Unraveling a sweater--recycling yarn?

I read you can unravel a sweater and resue the yarn so I decided to try it. I bought several sweaters from a local thrift shop. One was black wool and very soft. It unraveled easily and now I have tons of good yarn. Another was sleeveless pink angora with lightweight yarn that was so frustrating I decided to scrap the whole thing! Another is a XXL pink angora cardigan that I’m seriously afraid to even try because of my bad experience with the first angora. I also have a cream 70% lambswool/ 30% angora sweater that unraveled well but the shoulder seams were serged so around 30% of the yarn was unusable. I also got a natural wool sweater that feels kind of like mohair but I haven’t tried to unravel it yet. I got a blue mohair sweater but it doesn’t seem to want to unravel. I also got a baby pink cashmere sweater (for only $2!) but the yarn is lightweight and I’m still traumatized from the lightweight angora sweater.

Does anyone have any tips for unraveling the lightweight yarn? I don’t want to ruin another sweater.

I did the same thing with a thrift store angora sweater. It is just SO delicate and breaks so easily that unraveling it proves to be very challenging, if not impossible. I know I haven’t had luck with it - I chucked the whole thing in the garbage :wall: . For recycling sweaters, I tend to stick with strong fibers (wool, cotton, even acrylic blends) and worsted to bulky yarns. Anything else isn’t really worth the pain for me!!!

I’ve still not yet done this! I must start hitting thrift shops and Goodwill!

Mohair is very difficult to unravel! I have read that putting it in the freezer first for a bit helps, but I haven’t tried that… I generally avoid most mohair although I have unraveled a few that were mohair blends. Sometimes stretching the sweater side to side can help “break loose” the fibers.

For the very fine fibers… only do them if you are ok with a couple of things. One, multiple smaller balls, because they will break some! I love using these yarns mixed with others, so I still buy and reclaim them, but you won’t get lots of big balls of yarn with no breaks. Where heavier yarns can usually be wound right from the sweater with no or little help, the finer fibers sometimes need to be pulled loose more gently by the row and then wound. I’ll sometimes make a small puddle of yarn pulling it loose and then wind the puddle, repeat.

Second, sometimes gently stretched sideways to help “undo” the stitching and break away tiny angora fibers can help.

I have found one or two sweaters that were SO fragile they weren’t worth the effort, but for the most part, I have been able to take them apart without them taking a huge amount of time.

The yarn will be too thin to use alone (except for VERY fine lace knitting) but a thin strand of angora or cashmere fills in and softens other fibers very nicely!

I just finished knitting (still in the blocking process) a child’s sweater with yarn from a recycled angora and silk sweater. I used a double strand of the yarn from the sweater to knit with.

Mama Bear

I’ve never done this, but I love the idea. My question is, how do you know where to start unraveling? I assume it would be on an edge somewhere, but is there a really easy way to tell? Or is it best to just pick a spot, clip a stitch, and go from there?

I think I’ll be thrift-store shopping tomorrow! :happydance:

Google “recycling yarn tutorial.” I’m too lazy to do it myself. The first hit should be for Nuevo-something, and she has an excellent tutorial about how to recycle sweaters, what to look for in a sweater, how to do it, etc.

I have a friend who frequents thrift shops. She once got away with an angora sweater which she later proceeded to unravel. It was indeed a fine yarn, but she did it. Pam got at least one pair of socks out of it.

(The angora had been dyed a bright orange. I could see those socks a mile away!)

I could easily understand why there may sometimes be difficulty in taking apart items previously knitted… whether it be angora or mohair. Both of these fibers have a lovely ‘bloom’ about them after knitting/wear. It is those tiny ends which easily become entangled and will tend to tear when you attempt to ‘undo’.

Thanks, that’s extremely helpful!

I’ve been recycling sweaters for about a year now. So far, I’ve got about 6 lbs. of fine to worsted wool and 1 1/2 lbs. of sportweight alpaca. I love recycling sweaters for several reasons: it’s a fantastic sweater construction tutorial, you can try yarns that you wouldn’t ordinarily get to use, and you can get a ton of yarn for WAY less than LYS or even craft store prices!

Some ideas for thrift shopping:

  1. Check the seams! Make sure they’re not serged, first of all, unless you like knitting with 3-foot strips of yarn. If they’re not serged, check the underarm seam. I’ve had to toss a good bit of yarn because the underarm areas were felted.

  2. Check the fiber. I’ve decided not to waste my time on acrylic or nylon. (But if you’re okay with that, go ahead.) Cotton…maybe. I haven’t had good luck with it so far, but I may try again after I use up some of my stash.

  3. Light yarn is easier to unravel than dark yarn, especially with yarns that aren’t as smooth.