A 20 Year Unfinished Project?!

One of my friends used to tell me stories of her upbringing in Ireland. As a child, one of her responsibilities was to take old knit sweaters, carefully unravel them, reskein the yarn and then wash the skeins in preparation for use for another project.

I thought about her the other night as I rooted around in my considerable stash for a 100% wool to knit into small gifts. I stumbled across a bag containing a half-finished baby sweater and a skein or two of Jaeger’s machine washable, 4-ply, Baby Merino. (I bought the yarn about 15-20 years ago.)

The yarn has an amazing hand, so I decided to use it.

The first thing I did was weigh the sweater pieces and partial skeins. As the label indicated each 50g skein had 183m/200y of yarn, I was able to easily determine how many yards or meters I had.

Then I unraveled the sweater pieces and put my skein winder to use. Here’s the resultant skein. Notice the yarn is rather kinky (a masterly understatement). Next I filled up a large bowl with warm water, added mild liquid dish soap, plopped in the skein, and let it sit over night.

The following morning I rinsed the skein, squeezed out the water, rolled it in a thick towel and then left it alone for a couple of hours. Here’s what the skein looked like after that. Still damp, I hung it in the bathroom and fastened a little weight at the bottom overnight. Then it was ready to use!

I decided to use two strands held as one (so it will now be an 8-ply at 100 g/183m/200 y). I had enough yarn to knit a couple of worsted-weight hats. I decided to knit cloches resembling the picture of a Dutch pattern I saw a while ago but couldn’t locate again. Its veritable twin is Andrea C. Delhey‘s Buttoned Cloche (pattern available at Ravelry).

(Now keep in mind that I don’t really follow patterns. I look at patterns like I look at recipes: suggestions which I modify, often radically, to taste or whim. That way I can use whatever I have at hand [trans: in my stash].)

Of course the color had to go. I love overdying yarns and while it’s much (much) better to dye yarn in skeins, I dyed the hats with my granddaughter after they were knit up. As she’s only 4 years old, I think she was more excited to see a hat change color than when she dyes skeins of (which we’ve already done several times).

Two hats were to go to my daughter and Thor’s mom, Mrs. M. My daughter wanted purple; Mrs. M requested black. The hats are still a wet in this picture. I set the buttons on the brims to give a better idea of how the hats will look completely finished. I knit Mrs. M’s hat a little longer; she lives in the upper midwest, so I thought she might like to be able to fold the bottom into a brim around her face for a little extra warmth.

I hope my daughter and Mrs. M like their new hats.

Please note:

  • It is much different unraveling an unworn wool sweater than a well-worn wool sweater. A well-worn wool sweater (especially knit from non-washable wool) may have fulled (felted) in places, most particularly around the arms (moisture, heat + friction). This makes it difficult (or impossible) to unravel the whole sweater.
  • Unraveling mohair sweater (no matter its age and use), will be particularly challenging.
  • I successfully unraveled a 50% merino and 50% silk heavily cabled and lace vest. While I had worn it several times, I wore it only in one winter season. (I fragged it only after my daughter snickered when she saw it.)

About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
This entry was posted in Dyeing, Knitting and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to A 20 Year Unfinished Project?!

  1. Pingback: Flashback: Jacket that was once two Mary Maxim knitted jackets | Fibercrush

  2. Be sure and carefully check seams for felting. Also, if it is a commercially made sweater, you might find from looking at the seams that the knit fabric was CUT and then seamed, which means you will end up with multiple lengths of yarn, no one greater than half the width of the sweater. 😦 But, if it is a hand made sweater …! Also, I’ve seen “new” sweaters that are made from cut up old sweaters and then pieced (sewn) together – can be quite chic!


  3. I just saw this being done for the first time at the mill this past Saturday! Only Laurel was unraveling (and winding) a sweater she had gotten from a thrift shop in the loveliest orange. I’ve never tried it before. But when I think about the fact that I don’t knit many sweaters, mainly because of the price of multiple balls of yarn, I may have to take a trip to the thrift store sometime soon. 🙂


  4. The cloches are REALLY easy … just cast one enough stitches to give you the band depth you want, knit the lower band (in whatever pattern you want – I have a cabled one partially completed), until it is the width of the wearer’s head, minus 10-20% (ease), and then a few more rows for overhanging button part. Cast off. Then “connect” the circle (being sure to leave the button tab out of the join), pick up stitches, and knit the crown. Voila!!


  5. handstitch says:

    Terrific cloches. Reclaiming old sweaters, digging through button stash…all fun. I brought a red sweater to camp a couple of weekends ago with good intention, but never made it out of the bag. Now the weather is getting colder, maybe…just maybe lol


  6. Thank you! I tend to collect buttons, so it was fun going through my box of buttons to find some that worked. 🙂


  7. Did you overdye it too, or did you like the color? The hats, by the way, were very easy to do … to the point where it was almost boring. 😦


  8. If it is seamed, see if you can pull apart the seams … that should give you an idea if it’s doable.


  9. I love overdying yarn – then it’s like I’ve suddenly added new yarn to my stash. 🙂


  10. minaandme says:

    I like the new colors much more and the hats are very cute! The little buttons set it off perfectly 🙂


  11. I got a yellow mohair cardigan from a second hand shop which was huge on me. I pulled it out and made a wrap for myself. I had to waste a little bit because some refused to unravel but the end result was and still is quite wonderful. The hats look so chic and modern!!


  12. streepie says:

    hmmm… I have an oversized cardigan from the 80’s in my cupboard. It has been hardly worn, but it is Mohair. The colour is great, so I would deserve a second life. Will mull this over…


  13. Katarina says:

    I love how you’re re-using the old yarn! I’ve unravelled a few ufo’s lately and it is very satisfying knowing that the yarn can come to better use. Haven’t tried dyeing yet, but you’ve inspired me to try.


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