Tutorial: How to unravel a jumper to recycle the yarn

mohair jumper 001 If, like me, you are a keen knitter or crocheter you will probably have balked at the price of yarn, especially real wool, cotton or bamboo. The sad reality is that it is much cheaper to buy a jumper than it is to make one and you get none of the pleasure and beauty of a handmade garment. Unravelling a charity shop or boot sale jumper can save you a considerable amount of money and is also making good use of available, recycled materials.

Find your jumper – Charity shops and car boot sales are good sources of cheap jumpers. Look for real wool and cotton although don’t dismiss manmade fibres, they can be gorgeous and are worth saving from landfill where they will never degrade. Look for a chunky knit; many jumpers (to suit our centrally heated homes and offices) are machine knitted using very fine yarn which is difficult to unravel and fiddly to reuse. When buying wool check that the jumper hasn’t been felted when washed, you will never be able to unravel it. These are some jumpers that I have gleaned from various sources, mostly free:

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1. Irish tweed – badly felted from washing (reject) 2. Lambswool – very fine yarn and badly felted (reject) 3. Wool/Mohair blend – good stitch definition, lovely yarn (this is the one) 4. Irish tweed – good stich definition, lovely yarn but has Bad Seams!! (reject, I will come on to seams)

This jumper cost £1 from a car boot sale; it is a snuggly wool/mohair blend. The pattern will mean that I will have some wastage but this still a good candidate for unravelling. I do have pangs of guilt about unravelling wearable garments but I also love making things and don’t want to buy expensive, energy intensive virgin materials. mohair jumper 003 Check the seams – You want a jumper that has Good Seams.

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This is a Good Seam. It has been made by joining two knitted edges with a crocheted or hand sewn seam.
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This is a Bad Seam. It is has been made from a large piece of knitted fabric, cut into pieces and sewn together. If you try to unravel this you will end up with loads of short lengths of yarn. Don’t bother.

Don’t despair though if your jumper has Bad Seams. It can be felted in the washing machine and sewn into sturdy bags, cushion covers etc. Sometimes you will be caught out with a Bad Seam somewhere in your jumper where you didn’t expect it, usually on the shoulders! Don’t worry, you might waste a bit of yarn but it can still be unravelled.

Remove all buttons, zips and labels – make sure you unpick all the threads because they can make your life difficult later on. On the jumper I have chosen I also had to unpick the deeper purple pattern but as it was hand-sewn it came out easily.  

Find your joining thread

this picture shows a different jumper but is it conveniently joined in a different colour so you can easily see the stitches.

To undo this stitching start from the loop end (right to left in this picture), cut the thread, pull through to the back and it should unravel obligingly and quickly! It takes some practice but it is worth persevering because otherwise you have to snip all the threads making it much more time consuming and increasing the chance of snipping through the yarn you are trying to salvage. If you pull apart the seam you can see the joining thread and the loose end to pull. At this point you can choose to snip the threads if it is proving difficult to pull out the stitches.

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With a bit of luck you can pull that purple thread and it will come apart in your hands

Start taking apart the jumper – you can do this any way you like but I usually start with the side seams then the sleeves and the collar. In this jumper I found Bad Seams at the shoulders so I just snipped them off which will waste a bit but can’t be helped. The purple stripes in this jumper were just knotted on to the grey so when I got to these I just snipped them and rejoined the grey with a knot. Mohair Jumper 009 Start unravelling –the fun bit! Mohair Jumper 019 This is the sleeve. Start at the shoulder and find the end of the yarn. You might have to make a snip but it should make itself clear. Most jumpers are knitted from bottom to top and to unravel you go backwards (top to bottom). If you are struggling to unravel turn it around and try the other end.

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Your yarn will look like this. Wind it into a ball as you go to stop it getting tangled.
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Don’t wind your ball too tight as you will stretch the wool and it will lose its ‘give’.

At this stage some people wash and hang their wool in skeins to get all the kinks out. I personally think that this is too much of a palaver and I just want to get on with making something. The kinks do relax and the results in the finished article are good enough for me. If you are planning to store your balls of yarn for some time it may be worth using a wool winder which winds balls loosely and again prevents the yarn from losing its elasticity. With a wool winder you can also make balls that don’t roll about on the floor when you are knitting up your garment. I solve this by putting my balls in a heavy jar on the floor next to me: simple and time saving! Mohair Jumper 035 My balls of wool ready for my next project. In total I have salvaged 350g of yarn. With good quality yarn retailing at around £4-£8 per 50g I have saved £27-£55 and avoided the energy, land use, water and toxins associated with manufacturing new wool. It is also a treat to have some mohair because I would never buy it new due to animal welfare issues. Time to get to work on my project!

