Posts Tagged ‘knitting’

Whirlwind upcycling update

January 10, 2008

There have been a number of thrifted sweaters falling prey to the liberating snip-snip of my little Swiss Army scissors since last I wrote, so let’s catch up.

First: I’ve bought seven sweaters to upcycle. I think. They’ve ranged in cost from $1.25 to $5.00, and I finally did branch out to the two other thrift shops I’d heard about.

I can already see that I’ll need to learn self-restraint when it comes to this activity –big surprise! It’s very easy to feel as if I must leave the shop with something to unravel, and yet when I’m curled up here at home and I think about it, I prefer to trust that there will always be sweaters to unravel in the shops, and that it’s nicer to have space in my flat. There are lots of reasons why a person who is prone to hoarding would feel extra justified in hoarding sweaters to upcycle; there are potent virtues such as being extra green & eco-friendly, being a careful & thrifty shopper, etc.

So far I don’t believe that I have collected beyond the pale, but I want to keep an eye on it..

The sweaters!

Yesterday I had a nice harvest.. One huge uber-fugly 100% wool Ralph Lauren Polo Sport sweater in what looks like a heavy worsted weight wool, predominantly black with a bit of red and a bit of blue. The seams look yummy, and I expect this will be a quick unravel, except for the stupid patch, which will be fiddly to remove.

Ugly Ralph Lauren sweater

One really exciting find: a small sweater in the softest blend of 75% silk and 25% cotton, in white. I started working on it yesterday evening, and it was surprisingly difficult to disassemble. The seams were good but hard to get started, and I didn’t get to the fun part of ripping fast and winding onto my nøstepinde for a couple of hours.

I got a strong strong sense of this sweater having been hand-knit by some person, in this case, a person in China. The number of hand-knit sweaters I’ve seen coming out of China has really stunned me, and gotten me to thinking about how trade economics and knitting converge. More on this at some later point, once I’ve had a chance to think about it.

Silk cotton blend sweater

At any rate, this silk-cotton blend is delicious to touch, and I’m all excited about knitting with it. The yarn is, like so many of the (relatively few) yarns I’ve recycled, made up of multiple threads –in this case it’s 6 threads, and only plied in the crudest sense. What mostly seems to be keeping this yarn together is the soft fluffy character of these little threads, sort of like flannel threads which want to stick to one another.

I’m also eager to dye this yarn. My rough understanding is that the silk and the cotton will take the dye differently, and this might add lots of visual interest if, say, the cotton core dyes real dark and the silk more muted.. I really don’t know, but I’m excited!

I seem to have come home with a sweater made of mystery fiber, and how I did so is a bit of a mystery. It’s a pleasant wooly-ish sweater, and it’s the dark grey color that I’m so fond of, but all the fiber-identifying tags are gone, and I can’t figure out why I would have taken it. I’m going to explore it..

Then a nice 100% Shetland wool sweater by J. Crew in a lovely dark sagey green, with a bit of my favorite dark grey and a bit of buff/creamy white. I note upon closer examination that I overpaid for this one, a good lesson learned: look at the frackin’ price tag. D’oh. Ahem.

Sage green J.Crew sweater

Another quite similar sweater in 100% lambswool, by American Eagle Outfitters. This one is also a darkish green, but with really gorgeous almost coppery fibers mixed in. Can’t wait to disassemble this one.

Yet another green sweater.  American Eagle brand.

And last but not least yesterday: I had two major button scores. One set of 5 is made from some sort of animal horn, I think. The other 9 (6 big 3 small) are just lovely soft tortoiseshell lookin’. Super happy.

I did a trip to the thrift shop at some point between christmas & the NH primaries, and got a few really great sweaters:

One that I’ve been knitting into new objects as quickly as I’ve been unraveling it: a really great sweater: hand-knit at a local fancy-shmancy knitwear place, and all good seams, made from this great sport-weight 100% wool; predominantly black, with bits of red and white. I LOVE this stuff. So far I’ve knit 1.5 little bags/cozies, and the finished one got felted and turned out great. Yay!

