How To:: Recycling Sweaters for Yarn

Shortly after I learned how to knit I read about how one could recycle a sweater for the yarn. Sweet! Cheap yarn I thought! I went to the Salvation Army and picked out a sweater I thought would be good for recycling. Huge, an XXXL, and 100% cotton. It was all cream colored and pretty nice. I took it home and gave it my best shot. Which failed pretty miserably at first. I wasted so much yarn that first time around. I still got enough to make into a sizable bath mat. I used the pattern from Mason Dixon Knitting (what a great knitting book).

After a whole lot of trial and error over the last three years, I’ve been able to get the recycling of sweaters down pretty well.

Here is what I do:
First you need to pick out a good sweater. Larger is better as it will lead more yarn of the same type and color. I try to stay away from cardigans because it’s just more seams to take out. Anything with lots of color changes is out. My favorite is something that is a natural fiber (cotton, wool, cashmere) and has minimal synthetics in it. It is really personal preference. Look for what would be easiest to unravel and what you would like to knit.


I’m just going to assume you are going to take my advice and go with a pull over, so you will start with the collar. Find the bind off edge. Don’t use scissors. In fact, I’m going to make that really clear DO NOT USE SCISSORS. Seriously, it will make your life miserable in short and long run. As soon as you do it, you will realize that it is a huge mistake. It will give you all these little short tangled strands that will suck your soul away… so back on track. Find the bind off edge. The yarn end will look like a little lump or a little end sticking out. It should be woven into the ribbing of the collar, go ahead and unweave it and the bind off edge should come unraveled pretty easily.

From there, take out the seams in the following order:


You will then have these pieces:


The arms are pretty straight forward, same as the collar, find the bind off edge, unweave the woven in end and wind it off. The sweater front and back are a little different. You will unbind the one shoulder, then the next, then the bottom of the neck edge.

If you have a ball winder, this is a great time to use it. Just slip the yarn end in and wind your yarn right up.

Look at all this great yarn I salvaged from this one sweater:

Another great use of sweaters from the thrift store is to felt them. Diane of the Crafty Pod talks all about it here in this great post she wrote up about it.

And that’s it for today. I am going to spend the rest of the evening updating green prairie fibers so check that out tomorrow around noon and I’ll see you all tomorrow evening here!
++ Kristin Roach ++