Sweater-recycling DIY (bonus Ikea stool hack)

I’m all for experiments and trying new things – especially when those experiments involve getting a sweater’s worth of yarn for $5.

After some Youtubing and hemming and hawing, I decided to try recycling yarn from a used sweater. I went to the local Goodwill, found what looked to be a woolen hand-knit sweater (just my luck) in a beautiful denim shade of blue, took it home for $4.99, and began the unraveling.

As you can see, it is not a bad sweater at all. It’s got some lovely cabling, and was made by an expert hand. But, my knitting dreams need yarn. And lots of it!

Here were my sweater-recycling steps: a conglomeration of different Youtube tutorials + my own spin…

1. Dissassemble the sweater: Cutting the seams

I learned (by trial and error) that the sweater needs first to be disassembled(!). I turned the sweater inside out, and found the seams. There were seams attaching the sleeves to the body, and seams attaching the front and back of the garment. What you see below are ‘good’ seams as far as sweater recycling is concerned (they are hand sewn rather than machine-serged). As a result, it was easy to find the thread that held the pieces together, and cut it. I recommend going slowly at first to minimize casualties (i.e. like cutting into the knitting itself!).

On the ‘wrong’ side of the stockinette, the seam looks like two rows of braids. I picked out and cut the thread holding them together.
The seam appears like a ‘ladder’ strung between the sweater’s pieces.

After less than a couple of hours, the sweater was disassembled: 2 body pieces and 2 sleeves.

Front (neck line removed) and sleeves…

This takes a while. The knitter who made this sweater was fond of securing the seams with huge knots. Impatient, I cut these knots away.

2. Finding a pulling point

I’m sure there’s a better way to go about this, but I simply looked for where I thought the ‘cast off’ edge was on each piece. Since this was a seamed sweater, I assumed it was knit bottom-up and looked for the cast off edge at the necklines and tops of sleeves. With a little sleuthing, I noticed an uneven dip in the collar of the front of the sweater (left, below) which signaled where the last stitch might have been made. I worked on it with a knitting needle + scissors, and was able to prise a thread loose. I was in business for some serious frogging! Woo hoo!

I love the ramen noodle look of un-knit yarn.

3. Frogging it!

This is the fun part – you pull and pull…and pull.

I had read that it’s a time-saver not to leave the yarn in a tangled heap when unraveling, so I was looking for something to wind my yarn around as I went. I noticed that our Ikea Marius stool had a good set of prongs on it, so I recruited the stool in keeping my unraveling job neat, for lack of proper tools. I suppose necessity is the mother of… winging it with whatever you’ve got!

Here is the front of the sweater being frogged: with the sweater in my lap, I’m spinning the stool on a table, winding the strand around the 4 legs. I admit, my first section of frogging  wasn’t a perfect pull; there were quite a few joins that had to be made, places where the yarn broke because of my inexperienced seam-ripping (it pays to be precise!)

The front body of the sweater alone yielded a good amount of yarn. I tied the pieces together:

So many joins… forgive the messy background.

By the end of the whole process, I was left with some really copious blue hanks. Check out all that good stuff!

Frogged front, back, and 2 sleeves.

At this point, the yarn needs to be washed, and hung to dry. Adding a weight to the yarn as it dries will help to take out the curls (more on this process in a later post). Then, the yarn can be wound up, and will be ready for its knitting after-life.

There’s a world of beautiful fibre out there, waiting to be discovered and transformed. This experience is urging me not to dismiss Thrift stores and rummage sales as solid stash-sourcing options!

Have you ever recycled old knits? I’d love to hear about your adventures in yarn-cycling (and more!) in the comments.

 

 

Perler pixel necklaces

While working on a longer-term knitting project, I will sometimes manage the urge to cast-on something new (no harm in that, though!) by doing smaller-scale handmade projects.

I enjoy the things that perler beads – in their near infinite versatility – can do. I’ve just discovered perler jewelry-making: fuse some beads, add a chain here, a connector ring there, a clasp, and you have yourself some nifty new pixel-y things to wear.

Here’s a perler necklace picture-DIY for the curious (the patterns are not original).

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Jump rings: the knees and elbows of jewelry. 7 mm rings are big enough for perler beads.

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…and some BB-8 Star Wars love:

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Greetings from the messy work table…

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Knitting Panda backstory: Card-drawing DIY in 4 steps

I hope you enjoyed a very Happy Christmas. Bitten hard by the making-bug earlier this month, I decided to try my hand at designing my own holiday greeting cards using the Knitting Panda art work I posted just a few days ago.panda-card1-edit-4

Have you ever wanted to draw or design your very own greeting to share with friends and family? If you’re interested, here was my process – a DIY drawing tale in 4 steps, for the curious:

1. Collect and Design. The fun part of this stage is playing around and ‘collecting’ inspiration – ideas, images, and so on, for drawing. I tried to think of the pictures, colours, and themes that might tickle my imagination.

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This hippie bear was drawn at 5. You can tell he means business.

Bears have always been one of my favourite things to draw. I can’t explain why but from the time I took pencil to paper, human-like bears populated my pictures. I grew up in the era of the Berenstein Bears, Care Bears, Paddington, and gummi bears, so this bear-love is probably a product of the 80s.

As you may have also read in past posts, I like to think that the essence of my recent knitting practice lies in expressing care and generosity – towards myself and others – in ordinary ways. Knitting, for me, is a modality of loving; in its form, it can convey the idea that the fabric of life is stitched and held together by the acts of love and generosity we share.

