Recycled Yarn: Knitting Going Green

Looking for some new, “green” knitting ideas, — recycled yarn is a start! I’m not talking about skeins of yarn bought at garage sales, or about swapping yarn with a fellow knitter, though those are both great eco-friendly ideas. No, these days, people are talking about yarn recycled from cast-off sweaters.

Give unloved knits a new life

I like browsing through thrift stores and rummaging at estate sales, so recycled yarn is right up my alley. And this is the perfect time to find old sweaters, since people go through their wardrobes for spring cleaning and give away warm-weather clothing. Pick sweaters made either entirely or mostly of natural fibers, and make sure they’re in good condition. Think about the yarns you love to knit with when buying used sweaters. Natural fibers like cashmere, angora, and lambswool are highly desirable recycled yarns. To get more bang for your buck, look for large and extra-large sweaters. Holes or stains can still work if they’re not large, since you can discard that yarn and still have two long pieces unraveled from either side of the mark. However, sweaters put in the dryer and felted won’t work since felted yarn won’t unravel. Be sure to pick sweaters that have hand sewn or crocheted seams. If the seams have been serged, the yarn has been cut and sewn together at the seam. If you manage to unravel it, you’ll be left with lots of little pieces of yarn instead of one or two long pieces for knitting. Stick with hand stitched or crocheted seams, which are easy to pull apart and yield a continuous, unbroken yarn. I’ve found that both neaveau fiber arts and craftstylish have great recycled yarn tutorials. Both walk you through the process, from picking the sweater to forming the skeins. And they both include a lot of photos so it’s easy to understand. There are many methods of forming the yarn into hanks after unraveling the yarn, including using chairs, your body, an assistant’s hands, or professional tools such as a niddy noddy or umbrella swift. What you use is entirely up to preference, and budget. Handy knitters even make their own devices using wood discards and nails — they make recycled yarn on recycled tools! It’s most important to wash the yarn, dry it, and wind it carefully, so you don’t break it, stretch it, or shrink it. Voila… you’ve created your first recycled yarn ball! It takes some time at first, but you may even prefer your recycled yarn to your store-bought stash.