Everything You Need to Know to Start Recycling Sweater Yarn – Breaking In V.2

Recycling Sweater Yarn cover

Breaking In Version 2

Start at the same place you would for Version 1 – the end of the sleeve, where your hand would come out.  Remember those two fat lines we talked about?

Top: Correct seam Bottom: Correct seam, highlighted
Top: Correct seam
Bottom: Correct seam, highlighted

Take those two fat lines and pull them apart, separating them down the middle.  In between those two knit edge pieces are the horizontal bars of the seam.

Top: Pulling apart the knit edges Bottom: The seam strands between the edges, highlighted. This is what you want to cut.
Top: Pulling apart the knit edges
Bottom: The seam strands between the edges, highlighted. This is what you want to cut.

Version 2 uses a pair of scissors to cut up the seam, severing those bars.

And here’s the part about why I don’t use scissors – imagine sitting there, pulling and pulling away at the sweater pieces trying to reveal that seam – eventually the strands joined WITH that seam start to stretch, too. It becomes really easy at this point to mistake one strand of knitting for the actual seam. And it only takes one snip into the wrong place to interrupt that nice fat yarn ball we will be building later. NOW, if you don’t mind having a greater amount of smaller lengths, you can certainly choose the scissors option and speed things up; personally I’m in it for as much unsullied, uninterrupted yardage as I can get.

Anyway, get your scissors in there and cut!

Recycle Sweater Yarn Scissors method

You can deal with the rest of the seams the same way – separate the knit edges and cut the seam in between them.

Now that you’ve got your seams taken care of, you want to get to the pulling. I understand. You Version 2 users are wild and free spirits. You like to feel the wind in your yarn & caution be damned.

Which is why some of you might want to take the ultimate cheater route – skipping over the often frustrating collar seams entirely. Lay out your sweater like this:


You CAN’T cut INTO the KNIT PIECE on the vertical lines – if you are a knitter, you understand why (this severs the yarn in a million different places…. Just like those incorrect seams we talked about).  You have to cut the SEAMS on the vertical lines no matter what. But you CAN cut INTO the knit on the horizontal lines, just below the collar and sleeve yokes, separating the chest pieces without any more fuss.

Seam Cut Yes No
The green shows the cut line. Do not cut on the red line unless you are cutting the seams.

Same goes for the sleeves – you have to deal with the seam that runs down the sleeve, but you can cut off the top if you choose.

Seam Cut Yes No 2

The upshot is that you will have to deal with all those little cut pieces of yarn in the knit before you find your continuous strand. Start plucking those babies off until you find your way in.

Upcycle Sweater Yarn bitsEven if you don’t take the ultimate cheater route, Version 2 users will probably want to deal with finding the yarn to pull by cutting off at least the VERY TOP of the knit sweater piece once separated. The “top” of the piece is going to be the part that was closest to the collar of the sweater.

Top of the sleeve piece
Top of the sleeve piece

The top will be bound off, not loose. Use the scissors to snip the very edge of the piece off.

Sweater Recycle Yarn top chopPluck off the little guys to find your way in.

Hint! I have found that when you have to clear off bits of cut yarn, stretching the piece width-wise helps loosen things up so you can pull out the severed bits.

Once you find your continual yarn strand, it’s finally time to pull.

Suddenly I am hungry for ramen.
Suddenly I am hungry for ramen.

Getting Started & Breaking In V.1

Unraveling & Finishing


6 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know to Start Recycling Sweater Yarn – Breaking In V.2

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  1. Very useful and entertaining post. Thank you! I have been unravelling some of my old cashmere sweaters which, unfortunately, are all a bit felted under the arms. I am forced to cut the sweaters across, under the arms (and the sleeves too) but that’s OK: I accept that I am going to have to sacrifice a fair bit of yarn.

    I find that, where I have cut, working across with tweezers quite quickly picks out all those little bits. Stripy sweaters are great: you can easily see where to cut immediately above a stripe.

    Because I’m working with machine knitted garments in 2-ply, and rather fuzzy cashmere, there tend to be lots of fuzzy burrs, especially at the ends of rows. The yarn is stuck and normally breaks if I try to pull it as a single strand. So, my tip is to pick up some of the next bit of the row and pull those stitches back until they reach the same point. That means you can tug with two strand together, which is far stronger and nearly always successful at dealing with the stuck yarn.

    Also, sometimes the seams just won’t come away in places because they have also felted up a bit. And therefore I do end up with breaks at the end of a row. My principle is to set aside any lengths less than three rows long and only join on longer pieces to my ball. I don’t knit with 2-ply – far too fiddly for me – but work with two balls together to give approximately a 4-ply yarn. So, wherever there is a break, it will normally be just one strand and I can join in the next strand as I go (knitting together with the previous one for a few stitches, and darning in my ends (twisting around the working yarn at the back on knit stitches, or back and forward between stitches on purl rows). The doubled up stitches are not noticeable in the final garment and all the little ends are quite safe to cut off later.

    1. Wow that sounds amazing! Anymore, I really only pick apart cotton sweaters because I just got tired of dealing with all the felted places I always encountered with wool or animal hair blends – I’ll never forget that cashmere I unraveled once though, I got SO much yarn! 😀 Thank you for the awesome feedback <3

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