Recycling Yarn – The Tutorial


So you’ve decided that it’s time to face the reality of that sweater that you knit for yourself but wouldn’t fit a garden gnome, or the 10 year old WIP that you’re never going to finish. Or maybe you’ve decided that your 4 year old son’s baby cardigan could become a lovely hat and mittens set. Or maybe it’s that cardigan that you knit 5 years ago, that you loved to wear, but boot camp 2 years ago means you dropped a couple of dress sizes and now it doesn’t fit you anymore. Whatever your reason for wanting to recycle your knitted yarn, this is how you do it.

Note: I am only talking about hand knit items here, there’s a whole other world to recycling yarn from store bought knits, be they from charity shops or the high street. It’s not something I’ve done so I won’t go into it but Dawn Prickett and Lee Meredith have great blog posts on them if you want to check them out! I’ve included links to other tutorials throughout this post as well.

Step 1


The first step is finding your seams and separating them. (I didn’t take photos of this step as I hadn’t thought of doing a tutorial at the time but I’ll be sure to take photos the next time!). Once your have your pieces separated, find the cast off edge and get unravelling. If it is something you knit a long time ago you might not be too sure which end is which, you might want to root out the pattern or if you were an organised Raveler at the time, check out your project page.

Wind the yarn around your hand as you unravel, this gives you more control than if you were using a ball winder. There is no need to have it in a ball or yarn cake just yet.

Step 2

Once you’ve unravelled all the yarn you’ll have your loose crinkly balls of yarn. You’re going to want to know what weight and yardage you have, so that you know what you can knit with it! If you remember what yarn you used, have a Ravelry project page or a notebook with the details then happy days! All you need to do is weigh your yarn, from this you can work out the yardage. How do I do that? I hear you say. It’s just some simple maths. Let’s say you know the yarn you are using is 210 yards to 100g and you have 275g of it. First you need to know how many yrds are in 1g. So you divide 210 by 100. Which gives you 2.1. So for your yarn, 1g is 2.1 yards. You now just need to multiply 2.1 yrds by 275g  to find out how many yrds you have, which is 577.5 yrds.

100g = 210yrds

100/100 = 210/100

1g = 2.1 yrds

275g = 577.5 yrds

This formula can be transferred to any weight of yarn. Using your ball band information, just divide your yardage by your weight to find out how many yards are in 1g, and then multiply that figure by the weight of yarn that you actually have.

In some cases, you might not know what yarn you have and you might not be sure of whether it’s DK, Worsted or Aran weight. In this case, the first thing you want to do is find out the WPI (wraps per inch) for your yarn. There’s a handy tutorial over on Craftsy on how do this so I won’t go into it here.

Next you want to weigh how much yarn you have and take a note of that figure. There is a kind of standard to yards per weight with different thickness of yarn, it can vary so this is why I do the next step this way.

Step 3


If you are using a yarn swift, open it up so that it has a one metre/yard circumference (there is no need to do this if you already know the yardage of your yarn). If you are using the back of a chair, measure the circumference of it and take note of it.


I usually tie one end of the yarn in a loose knot to the swift to make sure it stays in place. Begin to wind your yarn around the swift/chair. I usually like to wind my skeins in approx. 50g or 100g skeins, so either splice the yarn together if it’s wool, or I use a magic knot if it’s a yarn that won’t felt.

Step 4


Once you are finished winding your yarn on the swift you need to tie a piece of scrap yarn around your skein in 2-4 places to make sure it stays in a tidy loop. If you need to work out the yardage, just simply count how many loops of yarn are around the swift. Each loop is 1 meter or yard so that will tell you how much yarn is in that skein! If you are using the back of a chair, you need to multiply your number of loops by the circumference of the chair to find out how much you have.

Step 5


When you take your yarn off the swift, it’s going to look like a bundle of Koka noodles but, unless you are using an acrylic yarn, this next step will sort out most of that.

Fill a basin full of cold water and wool wash and pop your skein of noodle yarn in. Leave it soak for about an hour.


Gently squeeze out excess water, without wringing and towel dry your skein the same way you would a garment for blocking. Just roll it up and press down! You might want to do this 2 or 3 times, with a new dry towel each time, to get out as much water as you can.


I have seen people use weights at the end of their yarn while drying it, personally I don’t like doing that as it could stretch out your yarn, which your don’t want happening. I just drape it over a hanger and leave it air dry.

Step 6


Once your yarn is dry, you just need to wind it up into a ball, etiher with a swift and ball winder or by hand, and you’re ready to knit with it again! If you don’t plan on knitting with it straight way, twist it up into a skein instead, as this will stop it getting stretched out. It may still have some kinks in it, but don’t worry about it, once the majority of the kinks are gone, it won’t cause any problems with knitting

And that’s it! I’d love to see your recycled yarn projects. Send them to me at or tag them on social media with #peekorecycle


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