Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Thrift Store Sweaters: Revisited

FINALLY, I'm ready to tell you how my sweater unravelling went! It took forever because of camera-related technical difficulties, but I've finally done it.

I'll start out by introducing you to one of my favorite tools ever, and one that came in very handy for this project:

My trusty seam ripper. I love this thing. I've had this very seam ripper since I was a little kid and my grandmother was teaching me how to sew. As its name might imply, this thing is perfect for taking seams apart. Just jam the pointy end in there and use the sharpish part in the crook to cut the threads. (Easier to do than to explain). Then rip the seam open as far as you can (fun!) and repeat. Every crafting person should have one of these. They're great.

They're good for shoulder pads too.

Lots of times a shoulder pad will only be held on by a thread or two. It's way easier to remove shoulder pads with a seam ripper than with scissors because with scissors it's easier to accidentally snip into some of the yarn you're trying to save. Don't even get me started on how well they work on removing labels. Yay for seam rippers!

So while I ripped up many sweaters, the only one I'm going to give you the step-by-step for is this one:

The reason for this is that this sweater was the biggest pain in the ass, so there's the most to tell.

Before I get too far into complaining about this sweater, there is one reason I liked it. The yarn was big, which made it easier to photograph. This is pretty much the only pic of a good seam I got where you can kind of make out the seam:

You can see near the top where I've started pulling the seam apart. If you're lucky, the seam will be crocheted and you can just find the correct end of the magic string and pull and the seam comes apart. (This does NOT reduce the usefulness of the beloved seam ripper! You never know when you might get stuck! Besides, it helps when getting those seams started.)

Anyway, there's a reason this sweater was a bitch, and you can barely see it in this pic:

Fuzz. Lots of fuzz and lint all over this sweater. It had actually melded itself into the fibers of the sweater and made the deconstruction a much more difficult prospect than just pulling on a string.

My preferred method for unraveling is to unravel straight to a yarn ball winder, like so:

If you have a cooperative sweater you can just turn the crank and it will just pull the yarn along and do most of the job for you. This sweater wasn't so cooperative. The lint made the yarn stick and just turning the crank to do the unraveling would have threatened to break the winder at worst, and wind the ball far too tight at best. Besides that, I don't want to wrap up all that lint.

That meant that I had to pull out long sections of yarn by hand (which in some cases took a surprising amount of muscle) and then go over every inch and pull off any large hunks of lint.

After a while I had big balls of fuzzy lint floating around my table and that became irritating, so I broke out the scotch tape:

The tape was good for wrangling the lint and keeping it out of my hair. That doesn't look so bad, I know, but this is what I ended up with after doing one sleeve:

And this is some very densely packed lint!

One sleeve later, and this is what I get:

And work goes on and on. Five sweaters later, and here are the results (with some comments thrown in):

One ball of yarn for each sleeve, and two each for the front and back.

The white sweater was also a pain in the butt, but not because of lint. This yarn wasn't twisted very tightly when it was spun. You can kind of see this in the one piece of yarn trailing off the bottom ball there. This meant that if at any time I pulled the yarn too overzealously there was a very good chance that I would tear it apart. Very annoying.

The green gave me no trouble, mostly, except that the seams around the shoulders were bad seams and that cost me a lot of yarn.

The pink yarn came from what was once a GAP sweater, which according to one of my sweater unraveling tutorials, is a good kind of sweater to rip up.

Nothing much to say about the red yarn. I just like this tower I built here.

And so concludes, at long last, the great sweater odyssey. I already have a project in mind to use some of this yarn up (from my crochet calendar, no less!), but I'll have to finish a couple of other things first. I can hardly wait!


wurwolf said...

So I assume frogging refers to the actual deconstructing of previously crocheted/knitted items? Or does it refer to winding the yarn or something?

You got a ton of yarn there. What are you going to make with it all? Or was this whole project just so you could rip some sweaters apart?

(I totally agree about seam rippers. I don't even sew or crochet and I know how awesome they are.)

Lita said...

The best definition for frogging I've seen was in my Stitch 'n Bitch Crochet book:

Frogging: There will come a day when you'll arrive at the terrifying realization that the hat you're making for your father will barely fit your Chihuahua. Nevertheless, you'll continue working on it for a few hours or days or more, until you finally admit to God, yourself, and another human being that the project is unsalvageable. Then, and only then, will you be willing to "frog," or rip it out, wind up the yarn, and get ready to start all over again. Why is this called "frogging"? Because "rip it" sounds like "ribbit," the sound a frog makes. Hey, I couldn't make this stuff up.


The project was pretty much an excuse to destroy some perfectly good sweaters. Even so, I plan to make a scarf out of this yarn. It won't come close to using it up, but I'll figure out what to do with the rest of it later.

I love my seam ripper to pieces. Even more now that Tork tells me he's afraid of it. >:oD

PM said...

if you want to destroy Tork's sweater
Hold this thread as he walks away
Watch Tork unravel, his knees be naked
Lying on the floor, I poin and laugh

Jen said...

Faith over at Jealous Much? recommended your unraveling post. Thanks for the info! I do have one question--Were these sweaters you already owned or did you get them at a thrift-type-store? I would be very interested in recycling some sweaters if I could find the right source. Thanks AGAIN for the post!

Lita said...

These were thrift store sweaters. I got all five for either five or ten dollars. I don't remember.

Thrift stores are a good source for cheap sweaters. Think of all the people who get sweaters they hate for Christmas. You just have to pick sweaters with nice big yarn and with seams that are sewn together rather than trimmed and serged.