Thursday, July 21, 2011

Unraveling a Sweater Part 2: Picking a Sweater (Everything Else)

Yesterday I was in a shopping mood. I ordered a few different things all related to fiber. I can't wait for them to get here and to show them all to you! I won't tell specifically what I got yet, but I got a book, some fiber, and a drop spindle. Expect some reviews in the near future!

Today I'm going to continue my series on recycling yarn from sweaters. This is part two, and you can find part one here.

How to Unravel a Sweater Part 2 – Picking A Sweater (Everything Else)
We left off with analyzing the fiber content of the sweater, but there is still so much more to take into account when deciding if a sweater is worthy of your time and effort. Here are the last few things you need to check before you even touch a seam ripper.


Sweaters are made two ways: either the pieces are knitted (hand or machine) into the shape of each piece and they are sewn together, or large rectangles are knitted and the pieces are cut to fit the shapes needed. The latter situation is what is problematic for us “repurposers”, as if you try to unravel a sweater constructed in this way, you will end up with several short strands of yarn instead of one continuous strand. The way you can tell if your yarn will come out in one piece is to look at the seams. If the seams are serged, then they were cut and sewn together, which is not what you want. If you don’t know what a serged seam looks like, look at the inside of your t-shirt , jeans, or whatever you have laying around. Do you see some seams that look like they have lots of “V”s going over the edge of the fabric that prevent it from fraying? Those are the seams we’re talking about. In a knitted garment, the seams we can use will not have those “V”s crossing over them, and you can separate the two sides from each other. The only place where serged seams aren’t really a problem when unraveling a sweater is at the shoulders. A lot of times, a sweater will have most of the seams sewn together, while the shoulders are serged for more stability. You can cut the sweater at the shoulder seams and only lose a few inches, because it will most likely unravel from the top to bottom.

Color Changes

If you have a sweater with multiple colors, it might be best to skip it. If there are lots of stripes or fair isle, you’ll end up with small strands of yarn. If, however, there are only two or three large horizontal stripes and you don't mind having smaller amounts of different colors, then maybe it is worth it to you to unravel it.


Check your sweater for any damage. A hole or small stain might not be problematic if it’s near the top or bottom and you don’t mind losing a bit of yarn. If there are multiple stains or holes, it is probably best to not mess with it. Even if you plan on overdyeing, the stains will dye darker than the unstained yarn. Also be sure to check for any signs of felting, especially in the armpits, which can be subjected to warmth, moisture, and friction. If your sweater is felted, you can’t unravel it.

The Obvious Stuff

Sometimes you can get so excited that you've found a sweater that meets all of your requirements that you forget some of the obvious things that make a huge difference. Do you like the color? If not, can you overdye it? Do you like how the fiber feels? If the answers are no, then even if it's okay to unravel, you might not even use it, and are further wasting your time.

The next part of the series we will actually take apart a sweater!