Glam up your gourd and save a sweater

Rasa Kaye
October 14, 2019 - 1:37 pm

Smitt/Getty Images


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Ah, the joys of fall. Pumpkins, sweaters — pumpkins made from sweaters.

“I make all my goods from old sweaters,” said Toms River artisan Shannon Charlton of ReGnu. “Some of them had holes, some of them were destined for the landfill — and now they’re not.”

The decorative pumpkins Charlton creates are cute, squat and knitted-looking, but they’re actually the last items she crafts after using the bigger sections of discarded sweaters in funky patchwork coats, hoodies and accessories.

Charlton was inspired by upstate New York designer Katwise, who sells similarly upcycled clothing items on Etsy. She credits her on every item’s tag.

“She’s kind of the mother inventor of the pixie coat and the hoodies and arm warmers that I make, and she offers tutorials,” she said. “I learned so that I could make one of her coats for myself, and it just took off.”

Related: With over 6,000 hand-carved pumpkins, Jack's Pumpkin Glow comes to Fairmount Park

Charlton haunts thrift shops and collects discarded knitwear from friends and family — the rattier, the better.

“The damaged stuff with a run or stains are my favorites because nobody will wear them and those would definitely get thrown out and go to the landfill, and I can prevent that by giving it new life in a bunch of things,” she explained. “I am all about keeping it out of a landfill. But if it’s still wearable, you should find someone who would want to wear it instead.”

Pumpkin crafts
Rasa Kaye

So how much can she get out of one sweater with a couple of moth holes?

“Four pairs of arm warmers, or two cowls or gators, or five or six pumpkins, but it takes me from six to 12 sweaters to make a coat.”

The pumpkins are even stuffed with the last woolly bits too small even for any other ReGnu use. The stems are sticks Charlton collects from her yard.

“I bake them to kill any critters, then glue them in,” she said. “I’m all about renewing everything that I possibly can.”

Consider the underused stuff in in your life that you could easily repurpose into a pleasing pumpkin.

Unravel an unwanted orange (or another color) sweater and use the yarn to make no-sew pumpkins with the kids. Or weave it around soda bottles into a bizarre pumpkin gift box.

You can even make pumpkins from books. Or from a rooftop wind turbine — what, you don’t have any lying around?

Real pumpkins, alas, lose their appeal and their physical integrity very quickly after Halloween. Although the City of Philadelphia and many municipalities will pick it up with your trash, that’s a lot of organic waste to add to the witches brew of methane and other greenhouse gases that will be released during decomposition in a landfill. Consider now what you might do with your seasonal squash later.

The Cape May County Zoo is accepting donations of pumpkins because their zoo animals “love pumpkin enrichment.” Well, who doesn’t, really? Your gourds can be dropped off at the park office or zoo gate any day during business hours.

Cumberland County’s Improvement Authority has a list of ideas to repurpose that Halloween decoration and keep that pumpkin out of the dump-kin.

And if all else fails, you might even be able to eat it, or even — ahem drink it. Cheers to repurposing!