« A Knitting Illusion | Main | The Plymouth Napa Question »

May 23, 2005

The Great Unraveling

This weekend I turned a sweater into sock yarn. One might think that the unraveling process would be tedious. Actually I found it quite engaging..

The sweater beforehand was this striped number from Old Navy. I purchased it 2 Christmases ago for like $15.


It fit great, but the sweater basically self-destructed. Being from Old Navy, I didn't expect it to last long, and it sure didn't. Holes developed in random places, and the bottom ribbing started to detatch itself. I tried to wear it a few more times even with the holes - Lars said "this is Williamsburg - you can wear it." Eventually I gave it up but kept it around to maybe knit another sweater with the same fit.

This weekend I saw it up in my closet while cleaning and decided it needed a new purpose in life. The gauge looked like it could be sock yarn, so sock yarn it became!

Check out the extended entry for an image-intense story of the sweater's demise..

Here's how it went down.

The first thing I did was separate all the pieces. The seams were done with a crochet-type closure, which rocked because that means you can just pull one end to undo the whole thing. There were nine separate pieces.


The ribbings were knit with a double thickness of yarn, so I undid those first, frogging and winding directly onto my ever-helpful yarn winder thing. I tied knots for yarn joins, later splicing them.



The rest of the sweater was knit in a single thickness of yarn, which would have been appropriate for size 0 needles. I wasn't really up for that, so I undid the front/back and sleeves in pairs to get a double yarn thickness that matched the ribbing.


At first, I thought it would be a cool idea to maintain the striping patterns from the sleeves into a pair of socks, but then I decided this was an ill-fated plan. Its not like this was a handknit whose spirit needed to be maintained. It was from Old Navy. and likely to drive me mad trying to match up sock striping.


The whole unraveling process was seriously, and surprisingly, interesting. Because the yarn was on the fragile side, I needed to watch constantly to prevent breakage. This would occur if it got stuck in any way, like on the edges for example. It was a very meditative activity. I was so into it that I nearly missed Saturday afternoon shopping plans!

I washed them, and hung them out to dry outside. There were 4 hanks: one from the ribbing, two from the front/back, and one from the sleeves. By attaching the top and bottom of the hanks to the ladder on the fire escape, no weight was needed.


That's the story! I've already started some cabled socks from the yarn, but that's another entry...

Comments (17)

Very cool. I've yet to try recycling a sweater, but maybe someday. I can't wait to see the socks you knit from this yarn, the colors are great.

Way to get your money out of the sweater!

Very cool--I love recycling and repurposing. Can't wait to see the resulting socks.

Take care :)

I need to try this, I have seen wonderful results. I can't wait to see the socks! Bring them on!

Wow! You have way more initiative and energy than I have.

You see that's why I love reading this blog. I am so lazy I could never do that....off to the Salvo's it would go! But you...too good.

I've been wanting to recycle one of my once favourite sweaters. It's from Banana Republic and yummy angora. It now looks like crap though and very pilled! Thank's for the inspriration!

I sometimes find frogging relaxing also!

Can't wait to see what you create. I really like the colour combo it has going on.

Way to reuse something that might otherwise end up in a landfill. The color combination is great; I wonder if you'll incorporate both colors into one pair of socks?


I am glad you are reusing! And to find sock yarn like that.. who knew! You are such an incredile knitter I have to say. Those pictures of Orangina down below are just so beautiful are perfect. I hope someday I will knit like you!

Wow! What patience you have! I frogged one of self-made sweaters once and I almost knocked a wall down with frustration. I can't even imagine frogging a store bought sweater. But good job! Enjoy the yarn!

Wonderful! I always wondered what the individual pieces look like after the sweater is taken apart - I guess they look just like when we knit them before seaming, hehe :). Can't wait to see the socks!

By the way, love the new logo and the linkadink button!

cool. you have way more patience than i do!

I really love the colours! Your socks are going to be beautiful. :-)

Love your step by step recycling photos! What a way to go!

very cool! i want to try that one day!


I think I'm most impressed that an Old Navy $15 sweater was actually from single pieces of yarn; I would have figured they'd be knitted on a very wide industrial knitting machine and serged so as to not fall apart. Good job spotting the potential! Hopefully the yarn is not so fragile as to cause you difficulty when you knit it up into its next incarnations...



diana AT streetsandyos DOT com