One of my favorite ways to save money on yarn is by salvaging it from scarves, shawls, sweaters, etc.. Each time I visit the thrift store, I keep an eye out for anything knit, especially sweaters (because sweaters=tons of yarn!). I often end up finding hand-made items knit by some well-intentioned grandmother, that are too big, too hideous, or too scratchy to be worn. Thus, they end up in the $2 bin.
However, for thrifty knitters like me, this bin does not mark the end of the line for these knitwear pieces. With a little creativity, I've turned numerous monstrous knits into beautiful, usable, yarns, and I'm going to show you how, so you can do it too.
If you're going to deconstruct a sweater, you first need to find the right sweater.
- First and foremost, you must find a sweater made of a good yarn, i.e. something you actually want to knit with. I suggest sticking with worsted weight or heavier yarns, unless you like knitting lace.
- Second, make sure the yarn is in good shape. If it is littered with pills, that's a sign the yarn has lost a lot of fibers and has weakened (and will probably break if you try to unravel it). If it has poor stitch definition, the yarn has likely felted after numerous washes, and again, will probably break or snag if you try to unravel it.
- Finally, make sure it has good seams. When considering a sweater to deconstruct, look at the seam running down its side. You want to find sweaters that have been darned together, creating a neat seam. If you see a seam along the inside with frays and tons of thread, that means the piece has been sewn and cut. Sweaters that have been sewn and cut cannot be deconstructed.
Luckily, for this demo I found a sweater with both types of seams, so I can show you what to look for. Most the of seams on this sweater are darned, but the shoulder seams have been sewn.
Now that we have a sweater with a) beautiful yarn, b) no pilling or poor stitch definition, and c) the right seams, let's begin.
Face the seam head-on, and stretch it apart to find the darning thread connecting the two sides. It will look like bars, or a little ladder running up the seam. Use a seam ripper to rip through one "bar".
Once you have ripped the seam, being careful not to cut any of the sweater itself, the entire seam can be unraveled.
Using this seam-ripping technique, take apart the side seams, sleeve seams, and around the armholes.
Since we can't use this technique with the sewn shoulder seams, we now need to cut. Using small scissors, and following a row of stitches, cut across the sweater body to eliminate the useless shoulders.
The final piece to dissemble now is the turtleneck from the shoulders. I follow a similar protocol as above, ripping the seam and removing the connecting yarn, but you'll note that this seam looks a bit different.
With the sweater now in pieces, and the shoulder scraps thrown away, we can begin collecting the yarn.
For the sleeves, find the working yarn at the top (or snip one of the top stitches to get it started) and pull. For the body, you will need to clear away the scraps from the stitches you cut while detaching the shoulders.
Simply pulling on the working strand should now unravel the sweater. However, if you find any difficulty, such as the yarn running through loops and becoming trapped in other stitches, you may need to try dissembling from the bottom (as the sweater may be knitted from the top-down, rather than bottom-up).
Now that you've identified the working strand,
pull, pull, pull.
Every sweater is knit/constructed differently. So, if you come across knots or weaves not mentioned in this tutorial, you'll have to take a step back, identify the darning yarn from the working yarn, and snip carefully.
If you followed this tutorial, then congratulations! You've just deconstructed a sweater. Enjoy your new yarn, and leave a comment letting me know how it went!