recycling yarn

So I had decided that as part of my knitter’s development it was time to knit a shawl.  Note, this is not a stole, but an authentically ‘get your granny on’ triangular shawl.  Though this undertaking involved the obvious danger of looking ridiculous, I had seen many photos of hip young people wearing shawls such as this like scarves, and figured I could pull it off!  So I dyed some recycled cashmere, and eventually cast on!  Laminaria (a free pattern from was an absolute joy to knit, and I got through it in 4 days!  I took the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria and got a lot of knitting time in both ways, so that helped.

My husband and I had to sleep on the couch one night so that I could block the shawl out on our futon!!  The yarn is approximately fingering weight, and I used a 5mm needle, and it required approximately 500 yds.

unblocked shawl


To wind a centre-pull ball of yarn by hand:

yarn spaghetti

1. First, unwind a skein (hank) of yarn using either a swift, or just by draping the skein over my knees, and gradually unwinding it and dropping it loosely onto the floor, or into a paper bag or box, so that it forms a loose pile of yarn spaghetti.  If you have pets or children, I think the best thing to do is to drop it into a bag or box, so the critters can’t tangle it up.

2. Holding the end of the yarn with your thumb, begin to wrap the yarn around 2 fingers, several times in one direction, then switching the angle at which the wraps are made every so often.

3. Continue winding until you have a little ball on your fingers, and then take your fingers out, and put your thumb into the centre hole, and then continue to wrap the yarn, turning the ball every so often to wrap at a new angle.

Wrap gently, being careful not to make too tight a ball, as this will put strain on the yarn.

Be sure to always have the yarn end poking out of the centre, and be careful not to lose it by wrapping over it.

4. Eventually you will run out of yarn, and have a lovely hand-wound centre-pull ball of yarn!

For most types of yarn, it works to pull from the centre of this type of ball, and this also allows for 2 strands of yarn to be held together from the same ball, or for 2 pieces of knitting to be worked from a single ball (for example, when knitting 2 pairs of socks at the same time from a single ball).

However, some delicate or ‘sticky’ yarns, such as mohair or lace-weight silk yarn can be difficult to pull from the centre, as their strands tend to stick together and tangle.  In these cases, it is best to knit from the outside of the ball.

Enjoy your lovely hand-wound balls!

This is the most luscious cashmere I’ve ever seen, and I’m SO happy with the colour I’ve achieved.

It’s 600 yds, on 3 skeins, and it’s a little heavier than a standard lace weight, but definitely lighter than fingering.

I’m planning on making it into Laminaria, a beautiful shawl published on  I’m not sure yet whether I will knit it holding this yarn single stranded, for a lighter effect, or double stranded for something more like a DK weight.  I think I’ll swatch it both ways, and see what I like best.

I’m currently designing this sweater… (well, I guess it’s only a sleeve and a half so far.. hardly qualifies as a sweater)… which is going to be pretty stripey all over.  It’s knit from recycled and hand-dyed merino yarn, and it’s at a pretty fine gauge, knit on US#3 (3mm) needles.  As the same needles are being used for gloves that I’m currently knitting, I have had to wait before getting back to the sweater.  Of course, I’m impatient, because who doesn’t love stockinette in the round with only stripes to distract one from cheesy TV?!  And I think the end product will be very wearable – that is if I ever finish it!!

Black Heart – this is my first try at hand-painting yarn.  I’m ecstatic about the colours, but the process was a little time-consuming, as I had to dye twice after the first round left too many white patches.  I found out that it’s much simpler to set the dyes in the microwave than by steaming on the stovetop (this was discovered after I scorched the bottom of my dye-pot when all the water boiled off).

I have 3 more skeins of the base yarn, which is knitpicks ‘bare’ merino / nylon sock yarn.  I haven’t knit with it before, so I’m hoping it’s decent – and if I feel like it won’t stand up to hard wear as socks, I may knit a hat or scarf with it.  OR… gloves for me?

I have been making progress on Mark’s birthday present: simple merino wool gloves.  I’m just working out the pattern as I go, and now that I’ve got the left-hand glove fitting perfectly, all that remains is to knit it again for the other hand!  I’m not really loving how many yarn ends have to be woven in…

But of course, despite the downsides, I’m going to have to knit myself a pair as soon as his are off the needles, because it’s still cold and crisp here in Vancouver, and fingerless gloves are really a joke when it comes to keeping you warm!!

Lastly, I made a second purchase at Urban Yarns, and it is none other than the lovely malabrigo merino lace, a buttery soft and brilliantly dyed single-ply lace yarn.  I have lusted after this yarn for SO LONG, and finally have it in my clutches!!

The swatch shows the stitch pattern I’m using to create a fat scarf / stole.  It’s a pretty brainless stitch pattern, so it’ll even be suitable for knit nights, and watching TV.

Finally I get to post about my favorite finished object EVER.  I knit this afghan / lap blanket for my aunt, who is a wonderful and creative person.  She has knitted for years, but now she spends more of her creative time making beautiful jewelry, plates and ornaments from fused glass.  She has always inspired me, and she gave me a set of knitting needles and crochet hooks, and started me knitting.

Pattern: Pi Shawl, by Elizabeth Zimmermann, published in Knitter’s Almanac
Yarn: Recycled 100% italian merino wool, unraveled from a thrifted sweater; ~1300 yards
Needles: US 5/3.75 mm Knitpicks circular (47″ length)
Finished Dimensions: 60″ diameter (after blocking)
Started: July 18 2008
Finished: December 6 2008

This was both a terribly frustrating and boring, and a wonderfully satisfying project.  It took me many hours, and when I got to the 576 stitch section, it took 22 minutes for EACH ROUND!!!  So it truly felt like it would never be finished.  But by the time I got to the lace, it was addictive, because I knew I would soon be done.  The knit-on border took a terribly long time as well, but when it was done and blocked, it became such a lovely piece of work I almost couldn’t give it away!!

For Christmas my aunt gave me some gift money to enhance my craft supply stash, and I used it to buy more colours of Jacquard Acid Dye, which I use to dye yarn.  These are dye tests on recycled yarn of various sorts; white alpaca, tan merino, light brown merino, and light blue cashmere.  From left to right in the picture, these fibres were overdyed with my 4 new dye colours: aztec gold, brown, magenta, and turquoise.  They form quite an amazing rainbow, as each yarn took the dye differently, and the way the dye colour interacted with the yarn’s original colour created many different effects.  I love colour!

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