How to repurpose knitted and crocheted items and clean vintage crochet

How to repurpose knitted and crocheted items and clean vintage crochet

Have you picked up some great woolly finds at a thrift shop recently? Or maybe you were gifted some crocheted items that have yellowed over time? Of course you don’t want to have such items go to waste — especially when knowing the time and love that has gone into creating them.

How to repurpose knitted and crocheted items and clean vintage crochet

That’s why we’ve collected some great ways in which you can repurpose and reuse these items in practical, everyday settings around the home.

First we’ll look at felting woolen finds and reusing them before moving on to specifically crocheted items like doilies. 

How to felt woolen garments

If you’ve ever washed a woolen garment in hot water by accident before, you would have seen what a bit of hot water and agitation can do to your hard work!

However, by felting old(er) sweaters, or even scarves, you can give them a second or even a third life.

Which sweaters or yarn can be used to make felt?

The sweaters that you are felting need to be at least 80% wool in order to felt properly. The higher the percentage of wool, the better!

How to felt the knitted or crocheted woolen garments

Felting a woolen garment is easy, but can take quite a while to form into felt that you can cut apart without the edges fraying.

It’s also good to remember that woolen items, when felted, will shrink considerably. The larger the sweater that you begin with is, therefore, the more fabric you’ll have at the end of the process to work with.

Step 1:

First, you’ll need to get the fibers soaked and agitated, so go ahead and throw the sweater(s) in the washing machine. Use about half the detergent you would normally use, and wash the sweaters on a hot cycle.

Step 2:

When the sweaters have finished washing, put them in the dryer and again run it on a hot setting — the setting for cotton fabric is often advised.

Once they are dry, remove them from the dryer and check how the felting is going.

The fabric should have shrunk quite a lot by now and the fabric, when cut, should not fray at the edges.

Step 3:

Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you’ve completely felted the sweaters.

Step 4:

Go ahead and have fun creating any of these great ideas for your home! 

Here’s a video showing how to felt old sweaters -


You can also felt them by hand if you prefer -


Here’s a link to a free felting course by Jan Howell if you’d like to learn more!

Ideas for using your felted fabric

  • Create felted dryer balls — and make them even more special by adding a drop or two essential oils like lavender — before using. Here’s a video showing you how -

  • Scatter cushion covers
  • Cuffs make great mug cozies
  • Felt soft toys — from teddy bears and rabbits to dolls
  • Mittens
  • Slippers
  • Hand warmers
  • Beanie
  • Tea cozy
  • If you have enough felted sweaters, you can even make a rustic afghan for the family room or picnic blanket

Patterns and how-to articles and videos are all available on sites like Pinterest. Why not start a board just for all your repurposing endeavors and share your own ideas as well? 

How to unravel knitting and crochet to reuse

Another way of using wool garments or items that you find in thrift shops is to unravel them to knit or crochet a new item. Of course, you can also do this with those WIPs in your yarn stash that you just can’t get yourself to finish! 

What to look for before you start unraveling the item

  • Make sure that the item is not already felted in places from use — if this is the case, you can rather felt the whole item and use it as above.
  • Make sure that you will be able to unravel the item and that the yarn that’s been used doesn’t have a halo that will keep you from being able to unravel it. You can also try to start unraveling it to see if the stitches “catch” on one another because of the texture of the yarn.
  • The item shouldn’t have any holes in it, as this could make it difficult to wind the yarn into balls (depending on where the holes are).
  • Finally, just as the item shouldn’t be felted in places, it should also not be worn threadbare, as this shows that at least some of the yarn that makes up the item is damaged.

Items like those described here can rather be felted and repurposed in that manner if the percentage of wool is high enough.

How to unravel a knitted or crocheted item

Note that unraveling knitted and crocheted items are done in the same way.

Step 1:

To start, find the end of the work and, using a blunt wool needle (so as not to split the yarn by accident), unpick the end of the yarn that had been woven into the finished work.

If you’re working with very fine yarn, this may be a bit tricky, but well worth the time it takes.

Step 2:

If you’re working with a garment that has been stitched together, you will need to undo all the seaming before starting to unravel the pieces. You can simply go ahead and very carefully cut through the yarn that was used for the seam and remove these pieces.

