Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sweater Recycling

Nope, these aren't sweaters I've knitted. These are sweaters I'm unravelling. Last week when I was on the prowl for a planner, I also stopped in at Goodwill and spent a bit of time looking through the men's sweater section in order to buy some yarn. :)

This one is actually a bit greener than it shows in the photo. It's a really soft cotton blend.
One of my knitting goals this year is to knit myself a sweater. I knit a cardigan for myself last year and while it turned out pretty nicely, I have learned more things and I feel like I could make a sweater with a nicer fit. I'm HOPING to do that anyway.

I'm prett sure this sweater is acrylic. I'll need to do a burn test on the fiber to be sure.
Of course, when you live as frugally as we do, purchasing a sweater's worth of inexpensive yarn can cost $40.00 and finer quality yarn will cost you even more. Someday, perhaps, I will treat myself to that kind of expenditure, but it is certainly not a priority at this point in time. Still, I want to knit a sweater, and guess what? The men's sweaters at Goodwill cost me $3.99 a piece and $2.99 for the vest above!

This one is 100% cotton - 3 fibers twisted together - a nice oatmeal color

And just why men's sweaters? Well, the first thing is that you get more yarn. I am guaranteed to have enough yarn to make a sweater for myself. Another thing I spotted in the women's sweater section was that, while the women's sweaters were generally in better condition (we seem to treat our clothes a bit more gently on the whole), many of the sweaters were made with incredibly fine guage fibers. That's fine for a machine to knit, but not for me, personally.

I followed the directions here for beginning to unravel a sweater. The only one I've done so far is the sleeve of the oatmeal-colored sweater above. From the sleeve alone - and not even the whole sleeve, I've already gotten about 200 yards. This sweater is 3 very fine strands, twisted together. Given that this is cotton, though - and recycled - some of those very fine fibers have broken in the unraveling. I'm not too concerned about it; there will be tiny knots holding these fibers together. I won't be using it for my sweater, but it will be fine for washcloths, hats, and/or a casual throw.

Another 100% cotton. This is the one that I have the greatest hopes for knitting into a sweater.
I'm going to try unravelling this navy blue sweater next and have higher hopes for it; it is definitely a single fiber and very soft.

Of course, another thing that men's sweaters provide are darker colors. While I'm fond of neutrals and do enjoy wearing browns, blacks, and grays, the next step for me in being able to knit with more feminine colored recycled yarn will be dyeing. I did see white and cream colored sweaters there, but that will be something I try in the future. I have a lot of yarn, still, that was given to me last summer, with which to make plenty of gifts - the pinks and lavenders not really being colors I wear.
Like the first sweater, this color is greener than the picture shows. It looks like it will be another one with fibers twisted together.
I may use it combined with the oatmeal fiber.

I don't know how these will all turn out, but the price is right for having some fun experimenting for a while. When I first learned to knit, this was one of my original goals: to be able to knit with recycled yarn. I wanted to feel confident in my skills before I tried it, but now I am ready for this next phase and it feels really good to be able to have one of my passions align so nicely with my values of voluntary simplicity and living lightly.

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