Recycling/Unraveling Yarn from Thrift Store Sweaters

kandmMarch 23, 2009

Do you ever buy sweaters just to unravel the wool? The price of quality wool has gone way up here so I've been researching it. I found this one site with great recommendations about recycling wool. It sounds like a pain to unravel it all though.

Recycling Yarn

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've had that site saved in my favoraites for quite some time. I've never really looked for a sweater from a thrift shop to take apart, but I thought it would be fun. You'd have to tug a bit of the yarn in one place to make sure it was still strong.

My friend gave me a half-made sweater to take apart, plus some extra yarn, but when I tugged it, it was so old it just came apart. Not worth the time.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 8:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, I have bought sweaters just for their yarn. I started about three years ago when I bought a bulky weight charcoal heavily cabled wool sweater jacket. There was enough yarn in it for a 3 x 5 basketweave t.v. blanket, which my cat, Emily, and I are sharing while I write this. It was my first"large" knitting project, and many an evening was spent on its stitches.

The yarn from an enormous, and ugly green/gold sweater was dyed rust with Wilton icing color and combined with yarn from a small multi-colored stripe sweater, then knit into a t.v. blanket large enough for my 6 foot hubby.

You can recycle family favorites too; a shetland wool argyle of my husband's had become too large after weight loss. It's now a hat, scarf and fingerless glove set. The contrast colors from the argyle's diamonds are thin stripes on the hat. I think he likes it as much as he did the old sweater. It was made of a delicate 2-ply yarn that I could easily break, so I knitted with two strands held together.

The newer looking the sweater, usually the easier the unravelling, as many yarns begin to cling together with wear. Never try to unravel a sweater that shows Any sign of felting = misery. I stay away from mohair too. A worsted weight or heavier strand can stand up to more tugging for a beginner.

I found the yarn to be most likely to break in the last stitch of a row, but once you get a feel for it, you'll usually be able to wiggle those stitches free even on thin delicate sweaters.

The biggest problem I've found is how habit forming "ripping" can become. Tag sales and end of season thrift store sales provide the lowest prices, but merino, cashmere, suri alpaca, and lambswool are bargains even at full thrift store cost. I have several Rubbermaid boxes filled with my stash, and seem to always have another sweater to rip while I watch t.v.

A 3x5 card with a yarn sample attached reminds me of when and where I found the sweater, how much I paid, and how many ounces of the yarn I have. It doesn't take long to flip through the cards and find a yarn suitable for a project.

I encourage you to give recycling a try. Hopefully you will be surprised with the variety of fibers available. If you don't have good luck "yarn-shopping" where you live, remember to check out other areas when you travel. (When I say the yarn for a particular project was a vacation souvenir I don't have to say it came home as a sweater to be recyled)

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 11:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think this sounds like fun! I'm so impressed with what you are doing, Linda. I feel like running out the
door to a thrift shop! LOL!

I guess the item you make would have to be smaller than the item it came from? Or if you used big needles, it could be larger, right?

Do the "found" items have to be hand knit, or do commercially knit items work? I know sometimes they are cut and seamed, so I know that would not work.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 10:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This ia great tutorial on how to unravel/recycle thrifted sweaters:

I've gotten some nice yarn from thrift store sweaters, though in my experience thicker yarns yield nicer results. I once bought a lambswool sweater knit with light fingering weight yarn, and it broke apart as I unravelled it. Probably had been washed and worn a lot before it fell into my hands. At least I was only out a couple of bucks!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 12:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Socks12345 -

The new item doesn't necessarily have to be smaller than the original. Example: my charcoal blankie. The sweater it came
from was heavily cabled. The cables contain alot of yarn yardage, creating very thick areas on the sweater, whereas
my basketweave blankie is a much flatter fabric. Hope that makes sense?

Yes, I worked it to a looser gauge (knitted on larger needles) than the original, too. I wanted a soft drapey comfy feel as compared to the jacket's "stiffer", more dense structure.

No, the "found" items don't have to be handknit. Like you guessed, the no-no is a cut and seamed sweater, which is easy to spot because the seams are serged, as shown in this photo -

That's from this website -

another great tutorial on yarn recycling.
(I don't use so much weight when drying my washed yarn, just an empty hanger, because I thought it might stretch the yarn)

If you scroll about halfway down the page you'll see a pvc niddy noddy, very handy for this sort of project, and easy to make. Directions can be found here -

I used to use one of the short pieces as a nostepinne before I got my ball winder.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 1:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have bought large thick sweaters at the thrift stores and taken them apart as I did not like the sweater, but liked the yarn and I was able to make throws for the homeless and for nursing homes.If it is a sweater or an old afghan I wash it first then take apart.. if it is yarn I am able to get cheap at thriftstore or goodwill, I make the item first then wash it ..some of the yarns are very good and the only problem is the item that the yarn was made into was not so great... and I think it is good to be able to recycled items..instead of going into landfills or just hanging on a rack in thriftstore and no one buying it cause it is out of date or not pretty .and when you change the item and the style you can make something worth while for someone who has less then you do and just needs a little help.. Does not hurt to ever share with others.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 1:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

WOAH!! Wait! Go back to this......

