I’ve been intrigued by the idea of unraveling old sweaters to reclaim the yarn for other projects for awhile now. And with my plans to attempt yarn dyeing in the near future, the two notions seem to dovetail nicely. What better thing than to unravel a thrift store sweater, dye it, and then make into a very cool, completely different object?

So yesterday morning I took a box of old clothes to Unique Thrift Store. Of course, it was just an excuse to go dig through the sweaters. I came away with five, four of which are dyeable with labels like Banana Republic, Express and even a super soft Ralph Lauren angora. The fifth is a soft, dark mottled acrylic that I can’t dye since it’s not an animal fiber. I just liked the yarn. Those five sweaters cost me a whopping $15. I figure that for $3 a pop, I don’t really care if my initial attempts at unraveling are complete disasters.

Of course, I couldn’t resist ripping into one of them right away. I was so excited that I forgot to take a “before” photo, but it wasn’t anything special. It was an off-white chunky 100% merino wool cardigan with a few cables on the front. What I thought was a bulky yarn turned out to be three strands of what looks to be fingering weight yarn held together, which probably was not ideal for my first attempt at unraveling a sweater, but in the end I wound up with five hanks of soft but very kinked, 3-ply super bulky merino.

Reclaimed Yarn from a Thirft Store Sweater

Here’s a closer shot of a single hank.

Merino Wool Yarn Recycled from a Thrift Store Sweater

Basically, I wound these into balls as I pulled the yarn out of the sweater, then wheeled it onto my swift, which was attached to the back of a chair so that it ran kind of like a ferris wheel. Tied it off in three places to keep it from getting tangled, twisted them all up and voila.

Later, I soaked them in a dish soap solution, then let them hang dry to get the kinks out:

Reclaimed Merino Wool Yarn

Yes, those are canned goods that I’m using for weights. (And no, I haven’t taken down my Christmas stockings yet. Shut up.) Once they’re straight and dry, they’ll be twisted back up into hanks until I’m ready to dye them.

I’m hoping I can accomplish something a bit like this yarn by tilly4u on Ravelry. It was done entirely with Kool-Aid and food coloring. Gorgeous.

Kool-Aid Dyed Yarn by tilly4u

If you’re interested in how to unravel sweaters to recycle the yarn, check out these great tutorials:
How to Unravel a Sweater to Recycle Yarn by Neauveau Fiber Art
How to Recycle Yarn from a Thrift Store Sweater by Craftstylish