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How to Recycle Yarn

By: Jane Pullen - Updated: 6 Jan 2011 | comments*Discuss
How To Recycle Yarn

Instead of buying brand new knitting and crochet yarn why not try recycling yarn by reclaiming yarn from a knitted or crocheted garment, blanket or other item? This is a great way to save money and is also a good green crafting idea as it helps to reduce waste.

Types of Yarn to Recycle

Any type of yarn can be recycled. It does not matter if the original item has a stain or hole as any unusable yarn can simply be discarded. Items made with good quality yarns such as wool or cotton can give many years of wear and are often discarded before they are worn out. Recycling gives the yarn a new lease of life.

The key to the successful recycling of yarn is in the preparation of the yarn ready for reuse. When yarn is well prepared the end result is beautiful straight pieces of yarn ready for knitting or crocheting with. When it is not well prepared the yarn is full of kinks and tangles. This is difficult to work with and also creates uneven knitting and crochet.

How to Recycle Yarn

Before starting, wash the item well following the recommendations for the yarn type. It is important to pay special attention when washing wool. Wool can easily felt and it is difficult to reclaim the yarn from felted products.

  • If a garment is being recycled carefully unpick any sewing to separate the garment into pieces. If other items are being recycled, such as blankets or non-clothes, remove any borders or edgings.
  • Carefully untie the knot securing the knitting or crochet. It may be necessary to snip into the stitching if the knot cannot be found.
  • Pull on the yarn to unravel the stitches. Make the yarn into skeins by wrapping it around a suitable object such as a chair back. Another convenient way to make skeins is to wrap the yarn around the elbow and hand.
  • Cut away and discard any very stained or worn sections of yarn.
  • Each time an end in the yarn is reached either start a new skein or tie the ends of the yarn together with a secure knot. When finishing a skein, tie it loosely in three or four places to stop the yarn from getting tangled.
  • Keen unravelling the yarn until the whole garment or item has been unravelled.
  • Make sure all the skeins are securely tied separately. Soak the skeins of reclaimed yarn in warm water over night. This will relax the kinks in the yarn that have been formed by the original stitching. Hang the yarn up to dry. The weight of the wet yarn will help to pull the yarn straight and make it easy to work with in future projects.

Tips for Recycling Yarn

  • Look for items to recycle in jumble sales and charity shops, however remember to check the construction of the garment or item first. If an item has been made from knitted fabric and has cut edges it will be difficult to reclaim the yarn as the yarn will be in many small pieces.
  • Look for smooth yarns, such as plain wool and cotton. Fancy yarns and yarns such as mohair are difficult to reclaim.
  • If the yarn still has kinks after it has been processed then repeat the soaking process, however add weight to the yarn when it is drying to help to pull the kinks from the yarn.
  • Keep small pieces of yarn as these can be combined with other yarns and used in projects.
  • Yarns can be over dyed and this is a great way to change the colour of a yarn. The colour of the original yarn will affect the finished colours and this can produce interesting results. Dye the yarn when it is in skeins to get the most consistent colour.

Recycling yarn is a great way to find unusual and luxury yarns to work with. While the process takes a little effort, the end results make up for this.

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