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!

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

  1. Susan H Chapin
    Susan H Chapin

    I have done this many times. My husband thinks I must rip out half of what I knit. Some things just don’t work and need to be recycled. I have also undone fine sweaters for fine wool to pair with Alpaca for extra conrol and memory.

    Reply
  2. Sheri Battah
    Sheri Battah

    Yes I do this alot….I don’t waste yarn. I did like the idea to use a weight to also help take the kinks out…thanks for the good idea. I often use old yarn to repair my horse halters!!!

    Reply
  3. beatrice
    beatrice

    ha! I thought I was the only one who did this: I do this on a regular basis, with some slight differences-
    1. once I found the bind-off end(s), I wind the yarn onto an elbow, which gives me a perfect fit for later;
    2. I don’t wash the old yarn but steam it – patiently – over an old-fashioned kettle of boiling water, slowly shifting the strings to benefit from the steam. This process takes a little while but seeing the yarn straightening itself is most satisfying!
    3. after the yarn strings are dried, I put them on a pretty straight-backed chair and wind them into balls. Done and ready for re-use

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Christina,

      Thank you for contacting us.

      Yes, you can weigh the yarn to determine the number of yards or meters that you have. If you do not have any label information:

      1. Measure out a length of yarn (for example, 2-3 yards) and weigh that segment.
      2. Divide the length of your yarn segment by the weight- that provides your yards per ounce.
      3. Take the total weight of your yarn and multiply it by the yards per ounce determined in step 2.

      If you do have a label, you can determine the yards per oz from the information on the label and skip step 1.

      To determine if the yarn is fingering, worsted, bulky etc., you can use the Wraps Per Inch method shown in this video: https://www.theknittingcircle.com/video/determining-yarn-weights-018484/

      If you have any other questions, please chat, email, or call Customer Service. 

      Sincerely,
      Sarah
      The Knitting Circle Video Membership

      Reply
  4. Linda Martindale
    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.

    Reply
  5. Lynda Farias
    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!

    Reply
  6. JOAN LANDERS
    JOAN LANDERS

    I HAD A Craftsy MEMBERSHIP FOR MANY YEARS, BUT MY WORK AND SCHEDULE GOT VERY HECKIC AND I LET IT GO — I WISH NOW I HADN’T.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Joan,

      Thank you for contacting us.

      You can always renew your Craftsy membership or sign up for The Knitting Circle. If you have any questions about your membership, please reach out to our support team directly.

      If you have any other questions, please chat, email, or call Customer Service. 

      Sincerely,

      Sarah
      The Knitting Circle Video Membership

      Reply