Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shopping for Yarn -- Creatively

For some time I have been anxious to knit myself a sweater. There has been just one catch -- how to come by the yarn. Thanks to my sister's coaching and help, I now have some lovely yarn, enough for several projects!

Here's how it works:

1. Find a sweater at Goodwill and purchase it (hopefully for about $2 when they have a sale). Look for sweaters with the appropriate wool content, nice color, and yarn that doesn't look microscopic in thickness. You also need to buy sweaters sewn together with what looks like a chain stitch -- not serged together. We found several Gap sweaters -- a chunky pink cotton, a creamy white wool. I also found a beautiful pink wool sweater that was too small for me in person but had enough yarn to re-make into something my size. The options are endless....

2. Find the seams -- the sweaters are usually sewn together with a v-shaped seam. If you can find the end and give it a good pull the sweater just falls apart (okay, so most of the time it takes a bit of work to find that end!). Unravel all the seams until you have pieces.

3. Frog the sweater (or, in other words, unravel it). You need to get the yarn into a skein for the next step. If you have the equipment, you can wind the yarn, as you unravel it, right onto a yarn-winder. Or, you can wind it into a ball by hand (picture immediately following). Once you have the yarn wound into a ball, you can take the ball and wind it into a skein.

Christina has all the proper equipment. So, when I do this with her, it goes pretty fast!

The kids love to help! :)

4. Wash the yarn. Once the yarn is put into skeins, it is time to wash it. The washing helps to erase the kinks and to clean it from whatever dust it collected at Goodwill. Hang the skeins up to dry.
5. Wind the Skeins into Balls. The final step is to take the skeins and turn them back into nice balls of yarn, ready for knitting.

6. Find a pattern and Knit! I've already been looking at patterns and discussing with Christina just what I'm going to make. I'm thinking of a cardigan out of this chunky pink and I have a vest in mind for the charcoal color shown on the skein winder above. Then, I'm not sure if I want another sweater or a shawl out of the light-weight pink wool at the top. We'll have to see... I'm just so excited to actually have yarn!!!
This may sound like a daunting process to many of you. However, if you have a little time, and not a lot of money, this is a terrific option. (And just think about how you are recycling, reusing, and therefore reducing!)
Look here for a project made with just such a sweater!


Heather said...

Way to get creative - I have heard of frogging a readymade for wool, but had no idea how to go about it, of if we'd end up with just a lot of short pieces. I never thought about looking for a sweater that isn't serged together, but has traditional hand knit type seams! Great job! Happy knitting! I can't wait to see what you'll make!

willow said...

You make it look so easy. I've just finished unpicking an old cardigan and the seams were a nightmare, it took me hours literally - they certainly didn't fall apart!I have the wool in balls ready to be skeined and washed.
I think your prices are better than ours as well. A well known make like Gap would probably sell for £5-£8 in a charity shop here but then I think clothing is cheaper in the US anyway.
Look forward to seeing your finished knitting.

Amy K said...

This is just about the most resourceful thing I've ever heard! That's awesome. :)

Lovella said...

Okay .. I'm officially impressed. What a great color too.
Love all the help you manage to find.

Esther said...

Hi Heather! I just saw your blog for the first time today--it's lovely.

I have a question about washing the yarn. You casually referred to winding it up into skeins and then washing it. Do you mean in a washing machine, or by hand? I just got some yarn from a quirky little yarn shop in an old warehouse, and it smelled funny, so I threw several skeins in a mesh bag in the washing machine. Disaster! They completely unraveled and snarled up together and I ended up with a knot that was 1' x 3'!! I spent a week untangling it in my free time. Do you have thoughts on a better method for next time?

Oh, and I have that pink sweater you unraveled from the Gap!

Heather L. said...

Hi Esther -- I wasn't sure which Esther you were (sorry) so I'm replying here until I figure out how to contact you directly.

You have to wash the skeins of yarn by hand. I do it in my bathroom sinks (where 2 skeins are soaking as I write!). Fill the sink with some water and a tiny bit of detergent. Let the skein soak for a bit and then try to rinse carefully. Wring out carefully and hang up. You should be able to keep the skein intact this way. I've made the same mistake before of sticking wool in the machine, only to be left with a MESS!

Esther said...

Check your Facebook acct to find out which Esther. ;)

And thanks for the info. I'll hand-wash henceforth!

Karen said...

Oh, I'm so glad that you sent this link, Heather! I had been looking only for sweaters that were knit in the round (no seams). I'm so glad to know how to look for seamed sweaters now, too, which ones will work and how to take them apart. Thank you! :-)