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.
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.
- 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.)