Turn a Shrunken Sweater Into a Retro Wool Beret

turn a shrunken sweater into a felted beret

While we’ve been pleasantly surprised with a very warm winter this year, the weather has turned cold lately, and it is definitely feeling like winter in Alberta again. Since it is only February (which means we’ve still got a ways to go before Spring) this is the perfect time to share one of my latest projects- a felted wool beret. Berets are not necessarily the warmest of headwear, but they do add a great vintage element to your winter ensemble, so I definitely consider them to be a fall and winter outfit staple.

While berets have risen in popularity the past few years, I have yet to come across one in brown. So, if you can’t find one at the store and you can’t knit or crochet one for yourself, what can you do? You can easily turn a shrunken sweater castoff into a felted beret!

I would not recommend that you take a perfectly good wool sweater and felt it, because wool sweaters can be expensive and it always seems like a waste to cut up something in good shape that someone could actually wear the way it is. However, there are so many wool sweaters in thrift shops that are no longer in good condition. Whether it’s due to the previous owner accidentally shrinking them, or that they are full of moth holes or runs, or even that they have stretched out of shape due to improper care, the thrift shops are full of them. This project is a perfect way to recycle and refashion those sweaters that are completely ruined and useless into something new!

shrunken wool sweater perfect for felting

I found this chocolate brown sweater years ago, but hadn’t yet figured out what to make. Since brown berets have proven difficult to find, I thought that this would be the perfect way to get the colour I wanted.

To Make Your Own, You Will Need:

  • A 100% old wool sweater. Make sure it is real wool content, so it will felt for you. I know you can also use blends that have a high wool content, but I’ve never done that myself, so am not sure whether they felt differently or not.
  • Needle & thread/ sewing machine
  • Beret pattern- I used Tanith Rowan’s Grevillea Beret. (Tanith gifted me that pattern several years ago. You can see the first one I made here). Edited to add: Another free beret option is this style from Brittani of Untitled Thoughts. She has a free pattern download, as well a sewing tutorial. 
  • Button to cover, or a decorative button of your choice 
  • Elastic to make the hat fit tighter, optional

To Make the Hat:

My wool was already partially felted, so I cut the pieces out of the sweater and went from there, felting the final hat a little more at the end. After making this one, I was wondering whether you could also make it by cutting your pattern pieces out a bit larger and then felting the wool after you already have the hat sewn up. This might make the seam lines disappear a bit, and make the hat easier to form, but I haven’t tried it yet to know for sure.

But, in order to make the hat exactly as I have here, you are first going to need to felt your sweater, if it isn’t already shrunken. You can do this by putting the sweater into the washing machine with a little bit of laundry soap and washing it in hot water. It works better if you have a few sweaters in at the same time, so they can bump into each other and cause friction. You can also add a foam ball or flip-flop to help it felt even faster. Once you have washed your wool, take a look at it and see whether it has felted enough. If you want it to shrink a bit more, you can put it through the dryer, removing it before it is completely dry. Once the wool is good, let it dry.

wool sweater and sewing supplies

Once your sweater is dry, it is time to figure out your pattern. There are several different ways to make a sewn beret; I chose to use Tanith Rowan’s Grevillea Beret, since I already had the pattern. This hat is made up of segments, giving it an octagonal shape. Her pattern has a more vertical shape to it and doesn’t lie flat, but since I wanted the hat to have a similar flat shape and fit to a traditional round wool beret, I made a couple of changes.

adjusting the pattern to make a flat style beret

To adjust the pattern, I made a sharper angle on the bottom segments so they would be narrower at the bottom edge. This way the hat would lay flat back on itself.  I measured the inner circumference of a beret that I already had and made the opening of my pattern add up to 20″ circumference. I actually should have made the opening a little bit smaller, since the hat ended up stretching quite a bit, so I would recommend that you go at least an inch or two smaller than you want it to be, to account for stretch. The other change I made to the pattern was using a facing, rather than a hat band. (More on that in a minute)

Once you’ve chosen your pattern, it’s time to cut it out. Watch out for where the seams are in the sweater, you don’t want to accidentally cut across them, or you’ll end up with a bulky piece. Also, look for any areas that may have holes or other flaws, since they won’t have closed up during felting. I cut my pieces out of the sleeve and around the neckline to maximize the amount of fabric I would have left over to use for future projects. I also saved the bottom of the sleeve pieces including the cuffs, since I might make a pair of matching mittens in the future using this method here.

