I love the concept of upcycling: turning something old and useless into something beautiful and useful. I have taken worn but well-made vintage garments and transformed them, either whole cloth or in bit by lovely bit.
How to upcycle a caftan sweater?
However, it's one thing to give new life to a gorgeously crafted item, and it's something else entirely to transform something that was an abject failure from the very beginning.
I have very few failed sewing projects on my hands. With sewing, you can always undo, add, subtract, and redo, to ultimately arrive at a satisfactory product. But I can say that at knitting, much as I love it for its Zen-mindset properties, I have been an unqualified failure several times. I have more unfinished knitting projects than I care to count, but that doesn't stop me from starting another. For me, knitting is definitely the journey, and in the end, I have had to accept that I should stick to scarves.
Most of my mistakes have been related to my choice of yarn for the project and my own loose gauge. In fact, I have one hilariously large sweater that sheds mercilessly no matter how many times I hand-wash and block it. Seriously, as I walk down the street, big puffy fluffs float off the sweater. Yet, I find it impossible to discard the sweater, as patently unwearable as it may be. And I still drag it out for a humorous stroll at least once each winter.
There was one project that was particularly beyond all reprieve–a sleeveless turtleneck (a garment at odds with itself to begin with) knit up in a lovely, light-teal, bulky wool that I absolutely adored but was patently unadvisable for this particular pattern. When I finished it, and I actually did, I had to acknowledge that I would never, ever wear it.
Then I lit upon a brilliant idea. I would take the sweater apart and use it to cover the back of a pillow. Now, this isn't a particularly new idea, but at the time, several years ago, for me, it was revolutionary. Here was a way I could still enjoy the wool, which was the whole reason I had knitted it up against professional advice to begin with.
So I did just that. Fortunately, the side-to-side garment measurement matched the width of my pillow, more or less, so I just took the front of the sweater, turned under the selvages, and attached with needle and thread. The top and ribbed bottom of the sweater front took a bit more courage as I actually had to cut my work. But cut (carefully) and stitch I did. The result was a two-sided pillow, one with the original face and the other with the project remnant. That pillow has worn like iron, and I have spent many a nap with my cheek against my beloved failed project.
Now if I can just figure out what to do with that oversized caftan sweater.
If you have failed projects lying discarded and useless, you can find plenty of ways to repurpose them by checking out the Stitch back issue sale in the Sew Daily Shop.
How do you like to upcycle? I would love to know—maybe it will give me some ideas!