Yarn Mining: How to Convert an Old Sweater into a Warming Neck Gator

comments (3) January 22nd, 2009     

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Tina_Hilton Tina Hilton, contributor
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Seth Heilig, Cadet 1st Lieutenant, Appalachian State Army ROTC class of 2009. Handsome and warm!
Only 100% wool is allowed because it is inherently nonflammable, which is important in the event of an accident.
Oftentimes the sweater will be stitched together with a different yarn, making it easier to see which stitches to rip out.
Seth Heilig, Cadet 1st Lieutenant, Appalachian State Army ROTC class of 2009. Handsome and warm!

Seth Heilig, Cadet 1st Lieutenant, Appalachian State Army ROTC class of 2009. Handsome and warm!

Photo: Tina Hilton

Here’s a project that will make you feel doubly good! Recycle yarn from an unused sweater and create something that will keep a soldier warm while serving in cold climes. According to Project Helmetliner, there are more than 200,000 troops in areas who are subjected to subzero wind chills during the winter. To date, they've shipped a total of 4,402 neck gators, 1,479 scarves, and 22,915 helmet liners but still have a long way to go to provide cozy, hand-knitted items to warm our hard-working troops.

Harvesting yarn for sweaters is very easy but takes a bit if time. Fellow CraftStylish contributor Lee Meredith posted a comprehensive blog about the ins and outs of recycling yarn back in October (How to Recycle Yarn from a Thrift-Store Sweater) that is awesome. Many of same guidelines apply for this project as well. The most important thing to keep in mind when sourcing the sweater for your gator is that it must be 100% wool and washable or it will not be sent. Acrylic and acrylic blends pose a fire/melting hazard, endangering our troops, and do not have the same insulating properties as good old wool. Select yarn that is dark such as black, dark brown, and dark gray. Tan is acceptable as long as it is dark. Make sure the sweater is stitched together at the seams rather than cut like fabric and sewn together with a serger with an overlock stitch using thread. If it is sewn together, you will not get a continuous length of yarn to work with.


Only 100% wool is allowed because it is inherently nonflammable, which is important in the event of an accident.

 

Supplies

  • Soft 100% wool sweater made from worsted-weight yarn in tan, brown, gray, or black (these are the only colors allowed by the military)
  • Seam ripper
  • Sharp pointed-tip scissors
  • Size 7, 16-inch circular needle
  • Stitch marker

Step by Step
Begin harvesting the yarn by carefully removing the sleeves. Turn the sweater inside out and separate the seams at the cuff edge to reveal the stitches that hold it together.


Oftentimes the sweater will be stitched together with a different yarn, making it easier to see which stitches to rip out.

 

Insert your seam ripper or very sharp pointed scissors and cut a couple of stitches. Continue up the sleeve and around the armhole. Remove the neckband if your sleeve extends that far. Once you have disconnected the sleeve, you can locate the end of the yarn and begin to knit.


To make sure your stitches are not twisted, line up your cast-on edge facing inside.

 

One sleeve from a men’s or large women’s sweater should be plenty to make one gator.

Yes, Harriett, the yarn is kinky! Don’t worry, just knit as you normally would and it should relax after you give it a wash upon completion.

Cast on 113 stitches very loosely.


The extra odd stitch you casted on will be eaten up by the k2tog join technique.

 

Begin knitting in the round by slipping the first stitch to the left needle as if to purl, place a stitch marker on the right needle, knit 2 together, knit 1, purl 2. This process of joining to knit in the round helps prevent your first stitch at the join from being loose. Continue in a knit 2, purl 2 ribbing pattern for about 9 inches.


If you find a moth hole, examine the sweater and if it looks like Swiss cheese, you may not want to use the sweater for this project. Felt it instead!

 

Did I mention you should check the sweater for moth holes? I found one early on and was able to use one of my favorite knitting magic tricks (check out the great video tutorial from Knit Picks) to join yarns into one, thus preventing having a new end to weave in when introducing a new strand.


Separate the plys of the yarn equally. Cut off one side. Repeat with the strand of yarn to be joined, making sure that you have a length of 2 inches to work with on each of the strands you are joining.

 

 


Fold over the ends evenly and loop together.

 

 


Wet the ends of the yarn and roll the strands together to create friction, which will felt the strands together.

 

 


A felted join is a beautiful thing and will save you from having to weave in ends!

 

Bind off very loosely.

Weave in the ends.


It looks a bit wonky before the first wash.

 


A ride in the washer and dryer straightened out the stitches nicely.

 

Shipping Instructions
Please include information about the yarn and care instructions of your finished item before sending it on to Project Helmetliner. There is no deadline for submitting your completed garments. They ship a batch out only when they have enough to equip an entire outfit and will reserve those received in the spring and summer for a fall shipment.

Mailing via USPS:
Citizen SAM
P. O. Box 10565
Peoria, IL 61612

For those mailing items by way other
than USPS:
Citizen SAM
c/o Rotherham & Company, P.C.
2308 W. Altorfer Drive
Peoria, IL 61615

If you have any questions, you can contact them at operationhelmetliner@yahoo.com.

Patterns and guidelines for scarves and helmetliners plus more ways to get involved can be found on the Citizen Sam website.

Special thanks to Major Maury A. Williams, Executive Officer, Appalachian State Army ROTC, Boone, NC, for graciously allowing me to borrow one of his cadets for my photograph. Keep up the good work!

posted in: knitting for the troops, Project Helmetliner, Recycling yarn, Neck gators

Comments (3)

Craig27Jannie writes: If you are willing to buy a house, you will have to get the loan. Moreover, my mother usually utilizes a consolidation loan, which is really rapid.
Posted: 5:27 pm on August 20th
Tina_Hilton writes: You could acquire 100% wool sweaters from your next church garage sale for this purpose! My local knitting group has adopted this cause and plan on a day long party coming up soon. I have plenty of yarn from this big sweater to knit up a scarf and a couple more neck gators and my pals are gathering their stash.
Posted: 10:48 am on February 2nd
SMVG writes: Hi Tina,

What a great idea! My church knits for the troops and this is a perfect addition to our mission. You are great. I love your ideas and I love reading your stories. Keep the good ideas coming.

Thanks
Posted: 4:52 pm on January 30th
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