Upcycled Cotton Bathroom Rug

bathroom rug whole

Do I say Ta Dah? Do I say Hooray? Anyway, the rug is complete and I, after a bit of tweaking I am really pleased with it. It feels lovely underfoot and doesn’t slip around on the wooden floor as I had feared it would. We shall just have to see how that whiteness fares with the little ones around!

This Tek Tek yarn is not without its challenges, particularly the variation in weight meaning that keeping it square was a battle. In fact, it isn’t square at all but with some aggressive blocking and a border to even things out, it looks fine, if a little weebly. I call it ‘rustic’ or ‘characterful’. The yarn is made from factory waste, hence the manufacturer’s claim that it is upcycled and this makes it more sustainable than most cotton, although I don’t know anything about the factory it came from so I will reserve some judgement on its ethical credentials. I am personally very committed to reducing environmental impact wherever possible and on ethical sourcing so I do tend to think quite hard about my purchases and end uses for the items I make. I often think that the crafting community doesn’t think hard enough where its materials come from,

I made up the pattern based on this picture I had seen on Pinterest and I haven’t achieved the same level of finesse but I think this one must either be much bigger or uses a finer and more regular yarn. I simplified the pattern because this one wouldn’t have fitted between the sink and the shower!

lovely rug by handycrafter.blogspot.co.uk


bathroom rug in situ

This is our bathroom with rug in situ. In case you are wondering, I am fairly sure that the avocado sink and bath will become ‘vintage’ some time soon!

And I believe that it is customary to take a picture with ones’ feet! Here it is, to prove that I am a person with feet:

bathroom rug with feet

You can clearly see the variation in yarn weight in this picture, some patches are very dense and other quite loose. It also looked RUBBISH until I put the final border on, in fact it very nearly ended up as mulch mat for the flower bed it looked so wonky. As it is, it will now grace my bathroom and soak up shower drips for years to come. It is also completely machine washable and dyeable so if that whiteness starts to tend to the grey I can always spruce it up. Thanks for visiting.


Rug in progress

Happy Thursday everyone! Things have been pretty chaotic in the construction of yarntangler heights (our extension) and I have been driven to hiding in a quiet corner while the toddler sleeps. Despite all the busyness and plumbers taking the house to bits I have made a bit of progress in rug making, and mighty satisfying it is too, if a little hard on the wrists.

I am using Tek Tek t-shirt yarn made from ‘couture’ factory waste apparently. It is pretty good although it is much chunkier than I was expecting meaning that I have had to considerably adapt what I was planning in order to fit it in the bathroom. It also varies considerably in weight throughout each ball so the results are somewhat ‘rustic’. For what I am doing that is fine but I think my obsession with neatness and nice stitch definition may drive me to another yarn choice for future rug projects.

Anyway this is how it is shaping up… pics taken whilst the small people were captive in the bath.

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It will look a lot better when the border is added. It is working up very quickly but my evening crochet time is mostly being swallowed up in choosing radiators, thinking about lights and trying to spend a few quality moments with my resident yurt maker. Since the photos were taken the bathroom has been mostly dismantled in order to install a proper heated towel rail heated by our new super-efficient wood burner. Warm dry towels, I can’t wait!

In other news Nana the toddler whisper has been making some splatter pictures with the little ‘un. They are so jolly I just have to share.

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Rugs to warm toes

What a Februaryish kind of week it has been!  We have been treated to some stunning glimpses of those good-to-be-alive days in amongst the dismal chill winds that drive me to the fireside. I have lots of crochet things to do, including some paid commissions, which is exciting.  I also have a lot of office work to do….mmmm, later.

I think it must the chilly weather and warming my toes that has led me to thinking about rugs..

If you didn’t already know, we are in the throes of building an extension to the house so I am, obviously, planning all the lovely crocheted items that I can fill it with. One of first things that attracted me to crochet was the ability to make large, structural items and I have been meaning to have a go at making crochet storage baskets, rugs and other household bits for ages.  It is modern space full of light and wood so the whole vintage vibe doesn’t really work.

Time for a bit of research…


This is fabulous, but I am not sure where I would get cotton rope like that. Nice shoes.

by Dziergalnia on Etsy


I like this one, and it is in my favourite grey, but I want this for the bathroom and a round rug definitely won’t work.

I then got to thinking that I could do something colourful in moss stitch that looks a bit like an indian dhurry.

By Henna at handycrafter.blogspot.co.uk


And then I found this one. This is the one. It is made in that t-shirt sort of yarn and apparently the pattern is in Finnish. Never mind, I think I can figure it out from the picture. Wish me luck!

