Recycled Yarn Buying Guide

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Recycled Yarn Buying Guide
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Knitters and crocheters alike know that yarn isn't cheap.  Cashmere, silk, wool, mohair, angora, linen, novelty yarns... we all love them, but buying these yarns new, in the quantity you need for your project, can sometimes cost you a small fortune!  What's a gal to do when you have champagne taste and a diet soda budget?  Recycled yarn might be the answer for you!

What is recycled yarn and why use it?

Simply stated, recycled yarn is yarn that has been carefully unravelled from a clean, knitted garment, usually a sweater.  Recycling yarn isn't a new concept - thrifty homemakers have been doing this for generations. 

Aside from the obvious benefits of recycling, such as conserving natural resources, using recycled yarns also lets you work with beautiful, designer-quality yarns at a fraction of the price of new yarns, saving you money.  By using yarns recycled from high-end sweaters, you know that your finished project will endure. 

What to look for in quality recycled yarn and some things to consider...

  • Yarn recycled from high-end, upscale designer brands usually yield very high quality yarn, which will enhance your finished project and in most cases, will wear better and be less likely to "pill."  An additional bonus is that the yarn in these well-known designer garments often have wonderful fiber content, such as silk, cashmere and angora, blended into one yarn.  That is not to say that only the designer brands yield excellent yarn, but it's something to look for if this is important to you.
  • Careful recycling usually yields a fewer number of large skeins or center-pull balls, meaning less knots to tie while you're working.  A good recycler can usually take a garment apart with minimal yarn loss or stress to the fibers, although some sweaters, such as cardigans, are sometimes constructed in such a way that multiple balls are unavoidable.  Even the most careful recyclers have trouble with some of the cashmeres and angoras, as the delicate fibers are sometime prone to breakage even with a gentle hand.
  • Tags that show the fiber content of the yarn, if that is important to you.  If it's said to be cashmere yarn, most of us would like to know that!
  • Look for as few knots in the lot of yarn as possible.  There are always a few knots just from the manufacturing process when the garment was knit.  Sometimes a seller will make a joining knot here and there to make a skein or ball bigger and more convenient to use.  Most are very small and usually blend in easily while you are working.  If you don't mind working around knots, then this may not be an issue for you.
  • Straightened or unstraightened?  Some sellers take the time to straighten their recycled yarn by steaming the kinks out of it after unravelling and many do not.  Recycled yarn that is not straightened will still be a little curly after unravelling; usually the tighter the knit of the original garment, the more "kinky" the recycled yarn will be.  Many knitters and crocheters do not find this to be a challenge, especially if you keep even tension on the yarn while working, but this is a matter of personal preference.  Handwashing and blocking your finished project usually smooths things out quite well. 
  • Do you need to know the exact yardage?  Some sellers use a yarn meter or niddy noddy to measure their yarn; some sellers do not.  There are some rough yardage calculations that can be made by using the WPI (wraps per inch) and weight of the yarn to give an estimated yardage figure for a lot of yarn (courtesy of groups such as Interweave Press).  If exact yardage is important to you, please take that into consideration when bidding.

The obvious...

  • In addition to the above, look for a seller with a high positive feedback rating.  You can then be assured of a seller who has a proven track record and will probably make your buying experience very pleasant.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions!  A good seller shouldn't hesitate to answer questions or concerns you might have.
  • Have fun!  Experiment with different yarns you might otherwise not be able to afford to use!  Make your own blends using two or more batches of recycled yarn!  I love doing this!

I truly hope that you will find this guide helpful.  I've been using recycled yarn for a while now, and it's been a lot of fun to work with luxury yarns and even make my own recycled yarn blends!  Give it a try!  I think you'll discover why so many knitters and crocheters are choosing to make recycled yarns their preference when designing their handcrafted treasures!

Happy Knitting and Crocheting...


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