from goodwill sweater to messenger bag

eco-craft, general crafts, sewing


I found a $3 sweater at Goodwill. With a little felting in the washing machine and a few seams, it became a messenger bag in no time flat. If you’re interested in making something similar, here’s what I learned.

The secret is hot water and friction. I threw my gardening sneakers in the washing machine with some old beach towels and the sweater on hot and got good results in one wash. You want it to shrink enough that the edges won’t unravel when cut and that it’s dense enough that the bag won’t sag when full.




Make the most of the ribbing
I used the ribbing on the cuff as a cell phone pocket and the ribbing on the waist as a decorative element on the top of the bag.

Reinforce the strap
Even though it’s felted, the strap is likely to stretch under the weight of the bag and because long, thin things stretch more than pieces that are closer in shape to a square. The key is to reinforce the strap with a piece of woven fabric to stabilize it. I used a scrap of quilting cotton and top-stitched it onto the back of the strap. This totally eliminated the stretching.

Share the process
I gave this bag to my cousin for Christmas and enclosed in the cell phone pocket pictures of the original sweater and the process I used to turn it into her bag. People love understanding how things were made and especially things that were handmade for them. Share the process. They’ll love it.

13 thoughts on “from goodwill sweater to messenger bag

  1. Could you clarify the design a little? You can’t tell from the pics how the strap is attached to the bag… inside or outside? Hard to tell where you would put it from the looks of the zipper shot.

    I’ve been meaning to do something like this with a few old sweaters and I like the simplicity of your design. I’d love to know a bit more!


  2. In response to Liz’s question about the straps:

    I topstitched the straps to the outside of the bag on the far left, top edge of each side. You could also attach them along the side seams but for a bag that I thought would be worn across the body, I liked the way the bag hung with the straps attached to the front corner, as opposed to the side seam. Each bag and body is different though. I would pin the straps on, fill the bag and move around with it on your body before deciding on where to locate the straps. Happy Sewing!

  3. Thanks so much! What you described is what made sense to me too, based on the rest of your design.

    Looking forward to making my own!

  4. Thank you for the inspiration (and instructions!) A couple of years ago, I bought a short denim skirt at Goodwill to turn into a tote. I’ll have to dig it out of my stash and get busy! Karla

  5. Thanks a lot for sharing this with all of us you actually know what you’re talking approximately! Bookmarked. Kindly also talk over with my site =). We can have a hyperlink alternate contract among us

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