Recycling Yarn For New Projects
As with any project you will undoubtedly decide to rip it out entirely at some point or another. This can be for many reasons which I wont go into here but the important result is that you can recycle that yarn you have just frogged and save yourself some money as you wont have to buy new yarn.
If you have ever undone a piece of work you will notice that the yarn has kinks in it where it has held the shape of the stitch. Now while this can be fine if you’re going to make a new piece with the same needle or hook size with the same tension, 99% of the time it can cause havoc with your tension and make your work look off if you don’t relax the yarn again. So, no matter what it is you’re recycling the yarn for I will always highly recommend un-kinking or relaxing the yarn before you do anything with it.
Before we get started you should know that recycling yarn can take a bit of time so you will need to factor this in when organizing your projects. For the basics you’ll need at least an hour or more depending on how much yarn you need to frog. For yarn that needs more work you’ll be looking to factor in blocking and drying time as well.
How To Relax Different Yarn Types:
As you know there are different yarn types with a variety of qualities between them so we need to treat each type of yarn in a different way to get the best results.
This is my favorite type of yarn to work with regardless of what I’m making (if I can get away with acrylics then I will use acrylics) because it is simply so durable and can stand up to a lot of punishment.
The first photo in the post was 100% aran weight acrylic yarn and is the easiest to de-stress into a usable yarn again due to the synthetic fibers that make up acrylics. Synthetic fibers only truly change when the are subject to heat so when you frog an acrylic based yarn by manipulating it just a little you can get it back fairly easily to its original state.
The easiest method of recycling acrylic based yarns is to wind the yarn into a ball as you are ripping out the project. Make sure that you are putting a little bit of tension on the yarn as you wind so that it is straight as possible as you build up the ball: don’t pull too hard though as you may damage the yarn, be firm but gentle.
Once your yarn is back into a ball pull out a few inches and inspect the yarn. If it still has crinkles in it then I would recommend winding again into a center pull ball of yarn as the second lot of tension will sort it out. If you would like to know how to make a center pull ball either by hand or with a swift and winder the check out the below video by expressionfiberarts.com.
Wool Based (and other delicate fibers)
With the wide variety of wool blends available on the market you may have to experiment a little bit to see what works best for the blend of yarn you have. With a blended yarn I would recommend trying the acrylic method first and if that doesn’t work then you will already prepared to go into the pure wool option instead.
Pure wool will need a different approach and you’ll essentially be looking to block the wool in a hank to relax all of those kinks out. With this process though you wont be stretching the yarn out, just manipulating it back to it’s original shape.
To prepare the yarn for blocking start by frogging your project and working the yarn into a center pull ball. You can do this either by directly winding into a center pull ball or by following the acrylic method above. Once the yarn is in a cake you will then want to put it into a hank so that you can easily manipulate the yarn when it comes to blocking.
If you are not sure how to put yarn into a hank then you can do it in a couple of ways. If you have a swift machine you can use that to make a hank by winding the yarn from a center pull ball (see video below by Hue Loco). If you are doing this by hand then have a friend put their arms out at 90 degrees and bent at the elbows to make a “goal post” for you to wrap the yarn around, or use the back or two from a couple of chairs. Be warned either process can be quite tiring so take a break if needed, after all you need your energy for making awesome projects!
Once your yarn is in a hank you’ll want to wet the yarn to allow the fibers to swell when they absorb the water. At this stage you’ll need to check the recommended temperatures listed on the yarn label, however if you no longer have it then err on the side of caution and treat the yarn as if it needed to be hand-washed and only use luke-warm water.
Now that your yarn has absorbed as much water as possible you’ll now want to wrap it up in a large towel and press down on it to squeeze as much water out as you can. You can either step on the towel or weigh it down with a heavy object to get this done. Do not rub the yarn as this will damage the fibers.
As soon as you have squeezed out as much water as possible – the yarn should now only be damp – you’ll need to set it out to dry. As with any blocking do not pop it in the tumble drier or put it on the radiator as this direct heat can also damage the yarn. If at all possible pop it outside in the shade if it’s a sunny day (direct sunlight can harm some yarns) and leave it there to dry. If, like me, you live in perpetual cold wet weather then set it down somewhere safe on a dry towel and allow it to dry overnight.
With either method of drying you do not need to stretch the yarn as per usual blocking methods because we do not need to shape it at all. To make sure you get the most efficient drying time simply set your yarn down so that it is as straight as possible in the hank, or better yet if you can hang it somewhere to dry you can let gravity do the job for you.
The Finished Yarn
Now that your yarn has dried wind it up into a ball one last time and then you will be done and can jump into that new project straight away knowing that you will have as good as new yarn.
Taking the time to recycle yarn can be really rewarding as you have taken something you weren’t happy with and turned it into something new. So if you have any half made projects or items that you just don’t like don’t throw them away, get ripping and make something amazing.
Let me know in the comments what you have recycled and if you have any other tips on how to recycle old yarn.