Let It Breathe

Sep 14, 2006
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by Katy Westcott


Let It Breathe Refashioned Sweater
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sweater fits perfectly but doesn’t suit my taste, I feel compelled to set it free from life as a helpless victim of outdated fashion.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!

Materials List

  • 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

Finished Size



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:

The Pattern


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:

Cutting Diagram 

  1. 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.  
  2. Measure 4.5 inches down from point A to mark point C, and 4.5 inches down from point B to mark point D.
  3. Measure the distance between points C and D and mark the center, point E.
  4. 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. 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.  
  6. 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.)  
  7. Once you are satisfied with the curve, cut along the line to remove the top of the sweater.
  8. Fold 1/2” of the cut edge of your sweater toward the inside and pin it down.  
  9. 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.  


Let It Breathe, backTo 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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+ Add a comment


Cecily wrote
on Sep 15, 2006 6:26 PM

So simple and so sweetly awesome! I love the look of the cuffs, I think I'll try this on a 3/4 sleeve t-shirt...

Gerd wrote
on Sep 15, 2006 6:27 PM
Hi Katy, I applaude you on your ingenuity. The outcome is lovely.

I have yarn that you might enjoy using since it falls outside my present projects. Hope you and Greg can make it to Wellesley Sunday.

Love, Gerd

Steph wrote
on Sep 16, 2006 2:56 AM

What a great idea, and it looks fabulous. You have inspired me!

Andrea wrote
on Sep 16, 2006 11:09 AM

I love your thrift store recreations!

Danielle's mom wrote
on Sep 16, 2006 5:29 PM

Katy, I just love how you give new life to all of your flea market finds. Your instructions seem well-written and helpful....you should think about publishing a book with all of your wonderful designs! Keep up the good work...

Maria wrote
on Sep 18, 2006 7:25 AM

Great idea, I love it!!! I'll be looking at all of my old sweaters to see if I can give them a new life.

katy wrote
on Sep 19, 2006 7:49 PM

I bet the cuffs will look neat on a 3/4 sleeve! I can't wait to see!

katy wrote
on Sep 19, 2006 7:55 PM

Thanks, Danielle's mom!

Jackie wrote
on Sep 19, 2006 8:10 PM

What a brilliant idea! Could I please just check something? On the collar Round 7 is the same as Rounds 5-6 but is written out separately. Is this right or should Round 7 perhaps have a ch 3 rather than ch 4?

Julia wrote
on Sep 20, 2006 1:03 PM

Brilliant! I'm taking up crochet right now!

Jennifer wrote
on Sep 21, 2006 1:47 PM

What a fabulous idea! So clever, and so well done.

katy westcott wrote
on Sep 21, 2006 4:42 PM
you're right, Jackie, it should say: "Round 7: *Ch 3, sc into next ch sp,* rep from * to * around."

thanks for catching that!

on Sep 21, 2006 5:35 PM

I've made the correction in the pattern.

Kim, Ed.

Angie wrote
on Sep 23, 2006 2:13 PM

I just tried this with a mohair yarn. Looks awesome! Thanks for posting this idea.

teresa wrote
on Oct 6, 2006 2:12 PM

now that's a creative reconstruction. looks great!!

Angie wrote
on Oct 12, 2006 4:35 AM

I just love your ideas of adding crochet to pre-existing garments. I did my version of this pattern on a $5 men's long sleeve tshirt, and I get complements on it all the time. Thanks for the inspiration, and keep up the good work!

thrifty wrote
on Nov 3, 2006 11:30 AM
What i great way to get plan rid of thos turtleneck collars :-)

Do you have a picture of the original collar that you cut off?

Mary from California wrote
on Nov 5, 2006 11:32 PM

I have been crocheting since 1972 when I was about 12 or 13 I taught myself. When they say hooked on crochet, that was me and I love to see everyones new ideas. This one is very sharp and a great idea! I wish I was more on that creative side. I'm a great copier though, so Thanks Katy!

Mahogany wrote
on Nov 16, 2006 8:10 AM

I have tried crocheting around necklines before and it always just looked home-made, but this is awesome, what a great talent you have.

I'm a woman "of many acres" (I heard that description once and it just always makes me giggle in a wood-nymph kind of way) and the problem with extra-large size tops is the extra-large neckline that never stays put! How come clothing manufacturers can't figure out that just because you've gained a little weight doesn't mean that the width of your collar bone has magically spread to two feet?

Now your lovely idea has come to the rescue of some favourite tops I could never leave the house in because the necklines always end up off my shoulder, thank-you!

Noly wrote
on Jan 26, 2007 2:39 PM
okay, this whole site rocks & the sweater is fabulous!

i'm coming back - saved to my favorite places.


danerlu wrote
on Feb 15, 2008 4:09 PM

I too am a "jolly" woman "of many acres" and find it hard to find a top that fits nicely in which the neckline doesn't fall off my shoulders. I have been looking for a collar like this for several years, and just recently have been buying scarves to wear to be more modest.

I can not wait to try this out.


candy49 wrote
on Jan 4, 2011 7:38 PM

Very cute...I admire re-cycling, re-using, and re-purposing of any natural fiber. Good for you!