Recycling Yarn

Recycled yarn from the sweater's hood

Recycled yarn from the sweater’s hood

I’ve been seeing this all over the blogosphere the past couple of years: recycling yarn. I think it’s phenomenal! You can go to a thrift store, find a sweater for cheap, and then you have a sweater’s worth of yarn. Easy! Well, no not really. Most of my attempts have been botched by my lack of understanding what kind of sweater to get. Now, though, I’ve finally figured it out.

A couple weeks ago, I took a sweater I loved and removed it’s hood. I had no way of knowing if the yarn was going to be salvageable because, like I said, I really didn’t understand what you’re supposed to look for. Basically, here it is:

The good seam

The good seam

See the seams? If I had handmade this garment, my seams would look like this (presumably). Each piece of the knitted garment would have a distinct edge. From what I’ve read elsewhere, if the seam looks like a t-shirt’s seam, the yarn won’t be salvageable. This is because rather than a machine knitting a specific garment, the fabric was knit and then cut and then sewn into shape. You’d have a bunch of little strings. This is what I usually end up with.

Bad seam

Bad seam

One trick I heard on some podcast or another (I really wish I could remember!) is to look out for bulkier yarn sweaters. It’ll be much easier to unravel than thread-like yarn, and it’ll more likely be something you’ll use. The sweater I undid is probably worsted weight, if I had to take a guess.

Ok, so you’ve got the sweater. Now what? Carefully separate the pieces from each other by cutting the seams. Right here, where my left-hand pointer finger is pointing:


Find the yarn holding the seam together

I’m not actually unravelling this sweater, but it should give you an idea of where to cut. You’ll see almost like a ladder of thread/yarn that’s holding the pieces together.

I found I had to cut the first row off of the knitting to get it going; you know, where you would typically bind-off. Then, once I found my yarn thread, I started pulling. Because I don’t have a niddy noddy, I wrapped the yarn around my swift as I unravelled to give it a place to rest for a little bit. Before winding, make the yarn into a hank and then wash it. I washed mine in warm water and some lovely smelling Soak.


16 thoughts on “Recycling Yarn

  1. This is such a cool idea, I really want to try this. You can be sure that I’ll be looking at any of my old sweaters to see what might be salvageable this weekend!

  2. I love this idea but have been unsuccessful in both finding a good sweater to unravel and in the unraveling of a good sweater. I intend to try again though.

  3. I wish I had a patience for unraveling things, there is so much things in my stash that I have wrongly made or bought for that reason, but never got to do it yet, your post i very useful, thanks for the tips 🙂

  4. I heard about doing this on the Knit Picks podcast. Haven’t tried it yet, but I keep thinking about doing so. Thanks for the clear pictures and the walk-through!

  5. I have wondered about doing this! Thanks for the info. I will look a little more closely at the sweaters next time I am at the thrift shop :).

  6. I like the idea of recycling old jumpers and cardigans but I haven’t tried it yet. It is quite difficult to find suitable hand knitted items that are in good enough conditions. As you say they need to be easy to unpick, so that rules out anything with mohair etc. My granny used to recycle and I remember helping her wind up the wool.

  7. FABULOUS idea! I’ll have to give this a try … I enjoy roaming the thrift shops and this gives me something to search for. Also – THANK YOU for “liking” my blog! I’ve included a link to you in tonight’s post.

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