02 January 2012

Adventures With Upcycled Yarn

One day I woke up and decided that I really wanted to unravel a thrift store sweater, just for the fun of it.  So, I went down to Goodwill, found a sweater, and got to work.

I ended up following directions from Neauveau fiber arts blog, which helped me avert complete disaster.

--> Note #1:  I would really like to add is that the author of the tutorial mentions that it doesn't really matter if you cut the seams like a crazy person.  Well, as I found out later, it does matter, a lot.  If you cut one little strand then you have breaks in the yarn in two places and it causes extra work later and crappier results.  So, please for the love of yarn, cut carefully!

--> Note #2: If you plan on dyeing the upcycled yarn later.  Do not settle for anything with acrylic content unless you love a huge dye mess and strange pastel colors.  Also to defend this decision, I just wanted to see what would happen, it just didn't turn out well...

--> Note #3: Please do not use a sweater made of a yarn that is just made up of thread sized strands, because it will likely look horrible no matter what you do (see later pictures of yarn carnage).

A wool/acrylic blend sweater from Gap for purchased from Goodwill for $3.99.

Here's my sweater unraveled and wound into haphazard balls. That is a lot of yarn for $4!

I then skeined this rather splitty yarn up and attempted to dye it with my Jacquard acid dyes, which turned out to be a terrible plan (see Note #2).  The yarn did not want to take up even half of the dye (and strangely only certain pigments) and most of the color washed out when rinsed later with differing results.  I am suspecting that the garment tag was lying about the 50% wool content.

After two disastrous dyeing sessions I gave up with coloring the yarn, even though I dislike white for clothing.  All and all, I finished with a fairly large amount of yarn in two different weights (worsted and bulky).

In conclusion, I would not count this project among one of my fiber successes, but it was a learning experience and a very inexpensive mistake.  My purpose in attempting this was to see if I could take an unloved sweater in the thrift store and attempt to give it a new life by unraveling it, dyeing it, and knitting it up into something new while saving money and being sustainable.

Despite my challenges with this particular project, I think that the next time I try I'll end up with much better results. Also, I would certainly not disuade anyone from trying this kind of project, it was a lot of fun.


  1. You know what's funny? I just read another blog about upcycling and decided I wanted to try it sometime. Wow conicidence!

    Also, how'd you get the cool buttons at the top of your page? I want to do something similar with mine :)

  2. I just recycled a sweater I previously knit. It was, surprisingly, a lot of work! I would like to try working with a pre-fab garment. I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for a worthy subject the next time I cruise the thrift store!

  3. I have been hoarding several cashmere sweaters to felt or unravel...I hadn't thought of dyeing them, too, what a great idea (even if it didn't stick for you the first time around!)

  4. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only person crazy enough to attempt this kind of project. I hope that other people have better results than I have!


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