Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tutorial: Cutting Felted Sweaters into Yarn

I received another question on Ravelry that I am going to answer here (with the questioner's permission, of course).

Here's the question:
How did you frog/cut the recycled sweaters into yarn?
I have been re-purposing materials for years. So glad I have a rotary cutter and mat. Can I make yarn from old fleece robes and sweatshirts? 
The questioner, verbosemom on Ravelry, was asking about my (free!) Sediment pattern, a blanket made from scraps and recycled materials. It looks like this:

More importantly, though, it started out looking like this:

So the knitter's question was, first, how did I make those yarn balls from what used to be sweaters? (See those moss-green balls in the middle, for example? Those were a wool sweater that I cut into yarn.)

To Make Felted Wool Yarn via Cutting

1. Buy a 100% wool sweater (or any animal fiber sweater: wool + mohair, for example, would do. For cashmere sweaters, see below.*)
2. Throw it in the washing machine to felt it. Felting makes the fibers cling to each other so that, when you cut, the wool doesn't unravel. 
3. Dry it in the dryer.
4. Lay the sweater out flat. Using sharp shears, cut the sleeves off straight in line with the body, so the sweater is now a rectangle. (A sleeveless sweater would work, too.) Next, cut straight across the body at the armholes, removing the yoke of the sweater from the body. Now you have a tube where the body of the sweater is.
5. Starting at the bottom of this tube, cut in a spiral. Cut thinner than you think you should, to the point where the yarn almost gives way and breaks—but doesn't. Cut in this spiral, around and around, for ever and ever, until you reach where the top of the tube. This process should create a lot of yarn.
6. You can cut each sleeve in a spiral as well. More yarn.
7. Lastly, lay the yoke of the sweater flat. Trim off any sharp corners. As best you can, cut the yoke in a spiral too.
8. Done! You now have lots of yarn. It will be super-chunky most likely, unless the sweater you started with was of a super-fine gauge. 

*The Cashmere Exception

1. Follow the directions above for a cashmere sweater, but don't dry it in the dryer. You don't want to felt it to death.
2. You can cut the cashmere more finely to create a finer-gauge yarn. It might break some, but that's okay. Do some spit-splicing
3. Don't knit Sediment. Knit a hat or scarf or something really soft and cozy that will touch your skin.

Can I use a sweatshirt?

Verbosemom's next question had to do with cotton materials, such as a sweatshirt. To be honest, I've never tried. A sweatshirt is a knitted cotton, which, it would seem, might unravel some when cut. But the knit gauge is so fine, that it might not matter, especially if the sweatshirt is old and pilled. I wouldn't recommend using a woven cotton simply because it would be hard to knit with—there would be very little give in the material (knitting with cut denim is hard). 

Fortunately, verbosemom has agreed to give the sweatshirt project a try and show us here at the Knittyprofessors the fruits of her labor! Stay tuned for photos of her yarns and perhaps even the beginnings of a project.


Some experienced knitters have given us some wisdom on the sweatshirt question in the comments below, so check it out. Thanks, y'all!

-- Katie Rose


veronica said...

I've cut up sweatshirts and tee shirts and crocheted them into bath mats. They work really well and go in the washing machine. I just start at the bottom of the old garment and cut in a spiral to the top. It takes a while. beware of repetitive stress syndrom with the cutting, using scissors...

MommaLeah said...

I would imagine that fleece would work just fine as well. Just remember not to change your tension when knitting or crocheting because it will stretch. Leah