Knitting Basics: How to Reclaim Used Yarn

Blossom Lady
Feb 23, 2021 06:58 AM
Knitting Basics: How to Reclaim Used Yarn

As a good knitter, surely you have a project that you started one day, but without knowing how or why, you ended up leaving in the background to start other things that you wanted to knit more. After some time, you know you’ll never finish the project, but you love the yarn and want to reuse it. No doubt, you’ve tried knitting something else with it and found that the fabric just doesn’t look the same as when you first took off the label. In this step by step, we’ll teach you how to reuse yarn that you’ve already knitted.

For this tutorial, I’m going to use a cotton sample that I had already knitted. If you have wool instead of cotton, don’t worry. The process that I’m going to teach you here is exactly the same. You’ll also need a container to be able to soak the material and some yarn in a color lighter than the one you’re going to undo (white or natural would be ideal) to keep the color from running. Let's dive in!


Step 1. The first thing is to pull out, or frog, they yarn you’ve knitted.

Step 2. At the same time that you’re pulling out the yarn, wind it into a ball so that it doesn’t knot up.

Step 3. When you’ve pulled out all the yarn, it’s time to make it into a hank. To do this, use a book if you don’t have much yarn. Use the back of a chair if you have a lot of yarn. If you have a swift or winder, you could also use that for this step.

Step 4. After winding the hank, find the ends of the yarn.

Step 5. Place the ends as you see in the image above, following their natural direction within the hank.

Step 6. Now we’re going to make sure that the hank doesn’t fall apart during the process. Cut a couple strands of the lighter colored yarn and tie them around the skein. Put one of them where the ends cross so that later when you soak it, they don’t get tangled, and you can work comfortably.

Step 7. Bath time! Dip the skein completely in water at room temperature. Slowly push it down so that it is completely submerged, and the top part also gets wet. Remember that if the water is hot, your yarn will tend to shrink, and in the case of wool, to felt.

Step 8. At the same time that you’re soaking the yarn, begin stretching it a little, so that the curls relax.

You want to ensure that the yarn is fully saturated, and not floating on the surface. Push it down until it’s absorbed a fair quantity of water, and let it sit for about half an hour to help the fibers get fully relaxed. After 20 minutes, take a look at the yarn – is it still a bit crinkly? Then it needs more time. Continue soaking.

Step 9. Let the skein soak for at least half an hour.

Step 10. When the yarn is ready, squeeze out the water, wringing it without twisting it.

Step 11. To remove excess water, wrap the hank in a towel and squeeze gently, without rubbing. Repeat this process as many times as necessary until the yarn is no longer dripping. Put the skein on a hanger and let it dry out in place without direct sunlight.

Step 12. Once you have the dry hank, remove the strands you used to tie it up. Wind it loosely into a ball, taking care not to stretch the yarn too much. Now, you’re ready to start a new project with the yarn as if you just took off the label.


Now, before you dive into your knit, if you have a mix of yarn you have recycled and yarn that hasn’t been used (like me!), then you want to keep the following tips in mind.

1. Cotton and acrylic might not change a lot in the process above, but wool, wool blends (and alpaca) can stretch a little or a lot.

2. It could also have stretched a bit, if you hung your washed yarn up to dry, rather than laid it flat.

3. Once a yarn is washed, it plumps up, filling in the space between fibers. Unwashed yarn won’t have done this yet.

4. Gauge!! You will need to do a gauge swatch in both your washed yarn and your unwashed yarn to compare, and see if there is any difference. There could be a very big difference, and you want to know before investing a sweater’s worth of time into a knit.

Happy knitting!

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1 comment
Dec 18, 2021 05:33 PM

After reading about using used yarn, after going through unraveling all, what do you recommend on measuring how much yarn you have once all is wind into a ball?