Recycling Yarn For Green Knitting (And A Giveaway!)

As MacKenzie touched on in her February 5th article, knitting is a great and relatively green hobby. My mom has found a way to make it even more eco-friendly –- by using recycled yarn.

Recycled yarn can be purchased, but she takes more of a do-it-yourself approach, buying sweaters at thrift stores to unravel and reconfigure. Watching my mom and sister shop for sweaters to recycle is pretty funny. They barely look at the clothes, instead walking down the row and touching a sleeve of each sweater. If a garment feels soft enough to meet their standards, they’ll stop and examine it, looking at the color, the label (if it has one), and the seams.

It’s important to check the label to find out what kind of yarn you’re getting, and what the laundering instructions are for that particular piece. Mom tends to favor acrylic yarn for its ease of care, but she has found some serious scores in her years of yarncycling, including a few mohair sweaters and one made from genuine (and initially expensive) alpaca wool.

It’s also important to check the seams. Some sweaters are put together using a serger or overlock sewing machine, which trims as it stitches. If you unravel a serger-seamed sweater, you’ll end up with a whole bunch of separate pieces of yarn, since every time a strand meets a seam, it is cut. With a sweater assembled using a chain stitch, you end up with long, continuous strands.

Taking a sweater apart does take a bit of work, as you have to pull out all the knitting and roll the yarn up into balls as you go. Mom recommends undoing the long side seams, and then the shoulder seams. Next, unravel the sleeve pieces from top to bottom, undo the neck ribbing, and unravel the front and back pieces from shoulder to bottom.

If you find a sweater made with great yarn but a terrible pattern (or a size too large), you can unravel it and knit a new sweater to your taste. One large adult sweater can easily be turned into a baby’s afghan, and with two or three large sweaters, you can make a full-sized afghan. Mom has an uncanny knack for finding multiple copies of the same sweater, on separate shopping trips at different stores. She found five copies of this sweater, and is turning it into a afghan to give one of my cousins as a wedding gift:

Besides being a great green option, recycling yarn in this way will also save you a lot of money. Prices will vary from store to store and area to area, of course, but the Goodwill stores around here charge $2.50 for each adult sweater. Instead of buying several skeins of yarn at $3 (or more) apiece, you can make a whole sweater for about $3.

Mom’s new project is knitting socks. Appalled by the price of boutique sock yarn, she opted to take apart a sweater made with very thin yarn, and predicts that she’ll be able to make two pairs of socks with the yarn it yielded:

As part of this post, I’m pleased to announce that 5 Minutes For Going Green will be giving away a scarf made entirely from recycled yarn!

My good friend EvilDucky, who sells fabulous hand-knit items at her Etsy shop, used some of my mom’s recycled yarn to knit a deliciously soft pink scarf to give away:

Since some of you are still waiting for the last snows of the season to stop, this scarf might be just the thing to cheer you up. For those of you who are already enjoying Spring, you can keep it for next year!

How to get in on the green giveaway action? Simple.

1) Just leave a comment on this post anytime between today, Friday April 3rd, and Sunday, April 12th by 7pm EST and consider yourself entered. (Be sure to use a valid email address when leaving your entry comments, as I’ll use that email address to notify the winner of the contest.)

2) For an additional chance to win, because we’re all about double the fun around here, visit EvilDucky’s Etsy shop and then come back to this post and leave a comment naming your favorite item from the shop.

On April 12th we’ll use a random number generator to pick one winner, so be sure to check back on the site on Monday, April 13th to see if you’ve won!


Some additional contest-related details, and to recap:

* As always, non bloggers are welcome to participate!
* Contest entries are open from Friday, April 3rd through Sunday, April 12th at 7pm EST.
* Our winner will be drawn randomly and we will announce the winner Monday, April 13th. Please make sure to check our site and your email address to see if you have won a prize. We must receive your reply within 5 business days. (If you want your prize to arrive in time, the sooner we hear from you, the better!)
* This contest is open to US & Canadian shipping addresses. Due to legal restrictions, this promotion is not available in Arizona or Quebec.
* Please see our site’s Terms and Conditions of Use for a complete list of our Contest and Giveaway Rules.

Good luck, and happy recycling!

An original 5 Minutes for Going Green post. On most days you can find Velocibadgergirl at Pardon the Egg Salad, where she blogs about travel, her spoiled pets, science geekery, and whatever else comes to mind.


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8 Responses to Recycling Yarn For Green Knitting (And A Giveaway!)
  1. sareen
    April 3, 2009 | 2:43 pm

    Hand Crocheted Retro Granny Square Scarf is just my style. Count me in!

  2. The Green Yak on Etsy
    April 3, 2009 | 5:59 pm

    Oh, it makes me wish I knew how to knit or crochet! I’ve taken apart skirts from Goodwill to turn into handbags, but this is even cooler :-D

  3. The Green Yak on Etsy
    April 3, 2009 | 6:00 pm

    And that Viking baby hat? Pretty much the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen on etsy — I love it!

  4. Eloise C
    April 3, 2009 | 9:15 pm

    What a beautiful scarf! Thanks so much for such a wonderful giveaway!


  5. Eloise C
    April 3, 2009 | 9:17 pm

    I really love the 8×10 Fine Art Intaglio Print Reproduction Rainbow Alchemy, so pretty, thanks again!


  6. Kathleen
    April 5, 2009 | 10:44 pm

    I love to reuse yarns like this, and one tip I have is to wind yarn into a skein or big loop, dampen it with a spray bottle of water, and hang it up with a weight hooked to the bottom of the loop. This straightens out the kinks a little.

  7. Velocibadgergirl (Pardon the Egg Salad)
    April 8, 2009 | 9:57 pm

    Hey, Kathleen — that’s a great tip! :D

  8. Recycled Scarf Giveaway Winner!
    April 13, 2009 | 12:02 am

    […] winner of the recycled scarf giveaway is commenter #2, The Green […]