Friday, February 26, 2010

FINALLY - my adventures with reclaimed wool!

So I had heard of people taking apart sweaters and reusing the yarn to make new things, and I also learned how to dye yarn at a workshop at the knit-a-thon a while back... I thought I'd combine the two projects into one superproject, and share it with you..
I started by buying an off white 100% wool sweater at Value Village (called Savers in some places) for  $4.00 at a 1/2 price sale in January.  Read a few articles on how to take the sweater apart, and then gave it a go.....  Here's the sweater:

Next, I hunted down all the stitched seams, and discombobulated the sweater - that is, took my stitch ripper to all the stitched seams until the sweater was in several parts - the front body, the back body, each sleeve opened and flattened, and the bottom cuffs (it took me a bit to figure out they were seperate pieces from the body.

Next, I took FOREVER to figure out which end the sweater knitting had finished at, and picked apart the bottom row with the stitch ripper, making a HUGE mess, but I couldn't figure out how else to get things loose.... I ripped the edge loops a stitch at a time until I got a loose end of yarn that would pull apart from the sweater and keep going.  Failing to have a fancy nick-nack to wrap the yarn on as I went, I just wrapped it around my knee - which gave me a good 15 minutes at a time where I had a perfectly good excuse to make my partner chase after the kids instead of me:  "I'm sorry, dear, I can't move right now, I'm tied up!"

luckily the little coloured yarns added to this sweater were just tied one end to the other and sewed into place - very easy to pull out... the cats quite liked them, but they were too short to be useful for anything else except the kids' craft bin....  

In the end I had 4 HUGE ball-type thingies of yarn that looked like this:
all from $4 worth of sweater, remember.
This yarn is all kinky at this point from having lived in knitted formation for so long.  I'm keeping one ball exactly this way to do some curly blonde hair on a doll or two, but each other ball is getting a different treatment.

To dye the wool, first I needed to rewrap my yarn into a hank (or a skein - different people call it different things) - basically a big loop of yarn.  Again, failing to have a fancy tool for this, I opted to wrap the yarn around my swivel office-chair back - after a few loops I could sit on the adjacent couch and just spin the chair round and round until the yarn was gone - this took a LONG time - each of those balls is over 200 YARDS of plied wool yarn!  Luckily B loved the ride  :)
Then I tied the hank in 4 or so places with some acrylic yarn - I wanted to be able to see the tied on pieces after I dyed the yarn, so I didn't want the ties to be able to be dyed - the acrylic wasn't dyeable...This gave me a neat, yet still kinky hank of yarn that looked much like this:
  Then, I wasted a HUGE lot of time trying different types of dyeing styles.  Here's one way I tried:  soaking the yarn in tubs of vinegar and food colouring.  I soaked them for 30 hours and very little dye took..... what ended up working goes as follows:
I used wilton concentrated food colouring paste.  That's them in the three little tubs in the foreground.  I mixed the dyes in the big tubs with vinegar and water ( I think about 1 Litre of vinegar to about 8 Litres of water, but I don't think I necessarily needed that much) until a scoop of the mixture in a clear glass looked something like what I wanted (in this case, purple and green):

Then I poured the mixtures into big pots, and cooked each side of my hank of yarn in a pot over low-medium heat until the dye absorbed into the yarn - it was cool, cuz the water/vinegar mixture ended up almost colourless in the end, with coloured dye in it...  I dyed purple at one end, green at the other, and after those had cooled, I did red in the middle: 
You can still see how the yarn is a bit kinky, and definitely unevenly stretched out.  To fix this, I hung the yarn to dry around a coat hanger in my laundry room and actually hung a 2 lb hand weight in the loop to stretch out the yarn as it dried!  In the end, I had a beautiful hank of hand-dyed 100% wool yarn.
However, it is impossible to actually create anything with a hank of yarn, so I rolled it into a centre pull ball (didn't know I could do that either) - Basically you grab one end in your fingers, and wrap an entire ball around the thumb of that hand - wrap around your thumb 20 or so times, give the yarn on your thumb a 20 or so degree turn, repeat, until all yarn is balled.  In the end, pull your thumb out of the ball, and the yarn end that you have in that hand is the centre pull yarn
This one huge ball of yarn has created a crocheted pair of sheepskin-soled booties and a matching ear flap hat for a small baby - and there's still TONS of it left.  And don't forget, there are still 3 other balls the same size that I haven't done anything with yet!   All for 4 bucks!  And another piece of preexisting material is saved from landfill and turned into more beautiful useable things with non-toxic materials that I already had in my home!  How much does THAT rock?!!
The booties and hat are available HERE for sale at my shop!


  1. This is great! Love how you had your real life (the kids) in some of the photos. Great items, and Happy recycling!

  2. Reminds me of my mother and what she used to do - not the dyeing part though. And this on mothers day - lovely - thanks!
    from Sue (somethingxtraspecial - etsy)