A few weeks ago I was came close to despairing at the cost of nice yarn. Like any knitter, I love knitting with quality, animal-fiber yarns but our slim budget doesn't really allow for buying specialty yarns. Then I remembered how, back in January, I had some beautiful results with reused, hand-dyed yarn from a thrift store sweater. Finally, I decided to try to stock my yarn cupboard this fall with more gorgeous upcycled yarn.
First I needed to find the right sweater to unravel. I found this 100% lambswool sweater at the Salvation Army for $2.99. It was perfect for what I needed - unfelted, large and with simple seaming. After picking apart the seams carefully, I unraveled each piece and wound them into long skeins.
Next, I soaked the wool skeins in the sink for half an hour while I mixed up the dyes. For this batch, I just used Kool-Aid (and knock-off store brand powdered drink mixes). They make bright, beautiful color-fast dyes. Kind of scary when you think that kids are drinking that stuff!
Then I poured the dye over the wool skeins in stripes, pressing the dye in by hand to make sure it penetrated all layers. My hands ended up as brightly colored as the yarn!
With one of the skeins I tried an experiment that I saw somewhere else online. I poured blue dye into one half of a casserole dish, and green in the other half. Then I placed the skein in the dish, folded up, and let it soak up the dye without moving it around. This worked fairly well, but it did leave some areas un-dyed. Fortunately the small amounts of white worked well with the sea-colors of the finished yarn. I'm hoping to make some sea-monster items out of this yarn!
After the yarn was thoroughly dyed, I took it out to the back yard to cook in the warmth, sun-tea style. Heat helps the yarn absorb the dye and make it colorfast.
After a couple hours in the sun I brought the yarn indoors, rinsed it thoroughly (although the yarn had absorbed the dye so well that not much rinsed out), and hung it to dry. Do you like my improvised drying rack which doubles as a floor lamp?
To measure the yarn my husband screwed a couple bolts into a board 18" apart. This was a rather tedious way of finding out approximately how many yards were in a ball of yarn, and hopefully I'll be able to come up with a better way later on. Nevertheless, I discovered that with this particular yarn 250 yards = 2.3 oz = 65 grams.
Most of the yarn I wound up on my new Lacis Ball-winder - my favorite new tool! It really sped up the process of winding from skeins, plus the balls are very attractive. Although the balls vary in size somewhat (such must be the case when using recycled yarn) I made sure that each ball had at least 250 yards.
And there you have it, an old sweater turned into a beautiful, bright pile of yarn! The only question remaining is - how does it knit? And what about felting?
Well, here is a pair of t-strap booties that I knit with large needles in order to felt them. Kind of misshapen at first...
These Mary Janes were knitted on small needles, so they are close in size to the felted booties. Another style, same yarn.
Suggested retail: $7/250 yard ball of yarn, and $15 each for a pair of simple booties like these.
Stay tuned for more dye lots and projects with upcycled sweaters. I've got a lot more in the works that I'll be posting as the weather cools down and our thoughts turn to stylish warm accessories!