Thursday, March 15, 2012

How to recycle a baby sweater for your doll

   This is a great project for non-knitters (but knitters can have fun with this, too!). It requires only 3 basic hand sewing stitches. I chose this baby sweater to work with because of its bold colors that don't say "Baby Sweater", and the stripes are perfectly scaled for dolls. The yarn mixes and accent stitches are a plus!

   I started with this thrift shop sweater that cost me $1.99. It was a size 3-6 months. You could work with other sizes but keep in mind scale- the younger sizes will have easier scales to work with, smaller buttons, smaller patterns, smaller trims, etc.
This photo shows you some of the details.
   The first thing I did was take apart the sweater. I cut the sleeves off at the armhole seams. I cut the sides at the side seams. Then I very carefully cut the neck trim away from the body with a seam ripper, cutting only the threads that attach the trim to the sweater and not the trim itself!. It is very important to take your time with this detail. The neck trim will look best if done carefully! 
   After I cut up the sweater into pieces, I played with the front, putting it up to the doll to see how long I wanted it to be and were I thought the neck should fall. (In the above photo, I show only 3 buttons. At this point I wasn't sure of the neck placement yet).

    I decided to make the sweater a little longer than I showed in the previous photo. I pinned the front to the back to get the desired body width (with pieces right sides together). And I marked the shoulder with a pin.

   Here you can see my pins for marking body width and shoulder placement. I measured the width from pin to pin at the bottom edge. This gave me the finished body width measurement. I adjusted my pattern so that the pattern front was 1/2 this measurement plus 3/8" seam allowance. I also measured the body length from the bottom edge to the shoulder pin and added 3/8" seam allowance for the shoulder seam. I adjusted my pattern to this measurement.
   I placed the center front edge of my pattern onto the center front of the placket, and the bottom edge of the pattern onto the bottom edge of the sweater front, as shown above. I cut each side of the front one at a time, flipping the pattern for the other side. Because I was still on the fence about the neck placement, I decided to cut the neck higher than I made the pattern, so that I could adjust it later.

   Next, I placed the cut out front on top of the back piece. I did this so that I could make sure that the stripes match up at the side seams and shoulder seams. I pinned the front piece  in place and cut out the back using the front as a pattern. I cut straight across for the back neck, because I wanted to be able to adjust the neck after I finished the rest of the sweater, (you will see in later steps how I did this).

Cutting out the back piece.
This is how it looks after both front and back pieces were cut out (right sides together).

   Then I turned the the sleeve piece inside out and placed it up to the front and back pieces. The stripe placement worked out well and I was able to match the stripes at the armhole seams.

I then placed the sleeve pattern on each sleeve sleeve and cut out each sleeve one at a time.

The above photo shows all of the pieces cut out.
   I sewed the side seams, the shoulder seams, and the underarm seams by hand with a fingering weight yarn and a 3/8" seam allowance. I used a "back stitch"for the seams, which has more stretch than a running stitch. I then finished the seams with a "blanket stitch". See above photo and below for stitch chart. 

For your reference, I made an embroidery stitch chart that you see above.
All seams are done in Back stitch.
Finish all seams in Blanket stitch.
Attach neck trim in Chain stitch.

   Then, I sewed the sleeves to the body with a "back stitch" and finished the seams with a "blanket stitch", same as the other seams. I turned the sweater inside out and put on the doll. I adjusted the neck until I liked the placement and pinned it in place. I made sure to use the existing buttonhole from the neck trim. The other end of the neck trim will be cut and folded back once the trim is sewn in place. I sewed the trim to the body with a "chain stitch", carefully catching each knit stitch of the trim. I used a regular sewing thread for the neck trim. The neck trim was the most tedious part of the whole project, but if you take your time you will have great results!

The finished sweater! No knitting required!

So now, I hope I have inspired you to recycle a sweater for your own doll! The possibilities are endless!

Thanks for visiting!

Creatively Yours,


  1. cool, you most of put a lot of work into it!

  2. I do have some old 'have to throw out' sweaters.

  3. Thank you for this tutorial. I will try and get a baby sweater and try your method. I tried once before and it was a disaster, as I tried to resew on a machine with a zig-zag and it stretched it so much is was a total waster. I had to throw it away. I'm glad I found your blog. I will try this again.:)

    1. I also tried to sew a sweater on the sewing machine with equally disaterous results! I suppose a serger would work, however I have only a relatively basic sewing machine. My goal is to present my projects in a way that no "fancy" equipment is needed!- I'd love to hear how your next attempt goes!

  4. Thank you so much Donna - I will let you know as I'm going to a thrift shop today, and see what they have. Thanks again for the wonderful and thorough tutorial on this sweater, it is really adorable. :)