The idea of unraveling sweaters for their yarn dawned on me about a decade ago when I became a poor college freshman who could no longer finance her yarn addiction. The first sweater I unraveled was a mess – I cut the wrong seams, had to tie small segments together in order to make a ball large enough for a project (which left me with undesirable knots in my fiber).
I remember the first project I made out of the up-cycled yarn very well – it was a teal cotton shoulder bag for a friend’s birthday present. Although there were a few stray strands poking out (due to the aforementioned knot tying), the end product was unlike anything I had made before. The color was totally unique, and it had this worn softness that could only be obtained from years of use. And the coolest part of all was that she could tell people “Hey – this bag used to be a sweater! How cool is that?”
As the years passed, I perfected my technique and developed a keen and critical eye when sifting through the sweaters at thrift stores. I learned to brush off the curious looks from the Goodwill cashiers as they rung up my armful of sweaters in the the middle of July. I built contraptions to wind yarns into yard-measuring hanks. I started experimenting with hand-dyeing wool. I started to test my boyfriend’s infinite patience by filling our apartment with fuzzies and strings when in the midst of a sweater-pulling frenzy.
After reading an article on textile waste in the Unites States, I realized my yarn habit was also keeping the sweaters out of landfills. The average American contributes around 82 pounds of textile waste per year; 70 pounds goes straight to landfills while 12 pounds is donated to thrift stores. Of those donated clothes, a good portion goes unsold and is taken to landfills or is sold to for-profit textile recycling companies. Let’s be real – who wants your grandma Gertrude’s old cardigan. Well… I do! I’ve found sweaters made out of Merino wool, cashmere, cotton, and angora. How sad is it that a beautiful pink cashmere sweater is sitting in a landfill when its yarn could be re-purposed to make yourself a beautiful beret?
This is your chance to get these quality fibers at a (much MUCH) lower cost than anywhere else. And you’re keeping a sweater out of a landfill – a sweater with a story, and a past. A sweater someone wore on their first date, wore when they were picking out pumpkins one fall, wore caroling in their neighborhood one December. And now these sweaters’ stories don’t have to end. They get the opportunity to reincarnate and get a second chance at life. What that life will be is up to you to decide.