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A knitting project being unraveled with all the curly yarn showing

Knitting With Re-Used or Recycled Yarn

There are many reasons why someone might want to reuse yarn they have already knit into something (or even a sweater from the thrift store that has good yarn). It may not fit right (gee, it fit when I started it), the design was ugly or boring, he's a jerk and we broke up, the yarn manufacturer included stealth knots that you did not find (because you were machine knitting and going like a bat-out-of-hell) until it was being blocked for seaming, that stripe across the bust was a bad idea.... you get the picture.

Knitting with very kinky yarn (just rescued from that abandoned sweater, all done except for seaming three years ago, when you decided the design was boring) can be a disaster. The kinks cause it to tangle more easily; the annoying factor increases at an exponential rate in relation to how much closer to the end you get. And it will probably alter your gauge after blocking/steaming. Possibly, a lot. It is always (with one exception) best to straighten your yarn before reusing it. The one exception is when knitting with fine (fingering weight) yarn in a tight (7 to 9 sts/inch) gauge. That is why you can knit socks from a painted blank without straightening the yarn and winding it into a ball first. But trust me, this is really the only time you want to short-cut this step. It's easy and fast with a few simple tools, don't panic!

unraveling knitting onto a niddy noddy

How to straighten your yarn

Wind it from the knitting (as you rip it out) directly into a skein, under tension. This is easiest if you have a Niddy Noddy or a warping board or clamp-down warping pegs, but a straight chair back will do. Tie some figure 8 knots through the skein at about four places around it to keep the yarn from tangling when you release the tension.

Holding yarn over a tea kettle to straighten it with the steam

Fill a tea kettle and turn it on high. When it is steaming away at full boil, hold the yarn under tension between your hands and steam it over the spout until the kinks relax. I use a clamp to keep my spout open and not whistling. Don't get your hands near the steam!! It will burn worse than boiling water.

No tea kettle? You can soak the skein in a sink of hot water (120 deg F) for 10 to 20 minutes. Even if it's wool, as long as the yarn is put in the water dry and not agitated in any way (just let it soak), it will not felt. When you see all the kinks relax, drain the sink and let the yarn cool to room temperature. Gently squeeze out the excess water. I put mine in the washing machine (top loader only) on spin only and get it pretty well spun dry. Finally, hang it to dry on a door knob with a light weight at the bottom; a 16 oz. can of organic black beans works well ;o)

yarn hanging from a wood rack with a can of beans for weight

Once your yarn is dry it can be wound into cakes (or balls) and knit with. It's not hard, or that time consuming. I had this yarn ready to re-knit with in less than an hour and it was a wise investment of time!

Take a look at some of your UFO's. Is it time to think about re-purposing that yarn?

Joan Sheridan of Heritage Spinning & Weaving and a Master Knitter, recommended in a comment that we omit the weight when hanging the yarn to dry or cool if at all possible. This can stretch the yarn and cause a bit of shrinking in the re-knitted garment. Thanks Joan!

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