Reclaimed yarns

Last week I was in the mood to unravel and ply some of my sweater stash.  I did pretty well, finishing about half of the pile.  Now I’m left with the ones that are a bit delicate or complicated.


  1. 1480 yards of light fingering weight silk.
  2. 75 yards white, 665 yards blue of laceweight 50%wool, 35%nylon, 15% angora.
  3. 500 yards fingering weight merino
  4. All yarn in this pic are destined for the dye pot.  The big one was unraveled previously.  It is DK weight wool and didn’t need plying.  The yellow is silk, probably laceweight.  There’s some merino and a cashmere as well as a wool/cashmere. I have no ideas yet about what colors to dye these.

I’ve not been knitting much.  Just not in the mood.  I have started a Dwarrow inspired Christmas stocking.  I’m hoping to get the pattern released before Dec 1.  I’ve given up on finding test knitters.  Perhaps when/if I become more popular I’ll try again.  Sometime next week I’ll release the Hap Style Shawl pattern.

So why am I not in the mood to knit?  I’m not exactly sure.  It’s certainly knitting weather.  I have been working on fiber prep.  And there was Halloween decorating.  I have been in the mood to sew, although I’ve not actually sewn anything.  I’ve organized my fabric stash and ordered some patterns and printed out some free ones.  I’ve been struggling for years with the desire to change the way I dress but have been unable to really define my style.  It’s been what I like vs what is practical to wear.  I live in sweatpants, t-shirts and sweatshirts.  I like skirts and somewhat fancier things.  I’ve collected the fancier stuff but don’t wear it because it’s too much work to pick out an outfit or I’m afraid of getting it dirty or it’s just too fussy to wear for everyday.

I stumbled across something called Lagenlook and it’s pretty much exactly what I’ve been looking for. Loose, comfortable layers.  Pretty without being fussy and if I keep cotton as my top layer it’s easy to wash and with this style, if it gets stained I can just stick a decorative patch over it to hide it.  I can keep the fancier clothing for special occasions.  So I’m just waiting for some patterns to arrive and then I’ll be sewing for awhile.

I think that’s enough rambling for today.


A FO and reclaimed yarns


No WIPs but I did finish the last of the three Jacob Shawls.  From getting the fleece to finishing this shawl took me about 2 years.  All natural colors, no dye.  Simple garter stitch shawls.  This Jacob wool is a bit coarse. I wouldn’t wear it against my skin.  The yarn is rustic and uneven but the shawls are still quite pretty.  They’d look good as decor in a rustic country style.

That’s been mostly the only thing I’ve been knitting on for the last few weeks.  I’ve been plying a lot of yarn from sweaters and I thought I’d show that off.

I had two Merino sweaters in very similar shades of plum.  I plied 2 strands from each sweater together to make a 4 ply fingering weight.  I got about 1400 yards.  I paid less than $7 total for the sweaters.

I had some leftovers from one of the plum sweaters so I plied two strands together to make about 500 yards of laceweight.

The last one is 4 strands from a silk sweater plied to make 960 yards of light fingeringweight.  Silk is tricky to ply.  Unlike wool sweaters I plied directly from the sweater pieces.  Unraveling cobweb weight silk into cakes is just asking for massive tangles.  This sweater cost $0.49.


Last is a dyeing experiment.  I was actually trying to dye yarn that only had a small amount of wool – the rest was undyeable fibers.  It failed completely leaving me with a pot of dye.  So I grabbed this yarn.  It’s sportweight (not plied) from a 62% nylon 26% angora 11% lambswool sweater (nylon dyes just like it’s a protein fiber).  I dumped it into the pot dry and it was also too much yarn for the amount of dye/water/space in the pot.  It instantly turned a pale pink (the dye in the pot is supposed to be a deep raspberry.)  That just wasn’t acceptable so I spent the next few hours experimenting.

I mixed up dye in different shades of magenta and blue and started dumping it in the pot, directly onto the fiber, stirring it around to get different areas.  After awhile I was noticing bits that were still pale pink so I started pulling the skeins out of the pot, pouring dye directly on the light spots and then dumping the skeins back into the pot.  Then it seemed like the colors were too contrasty so I pulled the skeins out of the pot and added a lot of the deep raspberry color to the pot and dumped the skins back in.  I wanted to blend the colors together more and not have them contrast with each other so hard.

I ran out of time for the day and stopped for the day.  I wasn’t sure I was done yet but I knew I could always experiment more another day.  As the yarn dried I could see more and more colors appearing.  It’s a very layered look, with colors blending and spotting and just being wild.  I think I really like it and I may not dye it anymore.  Then again I might.  I need to look at it for awhile before I make a final decision.


