Giving Green

by jenny barriger

photos by jana graham

These great holiday decorations are definitely “thoughtful.” This inexpensive, recycled and yet classy craft is great for your friends, budget and the environment. In no time, you can make some very impressive decorations made simply from recycled wool sweaters. Sweaters that you can easily find at any of our local thrift stores, if not your own closet. These “out of fashion” sweaters can create very fashionable ornaments. Another bonus being that wool and other animal fiber sweaters (cashmere, angora, alpaca, etc.) come from an organic and completely renewable source. For the ornaments you see here, we used only 3 sweaters (each around $3.00-$5.00 apiece), items that we found around the house and a little imagination to create piles of decorations! Follow the directions found on the next few pages and enjoy some fun family crafting!

wreath of wool


. your choice of wool sweater (cut into small squares)

. jewelry wire (or use an old wire hanger to be even more earth friendly)

. ribbon

. hot glue gun

. embellishments such as buttons, flowers, raffia etc.


These wreaths are great for any age! Think of a simple beading project. That is about all there is to it once a small amount of preparation is finished.

Cut small squares out of a few different sweaters by cutting strips and then snipping the strips into equal sized squares. We created a wreath that finished up to be about 6 inches in diameter using squares that were cut to be about 1 1/2 inches on each side. Wreaths can be made any size, just adjust the size of the fabric squares accordingly.

To create the wreath yourself or to hand it off to a younger counterpart, simply bend one end of your wire to hold the fabric squares on and start threading the wire through the middle of each square. Choose a pattern for threading, or let the little hands in your family decide for themselves!

To finish simply twist both ends of the wire together to form a hangar. Embellish the top with buttons, ribbon and raffia (affix with a hot glue gun to the wire-this part is for grown up hands, of course.)

sew simple ornaments


. your choice of wool sweater

. embroidery needle

. ribbon

. embroidery thread

. hot glue gun

. embellishments such as buttons, thread, berries, etc.


This ornament is a great collaboration between big and little hands. Cut 2 identical shapes of your choice from the sweater fabric. Thread an embroidery needle with a complimentary color of embroidery thread. Hand stitch around 3/4 of the outside of the ornament (this simple sewing is great for kids!) Stuff the ornament with small sweater scraps and pin a ribbon in between the two sweater pieces. Finish handsewing to finish off the ornament.

Decorate the ornament using sweater scraps, buttons, beads, etc.

More ideas:

Get creative and add small pockets.

Incorporate photos or written memories.

Find a great detail in the sweater to highlight in your project.

it’s a ball Ornaments


. your choice of wool sweater

. old tennis and/or golf balls

. ribbon

. small rubberbands (clear bands work best)

. hot glue gun

. embellishments such as buttons, thread, etc.


Cut sleeve or section of sweater with enough material left over sufficient for gathering at just top or top and bottom of ornament. Cut long strand of ribbon and fold in half. Hold or tape to the side of tennis or golf ball and cover with sweater material. Arrange ribbon to form the “hanger” and gather fabric at the top and bottom (or just top if you used a non-sleeve portion of the sweater) using small rubber bands. Embellish as desired.

Felting- sweater prep

It’s easy to felt a sweater. You can do this simply by running the sweater through a hot wash cyle and drying it on high heat. It is basically the type of laundering experience that we kick ourselves for if the sweater is still part of our wardrobe. There are, however a few things to keep in mind:

Protect your washer! If you felt a lot of sweaters, the fuzzy fibers that these sweaters throw off can easily clog up your washer, leading to costly repairs. If you are planning on felting one batch, you should be just fine. If you plan on felting sweaters often, put them into a mesh laundry bag with a tightly closed drawstring before you wash Then remove the sweaters from the bag before drying. Protect your dryer by cleaning the lint trap often.

Begin with animal fibers. Only animal-fiber sweaters will felt, so look for wool, alpaca, cashmere, angora or a blend of these. Usually if the combination of animal fibers make up at least 60% of the sweater they are a candidate for felting.

How do I know it’s felted? When you pull your sweater out of the dryer, look for two things:

. Did the sweater shrink significantly?

. Is the texture of the knitted stitches barely visible?

If the answer is “No” to either of these, try running the sweater through the washer and dryer again. And maybe even a third time.

Once your sweater is felted, it is ready to cut and create. Finishing the edges is not required. SFM

Jenny Barriger, lives in Billings, is a mom to Brynn and Ian, and co-founder of Simply Family Magazine.