I once had a love affair with a hat. It was a scrunchy, snuggly, oversized blue knitted hat, handed down from a friend who could rock tank tops with overalls well into the millennium because he just "had an eye" for things, you know? For four years that hat went everywhere with me. I dropped it somewhere between the door of the yoga studio and the door of my car and didn't realize the mistake until it was too late. I searched through cutesy winter hats all over the city, but to no avail...they just don't make girls' hats big enough for my discriminating noggin.
Enter my newest DIY obsession: the Recycled Sweater Hat. I was thumbing through a very fun hipster-craft manual called Sew Subversive when I found the pattern that had it allósimplicity, functionality, a bit of cheeky style and, best of all, the opportunity to turn something old into something both funky and fresh.
The project starts with an old 100-percent wool sweater (I found some cool patterned ones at a thrift store for $2 each). The key is in felting the wool, which basically means shrinking it up so it's super-soft, ultra warm and very stretchy. I did this by throwing the sweaters in the washer on hot, and then drying them on high.
Once your sweater is nice and tiny, go at it with a pair of scissors and cut out a hat shape (two identical panels for front and back). The book suggests a rounded, half-circle shape, a rectangle (squared off on top, it makes little peaks that stand up on both sides) or a wide-bottomed half-oval. I found that the oval was the easiest of the three to fit to my head without stray bumps showing up.
I lined the two pieces up back-to-back and sewed the hat together inside out, using regular thread and a big sewing needle. Sewing the whole thing pretty tightly, then going over the stitches again just to reinforce them, took about a half hour. The bottom of the hat had been the bottom of the sweater, so I didn't have to worry about hemming or reinforcing that part. If you have a raw edge, though, a pass with a sewing machine or a hand-stitched hem should do the trick.
I flipped the whole thing right-side out, and voila! Instant hat in a custom color, perfectly shaped for yours truly. I was so stoked about the finished product that I've been turning them out by the bunch and experimenting as I go with different embellishments like little rosebuds and ribbons, and figuring out fun extras like arm-warmers made from the sweater sleeves (just add a thumb-hole two inches from the top). Not only are they cool, useful, personalized gifts for friends, they're perfect conversation pieces for chatting up the merits of recycling.
Give DIY a Try:
Craft books about that are chock-full of inspiration. In addition to Sew Subversive, I found cute ideas in Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt; Rip It! How to Deconstruct and Reconstruct the Clothes of Your Dreams; and Altered Clothing: Hip Fixes and Transformations with a Needle and Thread.
Share your ideas and get inspiration from others at www.craftster.org.
Buy the reconstructions of others at The DIY Trunk Show or The Renegade Craft Fair.
After four greener-than-average college years as a co-op dweller-turned-aspiring-permaculturist, Julia Steinberger finds it hard not to feel guilty about her one-bedroom apartment, daily commute and indulgence in the occasionaldollarburger. She'd like to dream that she could live in a tent/treehouse/rabbit hole, but the truth is, she'd rather stay in the city while doing her best to leave a lighter footprint on the earth. You can contact her here.