Pretty Clever Uses for an Ugly Old Sweater

AnnaKika/flickrTake the "ugh" out of ugly. If you have a sweater that you think is too unattractive and worn out to wear anymore, don't toss it into the garbage -- or even the recycling bin. Instead, give your old pullover or cardigan a new life by repurposing it as something beautiful. Just let your imagination soar and you'll be able to see all kinds of possibilities in that old sweater you once scorned. And isn't that what upcycling is all about?

Here are 10 pretty clever uses for an ugly old sweater.

  1. Craft a cut-and-go infinity scarf. Let's start off nice and simple. All you have to do is cut a circlet from your ugly sweater and finish its edges (see Tips below) to produce a toasty, trendy infinity scarf.

  2. Keep your morning beverage hot. Raise your hand if you love coffee! Raise both hands if you love coffee good and hot (but put that mug down first)!! To make sure your brew stays at the temperature you most enjoy, shear a sleeve off an ugly sweater and slip it over your cup.

  3. Add interest to thrift store vases. Another potential repurpose for a sliced-off sweater sleeve is adding eye appeal to an inexpensive but boring vase. If the fancy strikes you, assemble an assortment in a variety of colors and textures.

  4. Create a cuddly dog bed. Your pup deserves a little extra coddling in winter. It's not easy for him or her, going out into the cold to take care of basic hygiene. Reward your furry hero with a pet bed created from a soft old sweater.

  5. Upholster storage boxes. There's no better way to upcycle a plain old cardboard box into a custom storage container than by gluing on fabric "upholstery." And there's no more satisfying type of fabric to use than recycled knit, which is easy to work with, yet doesn't cost you a dime.

  6. Cover a lampshade. Give your favorite table lamp a cozy new glow. If the lampshade is stained or otherwise showing signs of age, cover it with a sweater cut to size. But do take the advice of experienced electricians: use cool LED bulbs to save energy and reduce fire hazard.

  7. Stitch up a pair of the season's coziest mittens. Absolutely no knitting or crocheting skills are required for this one -- all you need to do is sew a couple of simple seams and voila! You've repurposed your worn-out sweater into warm, fuzzy handwear.

  8. Disguise blah photo frames. Strange but true: ugly + ugly = pretty. That is, when you disguise scratched, faded or just plain blah photo frames with bits of old sweater knit. Adorn with a contrasting sweater applique for extra pizzazz.

  9. Cook up a heating pad. Stuff a tube of ugly sweater fabric with rice to make a reusable, microwavable heating pad which is a lot less hassle -- and more leakproof -- than the traditional hot water bottle. Ideal for soothing sore achy muscles (from shoveling snow, perhaps?) or warming frigid feet.

  10. Weave a shaggy rag rug. An alternative tootsie warmer is a stylish shaggy rag rug, woven out of strips cut from an ugly sweater or two. Perfect to work on during long winter evenings in front of the fireplace, this project does take a bit of time, but it's not complicated and the attractive results are so worth it.

TIPS: Once you've cut into your sweater, prevent the edges from unraveling; sew with a zigzag stitch or iron on a seam finish tape. Try felting a sweater made of wool -- shrinking it by washing and drying at high heat -- to produce a stronger, interestingly textured fabric. Be aware that synthetic knits such as nylon, acrylic, and polyester will generally be less fire resistant than natural fibers like wool or cotton.

Laura Firszt writes for

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