Unraveling Commercial Sweaters (not a tutorial)

As I said last week, no WIPs this week.  It’s been a tough week of no knitting.  The good news is that my wrist/thumb feels much better.  The bad news is that my sanity is hanging on by a thread.  I did a little spinning and assorted non-fibery things to fill the time but I really missed knitting.  I am knitting again today, trying to ease back into it by taking lots of breaks.  In fact, I am writing this post in bits and pieces on those breaks from knitting.

So to fill the gap of not having any WIPs to show I thought I’d give a glimpse into how I unravel commercial made sweaters and ply the strands to make fatter yarn to knit.  I mostly find sweaters made with cobweb weight yarn and I prefer knitting with fingering weight or more.  These pics are for my dressing gown which is DK weight.  This is by no means a tutorial, just some pics I took while prepping more yarn for my dressing gown.

The first sweater I pulled out to unravel happened to be knit with alternating strands.  What I do with this kind of sweater (and you can’t tell if it’s single or alternating until you start unraveling) is unravel it by hand.  I pull out several rows and pile them up on my knee.  The I wind one onto my ball winder and pile the other into a bin like a long strand of spaghetti.  If you’re careful and don’t disturb the bin too much you can wind from the pile without tangles.  No matter how careful I am the yarn breaks occasionally.  I spit splice (using water from a spray bottle I keep handy).  Once I’ve unraveled the whole piece I splice the end of the pile in the bin onto the yarn on the winder and wind that onto the cake.  Then it’s ready for plying.


The next piece (from a different sweater) was single strand so I was just able to wind it straight onto the winder.  I just fold it in half, lengthwise, hold it down with one hand and wind with the other.  I don’t go too fast.  This one is cashmere and it tended to hang up at the edges a bit.  If I went too fast it would break and I’d have to splice it and that happened anyway on occasion.  Cashmere tends to be a bit on the fragile side and will break if you tug too hard.

Then I had to take a sweater apart before I could unravel it.  First I turn it inside out and remove the tags.  The the neck comes off.  I find the seam and pick and poke where it meets the sweater until I get something loose. Or I find the zipper stitch and cut a few of those until I make a hole between the collar and the main body of the sweater.  The zipper stitch shows as a series of sideways Vs.  If you clip through the Vs (and not the main stitches) and tug around on things, the collar loosens from the body.  Then you can tug and pull and find the loose strand of yarn and basically unzip the seam.  This also applies to the rest of the seams of the sweater.  There is another version that I call the locked zipper.  There is an additional stand of yarn in the zipper which basically locks the zipper and you can’t just pull a strand and unzip the seam.  The rest of the seams of this sweater were locked and I had to cut each stitch by hand with my seam ripper.  I’m fairly sure (I’ve not actually done this so I’m not positive) that the zipper stitch on the seams is very similar to the crocheting you do to stabilize the knitting before steeking.

So what I do for the dressing gown yarn is unravel a piece of a sweater (back, front, sleeves) and wind it into a cake.  The I take a cake from 8 different sweaters and ply those together on my spinning wheel.  I started with 4 grey and 4 black strands but now I’m at 6 grey and 2 black because I have more grey sweaters than black.  I can’t really tell the difference between the two once plied but I am holding the ones with only 2 black strands back to do the collar with, just in case there is a noticeable difference when knitted.  I’m hoping I have enough yarn ready to finish the body and sleeves but if not, this project will have to go on hold until I find more black sweaters.

Honestly, unraveling commercial sweater is trial and error and poking and picking until things come apart.  It’s hard to describe and there are several different ways things can be done.  First, avoid serged seams.  Usually the yarn is cut and you’ll end up with a million short strands of yarn.  If it’s not cut, serged seams are still very difficult to undo.  If the should seams are serged but the rest of the seams are not, that’s fine.  I just cut off the serged shoulder seam and you don’t lose a lot of yarn.  Take the neck off first, then open the side seams, starting at the wrists, going to the hip/waist.  Next take the sleeves off of the body.  Then the shoulder seams and then you have your pieces.

Next is getting the individual pieces unraveled.  Start at the top (the shoulder of the sleeves or the neck of the back/front).  There is usually a sort of zipper stitch along the top of the pieces that need to be undone or removed before the piece will unravel.  Then is just like frogging your knitting.  Just be careful at the edges and at the armpits (it’s most likely to be a bit felted and therefore more difficult to get apart in the armpits.)