So…. a knitting bear it was. However, I still needed some concrete pictures to make the leap from idea to image. A Google search of “bear knitting” unfortunately gave no direct results. But, when I found the photo below in a 2011 Daily Mail article on how pandas digest bamboo, I knew I had found the reference image I was looking for. To my eyes, this ambidextrous panda was clearly a knitter (and a happy one, at that):

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2. Draw. If you’re a drawing amateur, like me, this step is likely to be riven through with all kinds of worries about whether the drawing ‘looks good’ (maybe along with internalized standards about whether it looks ‘real’ or not). When this hits me, I like to think of why children draw, the way they draw, and how I drew as a child: often and copiously, mostly un-selfconsciously, in order to share and tell stories, and out of the simple pleasure of moving messes of lines and colours around. I suspect that the desire to recapture this pleasure is behind the recent interest in adult colouring books (which I haven’t tried yet). When I was 6, my parents also gave me those smelly Mr. Sketch markers. Remember those? These added ‘smell’ to the already long list of reasons to draw.

The true drawing gateway drug.

So, I tried to back-burner my preoccupation with the end product, drew (copying the reference image, but adapting it a little), water-coloured, and inked. It was fun to see Knitting Panda take shape. I’m glad s/he got drawn.

The gist of step 2 is appreciating that your way of drawing and seeing are unique and cannot be produced by anyone else – “that might be a good thing”, you jest, but it can also be an adventure to discover and develop your style and way of seeing things through the materials, colours and subjects that feel right.

3. Copy. I had to outsource this step of the DIY. I scanned my water-colour image, and sent it to the local business-supply store/copier’s. Surprisingly, my batch of greeting cards (single-sided 5 X 7″ matte prints) were ready to take home that very day at little over 50 ¢ per card. The copies aren’t perfect (the colour is less saturated than the original), but they did their job of spreading holiday cheer. There are many copying alternatives; I went with the simplest and most affordable (short of printing them at home).

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4. Share. Off the little pandas went, into the mail slots and taped to presents, (bear)ing their glad tidings. If this panda brings a smile or two, then I’m happy.


There’s nothing like the glee of seeing your design go from daydream, to doodle, to hot-off-the-press copies. I’m excited to try this again for the next occasion.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

Honey cozy

Perhaps I should have expected that taking up knitting again would leave me in the throes of a cozy pre-occupation. I like the way that cozies (sp?) add little dabs of life, colour, and texture to the taken-for-granted objects around me (in this case, the bottle of honey that sweetens my morning tea, and gets me on the right side of awake again). I’m coming to learn that I cozify objects to acknowledge their utility and significance. The cozy is a little embellishment of love.

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Excitement: first-time colour work in the round
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The reds were meant to be arrows. Oh, well. Still looking spiffy, honey.

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Upcycled Seed Stitch Can

As a new knitter, I am always looking for opportunities to put recently learned skills to use. While cultivating the ability to work on long-term and larger knitting projects is important, I get excited when I see possibilities for using new-found skills to make tiny (and quick) crafts.

I recently learned seed stitch, and it was an instant favourite; I love the stitch’s bumpy and unusual texture. Seed stitch is a 2-row pattern. The ‘bumps’ are produced by alternating single knit and purl stitches on the first row (usually of an even number), then doing the opposite on the second row (knitting the purl stitches, and purling the knit stitches). Voilà!

I tend to hang on to discardables, recyclables and other re-usable items for my crafts, and I had been keeping an empty tomato-paste can, unsure of what to do with it, but bent on re-using it. 🙂 After reading about yarn bombing – a form of graffiti-knitting that transforms objects in public space with colourful knits – I began to look for the things in my immediate environment that could use some yarny love.

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I would love to do this. Photo source: wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarn_bombing

From there, I thought that a seed stitch pencil-can cozy would be a neat and quickly craft-able project.

Keep Reading!

Perler beads

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Often found in the kids craft section, perler beads are those tiny plastic rings of colour that can be arranged on a pegboard and ironed/fused together to make 2- and 3-D crafts. 2-D perler images often look pixelated, making perler beads great for reproducing animated characters and video game sprites. The model of bead arrangement on a plastic pegboard was invented and patented by Swede Gunnar Knutsson in the early 1960s as a form of therapy and recreation for the elderly – interesting origins of what is now typically considered (or dismissed as) a ‘grade-school’ craft. This medium is not to be underestimated! It’s very, very versatile – a kind of hands on and analog version of pixel art that can be used to make complex and stunning works. Crafters have pushed perler design past the 2-D pegboard to render 3-D baskets, bowls, trays, and ornaments. Some unexpected and beautiful examples of plastic bead-dom to try for home decor can be found here.

I have been on a perler bead kick since getting my first kit (beads, pegboards and ironing paper) on a whim a few months ago, using the beads to make small gifts here and there. I find the activity absorbing and calming – a bit reminiscent of playing with Lego, Lite Brite or other colourful, modular, pegg-y toys as a kid, and a bit similar to the craft of cross-stitch in arranging small blocks of colour on a grid-like plane. Dropping the tiny beads individually onto the pegboard takes, depending on the size of the project, a little patience, a little dexterity, and some care not to knock the still tenuously-lying beads over. Until I fuse my project, it’s about nimble and loving fingers – a feature of my favourite art and craft media.

The trick to fusing  the beads once the pattern has been arranged is evenly distributing heat across the work with an iron. Too little heat and the work crumbles apart; too much, and the work looks melty and/or unevenly flattened. Working small, I’m still honing my ironing skills! (I learned all I needed to know online. Thanks, Youtube).

More bead projects to come.

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Some Chicago love: city flag souvenir

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Sugar Bunny