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Topic: tips for salvaging yarn from thrift-store sweaters?  (Read 993 times)
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Sushi the Great
« on: June 04, 2007 08:49:04 AM »

I've heard of people unraveling thrift-store sweaters and reusing the yarn, and I wanted to try it so I bought a couple of sweaters this weekend.  Unfortunately they are machine knitted in such a way that you only get a foot-long length of yarn at a time before the piece ends.  I'm guessing they're done this way so the whole sweater won't unravel if you get a snag in it, but I was pretty disappointed.  Has anyone who has done this before have any tips on how to tell if a sweater is knitted normally?
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subloke
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2007 09:29:05 AM »

There is a thread on this here.  There are several good tutorials online as well.

That's too bad about the sweaters you got.  Could you felt them to re-use them that way? 
Good luck! 
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« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2007 09:34:20 AM »

sorry i don't have specific links, but if you google "how to recycle sweater yarn" you'll get a lot of information.

one of the first things (which you learned the hard way) is that not all sweater are "good' to unravel.

the first thing you'll learn is how to "read" the seams for those that can be unraveled.

don't give up because the first sweater wasn't what you wanted.

good luck
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« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2007 10:02:51 AM »

I've worked with pieces like that before. Are you saying the seams were serged so its coming off in pieces, or that when you cut it apart it starting coming off like that?

Two very different problems.

Anyway, I wanted to say I've used the pieces spun together with other yarns to make interesting stuff. That way, if you have to knot them together, it kinda blends in with the overall look of all of the yarns strung together (I'm talking like five-ten different strands at once). They look cool - think like the Swamp Witch from anticraft.
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soozeq
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2007 10:22:43 AM »

Or you could dye some of them and use the short lengths in a multicolor something or another...

sue
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Sushi the Great
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2007 11:04:24 AM »

I've worked with pieces like that before. Are you saying the seams were serged so its coming off in pieces, or that when you cut it apart it starting coming off like that?

Two very different problems.

I'm not sure.  On one of them I cut the seam out of the sleeve and started unraveling and the pieces would just stop once I got to the other end.  I'm guessing that one had serged seams.  On the other one the yarn was knotted at either end of a rib, it's sort of hard for me to explain properly. 

I've been trying to think of other uses for the sweaters if I can't use the yarn.  One is cotton/linen and the other is silk/cotton, so I wouldn't be able to felt them.
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ComradeSnarky
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2007 11:31:56 AM »

On the other one the yarn was knotted at either end of a rib, it's sort of hard for me to explain properly. 

There may be hope for unraveling this one.  I've found that ribbing won't unravel from the cast-on edge up; you should try unraveling it from the top down instead before you give up on it.
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dancingbarefoot
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2007 01:47:40 PM »

It's a misunderstanding that machine-knit sweaters cannot be unraveled without getting short strands of yarn. It's a) entirely possible to knit seamless garments on some knitting machines, and b) not the fact that a garment is machine-knit that makes unraveling it a problem. The problem is when the seams are done with a SERGER because it cuts the fabric as it sews. That would be a problem for hand-knit items as well. (I've heard many hand knitters tell me "Oh, this couldn't be machine knit because it's hand seamed" - boy are they wrong! The vast majority of sweaters in stores are machine knit whether they're hand seamed or serged.)

I've unraveled many, many machine-knit sweaters. You just have to find sweaters that are either seamless (many Banana Republic sweaters are, for example) or not put together with a serger. Just check the seams in the store and see if they're the kind you can take out (the most obvious way to spot them is to look for the tell-tale serger seam).
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« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2007 03:31:41 PM »

Look for sweaters that don't have serged seams. If they do, the pieces were cut out of a larger piece of knitted fabric and sewn together - useless for unraveling.

The kind of seams you want have a knitted selvedge and are sewn together the way you'd sew your own hand-knitted sweater. Do not cut these seams - that defeats your whole purpose.

It might take some careful inspection to find the yarn/thread that's holding the pieces together - it might be the same stuff that the sweater's made of, or it might be a little thinner. Try to spread the selvedges apart and see if you can spot a strand that runs back and forth between them. Once you find this, snip it with small scissors or a seam ripper. Sometimes you'll get lucky and find a chain-stitched seam that you can just pull at one end and unravel the whole thing. More often you'll have to pull it out meticulously, one stitch at a time. It takes patience - always be sure you're cutting the right strand.

J.Crew makes sweaters that are very easy to unravel, and the yarn is excellent quality. I've been lucky to find several of these lately in thrift stores (I wonder if they all belonged to the same person).
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« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2007 06:27:59 PM »

I've worked with pieces like that before. Are you saying the seams were serged so its coming off in pieces, or that when you cut it apart it starting coming off like that?

Two very different problems.

I'm not sure.  On one of them I cut the seam out of the sleeve and started unraveling and the pieces would just stop once I got to the other end.  I'm guessing that one had serged seams.  On the other one the yarn was knotted at either end of a rib, it's sort of hard for me to explain properly. 

I've been trying to think of other uses for the sweaters if I can't use the yarn.  One is cotton/linen and the other is silk/cotton, so I wouldn't be able to felt them.

Well, that could be part of the problem. On some sweaters the sleeves are wonky. I usually stop at the ribbing when I tear mine apart, its just too darn frustrating a lot of the time (esp. if its a fuzzy wool).

Quote
I've unraveled many, many machine-knit sweaters. You just have to find sweaters that are either seamless (many Banana Republic sweaters are, for example) or not put together with a serger. Just check the seams in the store and see if they're the kind you can take out (the most obvious way to spot them is to look for the tell-tale serger seam).

I would have to agree! J Crew sweaters tend to be good ones, as well as a lot of the slightly older Gap sweaters. I've also noticed esp. with wool, boys sweaters tend to be better. I get my cotton/cashmere in the womens section.  Cheesy
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