Well, let's get to it, shall we?
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.
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.
|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|
|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!|