Felt the sweater to within an inch of its life, and try not to poke holes in it as you agitate it in boiling water with a wooden spoon in the kitchen sink. Dry the sweater in the dryer on high heat, a cringe-worthy experience, or most gleeful.
Cut the bottom ribbing off the body of the sweater. Unpick the short zipper from the placket at the neckline, and the collar too. Be careful to save the yarn from the pickin’s as it matches the sweater perfectly and can be used to sew it up again later. Separate the sleeve caps from the body of the sweater from where they start to curve for the underarm. You don’t have linebacker broad shoulders or want that bunchy look at the bust line.
Get out the beautiful hombre-dyed yarn and unwind it so that each hombre section is wound in in a discrete unit. Turn pale at the thought of cutting up such a lovely skein. Do not cut until you figure out exactly what you’re going to do with it. A collar, yes. Something at the hem, yes. Some decorative yet sturdy stitch to hold the arms onto the body, yes. But what, exactly?
Fool around with the yarn. Don’t cry when it unravels and comes apart as you cast on. Make tea. Carry on.
Decide. Use the leaf motif that you love. It drapes perfectly with this yarn. Calculate for the hem and keep the stitches simple. Knit, knit, knit and it’s done. The tedious body has already been knit on a machine somewhere in the Timberland universe.
Put it together. Use the chain stitch for the major joinings–the front band and arm holes. Remember, after the yarn breaks about 8″ in, to twist the yarn tightly at ten minute intervals. Strong now. When that’s done, use the yarn you unpicked from the sweater to tack the edges down. You don’t want it to look handmade-clumsy!
In the end, you will have tried the sweater on one hundred times. Try it on one last time. Oh, you need some kind of pin or button to close it across the chest? Return to the wonderful yarn store and pick something up. Take your sweater with you. The saleswoman who helped you at the beginning of this project will like to see the proof of your creative madness. She didn’t see how it would work. How could she, when you didn’t either? You just had the intuition that it would.
Okay, so recycling a sweater seem like it’s as much work as knitting, but it’s different work–combining machine/mass market with hand knitting. And I kind a like the result.