Upcycling Kids’ Knits

Written by Lucinda

© British Library Board BS.41/484

Children grow up so quickly and all to soon their favourite clothes no longer fit them. Re-use is the best recycling, so too-small garments can be handed down to younger siblings or friends’ kids, but there are some knits that are too precious to part with. In the spirit of ‘Make Do and Mend’, you can alter them to create new items or turn them into lasting keepsakes.

Transforming a jumper

A too-short jumper can be made into a cute dress. Cut across the body, approximately 4cm down from the underarms and oversew the raw edge. Measure your little one from underarm to knee and cut a matching or contrasting piece of fabric to that length (adding about a centimetre top and bottom for hemming). The width should be four times the width of the knit. Seam the sides and hem the top and bottom edges, and then gather the top using either running stitch or darts, depending on your sewing proficiency. Iron it flat the gathered edge and sew the ‘skirt’ to the neatened edge of the jumper. Cover the join with ribbon and… voila!


Anything made from 100% natural wool can be washed on your machine’s hottest cycle and shrunk down to make a non-fray, felted fabric that’s ideal for making soft toys, balls or building blocks. This beady-eyed bear was once a cashmere cardigan.


The yarn, not you… hopefully! Re-use the yarn from your old knit to make other things, as previous generations of knitters had to do, when new wool was expensive. Carefully snip and unpick the seams and unravel each section of the garment, winding the wool into loose hanks. Tie it together at intervals to prevent tangles. Straighten out the kinks by passing the hank through the steam from your kettle or holding a steam iron over it (keeping your hands well out of the way, of course). Then leave it to dry and wind it into balls ready to start your new knit.

In the frame

Your baby’s first booties, beanie or mittens can be preserved for posterity in a box frame and displayed on the wall, so that visitors can one day marvel at how impossibly tiny your teenagers once were.