

I had a good day at the second-hand store last week!  Look at the amazing wool sweaters I found.  I frequently make stops at the thrift stores in town to see if they have any GOOD sweaters.  As you know, I love making things from upcycled sweaters, wool in particular.  Wool because when you felt it, (shrink it down) the fibers get tight and dense and have a texture that I find irresistible! Felted sweaters are great for all kinds of projects from slippers, mittens to baby toys and hats.

How to felt wool sweaters
How to felt wool sweaters

You may ask, “what makes a GOOD sweater?”   Here are a few tips when purchasing sweaters for felting.

  • Make sure they are at least 80-100% wool if you want them to truly felt.
  • Thin sweaters like cashmere are nice to use as lining, but not so great for maybe a slipper sole.
  • Thicker sweaters will only get bulkier when you wash them.  It is good to have some of these on hand for slipper soles, purses, or projects needing some density.
  • Sweaters that have a lot of heavy texture or patterns may not feel so good on your feet or hands if used for a slipper or mitten.  Just use your hands to feel the sweater and imagine what it could be used for.
  • Look for other wool clothing like SCARFS, and JACKETS.
  • If the project you are making requires some stretch to the fabric, make sure the wool garment you are buying has some stretch to it.
  • Buy a variety of colors, patterns, and textures.  I like to have a good selection of plain colors on hand.
  • Thrifts stores are great to find sweaters, but GARAGE or TAG SALES are where it is at!  You can usually pick a good wool sweater up at a garage sale for 1-3 buckaroos.  (the garage sale season has started in my area) YEA!
  • Thrift store sweaters seem to run from $3 to $7.  It just depends.

This is how you FELT wool sweaters.  Felting wool requires three conditions — heat, moisture, and friction — which can be provided by your washing machine and dryer. Here are a few tips.

How to felt wool sweaters
  • Use a hot-water wash, a cold-water rinse, and the usual amount of laundry soap.
  • You can add a pair of washable sneakers or a few tennis balls to help agitate and cause friction.
  • Dry the sweaters in the dryer on the highest heat setting. Put the sneakers or tennis balls in the dryer too.  This will tighten the fibers even more.
  • You can repeat this process a few more times if you are not quite satisfied with the texture.  (Once usually does it for most sweaters).
  • The beauty of using felted wool is that it will not fray when cut.
  • Store the felted sweaters in bins where you can see what is inside. If you have several sweaters, as I do, it is helpful to sort the bins by colors or by light and dark colors.
How to felt wool sweaters

100% wool sweater before felting

How to felt wool sweaters

After felting

How to felt wool sweaters



I have learned to save even the smallest scraps of your felted wool.  They come in handy for smaller projects.  One project I have posted on using small scraps of wool can be found here.

Look on my Etsy and Website store shops for some fun ideas of what you can make with felted wool sweaters!
Stay posted!

If you have any questions, send me a note.
Happy wool sweater hunting!

Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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