Previously Used Yarn

From time to time I receive questions from knitters and crocheters about gauging and yarn usage.

SummerKnittingA knitter recently wrote to ask me a question about yarn usage.  She’s making the Olivia Cowl from Swans Island.  She sent me a picture of it too – what a great color she’s using!

She had been knitting the cowl out of new (unknit) yarn but ran out.  So she went back to her stash and found an a hat she had not completed knit from the same yarn.  So unraveled the hat.

Her question :  Should she wash the unraveled yarn before knitting with it.

My answer:  Most definitely.


Without re-skeining and washing the just unraveled yarn, she risks knitting at a different gauge.  Additionally, her knitting could “list” or be “off kilter.”  Washing and letting the yarn soak will relax the fibers and let them return to how they would normally lay in the yarn (given its twist and the fiber content).

I also recommended that if, after soaking the yarn, it is still kinky, hang the skein on a dowel (or a hook) and attach a little weight to the bottom of the skein.  (Spinners commonly do this to set the twist.)

SHookI keep 2 or 3 inch long “S hooks” (pictured to the right) in a kitchen drawer just for this purpose:  One part of the S hook hooks onto the bottom of the skein, and then I hang a weight on the bottom part of the S hook.

How much weight you add depends on the kinkiness of the yarn: attach just enough weight to pull out the kinks.

Let hang until dry, then wind the yarn into a ball and start using!


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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20 Responses to Previously Used Yarn

  1. itwasjudith says:

    A wool producer told me not to use bio detergents for wool fleece washing, so perhaps Woolite is a bio detergent (enzymes)?
    I’ll have to investigate the bio vs. non-bio detergent topic 🙂


  2. If I recall correctly, Woolite contains some enzyme that over time can destroy the integrity of the wool. Yes, the name is misleading; Woolite works well for washing nylons and the like.


  3. itwasjudith says:

    Why is Woolite not good for washing wool? I would have thought it’s specific for it.. (although haven’t used it in ages)
    Thank you 🙂


  4. This a great tip! I would just unravel and reuse….now I know! 😀


  5. Oh yes, though sadly too many crafters seem to prefer to learn that the hard way! 🙂



  6. Tina says:

    Agree 100% ! It’s time consuming but the end result is worth it 🙂


  7. bbg says:

    weee! thank you for your thorough reply … I shall do 🙂


  8. Oh yes! It can indeed affect the project!


  9. You’re welcome. Thanks for reading!


  10. Yes it can – though depends on several factors (e.g., fiber content, gauge of original knit, how long it was kept in the knit up form etc.).


  11. Thank you!
    As the old saying goes, experience is the best teacher. Of course, that said, experience can also scar us! 🙂


  12. Thank you … I think knitters and crocheters just get excited and want to jump into the fun part – making their project!


  13. It most certainlly can! Remember, it once adorned the back of a goat as she marched, rolled and played in dirt. Likewise you can wash silk, alpaca, qiviut, wool, mohair … 🙂

    Have you reskeined it? If not, unravel the scarf and reskein. (If you’ve never reskeined yarn, you can Google the particulars.) After you’ve tied it in a few places, soak it in tepid water with some liquid dish soap or liquid soap especially designed for washing wool (e.g., Eucalan). But a mild liquid dish soap will work perfectly well! (DO NOT USE WOOLITE.) You can gently swish the skein around with your fingers. Then follow the suggestions in this post re unkinking the yarn or setting the twist. Voila! You’ll have a skein of cashmere ready to reuse!


  14. bbg says:

    I have a skein of cashmere I would like to reuse. It was a scarf before, but cashmere cannot be washed, or can it? What would you recommend I do with this? thanks 🙂


  15. slippedstitches says:

    Good post. Most people don’t know to do this and it makes a difference in the finished project.


  16. I love these informative posts! I learn so much. I have done this also and did not care for my yarn as you described. There was an inconsistency in the original fibers and now i shall rip out and try this! Thanks!


  17. cleo14 says:

    I never knew that it could change the gauge. I’ll definitely keep that in mind from now on. Thanks!


  18. babywren says:

    Good information to have. Thanks


  19. monsteryarns says:

    Totally agree. The stitch definition would be different with kinky yarn.


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