How to Reuse Yarn – Full Tutorial

How to Reuse Yarn |

I don’t often do tutorials, but I have recently learned SO MUCH about how to reuse yarn from a knit that I had to share it with you guys. In particular because I’ve finally decided to turn my Delineate Tank into a Manzanilla Sweater, using the Spirit Trail Fiberworks yarn that I loved so much the first time around. I had almost two full skeins leftover from the original project, so this sweater will be a mix of unused yarn AND recycled yarn, which will have its own considerations. First, let’s recycle the yarn.

Types of yarn- the ‘stickier’ a yarn is, the harder it is to rip back. if there is any mohair or angora in it, it will be cling to the stitches, and not want to be easily undone. It can still be done, but you’ll need to go more slowly.

You will need:

  • the knit
  • wool wash (my favourite is Eucalan)
  • a crochet hook or blunt tapestry needle
  • some waste yarn
  •  a sink
  • a towel

A note about the wool wash, in case you are wondering why I’m declaring Eucalan as my fave: I’ve tried other kinds, but I always come back to Eucalan because I get a lot of product for the price, which means more washes. It’s totally biodegradable and made with natural ingredients, and I also really like that the cap and top of bottle seem to magically stay clean and never get gummed up or sticky. My favourite scents are Pink Grapefruit and Jasmine Wrapture, but I’m using classic Eucalyptus scent for this tutorial.

Step 1

If you look closely at your hems and where you bound off, and pull a bit at the fabric, you will be able to see the tiny tail of where the ends were woven in. You can use a crochet hook or a blunt tapestry needle to begin pulling it loose, until you can then undo the cast off. If at any point prior to this you can’t find the end or the knot you pulled when you cast off was so tight there’s no way you’ll undo it, then you can always get some scissors and snip out the cast on edge.

How to Reuse Yarn |

Step 2

Start pulling. You may need to pause now and then, especially with flat knitting, as the sides tend to be a bit stickier.

How to Reuse Yarn |

As the yarn comes away, you will need to wrap it into a ball. If you have a yarn swift you can attach the loose end to the swift and unwind the sweater that way. But you can also just use your hand, like this:

How to Reuse Yarn |

You will need to make a new ball for each section of yarn that you have. So, as you are winding and come to the end of the skein in the knit, put that ball aside and start a new one with the new end that you find.

Step 3:

Once you have unwound and have all the balls of crinkly, ramen-noodle style yarn, you will need to get it ready for a bath. You can use a swift if you have one, but I used the backs of two chairs, one of which had the high chair on it. And it had so much crusted baby food and weird stains that I couldn’t bear to snap a photo. So, it should look like the photo in this link, where the chairs are clean. Then, using the waste yarn, loosely tie 2-3 sections of it to keep all the strand of yarn corralled together. This will be very important for keeping the yarn from becoming a snarled mess later on. It will look like this:

How to Reuse Yarn |

Step 4:

Bath time! Pour a capful of Eucalan into a sink filled with warm (not hot) water. Immerse the yarn.

How to Reuse Yarn |

You want to ensure that the yarn is fully saturated, and not floating on the surface. Push it down until it’s absorbed a fair quantity of water, and let it sit for about half an hour to help the fibers get fully relaxed. After 20 minutes, take a look at the yarn – is it still a bit crinkly? Then it needs more time. Continue soaking. If it’s relaxed, then drain the water (no need to rinse), squeeze out the excess water gently, and roll in a towel to remove more of the water. Hang to dry away from heat or light, a shower is a good place for this.

Step 5:

You can then wind your yarn into a ball, or into a hank, both are shown below. Here is a 1 min video showing how to wind your yarn into a hank (the long one that looks like a pastry), which is ideal if you aren’t going to be using it right away.

How to Reuse Yarn |

Hedgehog is just for visual interest. I was trying to get one of the cats to lay beside it, but when was the last time a cat did anything you wanted it to do?

Now, before you dive into your knit, if you have a mix of yarn you have recycled AND yarn that hasn’t been used (like me!), then you want to keep the following in mind. I would like to give a big shout out of thanks to Celeste, a previous commentor who emailed with me about this, and had wonderful tips to share.

  1. Cotton and acrylic might not change a lot in the process above, but wool, wool blends (and alpaca) can stretch a little or a lot.
  2. It could also have stretched a bit, if you hung your washed yarn up to dry, rather than laid it flat.
  3. Once a yarn is washed, it plumps up, filling in the space between fibers. Unwashed yarn won’t have done this yet. So you know that this will affect your….
  4. Gauge!! You will need to do a gauge swatch in both your washed yarn AND your unwashed yarn to compare, and see if there is any difference. There could be a very big difference, and you want to know before investing a sweater’s worth of time into a knit.