Once you’ve got your pieces cut out, it is time to sew them. Since the wool is felted, you won’t need to worry about it fraying, so you don’t need to finish the edges in any way. Sew together your pieces of the hat, excluding the hat band, following the instructions of your pattern.

sewing the felted pieces of the hat

Make sure to use a zig-zag rather than a straight stitch when sewing, since this is a stretch fabric.

Instead of making a flat hat band, I decided to made a round facing. The advantage of a facing, rather than a hat band is that it flips to the inside, so it is completely hidden. This is just a style preference, you could also use a flat hat band if you prefer. To make my facing, I measured the diameter across of the opening of my hat, then measured out 2″ and cut out the circle pattern piece. My sweater had a large enough section left to cut the facing in one piece, but you might need to cut it in 2 pieces and sew them together. If so, remember to leave seam allowances!

making the hat facing

With right sides together, sew the facing to the hat.

Once you’ve got the hat sewn, it is time to form the shape of the hat. To make a form, cut a piece of cardboard into a circle the size you want your finished hat to be. I measured the beret I already had, to figure out what size I wanted. Since your hat will be wet, you need to waterproof the form, so place the cardboard piece inside a bag. I was originally going to use a dinner plate as a form (it was the exact size needed!) but then I wasn’t sure I would be able to get it out after the hat had dried without having to stretch the hat completely out of shape…or smash the plate! The cardboard turned out to be flexible enough to remove easily and it worked well.

hat all sewn up and ready to form

Now, fill a basin or sink with hot water. Submerge the hat so it is completely wet, and then slightly agitate the wool. Once it is fully soaked, take the hat out and gently press the water out. Don’t wring it, or it will stretch too much- the wool will be quite floppy! Roll the wool in a towel to pull out most of the water.

soaking the wool hat to felt

Take your cardboard form and place it inside the hat. Smooth the seams flat and shape the hat around the form. The hat will shrink as it dries, so in order to keep the opening of the hat from pulling back too wide, sew a stitch around the inner edge and slightly gather it in. Once you’ve finished, it’s time to let it dry. I placed my hat directly onto my drying rack, which ended up leaving some marks from the rods on the wool that I had to steam out, so I would recommend either letting the hat dry on a fabric mesh sweater drying rack, or placing a towel across the bars of a drying rack for the beret to sit on top of.

putting the wool beret onto the cardboard form

Once the hat is dry, you can snip the gathering stitch from the edge and then take the hat off of the form!

Not all of my seams dried completely flat, so to help shape it a little bit more, I used a tailor’s ham (actually a towel wadded inside an old t-shirt) to steam press the hat into a smoother shape. Then I pressed it flat. Make sure to use a wet press cloth, dampen the wool and lightly go over with your iron while it’s on full steam, so you don’t scorch your wool and make it go shiny.

steaming and shaping the beret once dry

Once you’ve pressed the hat into shape, it is time to tack the facing edge down, sewing through the seams to hide the stitches. After I finished the hat and tried it on, I discovered that the wool was a lot stretchier than my other berets and was quite loose. One of my other berets has a soft elastic around the edge which works well to keep the hat in place, so I added a piece of elastic along the edge of this hat. Place the elastic between the facing and the top of the hat and stitch in place by tacking it through the seams in order to hide the stitches.

sewing elastic along the edge and the facing into place

The final step is to add a button. You can either cover a button with wool, or use a decorative button. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to use a covered button because the wool was so stiff, but I actually managed to push the back/shank onto the button form. If your wool is too thick to use the shank to cover your button, you can cut a circle of felt, run a gathering stitch around the edge and gather it in around the button form. (Like making a fabric yo-yo) Since it’s not a functional button, it doesn’t need to have a shank on the back and you can just sew it on like that, with the raw edges hidden underneath.

covering the button and adding it to the top of the hat

Once the button is sewn on, your hat is done. There you have it- a vintage styled felted beret, without even having to know how to knit or crochet!

the finished upcycled wool beret

Have you ever made anything with felted wool before? It’s a lot of fun, since the wool is so easy to manipulate. We’ve got some more wool sweaters in our stash, and I am now wondering whether I should steal some of them to make some more hats….

