Sunday, February 17, 2013

Unravel a Sweater to Recycle Yarn - Part 1

This is something that I have wanted to try for a while now and since the other half of the team (my wonderful fiancé!) is away being an army man what better opportunity to sneak more yarn into the house right? Our secret?

I have been reading a number of blogs on how to recycle/upcycle yarn from sweaters that are found at the thrift store and it seemed pretty straight-forward so here is my first attempt! 

First I started by cruising through the sweater collection at my local thrift shop looking for a sweater that had the colour and weight of yarn I was looking for. This is the sweater that I chose! Really it is a win win project too because I will get the yarn to use on my projects and profits generated from this sale benefit the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy.

When you are looking for a sweater it is important to take note of how the sweater was constructed and the materials it is made of. A lot of what you will find in the thrift store is going to be machine knit material and you will have to look at the seams on the inside of the knit to see if it will be easy to take apart of not. This sweater was perfect and has the type of seam shown below. It is two edges of knitted fabric that have been joined together by thread or the same yarn used in the sweater:
Photo credit:
Also you need to look at the condition of the yarn. If the piece is felted, or if it is a man made fibre and is really pilling, you will have a hard time unravelling the yarn. What you want to look for is when you stretch the fabric that you can see between the individual loops of the knit. If you look at my example this sweater has no sign of wear and you can see that all of the loops in the knit are clearly defined with no felting. 

You want to avoid a seam that is machine sewn because they are labour intensive to take apart. You also want to avoid a knit that is not continuous because when you take apart the seam you are left with short lengths of yarn instead of one continuous piece that you can wind into a large skein.

When you have selected your sweater get it home and locate your seam ripper! I found mine tucked away in the bottom of the sewing kit my mom gave me when I moved away to University. I bet you have one somewhere! If not I would suggest picking one up... this little guy is your new best friend!

Seam Ripper. Photo credit:

Start by turning your sweater inside-out, grab your seam ripper and get started! Start at a seam on the bottom of your sweater, pull the sides of the sweater so you can locate the thread or yarn connecting the seam. Cut this thread...

I was really lucky with this knit and I was able to pull out the yarn connecting the seam without any trouble. If you like you can go up the seam a little bit at a time until you are comfortable with the process. Sweaters are made in a variety of different ways so each seam could be a different experience but the main purpose of this stage is to take apart all of the seams in the sweater so that you have separated all of the individual pieces. My sweater came apart into 5 pieces with the 2 main torso portions, 2 arms and the collar of the sweater.

From this stage this knit was super easy to unravel. First I found the knots where the original knitter stopped working on each piece. I untied the knots leaving a piece of yarn I could pull to unravel the whole section. If the knot is too tricky to untie you can cut it to get the piece started. As the sweater was unravelled it looked more and more like those packages of ramen noodles we all ate through University! Yum! These twists and curls are from the yarn resting in the same shape of the knit sweater for so long. A good soak will help relax the yarn so don`t worry!

Since I am using this wool for my own projects I just wound it around my arm as I unravelled the piece. If you want to measure the yarn into a skein I would suggest making or finding yourself a niddy-noddy. 

This is all of the recycled yarn! Wow! 

Now at this point I am going to stop for the night. I have put the yarn in a bath to soak but I will include more about this process in Part 2! 
With that I will leave you with this photo. This is Oliver who is my handy little helper. Stay tuned for progress on this project! 

Happy Knitting!

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