Oh man! I scored a moth-damaged tan cashmere cardigan (with 10 mother of pearl buttons) at Goodwill for 2 bucks. Demented? I think not!
Recycling sweaters is something I've just started exploring. Just think of all that yarn for a couple bucks. Ok, you have to dig through a lot of acrylic, nylon, orlon crap to get to the goods, but it's worth it when you can score cashmere. Also be sure to check the labels. I read them for the amusement factor. I came across one that read "100% Virgin Acrylic". I'm not kidding. I almost bought the darn thing because I got such a kick out of the label. Dare I ask what would be considered non-virgin acrylic?
So, how does one recycle a commercially knit sweater? Lots of patience and follow this advice:
- Remove the tags. If the tag is racked on the back of the sweater, be very careful to only snip the thread holding the tag in place. You don't want to cut the yarn around the tag. Keep the tags with the yarn so you remember the content later on. You will forget. I know this to be true.
- Remove buttons, zippers, etc. A lot of the vintage cardigans have awesome mother of pearl buttons. Save these because you can never have too many buttons. I know this to be true.
- Locate the last place the sweater was sewn up, usually around the neck. A seam-ripper, reading glasses and strong light work best for finding the seam. If you're lucky, you can find the right seam thread, give a slight tug and the whole seam will ravel like a crochet chain stitch.
- Work slowly!
- As I rip I wind onto a niddy-noddy, but you can wind into a loose ball as you go. Whatever you do, don't let it all sit in your lap like a huge pile of ramen noodles or you will end up with an insane tangle. You'll need to skein the yarn at some point, so the niddy noddy makes sense...or the back of a chair, etc. I'm not the proud owner of a swift...yet.
- When all the yarn is in skeins, it will look like crap...all curly, unruly, etc. This is where the magic comes in. Soak the yarn in cool water for several hours, or until it's good and saturated. You may even want to use some wool soak to remove odors, dirt, and unpleasantness. Hang the skeins on a hanger and hang a damp towel through the bottom of the loop to give it some weight. The water and the weight will pull the curl right out of the yarn. It might take a couple days to dry, but it's worth it.
- You can now wind into balls or twist into skeins. Remember to do a yardage count (let's say you have a skein that's 2 feet long end-to-end, count each strand of yarn, multiply by 4 because each "round" is 4 feet long and then divide by 3...voila!)
There are other uses for discarded wool sweaters...think FELT! Just remember to put the sweater in a zippered pillowcase before throwing it in the washing machine. Also, since these sweaters are knit to a finer gauge than what you or I would knit for felting, it might take a cycle or two to get a good felt.