I’m all for experiments and trying new things – especially when those experiments involve getting a sweater’s worth of yarn for $5.
After some Youtubing and hemming and hawing, I decided to try recycling yarn from a used sweater. I went to the local Goodwill, found what looked to be a woolen hand-knit sweater (just my luck) in a beautiful denim shade of blue, took it home for $4.99, and began the unraveling.
As you can see, it is not a bad sweater at all. It’s got some lovely cabling, and was made by an expert hand. But, my knitting dreams need yarn. And lots of it!
Here were my sweater-recycling steps: a conglomeration of different Youtube tutorials + my own spin…
1. Dissassemble the sweater: Cutting the seams
I learned (by trial and error) that the sweater needs first to be disassembled(!). I turned the sweater inside out, and found the seams. There were seams attaching the sleeves to the body, and seams attaching the front and back of the garment. What you see below are ‘good’ seams as far as sweater recycling is concerned (they are hand sewn rather than machine-serged). As a result, it was easy to find the thread that held the pieces together, and cut it. I recommend going slowly at first to minimize casualties (i.e. like cutting into the knitting itself!).
After less than a couple of hours, the sweater was disassembled: 2 body pieces and 2 sleeves.
This takes a while. The knitter who made this sweater was fond of securing the seams with huge knots. Impatient, I cut these knots away.
2. Finding a pulling point
I’m sure there’s a better way to go about this, but I simply looked for where I thought the ‘cast off’ edge was on each piece. Since this was a seamed sweater, I assumed it was knit bottom-up and looked for the cast off edge at the necklines and tops of sleeves. With a little sleuthing, I noticed an uneven dip in the collar of the front of the sweater (left, below) which signaled where the last stitch might have been made. I worked on it with a knitting needle + scissors, and was able to prise a thread loose. I was in business for some serious frogging! Woo hoo!
3. Frogging it!
This is the fun part – you pull and pull…and pull.
I had read that it’s a time-saver not to leave the yarn in a tangled heap when unraveling, so I was looking for something to wind my yarn around as I went. I noticed that our Ikea Marius stool had a good set of prongs on it, so I recruited the stool in keeping my unraveling job neat, for lack of proper tools. I suppose necessity is the mother of… winging it with whatever you’ve got!
Here is the front of the sweater being frogged: with the sweater in my lap, I’m spinning the stool on a table, winding the strand around the 4 legs. I admit, my first section of frogging wasn’t a perfect pull; there were quite a few joins that had to be made, places where the yarn broke because of my inexperienced seam-ripping (it pays to be precise!)
The front body of the sweater alone yielded a good amount of yarn. I tied the pieces together:
By the end of the whole process, I was left with some really copious blue hanks. Check out all that good stuff!
At this point, the yarn needs to be washed, and hung to dry. Adding a weight to the yarn as it dries will help to take out the curls (more on this process in a later post). Then, the yarn can be wound up, and will be ready for its knitting after-life.
There’s a world of beautiful fibre out there, waiting to be discovered and transformed. This experience is urging me not to dismiss Thrift stores and rummage sales as solid stash-sourcing options!
Have you ever recycled old knits? I’d love to hear about your adventures in yarn-cycling (and more!) in the comments.