Do you think you will try this and turn a shrunken sweater into something new?

wearing an upcycled wool Tanith Rowan Grevillea beret made out of a shrunken sweater

the finished beret

Social Saturday | January 30

desk top with laptop and journal laid out

Here we are already at Saturday! This week was a busy one for me finalizing details to get my shop up and running, and I’m not completely done yet, but am looking forward to a more relaxing weekend.

I enjoyed this post by Lauren of Wearing History about why sewing your own clothing costs more sometimes. I like her perspective, as she has experience as a home sewist as well as someone who has gone into clothing production.

I saw this week, that one of the founders of Fashion Revolution, Orsola de Castro, is releasing a book “Loved Clothes Last: How the Joy of Rewearing and Repairing Your Clothes Can Be a Revolutionary Act”. It looks interesting!

white and pink amaryllis and pink angel wing begonia bloom

In other news sister’s Angel Wing Begonia is blooming! And my mom’s Amaryllis has been blooming as well- with so many more buds set to open!

the other bennet sister book and a cup of tea

Upon the recommendation of a friend, I got “The Other Bennet Sister” by Janice Hadlow and have been enjoying it immensely! If you are a Jane Austen fan, or really even a fan of historical fiction, then I think you will like this one. I haven’t finished it yet, but that’s one of my plans for this weekend.

Well, that’s all that’s going on around here…how are you planning to fill your weekend?

Happy Saturday!

The Artyologist Turns Five & I’ve Opened a Shop!

5 candles

Today is my blog’s 5th birthday! I can’t believe that it’s already been five years since the first time I pressed “publish”. (so scary!)

So to commemorate this occasion, I wanted to share some exciting news:

I have expanded my online shop and opened my own online storefront! This was a very long time coming (too long) and I am so excited to finally hit “publish” on that now too. You can find my new and improved shop page here or at the link in my sidebar or in the top menu.

the artyologist art shop

There are now three places you can shop. First, with The Artyologist shop, I have started small as I wanted to try it out and see how it goes (since it is my first foray into online selling on my own platform.) I have just a few products listed right now, including greeting cards, prints and a couple of original paintings. I plan to list some more items in the near future. I’m so excited to actually have started this shop, especially since that was one of my goals when I started this blog five years ago…it took a while, but we’re here now.

Since I have no idea what I’m doing, it might take me a while to get the hang of it, so please let me know if you run into any problems with it.

And to celebrate the Grand Opening, you can use the code ANNIVERSARY10 to receive 10% off. (I thought that 5% off was too small of a celebration!) The coupon will be valid for two weeks, until February 10, 2021.

The second new way to shop is through my Poshmark closet. While Poshmark is mostly a clothing app, since they have a flat rate shipping, this is an excellent way to get some of the bigger framed pieces and canvases shipped for only $12.99, instead of whatever Canada Post would charge – a lot I’m sure! Unfortunately this is only available within Canada. I’ve also got some other things listed there from my closet clear out, as well some handmade hair accessories and shoe clips, with plans to add more of those things in the future.

poshmark artyologist art shop

And finally, in my Society 6 shop you can find products such as greeting cards and phone accessories, as well as prints and canvases. Remember when I said I planned to add some of my Valentine’s card designs to my shop… three years ago? Well, I have added five of those card designs to the shop now, just in time for Valentine’s Day (just over 2 weeks away)! You can get them in cards, mini prints and some of them in stickers too, just for fun. I would like to create more stationery designs in the future, since I love sending people notes in the mail.

five new valentine card designs in the society 6 shop

Now, for a few blogging announcements…

Since quitting social media, I’ve realized that some of my favourite bloggers have stopped blogging in the past few years, and it’s sad not being able to see their new projects and outfits. Since I don’t want that to happen here, I thought that I had better start to put out some posts myself!

If you are a blogger, why don’t you leave your blog name in a comment? Or if you don’t blog, what is one of your favourites to follow? I’m sure we’d all love to find some more people to follow.

Speaking of followers, in the past I have used Bloglovin’ as a feed reader, but it seems like it’s fallen out of popularity lately. It has gotten so glitchy and overrun with bots and my last few posts haven’t shown up there for weeks, which is quite disappointing. Sometimes other peoples’ posts don’t show up for me either, so I’ve switched to Feedly, so I won’t miss anyone’s new posts. If you’re following me on Bloglovin’, and having been missing notifications for new posts, you can sign up for email notifications in the form in my sidebar.

