How to Transform a Sweater Into a Cardigan: Free Video Tutorial

transform sweater into cardigan

This is a tutorial on how to refashion and transform a sweater into a cardigan.  Just in case you got a sweater stashed away in the closet that's been unused for many years or even decades.  Or maybe someone close to you gave you one Christmas but you are not the sweater type and prefer cardigans –this simple procedure to transform a sweater into a cardigan will help you along.

We have been talking a lot about ways to save money and reuse or refashion clothing in many of our recent posts, so it's about time we start getting to work and using the things we have around the house instead of buying more fabric or, even worse, more clothes.

transform sweater into cardigan

I will be using this sweater I was given for Christmas this year.  While I love it, I also live in the tropics and even though it's cotton, unfortunately, I can't wear it –at least not as a sweater.  It's just too warm here.  But in a cardigan-style, I think this beautiful sweater would be much more functional.  So let's get started with the transformation!


  • One sweater (of course..)
  • Two (2) strips of cotton jersey knit long enough to be sewn in the front of the sweater plus two inches by 1 3/4″ wide.
  • One (1) open end zipper the length of the front of the sweater.  You'll certainly find what you need at ZipperStop on Amazon.
  • Ball point needle depending on the thickness of your sweater.  I use Schmetz.

Transforming your sweater to a cardigan in very simple steps: Video Tutorial

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Step One:  Measure the front of the sweater

transform sweater into cardigan
transform sweater into cardigan
transform sweater into cardigan

transform sweater into cardigan

You are measuring to find out how long the zipper should be and how long the strip of jersey knit needs to be that creates the edge of the cardigan and an attachment for the zipper.  My cardigan is 23″ long, so I will use a 23″ long zipper.Next, I will cut two strips of cotton jersey knit 25″ long which is the length of the sweater plus two inches. Cut the two strips with the stretch going horizontally.

transform sweater into cardigan

transform sweater into cardigan

Mark a line down the middle of the cardigan with tailor's chalk or a washable fabric marker.

Step Two:  Attach the strips

transform sweater into cardigan

Place one strip of jersey right on top of the line and to the right you just made making sure one inch is beyond the collar and the hem.Sew the strip at 3/8″ from the mark you made or the centerline of the sweater.

transform sweater into cardigan

Pin the second strip next to the first one and to the left of the first strip.  Sew the strips 3/8″ (1 cm).

transform sweater into cardigan

Cut the sweater right in the middle between the 2 strips. 

In case you are wondering why this method and not just sew the zipper straight into the sweater?  Because it needs a fabric to stabilize the edges and make the zipper lay flat.  Knit has a tendency to wave and look messy.  Also, you will need to use more of the sweater to make a seam allowance, therefore, making the garment tighter around the waist, and that's probably where none of us want it to be tighter..

transform sweater into cardigan

transform sweater into cardigan

transform sweater into cardigan

transform sweater into cardigan

transform sweater into cardigan

transform sweater into cardigan

transform sweater into cardigan

transform sweater into cardigan

Inspect the seam and make sure they are straight.  As you can see, mine is not so I will have to change that.
The zipper needs to lay straight at both ends.Trim the strip by half.We need to turn the strip to the inside in order to pin the zipper. Pull the strip away from the sweater.Turn the end of the strip down.Then fold the strip in.

Step Three:  Attach the zipper

transform sweater into cardigan

transform sweater into cardigan

transform sweater into cardigan

transform sweater into cardigan

transform sweater into cardigan

Place the cardigan front side up.  Pin the zipper 1/8″ from the teeth.  Pin the left side of the zipper to the right side of the cardigan and the right side of the zipper to the left side of the cardigan.  Tuck the ends of the zippers between the strip of jersey and the sweater.Sew the zipper at 3/8″.Trim the jersey just 1/4″ from the zipper edge. 

transform sweater into cardigan

And there you have it!  How easy was it to transform a sweater into a cardigan?  Keep in mind that his technique works for men's and women's clothing.  Join me next time when I will be transforming this cardigan into a vest with a hood.  Given the temperature here, it's more likely that I'll wear that to the gym or walking.  In the meantime, look around your hubby's wardrobe and find a sweater you can transform using this technique.  He'll be glad you did.

As always, please leave us any comments or questions in the comments section below.  Until next time!

PS: If you need more ideas on thrifty sewing check out these ideas.

thrifty sewing

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91 Responses to How to Transform a Sweater Into a Cardigan: Free Video Tutorial

  1. Dale Palmer says:

    Really enjoyed this video tutorial thank you so much.

  2. jane says:

    Looks easy with the good photographs & text. Will try on older 100% wool forest green sweater. Thank you, Jane

  3. lovesirish says:

    Wonderful idea. A cardigan is so much easier to take off when I have “hot flashes”. I have many more sweaters than cardigans. 🙂 Thank you

  4. sewpurposefulinc says:

    This is such an awesome idea!!!

  5. Barb says:

    great idea, but the video would be easier to ‘absorb’ if someone narrated it. I have a tendency to watch the picture, and then miss the written instructions.

  6. Judy Burrell says:

    Think is a wonderful idea and will be doing it to some of my cardigans.

  7. FruityLoops says:

    Perfect timing as I have a [sweater] hoodie I want to make zip-up!! 😀

  8. shirley mowrey says:

    this is a great idea! I would try it with a sweater I didn’t enjoy as a full sweater but would use for a cardigan. I live in the north of united states and wear a lot of sweaters.

  9. C cam says:

    Wow, thanks for a great video. Didn’t realize how easy it is to sew a zipper into a sweater.Going to look in second hand stores for a sweater to try. Great project for children’s sweaters instead of having to pull over their heads. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Terri Howat says:

    Great tutorial. I just wish I had bought that Christmas jumper my hubby liked so much. I will be using this technique, definitely. Thank you.

  11. Hilary says:

    That is such a great idea and well illustrated. I have a couple of sweaters that would look great as cardigans – much for the same reason – it is really not cold enough here to wear them. Thank you. I will be trying that out

  12. Barbara A Cohen says:

    Excellent video and written directions. I have done this a number of times with sweatshirts. It is always tricky at the neck and bottom. Maybe I will try some jersey and fold up the ends like you did next time! Thanks.

  13. Pattie Cockerham says:

    Lovely just started to clean out closets and found two sweaters guess I will try this then wear them

  14. Leigh says:

    Very Good! I’ll have to try that.

  15. Lillian Connell says:

    Fantastic! I don’t have any crew neck sweaters. However, I think I may pick one up just to try it.

  16. Mary Reitsma says:

    This looks like something I can do! 🙂

  17. Priscilla M. Laybolt says:

    Very Nice and extremely useful ! Thanks a lot !!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Gerda says:

    Simple and great result.

  19. Beth Bishop says:

    This is helpful to me! I have a hooded sweatshirt that I have planned to make into a cardigan instead of a pullover. Sometimes it’s hard for me to think through a process of sewing, so this has cleared it up for me! Thank you!

  20. Jackie says:

    Thank you for this most informative article,can I do the same to a crochet jumper?

  21. Joy says:

    Like this idea. I agree that some sweaters are better as a cardigan. I will certainly be trying this out on a couple of sweaters that I have. Thanks

  22. Carleen Parlato says:

    great idea. I’m a little confused about step two. Are the two stabilizing strips overlapping when you first sew them down, or are they butted next to each other at the drawn center line of the sweater?

  23. Nancy Fite says:

    Thank you so much for this! It’s a great idea. In fact, my 94 year old dad just gave me a sweater vest to open down the front and put snaps in. Would you use grosgrain ribbon for the front instead of jersey?

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