Recycled Sweater Challenge

Lately I’ve seen a lot of really innovative projects made out of old sweaters, especially on Pinterest.  This got me thinking Old.Sweaterabout what a great project this would be for my students to practice the concept of recycling or repurposing materials.  So I visited my local thrift store and lucky for me they had a clearance rack of clothing, much of it old wool sweaters.  I gathered as many as I could find into my cart and headed for the check out.  The possibilities that could be made with all of these sweaters were endless!  I couldn’t wait to challenge my students and see how creative they could be and teach them to recycle/repurpose as well as teach basic sewing skills at the same time.


  • Hold up a sweater and ask students what happens to old sweaters like this when no one wants it any more or it no longer fits.  Try to get them thinking creatively and lead them to the idea of repurposing.  Explain the definition of repurposing which is the process by which an object with one use value is transformed or redeployed as an object with an alternative use value. Ask students to brainstorm some new possibilities for this old sweater to get them thinking.
  • You could also show this YouTube clip called Chic on the Cheap: Recycled Sweater Projects  for inspiration as well.


  • Old Sweaters (washed & dried)
  • Thread
  • Sewing Machines
  • Needles & Scissors


  • Students can choose to do this project alone or with one partner.
  • Explain the guidelines of the project/challenge and then have students choose a sweater.  They may also bring one from home if they choose to, but be sure to wash/dry first.
  • Give students time in class to begin perusing the internet for ideas.  They can use Pinterest, YouTube, Etsy or an other site give them ideas for how to best utilize their sweater.
  • Once they’ve decided on their ideas, students take a BEFORE picture of their sweater and then begin the transformation of their sweater into various projects applying their best workmanship.
  • After all of their projects are complete, students take an AFTER picture of their sweater projects and create labeled tent cards identifying the creations.
  • Students share completed projects with the class, vote on selections meeting three criteria areas and then proudly display all projects along with winning ribbons in school’s show case for entire student body to view.
  • Afterwards, discuss how doing this project could help them in the future.  Hopefully they see the value in knowing how to look at an object with a new set of eyes and transform it into something unique.  It’s also a great way to make wonderful gifts for others inexpensively and who doesn’t love or appreciate a hand made gift!  Finally, it’s a way for them to even add to their wardrobe or décor without spending a ton of money and helping the environment at the same time.


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