Acts of Knitting and Nerdery

This is the Ralph Lauren sweater I found at the thrift store last weekend. There’s a sort of nerdy glee that comes with the willful destruction of an expensive designer sweater.

80% Merino Wool, 13% Mohair, and 7% Nylon. It’s not felted, but it is extremely fuzzy and soft. The uberfuzziness is making the unraveling into slow work since fuzz likes to grab onto fuzz. It’s kind of like trying to unravel yarn made of velcro. But it’s all coming out in nice, long pieces of this gorgeous fuzzy yarn, so the extra effort has been totally worth it. Besides, it keeps me busy while I’m running through a Downton Abbey marathon (thank you, Amazon Prime!)

So far I’ve only unraveled the cowl, and it’s becoming clear that I’m going to get a crap-ton of yarn out of it.

Yes, “crap-ton” is a technical term. Highly technical.

Anyway, I’m going to wind up with a lot of fingering-weight yarn in this ultra fuzzy merino/mohair blend. Clearly it’s begging to be dyed. I’m thinking at least some of it will be done with a modified version of the ice cube method – dye a base color in the crockpot first, then use the ice cubes to paint on different shades, and possibly finish with an overdye pass to deepen or tone down as needed.

As to color, I’m thinking shades of green. Because clearly I don’t have enough green yarn. What about those seven unused cakes of Berroco pea soup mix fingering hanging out in my stash, you ask? Obviously those don’t count.

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