Recycled Sweater Yarn

Recycled Sweater Yarn
Free Upcycle Idea
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*Warning: This idea is not for the recycler short on time or patience…It’s time-consuming and a bit tedious!

Need more yarn and short on yarn cash?  Salvage yarn from old sweaters (and/or thrift store finds) and get some new threads!  The steps for recycling sweater yarn are basically the same, whether using a store-bought or thrift-store sweater, or using someone’s hand-made knitting project. 

The Secret: It’s best to use a sweater that has been hand knit with seams sewn by hand or crocheted together, rather than a machine/surged seam.  Handmade sweaters are usually made by knitting sections and then piecing them together.  Machine knit sweaters are made from large pieces of knit fabric cut into pieces and then sewn together.  However, I find if I use bulkier store-bought sweaters with larger stitches and cables, the recycling process goes pretty smooth.

Ready to Rip

Grab your sweater and some scissors and get ready to rip!  Turn the sweater inside out so you can see the seams.  Separate the arms from the body of the sweater.  (Hint: try to find the yarn end used to sew sleeves onto the sweater – it will make it easier, trust me.)  Look for horizontal lines of yarn running across the seam and cut one of these strands.  You should be able to pick out the seam by hand from that point.

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Be careful not to cut the main section of knitting to avoid short pieces of yarn.  Once the arms are off the sweater, you are just about ready to begin recycling the yarn.  But there's one more seam that needs to be dealt with first: the sleeve seam.

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Some sweaters will not have this seam if the sleeves were knit in the round. It will be easy to tell if you have one or not.  Pick out the seam down the length of the sleeve, just as you did with the seam connecting sleeve to torso piece.  Again, try to find the horizontal lines of yarn running across the seam, cut the stitch, and pick it out from there.

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Let Her Rip

Let the unraveling commence… this will allow you to recycle the yarn from the sweater.

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Unraveling a sweater is just like ripping back while you're still knitting.  Just let it rip.  (I used my husband to hold the sleeve for me when my arms got tired…because there is a lot of ripping.)  Some crafters suggest rolling the yarn into a ball as you go, rather than leaving a big pile of yarn that could become tangled.  I didn’t do this.  In the past, I have used a plastic pan to collect my yarn as I ripped the seams and then went back after one sleeve was done to roll my yarn ball.  I’ll let you decide how you want to handle this dilemma.

Once you have worked through the process of recycling the sleeves you can get to work on the body.  Follow the steps above, applying them to the torso section.  (Cut or pick out the side seams, if any.  Find a starting [bind-off] edge, and start ripping.  Then roll your yarn ball.)

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When you are all done you should have quite a pile of yarn and you can pat yourself on the back for all the money you saved.  Your arms, however, might be really tired from the effort.  A few final thoughts:  The sweater I worked on in the photos was knit with 4 strands of lighter weight yarn, so one unraveled sleeve created a huge pile!  And the yarn should look pretty kinky from being in the sweater for so long, which doesn’t bother me.  If this bothers you, there are some techniques and treatments you can try (see winding balls into hanks at About.com).

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About The Author

Tia Davis is a writer, wife and mother, living happily ever after with her handsome prince and two charming boys in Western Idaho. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Creative Writing and works from home as a content manager. When she isn't chasing little boys she is blogging about them at Mistress of Madness & Mayhem.