'''The yarn from an enormous, and ugly green/gold sweater was dyed rust with Wilton icing color ' ' '

WHAT?!? Tell me how to do that please!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 7:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Going back to Linda74's message, I also would like to hear more about dying a sweater with "Wilton's icing color". Sounds very interesting, and resourceful!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 1:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I did a google using "Wilton's Icing colors" +dying and easily found the instructions on how to do this process;

google is a wonderful tool....I have it on my desktop and use it daily, for finding everything from something like this, to a miso soup recipe.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 1:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The website sandra referenced also mentions kool-aid dyeing, and a third option (very appropriate this time of year) could be Easter Egg dye tablets! Snap them up at 1/2 price the day after for some cheap fun.

Google can lead you to lots of yarn dyeing tutorials, even Kool-Aid color charts. Sorry, not enough time to reference my favorites right now, . . . because. . .
I want to tell you about yesterday's thrift store finds. I was fortunate to hit a Salvation Army shop that is clearing out their winterweight sweaters for 99 cents! It's spring! Maybe some of your shops will do similarly.

I found six:

Old Navy, 70% cotton/30% lambswool, worsted weight, LIGHT BLUE with a KETTLE-DYED appearance

Valerie Stevens ?, 100% LAMBSWOOL, sportweight, MARLED LIGHT BROWN, tan, & burgundy. Kind of blah, so maybe I'll over-dye it

Outback Red, 100% wool, fingering, NAVY and med. blue TWEED WITH teeny ORANGE NUBS, and Very NEAT BUTTONS

Weathervane, 100% wool, heavy worsted CREAM. This one will be dyed for sure.

Open Country?, 100% Shetland wool, sport, OLIVE HEATHER, WITH a deep red, rust, yellow, and brown FAIR ISLE BAND. Yes, I'll save the contrast color bits, and store them with the olive, because one row across the front or back of a man's sweater is about equal to a row on a hat, and the color planning is already done for me.

French Connection ?, 55% SILK, 30% acrylic, 15% ANGORA, Very Fine weight, multishaded grey. Don't know how successful an unravel this one will be, but I LOVE the 5 steel grey mother of pearl BUTTONS!

Do I know now what any of them will become? No, and so I warn you again, this can be habit-forming.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 2:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My sister dyed wool yarn she spinned with Koolade, and it is quite pretty.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 3:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've heard of koolaid dying but never the wilton color process.

Fascinating! Putting that on "the list" of things I want to try next.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 8:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Linda, what fun! Now you've got your work cut out for you.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 8:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Socks12345, Oh yeah! But at least the sweaters are quiet while they wait for me to get to them.

Knits on the needles can fairly scream for your attention. I'm working on a spiral scarf, among other things. It's waiting for me to get a turkey breast into the oven so I can give it some quality time this afternoon. Must keep "the knits" happy!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 12:17PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Looking For Annie's bed doll crochet Collections
Hi I am interested in collecting Annie's bed doll crochet...
craft fairs
What have you found that is selling good this yr? Thanks. Hope...
reading a rowan pattern
I'm new to Rowan patterns and am puzzled from the beginning....
Crochet Owl Fingerless Gloves
If you have some left over yarn you can easily to make...
crochet hook size
If you use a bigger hook will the product be bigger?...
Sponsored Products
Zuo Roca Stainless Steel and Glass Dining Table
Euro Style Lighting
Sunny Bamboo 6-Drawer Dresser
Dot & Bo
Jamie Young Genie Collection Large Chocolate Table Lamp
Lamps Plus
Toscanaluce by Nameeks G208 Towel Bar - TOSCANALUCE G208-AR
$268.99 | Hayneedle
Safavieh Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Safavieh Rugs Shag Ivory/Black 3 ft . 3 in. x
$93.97 | Home Depot
Marset | Funiculi Floor Lamp
$396.00 | YLighting
Brown - 16" x 16"
Grandin Road
University of Alabama Grill Rectangular: 3 Ft. 5 In. x 2 Ft. 1 In. Mat
$35.95 | Bellacor
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™