Wednesday, March 23, 2016


So, I decided I was finally ready to take a stab at reclaiming some yarn.  Since it was my first time trying it out, I figured it might be easier to start with a chunkier weight until I get the technique down.  I picked a dark charcoal cardigan that is a wonderfully soft cotton-acrylic blend, and may likely be reborn as a cowl.  Plus, added bonus -- the sweater ended up being knit with two strands together, so twice the yardage!

Well, let's get to it, shall we?

A knit or crocheted seam is the winner
First of all, when picking a sweater for reclaiming, one of the first things to look at are the seams.  A knit or crocheted seam, like in the picture above, is what you're looking for.  A machine-sewn seam, like the one below, won't do you any good because it means the material was cut, and you'll just end up with a bunch of short pieces of yarn when you unravel it.  (Note: some garments have button bands or edges that cover the seams -- these can be a gamble, since you don't know what's underneath.)
Anything machine sewn just won't work out well
Another important thing to check is the tag -- that will tell you what the fibres are made of.  Most clothing today is made from acrylic or other man-made materials.  Acrylic yarn itself is fairly cheap, so it's up to you if you want to put in the time and effort to recycle it, or if the cost of the garment is worth it for the amount you'll get.  Try to avoid anything with a lot of elastic fibres if you can...they're just a pain to knit with.
Sometimes (like here) the 1% lycra is a separate strand, which is easily removed when unraveled

Personally, I went in hunting for natural fibres for the most part this time around, since they're usually beyond my price range, but I did pick up a couple of acrylic blends that were just too soft and wonderful to pass up.  

Be sure to check the condition of the garment as well...any signs of moth damage means it's a no-go -- you do NOT want to risk the rest of your stash by bringing moths home, and the yarn is likely pretty damaged anyway.  A small hole or repair isn't too bad, though you might end up with a few shorter lengths.  Wool tends to felt together over time, so check for felting.  Felted yarn won't unravel, so it's a waste of time and money.  (Unless you're looking for felted material to use for sewing projects...but that's a whole other subject.)

Once you've got your sweater, the first step is to remove any tags or buttons that would get in the way, then find a seam and start dismantling it.  Most seams would logically start at the bottom, or under the arms, or the end of a sleeve.  Whoever was making this particular sweater may have been drinking that day, because it was really all over the place.  (One sleeve started in the middle, and worked out to each end...?!?)  A seam ripper might come in handy, or you could always help it along with scissors (as long as you're careful not to cut the material itself).  Personally, I hang onto the lengths of yarn from the seams, in case I need them later for seaming or repairs, or just as scrap yarn.

This is what a sweater looks like after it's been taken apart
Once you've dismantled all the pieces, we get to the fun part: unraveling!  Now, there's no rule saying you can't unravel as you go, but I wanted to show you what it would look like all taken apart.

Most pieces unravel from the top (this is the top of the sleeve)
Once you start unraveling, you'll notice the yarn tends to hold its kink.  Some people wind the yarn loosely into hanks, leave it to soak for a bit, and then hang it to dry with a weight at one end...but I don't have time for that today.  (Or the equipment...yet)  So for the interim, I'm just winding it into temporary cakes.  I cut a slit in the end of a toilet-paper tube, slipped in the end of yarn, and started winding.  One day soon, I will have a ball-winder to do this for me, but for now, it works.  (Also, shoutout to Kishi for the idea to use the TP roll!)  One nifty tip would be to keep the tags from the sweater and pin them onto the yarn -- that way, you know what it is, and have the washing instructions handy!
These balls are HEAVY!  First trial: Success!
So from this one sweater, I got these three hefty cakes of yarn.  Eventually, I'll get around to weighing them, getting the yardage, and winding them properly...but my arm is tired.  So for now, I'm just going to caress them softly while muttering "Precious!" every so often, while Kishi eyes me with more and more concern.

Goodnight, Precious...

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Time for Spring!

I don't know about you, but I am NOT a winter person.  If I could realistically hibernate, I would.  I don't like the cold, the snow in the city just looks grey, and getting anywhere at all is just a nightmare.  So, now that the weather has lightened up for a bit, I am more than ready to get into the Springtime mood.

I spotted a scarf like this a while back, but couldn't find it I took a guess at how it was done, and this is what I came up with.  I used some of the pink yarn I had left over from Arya's sweater, and stitched on a little Sakura blossom (I seem to have a fixation on them right now...they're just so pretty and spring-like!)  

I love the way the flower turned out, though it was a bit fiddly to stitch the petals together.  I made each one separately and sewed them to the centre, then stitched the whole thing to the scarf.  Next time, I might try to find a way to do the whole thing as one, but I might need to work on my crochet skills to manage it.  

I loved making this so much, I did a second one in the raspberry pink, with a little rose blossom.  I also had a great idea to make one in green, with a shamrock for St Patty's Day...but I only got the idea on St Pat' maybe soon I'll have it done.

It's lovely and light, knit in DK, and definitely makes me feel like spring is on its way.  Eventually.  Though being Canada, I don't put away my winter wear until June...

Saturday, March 5, 2016


One idea I've been toying with for a little while is recycling -- or upcycling -- yarn.  I'd first heard the practice mentioned in a post on Facebook ages ago (before that handy "save post" feature).  When I read "recycled/reclaimed yarn", I immediately pictured some ugly homemade sweater that someone's great-aunt knit them and they donated asap.  Why would someone want to reuse ugly, scratchy wool? I thought.

It slowly dawned on me, as I saw more and more posts and links popping up on my feed -- there might just be something to this after all.  So I checked out a few blogs and how-to's, and I came to see how limited my thinking was.  Don't get me wants to repurpose Great-Aunt Sally's technicolor steel-wool monstrosity.  

But a $5 sweater might just get you several hundred yards of cashmere.  Or silk.  Or angora.  Or who knows what else.  I had never even considered factory-knit garments.  Duh!  They tell you right on the tag what's in 'em!  And there are entire aisles of knitwear just waiting to be rifled through at the thrift store.

So, having done a little research, I optimistically headed out to Value Village with a vague, half-baked plan.  (But I ever have any other kind?)  My basic goal was to see just what kind of fibres I'd be able to net...and I gave myself a budget of $50.

For $50, you might be able to get a couple of decent skeins -- or one really good one -- from your local yarn shop.  Or you could get several cheap ones from WalMart.  (Not to knock those of us knitters on a budget, of course)  But let's take a look at what $50 got me.

After two or three hours of fondling most of the garments they had to offer and finally weeding down my selections, this is what I ended up with.  
These sweaters are all SO soft!
And, for another $50, I also got these.  Like I said, half-baked plan...thankfully, there was a 30% off deal, so I really only went $20 over budget.  Thirteen sweaters!
I can never find metallic yarn in the colors I want, but I CAN find sweaters!
Totally worth it, though.  I scored a great assortment of angora, merino, a bit of alpaca blend, some mohair...and a gorgeous cashmere!  (They had another as well, but the color kind of reminded me of vomit...)  Plus I nabbed a couple of sparkly blends, because I love sparkles and I can never find any in the colors I want.  And they all feel so soft and squishy!
Everyone collects something.  My collection just happens to be somewhat grotesquely beautiful.
So here's my first haul, ready and waiting to be ripped apart and given new life.  Oh, and I also found a new mask for my collection!  (I hang them in the bathroom to make my friends uncomfortable when they come over -- because I love them)

Right now, I think I'll just sit for a bit.  And try not to think about going back for another load just yet...