View Full Version : Recycling sweaters?
11-28-2007, 03:29 AM
I love a certain type of cotton sweater, but they are hard to find. My friends and I made a trip to Goodwill last week to find them some new pants, and I found two extra large sweaters in the correct fiber for $1.50 each.:woohoo: I figured, hey, all I have to do is unravel these, right? :frog:
Well, I'm in over my head. First of all, I can't find a good place to start unraveling, so I got frustrated and chopped the cast off row off the cuff. Once I got all the little bits out so that I could start the frogging, I discovered that somehow the stitches are twisted in the ribbing so that on the switch from knit to purl and back, I can't just pull loop out of loop, I have to pull the whole thread through. Which isn't a problem for the first round, but after that becomes a royal pain.
Second problem: the "yarn" is actually 5 cotton threads held together. It may have once been twisted into real yarn, but I doubt it. :doh:They're knit on machines, why would anyone bother? So when I go to cut the seam (sewn up with two of those cotton threads), I run major risk of cutting through an extra thread and ruining all the "yarn" down to that point. I think I can handle knitting with it, once its unraveled, by the way. Its the unraveling and then balling that's going to drive me further into insanity.
So what's the trick? Or are these two sweaters just not worth it, and I should pitch them and call it a $3 lesson in why you shouldn't buy things to do a project until after you have found out how to do it?
By the way, I got the neck of one all unravelled, I just cut it off just above the seam connecting it to the body of the sweater and it came apart fine.
I was so excited about finding sweaters I could recycle, and now I'm just annoyed... :hair:
11-28-2007, 09:10 AM
The TV show "Knitty Gritty" on the DIY Network recently did a show giving guidelines for reclaiming yarn from old sweaters. Here's a link to summary text from the show:
The guest expert did talk about how to recognize when a sweater and its yarn were not worth the trouble. I was disappointed to realize that most of my old sweaters fall into the 'not worth it' category. I hope things work out for you!
11-28-2007, 09:54 AM
I ran into the same problem as originally, I was going to purchase sweaters to unravel and reknit. NOT! That's when I decided to just look for 100% Wool sweaters, felt them, then cut them apart and make bags. It is very frustrating to unravel the machine made ones and once you get the handmade ones apart and rolled, the yarn has creases and curves from being knitted. That Knitty Gritty show, if I remember correctly, said that you'd have to basically wash the yarn, let it hang to dry to straighten it out..........TOO MUCH WORK FOR ME! I'll stick to my reclaiming/felting/cutting technique from now on.
Keep in mind, when looking for a feltable sweater that it is knitted, usually from a single strand and your bag walls will be fairly thin. Men's or Large Women's sweaters will have more usable fabric. Be sure to remove any buttons or fasteners from the sweater before felting. Lining is a definite plus and it also helps to iron interfacing to the wrong side of the lining to give the bag more body and help it stand up. I made the body from the sweater front and back and the handles came from the sleeves. This is one of the bags made from an old sweater found at the Goodwill:
11-28-2007, 10:00 AM
I've got a book that gives patterns for making bags from any fiber. You iron the interfacing to the wrong side of the knitted bag after it's knitted. So using a reclaimed sweater is not always limited to felting. Then you could just iron it, cut it and assemble. Remember to use the proper setting on your iron for the particular fiber used. Interfacing is one of man's greatest inventions!
11-28-2007, 10:52 AM
I haven't run into much problem unraveling thrift store sweaters. Sometimes it takes a bit of searching to find the seaming thread, usually they're put together with a chain stitch. Starting at the cuff is not the way to go; it's not that the sts are twisted, that's just how knitting it. You need to start at the top and unravel it opposite to how it was knit, from top to bottom. Hang in there, get good light to find the seam thread; you may want to stretch the seams apart, especially at the bottom and you can see the a little easier. I use a darning needle to rip them, safer than scissors.
11-28-2007, 02:25 PM
I've unraveled tons of cotton thrift sweaters. Very easy unless you mistakenly buy one that's serged.
Do you belong to Ravelry? If not, you might want to join as there's a group of us there that do recycling:
Both these sites have tuts on how to recycle:
There's also a lengthy thread on Craftster for recycling.
11-28-2007, 06:41 PM
That Knitty Gritty show, if I remember correctly, said that you'd have to basically wash the yarn, let it hang to dry to straighten it out..........
You don't have to... You can knit it right off the sweater as it unravels if you want to.
Sweaters need to be unravelled the way they are knitted. If knitted from the bottom up, then they have to be uravelled top to bottom.
I generally take off the sleeves and then figure out where to go next.
11-28-2007, 09:20 PM
I learned early on not to skein, wash, weight, etc. I dismantle the sweater into pieces (sleeves, front(s), back) and wash them...and then use my ball winder to make cakes.
Something to note...machined sweaters may use a diff no of strands on diff parts. Rarely do I find an entire sweater comprised of exactly the same number of 'threads' throughout. If you plan to combine one yarn 'strand' with another, or one part of the sweater body with another (the collar might be 4 threads, the sleeves 6), make note of the diff. 4+6=10 but a 6+6=12 and that diff might net you a diff gauge.
11-28-2007, 11:14 PM
Oh, I forgot to mention that I don't wash the yarn before I knit it; usually just winding it into a ball (loosely) helps straighten it out. But then there's this kinky boucle sorta stuff I've got.....