DIY With Cecily: Skeleton Sweater

Though I go whining and pouting into cooler-weather clothing every year, I do love the appeal of a good fall sweater. Paired with a nice pair of shorts and some tights (or well-fitted trousers for the gents), sweaters somehow make their wearer look fashionable and cuddly at the same time.

But sweater trends tend to repeat themselves—there are only so many men’s 3XL sweaters one can buy at Goodwill before they all start looking the same—and I, like some, tend to recycle my clothing throughout the season. So what’s someone to do with a bland, one-coloured sweater and a bunch of old t-shirts?

Meet my ribcage sweater.

The beauty of this project is that you don’t have to sew in order for it to work. I prefer to hand-stitch anything I do, but for those who didn’t grow up with an overbearing grandmother who made all of their clothes as a child, there is also the option of fabric glue. This project can work both ways—and, if you have the correct resources in your closet (and most of you will!), won’t cost you as much money as buying the same quality product at a retail store.


  • A sweater in the colour (or colours) of your choice
  • A design (I’m going with the skeleton design because it’s nearing Halloween and I also love skeletons, but this project could work with anything)
  • An old white (or any colour) t-shirt you don’t mind cutting into oblivion
  • A pair of scissors
  •  Tape
  • A pen
  • A needle and thread in the same colour as your t-shirt OR fabric glue

Step 1:

Take your scisscors and cut along the  side seam of the t-shirt, splitting it into two halves as pictured. Cut out the sleeves as well. This is going to become the fabric for your design.


Step 2:

Take a stencil of your design (I have half a ribcage because one: I’m lazy and two: the printer couldn’t print as big of a design as I needed, and ribcages are fairly symmetrical) and tape it in place on one swatch of your shirt. (Make sure that the stencilled design is actually as big as you want it to—lay it over your sweater to make sure before you start cutting!)

Trace the design onto your fabric with a pen. Not a sharpie, not fabric ink, a pen. It’s going to be much easier on you in the long run, as we’ll be using the other side of the fabric when we sew/glue it on the sweater so the pen won’t show, so you don’t need something that’s going to bleed through to the other side. (Unless you like making things hard on yourself, then go for it.) And, if you have more artistic talent than I do, you can also just draw an original design onto the fabric. Make sure you clearly define where to cut out and what to leave, though.

Step 3:

With your completed stencil, it’s time to put those skills you learned in elementary to good use. Carefully cut around your stencil with a pair of sharp scissors.

Step 4:

Pin and/or tape the stencil onto where you want it on the sweater. This step is especially important if you choose to sew, as it keeps the parts of the fabric you’re not sewing in place as you work on another piece. With your design in place, it’s time to fasten it to your sweater!

Step 5 (will differ depending on what you choose to do):

If you are stitching:
A simple backstitch will suffice to bind the fabric to the sweater. If you choose to go with the skeleton design, you can choose to either sew just the rounded edges of the ribs, the outer edges on the bottom set of ribs, and the spinal cord to create a nice hanging fabric effect, or you can sew the entire thing in place. It’s up to you.

If you are using fabric glue:
Follow the instructions on the fabric glue bottle, making sure to place a thick piece of cardboard (or a textbook from that one class you hate) between the layers of your sweater. You can also choose to do the ‘hanging fabric’ method with glue by going in ‘rows’ (gluing the top two ribs down, then the next two, then the next, etc), though this method is a little trickier.

Congratulations! You’ve completed you’re very own customised sweater. You can add a trim, stripes on the sleeves, a monogram, or anything else you would like with the extra fabric you have. If you have more than one t-shirt in a different colour you’re willing to sacrifice, you can even make a heart to stick on the ribs or something equally as cute. It’s really up to you!

Here’s to hoping cuter ways to stay warm,
                   — Cecily

Photo credit: Cecily Lane


Cecily Lane is a sophomore this year and is proud to be heading the Create section! A faithful devotee to all things pearl-related, you will often find her on campus in high heels (even when going to the gym) and a dress. Her signature 'victory curl' hairstyle takes about five seconds every morning, but makes her look like she puts more effort into her appearance than she actually does. She enjoys acting, writing, and making jokes that only 12-year-old boys find funny.

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