Let It Breathe
by Katy Westcott
I have a hard time passing up wool and cashmere sweaters when I find them at thrift stores. I appreciate quality yarn in pretty colors, but I don’t always approve of a thrift store sweater’s style. When a nice sweater fits perfectly but doesn’t suit my taste, I feel compelled to set it free from life as a helpless victim of outdated fashion. This sweater entered the world with a stifling, high collar that made my neck feel trapped. With my crochet hook and some scissors, I set it free!
- 1 ball of size 10 crochet cotton to match your sweater however you want
- US size D/3 – 3.25mm hook
- Small felting needle
- Piece of styrofoam to needle felt into (at least 2” thick)
- Fabric scissors
- Marking implement (such as fabric chalk)
- Sewing needle
The size of the crocheted collar and cuffs for your sweater will vary depending on the sweater you choose to embellish. Although gauge is not important for this project, I have included the measurements of my own sweater. It didn’t leave the thrift store with tags so I don’t know exactly how large it is, but I’m guessing it is a size small. My finished collar is 1 1/2” tall by 13” wide when lying flat. The finished cuffs each measure 5” long, 6” wide at the widest edge and 3 3/4” wide at the narrowest point. The gauge of my work is 4” = 30 sc wide, (14) 3-ch mesh arc stitches wide and 22 mesh arc stitches tall.
Any sweater can be modified using this pattern. If you use a fine knit wool sweater you can needle felt the cut edges to prevent fraying. Needle felting is a dry felting process that adheres the fibers of wool together with a sharp barbed tool. Some links with more information about needle felting:
Prepare collar for crocheting
Spread the sweater out flat with the front facing up. Use the following measurements as guidelines for removing the front part of the neck from the sweater:
- Starting at the left sleeve, find the seam where the sleeve is attached to the upper body of the sweater. Mark two inches in from this seam (towards the collar). Call this point A. Measure two inches in from the right sleeve seam to mark point B.
- Measure 4.5 inches down from point A to mark point C, and 4.5 inches down from point B to mark point D.
- Measure the distance between points C and D and mark the center, point E.
- Draw an arc to connect points A, E and B. This curve is the guide you will follow to cut the neckline for the front of your sweater.
- 5.Repeat these steps for the back of the sweater, marking points [A and B] 2 inches in from the sleeve seams and points [C, D, and E] 2.5 inches down from the top of the sweater.
- Try the sweater on to make sure that you are comfortable with the placement of your lines. (Keep in mind that it will actually be 1/2” lower than the line.)
- Once you are satisfied with the curve, cut along the line to remove the top of the sweater.
- Fold 1/2” of the cut edge of your sweater toward the inside and pin it down.
- With a sewing needle threaded in crochet cotton, overcast stitch a foundation over the fold about 1/8” down and 1/8” apart. The total number of overcast stitches around the neck should be a multiple of 5.
To work Collar (work in the round)
Round 1: Sc in each overcast stitch, sl st in first sc to close round.
Round 2: *Ch 7, skip 4 sc, sc in next st,* rep from * to * around, ending ch 7, skip 4 sc, sc in last st.
Note: begin crocheting rounds in a spiral.
Rounds 3 – 4: *Ch 5, sc into next ch sp,* rep from * to * around.
Rounds 5 – 6: *Ch 4, sc into next ch sp,* rep from * to * around.
Round 7: *Ch 3, sc into next ch sp,* rep from * to * around.
Round 8: *Loosely ch 2, sc into next ch sp,* rep from * to * around.
Fasten off. Weave in end.
Prepare cuffs for crocheting (work the same for each sleeve)
Mark five inches up from the bottom hem of the cuff and draw a line around the sleeve at this point. Cut off the lower part of the sleeve along this line. Fold the cut edge over 1/2 inch and pin it down. With a sewing needle and crochet cotton, overcast stitch over this fold for your foundation row as you did for the collar. You must make an even number of overcast stitches.
To work cuffs:
Round 1: Sc in each overcast stitch, sl st in first sc to close round. Round 2: *Ch 3, skip 1 sc, sc in next stitch,* rep from * to * around.
Note: begin crocheting rounds in a spiral.
Rounds 3 – 11: *Ch 3, sc into next ch sp,* rep from * to * around.
Rounds 12 – 15: *Ch 5, sc into next ch sp,* rep from * to * around.
Rounds 16 – 21: *Ch 7, sc into next ch sp,* rep from * to * around.
Round 22: *Ch 3, sc into next ch sp,* rep from * to * around.
Fasten off. Weave in ends.
To prevent your cut edges from unraveling, felt the fibers together using a barbed felting needle. Begin by holding the sweater with folded-over flap and wrong side exposed. Clamp the flap flat against the sweater onto the Styrofoam with your fingers out of the way of where you will be poking the barbed needle. Holding the needle in your other hand, make a series of quick punctures into the Styrofoam through the flap and the sweater itself, making sure you agitate the fraying stitches of the cut edge. As you felt along the flap from the wrong side of the sweater a line of fuzz will develop on the right side where the needle pokes through. Once you have felted a three-inch segment of the flap from the wrong side, flip the sweater over and poke the needle through the right side of the sweater into the Styrofoam to fasten this fuzz back into the sweater. You may need to go back and forth over the same spot from either side a couple of times with the felting needle before the fibers felt completely. Repeat these steps as you move along the sweater until the entire flap feels securely fastened to the sweater. You will know you are finished felting when the frayed edge of the flap appears to have dissolved completely into the sweater. (This technique will only work if your sweater is wool.)
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