Sunday, November 13, 2011

First-Ever DIY: Thrifted Arm Warmers

We have already established that I love thrift stores (haven't we?) but now, thanks to Pinterest, they have a whole new dimension for me. What is it, you ask? Craft projects, my friends, cheap supplies for craft projects. I have quite a few blogs 'pinned' because they found something cheap at a thrift store and made something cool out of it. And today, I join those esteemed ranks. So let's get started.

I decided I wanted some arm warmers the other day. Because they're cute, and it's usually cold in my office where I type and click on things all day. Plus, it's getting to be wintery here in the NEOh and I don't like it. So there. My knitting skills haven't leveled up beyond Scarf World, and I've never learned to crochet, I had to come up with another plan.

The Plan: Find a cute and cheap sweater at a thrift store that fits your arms. (Obviously the rest doesn't matter since you won't be using it in this project.) Cut off the sleeves, add thumb holes. Ta-da! Arm warmers. 
The results of my thrift store trip. Total cost: $20.

Things You Will Need:
 - A sweater whose sleeves fit your arms pretty well (100% wool if you want to felt it)
 - Scissors
 - A bucket filled with hot water plus a little dish soap
 - A towel (if you are messy like me)
 - Rubber gloves
 - A blow dryer, or some patience
As you can see, I also had snacks on hand, as well as fabric glue and a sewing kit I didn't use.

Step 1: Cut off sleeves.
I recommend cutting them a little longer than you think you want the final product to be. I "measured" by putting one arm in, noting the stripe I wanted to cut, then taking it off and cutting it. If your sweater is not stripey, you might have to actually measure, or draw a line or something.

Step 2: Felting.
This is only possible (as far as I know) if your sweater is 100% wool. And it will cause skrinkage, so if your sleeves fit exactly how you want them to already, skip this step. The point of felting is to keep the material from fraying where it is cut by getting the fibers to lock themselves together, so agitation is your friend here. I did it because my sleeves were a little big, and so I wouldn't have to sew anything. I am, how you say, terrible at sewing.

Put the sleeves in the hot water + dish soap bucket. Put on your rubber gloves and pretend to be a washing machine, noises included if you are home alone and forgot to put in a movie before getting your hands wet. Do this until they are as felty as you'd like them to be. I didn't take mine all the way to true 'felt' because I thought they would shrink too much. You know it's felted when you can no longer see the original knitting stitches.
Left side: Original sweater. Right side: After felting. See how the stitch is kind of indistinct?

Step 3: Blow dry or learn some patience.
I wouldn't recommend blow drying them. Why? Because it took forever and didn't really work. If I wasn't so impatient, I would have spread them out on a towel and let them dry overnight. But instead, I continued to the next step with damp arm warmers. (If you have a clothes dryer, that would work too, but it might shrink some more, so keep that in mind.)
This is me invading the sleeve's personal space with my blow dryer.

Step 4: Cut thumb holes.
Once again, I "measured" using the stripes on the sweater. I laid the sleeve out, put my hand on it so the opening was under my palm, noted which stripes were under my thumb, then cut a hole opposite the seam. Again, since I felted the material, I didn't have to sew anything here. 
I cut through that black stripe because it's where I wanted my thumb to come out.

Step 5: Final touches.
For me this meant cutting off the fuzzy back edge and letting them dry the rest of the way. If you didn't felt, you'll probably need to sew your raw edges at the back and around the thumb holes so they don't fray. Or use fabric glue, or some kind of magic. If you want to add any embellishments, ribbon or whatnot, now would be the time to do that too, but I like mine the way they are.
Close up of fuzzy edge removal.
Step 6: Wearing your awesome project and taking dorky pictures of them. Ta-da!

Maybe if you'd wear a shirt with sleeves when it's cold out, you wouldn't need arm warmers.

Final Cost of Project: $2.00 for a thrift store sweater, so technically less than that, if I end up using the rest of the sweater for something else. If I don't, I'll give it to my sister since she cloth-diapers her kids.

Difficulty Level: Meh. It wasn't hard, just a bit time-consuming.

Satisfaction Level: Pretty high. I wore them the next day and they were toasty-warm. And since I picked a multicolored stripey sweater to begin with, they should go with lots of my clothes. (I am clever like that.)

The end! Hope you enjoyed my first foray into the DIY crafting blogosphere!


  1. That sweater might be a little girly for my purposes anyway?

  2. I love your kinda having a plan but also kinda winging it approach. That's my preferred method for crafts as well. So glad I found your blog through Epbot!

  3. You made this look so easy. I'm sure, in my typical klutzy fashion, I will find a way to mess it up. But I'm certainly going to try. Thanks for the tutorial.

  4. How cute are those! Going to have to try this ^_^ My office is colder than the rest of my house so they'd be perfect. Thanks for the tute!