Thursday, January 10, 2013

tips for unkinking and reusing yarn

So, sometimes project don't turn out as well as you think they will. This seems especially true with sweaters. Even after having made quite a few, things happen during knitting that just don't line up with creating a well-fitting masterpiece. This happened to me with this sweater.

Maybe it's cute at first glance, but the raglan increases were a bit messed up and that. yarn. It's lovely yarn from Quince Co. called "Puffin," but it's SO heavy. I think you need to live in Scandinavia for it to be useful. Even here in Portland where it stays pretty cool all of the time I don't need super duper bulky sweaters. Plus, bulky is rarely flattering. 

Anyway, being a responsible knitter (ha!) I vowed I would take this out so I could reuse the yarn for something different, like a blanket. Bulky yarn is great for blankets - they knit up quickly and they don't have to flatter :) 

Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones or maybe I didn't eat enough breakfast or something, but I actually got around to ripping this out this morning!! Here are the steps I took and maybe they'll help you out. 

What you need: 
-a hand-knit sweater you never wear (or a thrifted hand-knit sweater would be great, too!)
-crochet hook (helpful for taking out the woven-in ends)
-yarn swift (or back of a wood chair would work ok)
-clothes steamer 
-something to steam upon - like the pad that may have come with your steamer, an ironing board, etc.
-hooks or clips
-filtered water

1. Using your crochet hook and hopefully remembering how you knit your sweater to begin with, start taking out the woven ends where you bound off for your project. For me, this was the bottom of the sweater, because it was knit top-down. Of course, if you are doing this to a thrifted sweater it may take a little time to figure out. Bulky yarn projects are great and are easy to see the ends :) *Turn on your steamer now so it heats up before you need it later.

2. As you CAREFULLY pull out the stitches, wind the yarn around your yarn swift or the back of the wooden chair. 

This will begin to help unkink the yarn, but only a bit. It's mostly helpful because you need the yarn in skeins, rather than in wound balls. 

3. Once you've finished one skein of yarn, tie each loose end around the skein to secure. Remove the skein carefully from the swift. Kinky!!

You can see that this might not look awesome when you go to reknit it, so you'll want to steam out those kinks. Many tutorials I've seen before suggest hanging it in the bathroom and turning the hot shower on. Not only do I think this would take FOREVER, but it also wastes a ton of hot water. Of course, if you don't have a clothes steamer, this could be a good option for you. Do what you have to do to save that lovely yarn.

4. Place your skein on a hook or with clips onto your steaming surface. My Shark steamer came with this handy steaming pad that not only hangs on the door, but has a hook at the top. I'm sure you could fashion something similar with a towel and some chip clips :)

5. Steam the yarn with the steamer, while either clipping the bottom of the skein or pulling it with your free hand. You might find holding it is easier so you can turn the skein over a bit while steaming. Don't worry, as long as you don't rub around on the yarn, it shouldn't felt. Felting is due more to agitation rather than just hot water. *Disclaimer: Just use caution! If you are a flamboyant steamer you may want to take it a bit easy...

6. Replace the steamed skein onto your yarn swift. Let it dry here. You could also leave a skein clipped tightly on your steaming surface, to take care of two at once. Because I didn't get my yarn that wet, mine only needed to dry for an hour or so. If yours gets very damp, leave it overnight. Or, you may get really nice results if you leave it longer regardless. I couldn't wait to steam more skeins :)

7. After it's dry, remove the skein, twist it a few times as you hold both ends and then let it twist over on itself. Tuck one end in the other. Yes, I worked at a yarn shop and you learn this pretty much on your first day. Helpful to know! Voila! You have 'brand new yarn!'

8. Go peruse Ravelry for projects to make with your revived yarn. This is the most fun!

Here are some I may use mine for:

Chouette (this was already in my queue!)

Franchement's Last Minute Slouch Hat

Brickstreet blanket by the lovely Stephen West

I'm so thrilled to have this yarn again. Try it out, won't you? Send me what you decide to knit with your repurposed yarn!


  1. Great minds post alike!