Then Celeste also suggested this brilliant step:

“Another way to do a quick check is to lay the two yarns parallel to each other. You likely won’t see a difference in thickness. If you do, then it’s a sure sign. What you’d want to look for is the twist of plies of the yarn. If you lay a ruler next to them count the times the plies curve over the yarn in 4″/10cm segment (like a swatch the larger the measurement the greater accuracy). Then do the same for the second yarn. If they match up perfectly you can choose where to go from there.”

Genius, right? So if your yarn is showing a difference, then simplest solution is to wash all of it, both the used and unused yarn. If it is treated the same way and more likely to behave the same from one skein to the next.

There you have it! How to reuse your wonderful, precious yarn. If you’ve invested all that time into creating a knitted piece, it should be something you love to wear. If it isn’t (once you have completed the 6 emotional stages of frogging a project) and you love the yarn, why not give it a new lease on life? You might knit something you can’t live without this time!

If you liked this tutorial and thought it was useful, Pin it!


Modification Monday: Baby Grizzly Sweater

Modification Monday: Baby Grizzly Sweater |

Original Patterns: Knits for Everybody Sweaters and Oh My Bear!

Knitter Extraordinaire: Hannah (Ravelry ID)

Mods: Changed the worsted weight sweater pattern to a fingering weight, and added the bear chart from Oh My Bear. You can see her project page here; but more details can be found on her blog post, here.

What Makes This Awesome: As Hannah says in her blog post, when you are knitting a simple (read: kinda plain) sweater, you have free reign to add all sorts of details. For those of you thinking, ‘oh, but intarsia…. I’ve never tried that!’ don’t worry, it’s not intarsia. it’s duplicate stitch. It’s like tracing over your knit stitches with a different colour, almost like cross stitch. And if you haven’t tried duplicate stitch before, a baby sweater is a great place to try it- the small scale means that it’s so much less intimidating than on a big sweater. I have to admit, I never think of duplicate stitching on a sweater, despite the fact that I utterly adore embroidered details, and I love knitting. Why haven’t I put these two things together?! I absolutely have to try this soon.

Modification Monday: Baby Grizzly Sweater |

Pin Ups and Link Love: My Favourite Things This Week


My Favourite Articles and Links This Week

Studies show that creating art reduces stress- even if you are totally lousy at it.

These 6 emotional stages of frogging a project are pretty bang on.

6 ways to grow older gracefully, no matter how old you are right now.

The missing key to productivity is reflection.

My Favourite Pins This Week

Pin Ups and Link Love: Salted Caramel Apple Fritter Bread |

Don’t let the loaf fool you- this is dessert, people. Serious, amazing, apple fritter consistency with a salted caramel glaze, this is the kind of dessert that is so quintessentially fall that only way to make it more fall would be to have a pumpkin spice latte with it. Pinterest link is here, and the original recipe is here.

Pin Ups and Link Love: Spinach and Ricotta Pasta |

You guys know how much I like quick dinners! This creamy pasta dish is budget friendly and comes together in a flash. Pinterest link is here, and the original recipe is here.

Pin Ups and Link Love: Cabled Throw Blanket |

One day, I’m going to knit a blanket. Maybe not for another decade or so, but one day. And when I do, it’s going to have cables like this beautiful throw blanket (free pattern, too!) Pinterest link is here, and the Ravelry link (which includes links to download in US or UK pattern (different pattern styles!) is here.

Pin Ups and Link Love: Rainbow Crochet Basket |

Rainbow crochet basket? Heck yes. It’s made with t-shirt yarn, so if you had a rainbow assortment of t-shirts , this might be just the right sort of upcycle project for you! Pinterest link is here, and the original tutorial is here.

Pin Ups and Link Love: Halloween Gingerbread Houses |

I love it when people make gingerbread houses at non-Christmas times, because it’s really so fun (and delicious!) and I’m in awe at the creativity of bakers! Pinterest link is here, and the original round up is here.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! Little James has had a stomach virus this week, so things have been a little hectic around here, as he wants to be held constantly, poor little thing. I’m hoping that by the time you read this he’s feeling better.

Review: The Arbor Collection & New Yarn

There’s been so much amazing discussion on my previous post, thank you all for sharing your thoughts and comments! In contrast to that $10 cotton/acrylic shawl, today let me present the total opposite. Remember, I’m a Yarn Omnivore!