Finally, one site I pretty much avoided, ever since it was created, is Pinterest. I don’t really know why, because it’s actually a great place to save inspiration photos, especially for sewing project ideas! I’m pretty new to the whole pinning thing, but I’ve created a few boards over there and hopefully I’ll get better over time, I’ve added a link to my page in the sidebar and my username there is theartyologist.

So, those are a few new things coming up… Thank-you to all of you reading this, it really means so much to me that you take time out of your day to see what I have to share. Without you Dear Readers, I really would be typing into the void, so thank-you again for the past five years, and here’s to the next five!

❤︎ Nicole

Social Saturday | January 23

a wooden pegrack with vintage purses and a lace blouse hanging on it

Happy Saturday and welcome to a new little series here on the blog. I was thinking the other day about how I miss having a place to post all of the “everydayish” sorts of photos and things I am working on, (now that I am no longer on social media) so I have decided to introduce a new series called “Social Saturday” kind of like the “Life Lately” posts I used to do. It will be a quick little round-up of what I am up to, the photos I take and any posts I have read during the week. Just because I’m no longer on social media, is no reason I still can’t be social here.

a country lane covered with snowy on a cloudy day

We’ve been having such warm weather lately, strange for January, that we’ve been taking advantage of it and going for country walks. It’s supposed to turn cold this weekend though. I guess all good things come to an end…

fabric from a sewing project with a pair of gold scissors and a tape measure and a photo of a pothos plant and little winter decoration on top of a shelf

Starting on a couple new sewing projects after a very long hiatus. It’s nice to get back in front of the sewing machine!

a stack of books tied up in brown paper and twine

I bought some books online, and the seller wrapped them up in recycled brown paper and twine- so lovely!

vintage style leather purse

And, the week ended on a happy note, when the purse I bought online finally arrived! It took two months to arrive from Ukraine, but it was well worth the wait…I’ll do a big reveal in an outfit post soon!

I hope your Saturday is going well, and that you have a great weekend!

A Fashion Moment With McCall’s Treasury Of Needlecraft: Cardigans

Vintage buttoned 1950's sweater with an emblem design

We are back today with some more beautiful fashion pictures from the McCall’s Treasury of Needlecraft…after a three year absence!

My goal/ task this year is to go through my external hard drive and sort every file and folder…yes this is a year long task, because it is an absolute mess. Computers that crashed and all of the files dumped on there in a jumble, then I started to blog but didn’t have a system in place for how to organize the photos, then I was lazy and didn’t go through the photos I had taken and cull the blurry ones etc….resulting in a complete disaster! So, I’ve been slowly going through that, and I came across a folder with pictures from the Treasury that I had never posted. Here we are today with the first batch, a collection of knitted and crocheted cardigans, and I’ve got two more posts for the future. Hopefully I won’t let three years pass before posting them again! Enjoy!

a boxy open vintage cardigan

a open lace patterned top under a dark blazer

This would be a really pretty and classic workwear look. It would be a nice way to add a vintage touch to a more modern office setting.

a vintage style ski sweater with buttons, at the slopes

Not only is this one fabulous- but look at her entire ensemble! So much classier than sportswear of today, although her goggles are hilarious.

a vintage boxy coat/cardigan for a day out shopping

This Warm Knitted Topper looks like the perfect thing to wear come Fall, when the days are crisp, but not quite cold enough for a jacket.

Vintage twinset with an embellished detail along the front opening

Such a pretty way of elevating a simple twinset.

fitted cardigan with a checkerboard pattern

a gingham checked buttoned vintage cardigan

a boxy open cardigan with a foldover collar and a pocket

I like the pattern in this one; it adds a nice bit of texture.

a vintage 1950's style bolero

Also the texture of this one is really nice! I love how this is boxy, but ends at the waist so it doesn’t obscure the waist. Boxy sweaters are nice, but can often drown.

a casual bomber style knitted sweater

I like the bomber/army style shape of this sweater. Again, the waist definition is nice and keeps it from being too big overall.

a batwing sleeved asian inspired vintage bolero

Lastly is this bolero- I’m not sure that I like the shaping seams/details on the shoulders, but I do like the overall shape. Maybe in a softer yarn would be better though…

What do you think? Which is your favourite?

(Ps. In the past, I have had people ask if I would be willing to share the patterns for these, and the answer is yes! If you’d like the pattern for any of these cardigans, just send me an email and I will gladly send it to you!)