Excellent Stowe Woolens sweater

I found an absolutely gorgeous angora-wool blend in white. Can’t wait to start unraveling it (bet it’ll be sweet to touch for hours at a time), and I can’t wait to dye it.

Creamy white angora sweater

There was a bag of really -great- crewel or needlepoint yarn, maybe 70 little skeins of 10 meters each. 100% wool, and really lovely and soft.

Beautiful score of sandy colored crewel yarn

Then my one disappointment, which is morphing into a really delightful project: it was a big fat dark grey sweater, and I remember thinking: “hmm, these seams are bad. that’s interesting,” but then just shoving the sweater into my shopping bag. My thinking was like this –the fiber was yummy, 100% oiled Irish wool, and it was My Color, and it would be a good lesson in how and why bad seams are bad (I hadn’t examined a fully serged sweater before). And somewhere in the dark recesses of my brain, I thought: felting project.

grey sweater felting project

Sure enough, the seams were really bad. Yucko bad serged seams! However, the felted knapsack project I’m making with it looks really promising. I felted it partway, enough to be able to cut without the fabric unraveling wildly, and then I cut it up into pieces which I’ll sew together, and then I’ll keep on felting the wabinkus out of it. So far, I really love how cables and other textured stitches turn out when felted. Yum.

I found a cute little Old Navy skinny scarf knit from fine 100% lambswool. I think I might felt it into a strap or straps for a future bag project..

multi-hued skinny scarf

I found another lovely sweater, an EMS 100% wool sweater with great seams for unraveling. It was cute as a sweater –knit in reverse stockinette, which I always figured I’d hate, but it’s kind of handsome.

Nice EMS sweater

Lastly, a lovely heathery sage-y green sweater in soft 100% wool.

Oh, and some nice buttons:

Thrifted buttons

So, many hours of happy yarn recycling lie ahead.


Day 1

December 30, 2007

I’ve wanted to do this for a couple of years. I came across Ashley Martineau’s recycling tutorial over a year ago, but had never gotten around to it. Yesterday, christmas eve day, I stopped at Listen, our local thrift shop, on the way to celebrate juleaften with family (with all the knitted goodies in tow). I arrived at the shop ten minutes before closing, so I had to rush, which was not conducive to making good and thoughtful choices about which sweaters would be appropriate for recycling. Still, it was funner ‘en hell.

I settled on 29 dollars worth of sweaters, around eight or nine sweaters. All of them were either 100 % wool, or a wool-angora mix. Several were worsted or bulky looking, and two were super fine (those two wool/angora ones, the ones I really loved). I made sure to check for good seams, and so far, all of them have been fine except for some tricky bits at the shoulders seams.

I brought the big bag o’ sweaters with me to juleaften. Okay, in point of fact I had to run a few errands, and I found what turns out to be my best tool so far for ripping seams, a teeny Swiss Army knife, and sat first at a gas station, and then behind the Chinese place –starting to rip up the first side seam. I was just that hot to start! When I got to mom’s place, I had fun showing her all my wooly loot. I ripped a bit but then, reluctantly, set it aside so I could get presents wrapped before Svend and Mia arrived. That basically took the whole afternoon, and then christmas eve was upon us, and the geese were roasted, we were all happy, and life was Very Good. In particular I got very excited about a book I’d been coveting (thank you mom!) called Charcuterie. Ah, pork, the king of meat..

The first recycling sweater

Anyhow, I drove home at midnight, and spent the next two hours figuring out to set up the lovely linksys wireless router that my nephew gave me. With the help of a dear man named Amol from Western India, I succeeded, and fell asleep beaming at this new macbook, the Big Present of this winter from my brother, Svend.
In the morning I got up at 7 am, and then again at 8 am, and then at 9 am, and finally I really got up at 10:30, which is super late for me. After a bit of puttering, and laying on the sofa browsing Ravelry, I was reminded of my new unraveling project.

I made breakfast, mellow soft eggy curds of scrambled wonderfulness, some kinda crappy bacon, and the first cup of coffee in months. Yummy.

