By Elizah Leigh on April 27, 2012

If it's time for a cashmere upgrade, don't despair — your old sweaters can be recycled into a multitude of new purposes.

We have a fleeting love affair with fashion, which might explain why, of the 13.12 tons of textiles produced in 2010, Americans ultimately discarded approximately 68 pounds per person. Unlike its “here today, gone tomorrow” textile cohorts, however, luxuriously silken yet highly insulating cashmere wool has long been revered by royalty and fashionistas alike as a classic, trend-proof fashion investment thanks to its remarkable ability to weather the hands of time without succumbing to wrinkles or pills.

Genuine cashmere garments, however, aren’t easy on the budget. Compared to woven cotton, polyester blends and even silk, raw cashmere wool — obtained from molting and/or shorn Kashmir goats — is in relatively limited supply. While repurposing the cashmere sweater that your favorite aunt gave you in commemoration of your college graduation might initially seem like a good idea, think carefully before you begin cutting. If the garment is in excellent condition, it might make more sense to find a thrift store alternative for a DIY upcycling project, especially if you intend to transform it into a patchwork pet bed, pin cushion or other item that doesn’t allow the material to shine in its best light.

Fortunately, suitable raw material for sweater repurposing projects can be found nestled unassumingly among thrift store offerings, priced at mere pennies on the dollar. Similarly, nationwide clothing swaps can also be an excellent source for old cashmere sweaters, as can estate sales, garage sales and perusing the forgotten duds that a family member would sooner donate than throw away. That’s good news for crafting enthusiasts who get giddy with excitement when contemplating the many ways that a been-around-the-block sweater can take on new life.

Once you have settled on a cashmere sweater that will function better in its future reincarnated form, smooth it directly on top of a flat work surface. Using sharp scissors, remove the sleeves and either consider utilizing them in a project specifically geared toward elongated pieces (such as this upcycled doll dress) or set them aside for a future application.

Then, cut along the right exterior torso seam of the cashmere garment and up toward the neck in order to create one continuous piece of usable fabric. This process will enable you to make the most of the material with minimal waste while accommodating larger-sized projects.

cashmere sweater recycling

You have been patient up to this point, so now it’s time to get lost in some pretty fantastic cashmere sweater crafting possibilities. Perhaps one (or all) of the following lovely little tutorials will get your repurposing juices flowing. How about making:

If you don’t see a pattern for what you envision, you might even want to try making your own. Countless ideas abound on the Internet and in books, but don’t make the mistake of limiting your search to projects that are specifically geared toward repurposing sweaters. Your options will expand exponentially by seeking out handcrafted ideas that simply utilize fabric, since recycled cashmere can easily be a suitable stand-in.

Upon choosing a craft project that you intend to use for your cashmere sweater, scan the list of supplies you’ll need to successfully execute the project. Assemble all of the necessary tools and sewing notions (such as a tape measure, marking chalk, sharp scissors, needle, thread, etc.) right next to your workstation so they can be easily accessed. Keep a watchful eye on the steps involved in your selected craft project, exercise patience and you’ll come out of the experience with a one-of-a-kind, soft-n-snuggly creation!

About the author

Elizah Leigh is an eco-inspired wordsmith capable of captivating readers in just the right manner to facilitate subliminal greenlightenment. If it hasn’t yet happened to you, dear reader, don’t worry... it soon will. She believes that walking on the green side of life isn’t so much about random actions like recycling household materials and eschewing bottled water as it really should be about committing to long-term lifestyle changes that naturally become effortless the more frequently they are practiced — and believe it or not, if you’re looking at the world through green-colored glasses, it’s never a chore.

Working as an eco-journalist for a number of online venues, including Ecorazzi, WebEcoist, WebUrbanist and Causecast, this self-confessed eager greenie and knowledge hound has become deeply entrenched in the world of green living and makes a conscious effort at all times to practice exactly what she preaches. Elizah feels that no one is an "expert" in this field as long as they continue to keep an open mind by acquiring new eco-feathers in their cap — something that she aspires to do with each new article that she authors.

Extremely passionate about greening perspectives as well as lifestyles one carefully selected word at a time, this eco-writer feels privileged to add the 1-800-RECYCLING audience to her increasingly expanding network of green-minded readers. When she’s not tweeting her ever-lovin’ greenie heart out or adding new eco-themed articles to her portfolio, she can be found frolicking outside or shooting the breeze with her menagerie of impossibly needy geriatric felines.

As for what Elizah hopes to bring to 1-800-RECYCLING? Believe it or not, she is convinced that we are all capable of carving out individual and collective legacies in which caring enough about what we do while we walk this earth ensures that future generations enjoy the same basic privileges that we currently do. Can collections of carefully crafted environmentally themed words help facilitate this lofty plan for eco-friendly ah-ha! inspiration? Stranger things have been done to honor Mother Nature. For now, that’s her eager greenie goal, and she’s definitely sticking to it.

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