Instructables

How to recycle an old sweater (or a botched one) into usable yarn

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Picture of How to recycle an old sweater (or a botched one) into usable yarn
Do you have old sweaters laying around? Is the yarn simply gorgeous or do you just want to re-use it? Is the sweater to mishapen to wear or just plain ugly, but the yarn is excellent? Did make an absolutely marvelous sweater, only to try it on and discover you should burn the pattern? Well then, recycle that yarn!!!

There are two methods of recycling a sweater into re-usable yarn. The first method is done from a work-in-progress (wip), the second method is done from an already finished-object (fo).
 
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Step 1: Remove the needles

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Here, we will begin by removing the needles from the offending sweater. This is done by simply sliding the stitches off of the needles.

Then, lay the offending sweater flat sew you can begin frogging. Frogging is the process of ripping the stitches out: As in, "Rip it, rip it, rip it!"

Step 2: Frog It!!

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Begin frogging by grasping the unknit yarn and carefully rip out all of the stitches of the sweater. You will have to undo all of the yarn ends that were woven in, before you come to them (I don't hide my ends until I'm satisfied with it when I try it on.). This can be done by using a blunt tapestry needle to fish out the woven in ends. Also undo any knots you come across.

As you rip out the stitches, gently wind the yarn into a ball.

Frequently remind yourself that you will not knit clothes that will not fit you like the model in the picture, unless the model in the picture has a similar form to your own.

Step 3: Continue frogging the sweater.

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Keep pulling the yarn out and winding it into a ball as you go.

Wind gently so you do not stretch the yarn out anymore than it is already. This is especially important if you are unraveling a cotton, silk or wool sweater.
4footermama11 months ago
My brother gave me a gorgeous alpaca poncho about 45 years ago. Even though I haven't worn it for a lllooonnngggg time, I have hauled it with me and protected it from moths. I am going to unravel it and use it later to make something that I will use now. Thanks for the ideas.
tsmith273 years ago
Awesome! I never could find the end bit! Thanks for the excellent photo with the Vs marked. I work at a thrift store and have so many lovely yarns to salvage!
SuzyMac3 years ago
I love doing this. It is very soothing and fulfilling to turn old, unwearable sweaters into lovely stuff. I made a scarf that I get tons of compliments on and everyone is surprised when I tell them I ripped apart old stuff to make it!! YaY for direct recycling!!
a comment about recycling a wool sweater that you are having problems frogging: If you really have a problem with the yarn being glued together & having trouble getting the yarn out of it then instead of fighting it, just use its qualities. Just like using like the lemons that life gives us to make lemonade. It is ultra easy to felt a wool sweater and the fabric is wonderful to recycle and use! There are so many things that you can do with a felted sweater.
I do"botched" really well, lol.  Good idea.  People in THE Great Depression did this all the time
If you're ripping back your own knitting, you know what's in the yarn and how it's been handled. Unravelling second-hand sweaters can be more problematic.

Watch out for commercially produced sweaters that have cut-and-sewn sleeve seams, shoulder seams, or front plackets, unless you *want* a bunch of short bits of yarn.

You also want to watch out for sweaters made of wool, mohair, or other animal fibers. Once the fibers start felting -- i.e., sticking together Till Death Do Us Part -- your chances of a satisfactory yarn-recycling experience go into a nosedive. Mohair and shetland wool are especially prone to this.

Take heart, though! A seriously felted sweater is by definition not going to unravel on you, so you can cut it up and use it as lightweight, slightly stretchy felt. You can even look up a set of instructions for deliberately felting knitted wool fabric (see also: "boiled wool"), and turn your old sweaters into much denser felt that has all kinds of uses.
nennikers6 years ago
A little hint here...on a commercial sweater you can usually find a chain of stitches on one side of the seam. Look for the point of the "V" in the chain, rip one link, then pull out in the direction of the "V". Makes much quicker work of ripping the seams!!! :)
myrrhmaid6 years ago
Very resourceful! I'm going to have to try it! Thanks for the great idea!
Patrik6 years ago
If you really can't find the cast off stitch and are getting frustrated, you can always grab your scissors and snip off the entire edge. Sure, you may lose a few feet of yarn, but it's only a tiny fraction of the entire sweater anyway. If you do this on an old sweater, chances are this is the part that's the most frayed anyway...