Now you’ll be able to see where the end of each of the garment pieces are. Unpick all the ends that have been woven in.

Step 3:

Be sure to start unraveling from where the knitted or crocheted piece was bound off and not where it was begun. Trying to unravel a piece from the beginning (so to speak) will only cause a huge tangle that you’d have to throw out.

Step 4:

As you unravel the piece, wind it around the backrest of a straight backed chair or someone’s hands (let them hold their hands about shoulder width apart).

Step 5:

Once you’ve unraveled the whole piece/all the pieces and wound them up like that, tie two or three short pieces of yarn around the wound yarn in order to keep it from tangling.

Now it’s ready to be washed!

Step 6:

To wash the yarn, submerge it in tepid water to which you’ve added a wool wash like Woolite (or whatever your favorite cleanser is). Gently swish the yarn through the water, but don’t agitate it or you’ll be stuck with a clump of felt.

Step 7:

After a good soak, remove the yarn from the water — but don’t blot it dry on a towel.

Hang the wet yarn over a doorknob or a broomstick balanced on two high chairs. The wool will loose all the crinkles that was in the yarn through being stretched by its own weight. (Just remember to put some towels beneath the yarn to catch the draining water if you’re drying it inside!)

Step 8:

Once the yarn is completely dry, you can wind it into a ball using a yarn swift and ball winder, or again hooking it around the back of a chair or someone’s hands and winding it by hand.

Now all that’s left is to decide on a pattern and to enjoy your repurposed yarn!

How to make vintage doilies look like new

Finally, we’re going to look at how you can make old or discolored doilies and crochet pieces look like new again by removing the stains and yellowing safely.

Note: Make sure before you start washing the doilies/ tablecloths/items that there are no worn spots where the crochet has broken or worn through. If there is, you’ll need to fix them before washing the item.

The most important part of washing the vintage crochet is to use as few cleaning agents as possible as well as using agents that doesn’t contain chlorine bleach.

You can use (but not all together!):

  • White vinegar
  • Borax
  • Fresh or reconstituted lemon juice
  • Unscented shampoo or dishwashing liquid

Let’s look at how to use each of these (again, on it’s own) to clean vintage crochet.

White vinegar

  • Use two gallons of water and 1 cup of white vinegar.
  • Submerge the crochet in the water and let it soak for a few hours. Lightly swish the crochet through the water every now and then.
  • The vinegar solution will discolor as the stains are removed from the crochet.
  • After a few hours, remove the crochet and rinse in clean water two or three times to remove all the vinegar.
  • Let the crochet dry flat.


  • Use two gallons of water and a quarter cup of borax. Make sure the borax is completely dissolved in the water before adding the crochet.
  • Leave the crochet to soak, as with the vinegar, and swish the crochet through the water every now and then.
  • Remove from the water and rinse in clean water two or three times to remove all the borax.
  • Let the crochet dry flat.

Fresh or reconstituted lemon juice

  • Lay out the crocheted piece(s) on a towel and dab at the stains with the lemon juice. If the whole cloth is stained, rather rinse it in a solution of 1 cup lemon juice to 2 gallons of water.
  • Lay the cloth down in the sun (on a towel) and let the sunshine do its magic to naturally bleach the stains and yellowing away.
  • Let the crochet dry flat.

Unscented shampoo or dishwashing liquid

  • Lay down the crocheted item(s) and dab the stains with a cotton ball soaked in a solution of unscented shampoo or dishwashing liquid.
  • Leave the crochet for a bit to let the stain loosen before washing it gently in tepid water.
  • Let the crochet dry flat.

As you can see, there’s a lot that you can do with “old” sweaters, cardigans, and to make your doilies and tablecloths look like new.

Be sure to share your projects with us on Instagram or Facebook!

Other sources

How to Whiten an Antique Crochet Tablecloth”, Hunker.

Unravel Knitting and Use the Yarn Again”, Knitting On the Net.




Casey Morris

Is OXY White safe to use on a large off-white crocheted item that appears to have yellowed arund the edges from sun exposure for many years.

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