How to recycle a jumper

Recycling Wool

I was searching on-line for recycled yarns as in yarn made from recycled material.  I found Sirdars Simply  recycled DK and Aran but it seems to be discontinued and not many places have any of the nice colours left so I went back to my search.  What I stumbled across was lots of blogs on actually recycling yarn.  It had never occurred to me to buy a jumper because you like the yarn but not the style or size and then unpick it, unravel it and reuse the yarn.  I buy most of my clothes in charity shops anyway so buying jumpers to recycle seemed like a great idea..

I found a couple of jumpers to get me started.  They weren’t all that big but I liked the yarn and figured they would make nice jhats and scarves if nothing else.

The most important things to look for when buying jumpers to unravel are what the yarn is made from.  Check the label and go for yarns with a high wool content or 100% cotton.  Having said that I picked one cotton one and the red one is 100% acrylic but I liked the colour and feel of the yarn so thought what the hell.

next you need to check the seams.  Lots of modern jumpers are made from sheets of knitted fabric.  The different parts of the jumper are cut out and then they are joined together using an over locker that binds the edges, cutting any excess off at the same time.

below are examples of the kind of seams to look out for.  On the left is a good seam.  You can see the edges of the knitting with clearly defined stitches.  On the right is a bad seam.  You can see the over locked edge and also a thin strip additional fabric to strengthen the seam.  If you were to unpick the jumper on the left the result would be lots of short bits of wool, maybe good for pom poms but not a lot else.

You also need to check that the seams aren’t sewn together with very tight, small stitches of a fine thread.  If this kind of seam has been used the n the yarn will more than likey be damaged.  If you imagine passing the knitted pieces through a sewing machine the needle will pass through the yarn as well so the holes, as it passes through the yarn it could well damage it.  The much tighter nature of this stitching will also have crushed the yarn at the seams leaving it flattened, not ideal when re knitted.

Below are two examples of good seams to unpick.  The seam on the left is like a crochet chain stitch.  It’s one piece of yarn and if you can find the end you then simply need to pull and the whole seam will easily come undone.  The seam on the right is a little harder to unpick but agin once you find the ends (there should be one on either side of the seam) you should be able to pull it undone.  If not then very carefully snip, with sharp needlework scissors the stitches in between the two pieces of knitting.

Once you have unpicked all the seams you can start to unravel and wind your yarn.  It is possible to buy yarn winders but I like to just wind the yarn round my fingers and build a ball that way.  Don’t stretch the yarn too tight as you don’t want to stretch or squash it but you do want it to straighten out a little.  Alternatively you can wind it into a skein (where the wool is loosely wound and secured at two ends so it can’t unravel and get tangled) it can then easily be washed and dried, hopefully straightening it a little at the same time.

I love this bit it reminds me of my Aunt Lottie teaching me to wind wool and unpick old jumpers when I was a kid.  I used to hold the old garment for her as she wound perfect, egg shaped ball with neat little holes in hone top where her thumb had been.

It was quite tricky unpicking some of the joins a at the underarms for example and I had to be very careful not to cut the yarn.  I’m pretty pleased with the result and have started to knit a scarf from the red wool with tassels from an old scarf I decided to recycle too.  The blue I think I’ll try and knit into a fitted jumper.  Hopefully I’ll have something to show you soon.

I’ll definitely do this again as at £4 a jumper it’s a great way of getting good quality wool at a low price.



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