How to Recycle Yarn from a Thrift-Store Sweatercomments (23) October 4th, 2008
The most classic handmade holiday gift has to be the knit sweater, which is also one of the most ambitious. If you plan to knit a sweater for a loved one this year, you'd better start soon, at least with the planning stages. There are limitless designs out there for sweaters, you're sure to be able to find the perfect one for anyone on your list if you search around (especially if you're a ravelry member!), so I'm not bringing you yet another design idea. No, I'm bringing you a yarn idea! I think that hand-knit sweater gift would be made so much more special if you could tell your loved one it was made from recycled yarn! A whole new level to the classic sweater, to take an unloved garment, destined for the landfill, salvage the wool, and give it a brand-new start as a beautiful knit gift; it's sure to be appreciated by any recipient who loves the planet.
- Thrifted sweater to unravel (details below)
- Seam ripper
- Scissors (embroidery scissors can be helpful)
- Dish soap or shampoo
- These will help if you have them: niddy noddy, swift, ball winder
Your first step is to find a sweater (or two) to unravel. If your heart is set on knitting a specific pattern, it may take many trips to the thrift store to find just the right yarn, but if you are willing to choose a pattern based on the yarn you find, your sweater shopping probably won't be as stressful. Main things you'll want to consider:
Yardage: If you find a fantastic yarn but are not sure it'll be enough to complete your gift, I'd recommend finding another yarn of the same weight that could be added as a stripe in your sweater if needed. After unraveling, you'll be able to count the exact yardage so you can deal with stripe planning at that point. If you are firmly against adding stripes, be sure to choose a big sweater that will definitely provide plenty of yardage.
Weight: There are tons of sweaters out there made from very fine yarns, which are not easy to take apart. You'll want to choose a weight that's right for the kind of sweater you want to make, of course, so pay attention to the gauge of the sweaters when shopping.
Find more upcycle projects:
Fiber content: I only bother unraveling sweaters with all or mostly natural fibers because it's just not worth it to take the time for acrylic, so be sure to read the tags. If there is a small percentage of nylon or acrylic, it will be less breakable and therefore easier to unravel, so man-made fibers aren't all bad.
Not felted: Many wool sweaters end up in thrift stores because they accidentally got tossed in the washing machine; these should be easy to spot and obviously won't unravel.
Sometimes you'll find partially felted sweaters (for instance, felted only under the armpits), so you can decide if it's worth it to try to make it work. With the best sweaters (not at all felted), you can clearly see the outline of each individual stitch and see through the fabric when it's stretched.
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