Recycle Sweaters Into Yarn

four balls of yarn

Normally we buy yarn in order to make sweaters. Did you know you can also do it the other way around?

Ashley Martineau started knitting and quickly found that it can become an expensive hobby. To feed her addiction, she started unraveling sweaters from thrift stores and reusing the yarn. When she perfected her technique, she was generous enough to share her knowledge with other crafters.

Ashley’s Recycled Yarn Tutorial has everything you need to know as you’re eyeing the sweater racks at your local resale shop. This step-by-step guide with lots of helpful photographs shows how to figure out which sweaters will produce lovely yarn instead of shrimpy bits, then disassemble the sweater for unraveling and harvest that yarn.

Ashley gives tips for wool sweaters, cotton sweaters, and sweaters made from novelty yarns like chenille, silk, and alpaca. There’s even a DIY measuring tool that anyone with a hammer can easily create.

The tutorial is available in downloadable form if you want to print it and take it with you. (That might come in handy when the folks at the thrift store wonder why you’re turning so many sweaters inside out.) There’s even a Recycled Yarn Yahoo Group if you’re looking for other sweater recyclers.

Give that beautiful yarn trapped in that ugly sweater a second chance at life! You never knew those frogging skills were going to pay off so well, did you?

[Image by Ula Kapala.]

Written by Skye Kilaen

Skye Kilaen began sewing at an early age and eco-rabble-rousing shortly after that. Many years later, someone finally told her that there are books about how to make quilts. Life was never the same. In fact, she spent more on her sewing machine than her car. Bringing her green and crafty passions back together, Skye is now happily discovering ways to create beautiful and useful objects using thrifted and sustainable materials. No, that's not just an excuse to visit Goodwill more often. Honest.


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  1. Recycling sweaters to re-claim the yarn is a wonderful, frugal idea. Watch for those wool sweaters at thrift shops as you can get wonderful wool yarn for felting projects at a faction of the cost.

  2. Cindy, I think it would also be a good move for the sweaters I find that I love the color, but that don’t fit me. Ha, I’ll turn you into a scarf!

  3. This was one of the best tutorials I found while searching for info about recycled/reclaimed yarn. Thank you for such a concise tutorial and clear instructions. The tips about serged seams and winding as you unravel were priceless. The photos were excellent, too!

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