Reusing Your Yarn to Give Old Projects New Life

This is my Belle Haven shawl, a one-skein fingering weight shawl that I designed about 10 years ago. It’s been folded in a storage container and sitting in my cedar closet for much of that time, but the beautiful yarn is an amazing color—so why not enjoy it again? It’s the perfect shawl to unravel and turn into something else!

I like to start the process by finding my bind off edge. I know that this a top-down shawl, so I look along the bottom edge to locate where the bind off ended.

Once I find the end that had been woven into the shawl, using a double-pointed needle, I’m able to coax that end out and pull it to where I had completed the bind off. Sometimes yarn ends can be tricky to find in a project though. As an alternative, you can simply snip the bind off edge of your project to get it ready to unravel.

Once the end of the project is free, the fun can begin. You can either start winding the yarn right onto a yarn swift or wind it into a ball first.

I personally prefer to wind the yarn into a ball first since it helps me control the speed at which I am unraveling, and it’s easy to start and stop if a stitch gets caught or things start tangling. The important thing to remember is to take your time! The yarn will have a lot of kinks in it from being knitted, so tangles can happen easily if you start working too fast.

Now that my shawl is unraveled and wound into a ball, I’m going to turn it into a hank. This will allow me to give the yarn a wash and work out some of the kinks it has.

With the help of my yarn swift, I wind the yarn into a hank. Using some waste yarn, I tie the hank in a few places so that it doesn’t become tangled. If you don’t have a yarn swift, the back of a chair works well, or find a friend or family member to help you.

With the yarn in a hank, it’s time to give it a wash. You’ll want to follow the original washing instructions for the yarn if possible. For this yarn, I soak it in a lukewarm bath with wool wash for at least 20 minutes.

After removing my yarn from the bath, I gently roll it in a towel to squeeze out any excess water. Be careful not to wring your yarn as it may felt depending on the fiber content.

Next, I hang my yarn to dry. Most of the kinks from the original project will have disappeared by this step, but you can also add a weight to the bottom of the hank to help straighten out the yarn.

Finally, once the yarn is complete dry, I wind into a ball. Now this gorgeous yarn is ready to be transformed into something new!

Ripping and reusing yarn from old projects is a great way to save material and prevent waste! Need a place to start? Check out our Rip & Reuse Challenge!

Have you ever reused yarn from a previous project? If so, tell us all about it in the comments!

Share tips, start a discussion or ask one of our experts or other students a question.

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13 Responses to “Reusing Your Yarn to Give Old Projects New Life”

  1. Sara

    Thanks for sharing how to reuse the yarn.

  2. Josie

    My mom used to do this in London, then when I lived in Italy my husbands family also repurposed yarn….it’s a great idea because with finances strained somewhat you are not only re using the yarn, but you can make a gift for someone or keep it for you!

  3. Dorothy Urick

    How could she bear to rip out all that work on such a lovely shawl? I cringed when I saw the beautiful before and the non-descript after. I know that's not the point of the article, but still.....


    I’ve done this with a couple of blankets. From your directions, it seems I do not need to rinse the hank after I’ve done the bath which does have a bit of soap in it. Is that correct?

  5. Karen

    Thanks for this! I have a WIP that didn't turn out as planned. Now I know to rip it out & rejuvenate the yarn so I can use it in another project. On a related note, I once saw a program about a senior gentleman who happened to be a knitter. Unfortunately, his budget did not allow for spending a lot for good yarn. He frequented thrift stores looking for wool sweaters he could unwind for the yarn. He got them for next to nothing. I thought this was a brilliant way to recycle yarn & stay in budget!



  7. JoyceCaron

    love the info thank you so much

  8. Lynda Farias

    When young,I knit a sweater way to tight! Needless to say, I was crushed at how it turned out. My mother took it all apart and treated the yarn as you explained, and she re-knit the sweater for me. I wore it for years ! I since learned to ease up on my knitting!

  9. Linda Martindale

    So many knitters ask about this very thing. Thanks so much for clear directions on reusing yarn. Most are upset about all those kinks! I will definitely pass this on. Thank you.

  10. Christina Dykins

    Can I weigh the old yarn to get the skein info:?