This is pretty exciting drop from Brooklyn Tweed– a brand new yarn and a new accessories collection, designed entirely by Jared Flood. Let’s talk about the yarn first.  Arbor is Brooklyn Tweed’s newly-released DK weight yarn from American purebred Targhee sheep, available in 30 different colourways. The crew at BT were very kind and sent me a skein of Arbor in the Vintner colourway to test it out:

Arbor Collection Review |

Right away, what you notice is how much denser it is than Loft or Shelter, their other two yarns. It’s a crisp, high-definition yarn that seems really well suited to cables.  You can read the full description of the yarn here, particularly impressive is that if you are very keen to have entirely American yarn, then this is as American as it gets – sourced in Montana and South Dakota, Spun and Dyed in Maine. I think that this might actually be the yarn produced closest to me, living in Toronto, Canada). I cast on for the Queensland Beach headband, which has lovely cables, just to get some experience with it:

Arbor Collection Review |

Arbor Collection Review |

I have to say, I’m impressed. I’m pulling pretty hard on this yarn, and it is tough. If you had previously tried Shelter or Loft and found that you were too rough and it would break, you won’t find that with this one. However, I do find that the colour is quite flat. The yarn is very matte, and with the single fibers combed so straight and spun so tightly, strength has traded off depth of colour. But man, those are some crisp cables. Like biting into an apple. An apple made of cables.

Let’s take a look at the pattern collection, shall we? There are 9 patterns: three hats, two scarves, two shawls, one wrap and one cowl. I should note that Laurel, Burnaby HatGuernsey Wrap, and Terra have been previously published in other collections and have been worked in different yarns, and if you previously owned those patterns you will be automatically gifted the updated versions with the launch. I’ll go in depth on three of my favourites here, but if you want to know more about any of the patterns in the collection, leave me a comment and I’ll give you more info!

Arbor Collection Review |

Foundry, by Jared Flood

A richly textured scarf with buttons to help keep it closed, Foundry is a lushly cabled scarf with geometric designs and lots of modern style. Even the ‘wrong side’ of this knit is beautiful. Design is charted only.

You Should Totally Knit This If: You can’t decide if you love scarves or cowls, or want the option to create either. And if you are crazy in love with cables.  Like you doodle ‘cables’ and then draw hearts and smiley faces around it on your school binder.

You Should Definitely Not Knit This If: You aren’t that great with charts. Because this is an intensive chart. Highlighter tape was made for charts like these.

Arbor Collection Review |

Hirombe, by Jared Flood

A reversible hat with loads of deep ribbing and twisted stitches and super stretchy! Also a great unisex design. Hat is charted only, although the stitches are fairly simple.

You Should Totally Knit This If: You love hats that can be for him or her, the reversible factor piques your interest, and you love quick knits.

You Should Definitely Not Knit This If: I suppose if you don’t like close fitting hats. Some people aren’t hat people, I hear.

Arbor Collection Review |

High Pines, by Jared Flood 

I love a good cowl, and this one looks lovely. It’s got an interesting half twisted rib at the top and bottom, and the branching stitches and combination of knits and purls are like the topography of some beautiful, faraway desert. Design is charted only.

You Should Totally Knit This If: You love trying new-to-you stitches and love cowls as much as I do (I would totally doodle cowls and then draw hearts and smiley faces around them if I was in class), and you love texture.

You Should Definitely Not Knit This If: This is a pretty intense chart. You are absolutely going to need highlighter tape, a ruler, maybe a marker or two. The chart is 59 rows and although the design is repetitive, it travels. There’s a lot of potentially new stitches here, as well. You’ll need to keep the pattern key close by.

So what do you think about the new yarn,  do you think you will try it? and the patterns, do you have a favourite?

Why I’m Not Participating in Slow Fashion October

Why I'm Not Participating in Slow Fashion October |

I have mixed feelings about slow fashion October. I absolutely love that Karen is making sure to remind people that it isn’t about judgement and that it’s all about taking a more considered approach to what we buy and wear. Especially since many of us reading it are crafters who have the skills to create items for our wardrobes. I’ve loved the posts written by friends out in the knitting world about beloved items they have treasured, things they were so proud to make, and what they have accomplished by upping their crafting skills to produce beautiful, wearable garments.

It feels like the cool girl club, SFO. Even though it isn’t marketed as such- and there are loads of really insightful comments that I totally agree with in the link above, where Karen lays out the scope of SFO that is meant to be very inclusive and non judgmental. But I don’t see that inclusivity reflected back. 