Then I retrieved my bowl of sweater, the teeny swiss army knife, and proceeded to figure out how to start unraveling the sleeve I’d managed to separate from the rest of the sweater. At first I was concerned, because I was getting what Ashley’s tutorial called yarnlets. It wasn’t so much because I’d cut in a bad way, rather, it was the top of a small sleeve, and so it simply consisted of shorter pieces. Soon, though, I was getting longer pieces. Yay! They were still a little shorter than I’d expected, but still long enough to be useful, I reckon.

Little piles of unraveled sweater

The sweater is made up of 7 colors, though one of those , so far, is only about 4 feet long. The color I like the most is a deep iron grey, though the rest of them are definitely the sorts of colors I like.

The yarn is very fine –in fact, each strand is made up of 2 really fine strands. It’s not plied, which is to say, it’s not twisted. To me it looks just like when I knit with two strands. Some of the colors, such as the dark grey, is not only thin, it’s very fragile. I worried about this a little, but I believe that if I knit with 4 strands, it will be similar in weight to a DK, and once knit up into something like a hat, which doesn’t need to be uber strong, I think it will be quite lovely. It is so soft and pleasant to touch.

I hit my dilemma after a few minutes: I hadn’t thought out how I would deal with the unraveled yarn as I frogged along. I started a few tiny balls, just wound a bit haphazardly round two fingers. Thing is, I was getting, you know, multiple strands of each of the seven colors, and I just didn’t trust these little roughly wound balls to not become a mess. I wanted to skein each of the colors when I’m done in order to wash, etc, and I was imagining doing this, and realized it would be easier if I had good lengths of yarn rolled into balls that were neat enough to skein from.

So, how exactly to roll the yarn into neat balls that I could skein from. Pretty much immediately, I wanted to use my nøstepinde, but I only have the one, and it’s kind of big, and this yarn is so fine. I looked around my flat for an alternative. My eyes lit on one of my cups of pencils. Ah ha! I started making balls, and sure enough, this worked really well. Plus, as I work, I’m getting these gorgeous fat lollipops of yarn, AND I found a great way to tie in geocaching swag (in the form of pencils) into knitting. Bliss.

Yarn lollipops

Also, when I went to check what Ashley said, she was pretty adamant about NOT having piles of unravelled yarn, but suggested rather that I should be rolling the yarns into balls as I went along. So, I found a happy medium. Working on the sleeve, I’d unravel an inch or so of the fabric, and I’d have 6 or seven small mounds of loose kinky yarn in different colors. There would come a point where I’d look at the piles, and think: that pile should be rolled into a ball before I get snarly trouble. I also decided to tie all the strands of a given color together as I wound the ball. This was so that when I do the skeining to wash the yarn, I have one nice single length. It sounds like a pain, but it really wasn’t. I got into a rhythm, and it was pleasant to keep my hands occupied while watching TV.

There were some funny moments during the afternoon. It was funny how excited I’d get whenever I’d come across a really LONG piece of yarn, and when I got to the solid iron grey cuff of the arm, I was practically wriggling with excitement at the prospect of that WHOLE inch plus of fabric unraveling as one looong piece! There was one nervous moment as I began unraveling the cuff: somehow I got one short yarnlet as I began to frog, but it was just the one, the rest of the cuff came off like a DREAM.

The cuff all ready to rip

Oh, there was one other scary moment. At one point I needed my teeny Swiss Army knife scissors, and I couldn’t find them. I turned and searched between cushions and felt under the sofa when I felt a cold shiver crawl up my spine. Actually, what I felt was the cold steel of the sharp little scissors under me. Like, RIGHT under me, less than an inch from my hoo hootie, with nothing but my big-girl panties between my tender bits and some horrible accidental clitorectomy. I shuddered as I recalled all the enthusiastic crafty wriggling I’d done earlier, and resolved to keep a better eye on my scisseaux. Or maybe I’ll knit me up some steel chainmail boy shorts.

A sleeve's worth of yarn lollipops