Recycling or unraveling yarn from a jumper is so worth your time.  We are losing all these fabulous skills that were once a necessity and instead buying cheap mass produced fibres. 

I am a lover of charity shops. Seriously its like Christmas day for me every time I walk through the doors. What will I find today? What can I use this for? Who will this fit? Ooh I love it! 

Every so often I come across an old jumper that needs rescuing. Either it has a few holes, or maybe it was just the wrong yarn for the style of jumper it was knit into.  Or sometimes it just so darn ugly that no one will ever wear it and it needs my help to free it! 

I picked up this 100% shetland wool jumper for the princely sum of one pound. It had a few stains on it and was lightly felted so had been thrown into a reduced bin. It was so sad that I gathered it up into my arms and brought it home with me to give it a new life. 

How to harvest yarn from a jumper. Recycle those sweaters

It is missing an arm as I  forgot to take a picture before I started!

So my first job is always to turn the jumper inside out and check the seams. If the jumper has overlocked seams then it is no good for unraveling but it can still be used to cut up and sew into hats and wrist warmers. What we are looking for is a row of ‘V’ shaped stitches running along the edge of the garment. Often they are referred to as arrows pointing out which was to unravel – always follow the arrows and you will unravel at the right end.

good seam Bad seam

The left picture is what we are looking for. Can you see it is like an arrow?  Follow the arrow and the seam should unzip nicely.

The picture on the right has had its seams overlocked which means they were cut and then sewn together. What you will end up with is a lot of little lengths of yarn.. walk away.

Fortunately this jumper has good seams so we are off. I start by taking the arms off of the jumper.  Often a seam will unravel from the wrist of a jumper right round to waist and then its an easy job.  This one was quite easy with only a few breaks and I was able to get the arms off first and then the front and back came away easily once released from the ribbed neckline.

Once we have our pieces, we then start the actual unraveling process. Always start at the top of the piece as this is the last bit that was knitted originally.  Often you will see a thin row of what looks like crochet at the very top. I will try and undo it for a few minutes but life is too short and I usually cut off this tricky row and then pluck the loose yarn until it starts to come away and the unraveling process starts.

It was a lovely day so I took the opportunity to work out in the garden.  A benefit to doing this is that you don’t get all the yarn dust in your house! You can leave the small bits of yarn on the lawn for the birds but you must cut them up into very small pieces so they don’t get tangled around tiny feet or beaks and cause the bird an injury. 

How to harvest yarn from a jumper. Recycle those sweaters

It is mid March here and i’m outside in short sleeves!

I unravel a small pile and then wind it round my yarn swift. Quite often I can simply unravel directly on to the swift but this yarn is slightly felted and so it is too ‘tuggy’ and needs both my hands to separate it.

When I finish each piece, I tie little pieces of string around the wool to keep it together and stop it getting all knotted. Then I pull it off the swift and it looks like this.    

How to harvest yarn from a jumper. Recycle those sweaters

I think the yarn looks more alive and happy already

Then it is bath time. I usually don’t wash an item before I unravel it as I don’t want to make it all soft and bouncy as it will be harder to work with. Instead I wait until I have freed it from the jumper and it can relax in the warm water and lose the kinks.  I first wash in a small amount of shampoo, then rinse gently and add a teeny amount of hair conditioner to the rinse water.

How to harvest yarn from a jumper. Recycle those sweaters

Yarn noodles!

Now its time to gently remove the newly made skein of yarn from the bath and let it dry.  As it was a nice day I took the bucket outside and removed each skein in turn and hung it on the washing line to drip dry. I never spin or wring the yarn as I don’t want to tangle it. I also put a tin of beans at the bottom of the loop to weight it down and help remove the kinks as the skein is drying.

Once dried, twist up the skein and admire your handiwork. All that beautiful sheltand yarn cost me a pound in money and a few hours sat in the garden enjoying the sunshine whilst I worked on it. I’m very happy with that! 

unravel yarn

Yarn lusciousness!

Please don’t be tempted to wear the skeins on your head and tell the grandchildren you are a sunflower. That is just childish.. 

Unraveling yarn