This isn’t a critique on Karen. I think she is awesome and I love seeing women crushing it out there. I have a lot of time for women doing the things they love and making it work. It’s just almost inevitable, when you start a movement – and slow fashion October is indeed a movement – that not everyone is going to be included. It’s hard to have a movement that fits everybody. And if there’s a group of people that knows one size does not fit all, it’s those making their own garments. 


A lot of important conversations are happening about where wool comes from, about the practices, breed varieties, and these are all really good conversations to have. I love wool – wool that feels like it’s barely off the sheep and still has bits of straw in it. I can even wear it up against my throat, it doesn’t bother me. Wool has never felt scratchy to me. But my tremendous love of wool, of supporting small batch yarn, local farms when possible, and (when I’m in England) local UK yarns; doesn’t preclude plant fibers, or blends of man made fibers. There’s room in my knitting world for all sorts of yarn. Big brands, indie brands, no brand at all. I like to mix it up. 

There’s something to be said for checking in on craft store yarn from time to time. It is ground zero for where the majority of knitters buy their first yarn. For those in lower income brackets, it’s where they are still buying their yarn. While it’s important to consider where our yarn is made, and what it’s made from, it’s also important to remember that these aren’t considerations that everyone can afford. 

So I thought for slow fashion October, I’d go the other way with it- what are the big brands putting out these days? What yarns are hanging out in the aisles to entice occasional knitters, or new knitters? I’m rebellious that way. If there’s a bandwagon, I’m heading in the other direction.

May I present the opposite of Slow Fashion October (although I suppose maybe I am participating in Slow Fashion October? Can you be unintentionally participating?) … a totally experimental crescent shaped shawl I knit with a single skein of Lion Brand Shawl in a Ball that has no animal fiber in it whatsoever, and even has (gasp!) acrylic. This is the Calming Desert Colourway:

Why I'm Not Participating in Slow Fashion October |
There’s no pattern, I was experimenting with the yarn and wanted to see what it looks like as a simple, stockinette crescent with a bit of ribbing at the hem. I increased a bit too much though, and ended up with a C shape shawl, but that’s okay. The yarn is extremely lightweight and is comprised of 58% cotton, 39% acrylic, and 3% polymide (the website says ‘other’, but I emailed and asked. Knitters everywhere are so helpful!). I love the flecks of white throughout. 

Why I'm Not Participating in Slow Fashion October |

It’s pretty, soft, lightweight, and I really enjoyed knitting it. I imagine I’ll get a lot of wear from it, even though I needed a shark like I needed a hole in the head. It’s a single skein project and the skein costs $9.99 US ($12 CAN). It’s never been anywhere near a sheep, and that’s okay. If you are allergic to wool, on a tight budget but need to get your craft on, or want to knit something pretty for a friend who is addicted to their tumble dryer, then this yarn is for you, my friends. You can probably get it at any big craft store. Or online.

Why I'm Not Participating in Slow Fashion October |

You are still a knitter if you can’t afford the small batch artisan wool photographed on the reclaimed barn wood planks (does everyone else out there have a reclaimed barn or a perfectly weathered wooden patio for their photos except me?). If you buy your yarn from Knit Picks, Lion Brand, Rowan, or Berroco. If the cost of your hand knit sweater was only $40. There’s room at my lunch table for knitters who can’t afford the $25 skeins of yarn, or are only able to knit with them sometimes. That’s okay. I’m not a yarn snob. You can totally sit at my lunch table. Here’s a chair. 

  The ideas behind slow fashion are relevant all year long, and I hope that slow fashion October brings about more awareness for all of us on the choices we make when we buy. But as Karen always says, slow fashion isn’t about wearing our judgey pants. I might be loosely paraphrasing. But you get the gist. 

(disclaimer: this is only one facet of a huge conversation that has a lot of overlapping points of contact. I could also write a post about all the reasons you shouldn’t knit with acrylic, or why we need to only use small batch rare breed sheep wool, or why we need to support fast fashion but pester big brands for more accountability on their supply chain, etc. Also, I’m totally knitting with a small batch local yarn on one of my current knits in progress. Not sure if that makes me a hypocrite or a yarn omnivore.) 

p.s. Wonderfully wise words about knitting with wool when you are starting out from Clara Parkes, and the so-darn-smart-and-awesome-I-totally-want-to-be-her-friend designer Bristol Ivy talking about the privilege that needs to be remembered during SFO

Oh, and p.p.s – here’s a hilarious boomerang Guy took of me doing the salmon while wearing this shawl