Those storage baskets in the background will have to wait until another day.

Scandi Loving

We tend towards a very low-key Valentine’s day in our family and, as with all of our  celebrations, handmade gifts or cards are prized above the expensive and commercial. For us, a small gesture of love is worth ten times more than some mass-produced junk or air-freighted roses, however tempting.

I love the simplicity of scandinavian design and I spent some time looking for a simple, stylish crochet heart design for my little family.  Teresa’s Heart Ornament with its lattice work appealed to me and are a bit more unusual than the average without being too fussy.

This is how mine turned out…

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Unlike many pdf patterns, the instructions are visual and really easy to follow. After making a couple I was able to rattle them off without even looking at the pictures. I used a red cotton yarn (although I will confess that I have no idea which brand of as the label has long disappeared into the bottom of my crochet basket) and a 3mm hook.

I had fun making handmade hearts for my valentine and I hope you do too. They would also look great on the Xmas tree, if you can wait that long!


Hunger Games Huntress Cowl Thingy

2015-01-26 15.26.08Have you come across the Katniss Cowl? I was perplexed until I Googled it and came across Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games. I must admit that I am totally ignorant of this particular film craze but I gather that it involves some kind of teenage dystopian vision incorporating curious, asymmetrical knitwear and battles to the death. My lovely friend Helen asked me to make one for her 40th Birthday fancy dress party and I love a new challenge. The original is in a flecky, suitably post-apolcalyptic oatmeal but Helen wanted to be able to wear it again with her normal clothes so she chose Drops Andes in Blue-Purple. There are a number of patterns online but I chose to buy the Huntress Vest by Two of Wands because it looked the most Hunger Gamesish and was the most stylish I could find.

Huntress vest by Two of Wands

The original pattern is a mixture of crochet and knitting (I don’t knit) but fortunately she has adapted the pattern to be totally crochet meaning that you don’t quite get the herringbone effect in the front triangle pattern. It is a well written and nicely presented pattern, however, and I would definitely go back to her again in the future. My only glitch was that I found it a bit tricky to attach the herringbone crochet section to the cowl piece and had to cobble it together a bit to make it sit nicely.

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Helen practicing her kick-ass archery moves, be afraid!
Katniss Everdeen

My version turned out smaller, which was (mostly) intentional because Helen is petite and I thought it would be easier to wear if it was a slimmer fit and closer to to the neck. I also crochet tight so unless I size up my hook things always turn out small. I don’t have a hook bigger than 10mm though and I was too impatient to wait for the next size up to arrive in the post. I have been doing loads of fiddly things recently with lace-weight yarn and tiny hooks so it was great to make something chunky that works up fast. 2015-01-26 15.26.57 All we need now is a excuse to dress up and celebrate with a cocktail or three!

The morning after….

I can report that a lot of fun was had by all and Helen looked fab in her costume. I don’t have a good party picture but I suspect that the Mockingjay is a little less chirpy this morning 😉 I also appear to have order for 3 more cowls, happy days.

Happy Birthday Helen, with lots of love from all of us at Yarntangler Heights xx

Lutter Idyl Inspired Afghan

2015-01-09 13.12.00I will admit that I am partial to a little bit of Scandinavian design and Lutter Idyl is a Danish crochet blog that I go back to time after time. I love the quality and simplicity of her work and the clean, contemporary designs. I will also admit that find that I often have to search through a lot of crochet designs that are really not my taste (too frilly, too fussy, too much everything) in order to find things that I like. In comparison Lutter Idyl is a like breath of fresh, crisp Nordic air. 

My Danish has become a little a little rusty (ahem) recently, so I use Google translate with reasonable success. It can be amusing (‘pattern’ translates as ‘recipe’ for example) but you get the gist of it. 

This is the afghan that I was inspired by…

And this is my version, minus the stylish, moody riverside location… and I fear that my photography falls short somewhat.

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I am very pleased with it. It is a shameless copy and I can take no credit for the design but I am delighted with the finish and the seaming technique (detailed on her blog) which gives a totally flat and neat join between squares. It is made in 100% aran wool of various brands. I tried hard to find the turquoise in the original design but I just couldn’t find it at the right price. The sky blue that replaces it works well with the cream, grey and navy. I very rarely use pink but I love the bright pops of colour.

A big thanks to Jeanette Bogelund Bentzen for the inspiration and a brilliant eye for design.

Ahhh, I was just looking at her blog again to find the links and came across this beauty! Another one to add to the list. This shawl is also reminiscent of some designs by Stephen West at westknits. I will save that one for another time….

TipTørklæde Shawl, Jeanette Bogelund Bentzen