When you have separated your sweater and are getting ready to unwind the knit fabric you should decide if you want to store the yarn in the form of a hank of yarn or a ball of yarn. Typically those who recycle fibre to sell will want to form a hank of yarn, then will twist it and make it pretty for sale. If this is the case for you I would suggest making or purchasing a niddy-noddy. This will help you to measure the length of yarn and to help keep the yarn tidy while washing. For my purposes I intend to ball the yarn to knit and crochet with so I formed a rough skein by winding the yarn between by thumb and elbow. I tied small pieces of scrap yarn in four places around the unwound yarn segments. This will help to keep the yarn from tangling in the wash.
Find a plastic tote or bucket that you can use for this washing stage. Fill the container with enough warm water to saturate the amount of yarn you have recovered. You do not want to use hot water because animal fibres will felt under the heat and agitation of the washing process.
I have read a number of "How To" blogs and resources on the washing process itself and what to use as a detergent in this process seems to vary by personal taste. There are wool washing products on the market but often shampoo and liquid dish detergent are recommended. For my first attempt I used shampoo because the brand I use is dye and fragrance free to avoid any potential allergies up the road. For the amount of yarn I had I added one tablespoon of detergent to the water bath.
Once you have mixed in the detergent add the skeins of yarn one at a time. Allow them to become saturated in the water and sink below the surface. Do not agitate the yarn during this process though since it can cause felting and damage your yarn.
Once you have the yarn in a bath to soak you get to take a break! Let it soak for an hour (this is why I prefer to use a container instead of a sink). If you have stained yarn or yarn with a musty smell you could even leave it to soak overnight.
One hour later...
Drain all of the water from your container and rinse the yarn skeins with clean warm water to remove the detergent that remains after the wash. Remember not to agitate the yarn during the rinse.
From here use your hands to gently squeeze excess water from the yarn. The next stage is to hang it all up to dry. This part actually had me rolling on the floor laughing! I hope you have as much fun with this as I did! A good laugh is medicine for the soul I swear!
It is currently about -15°C outside so hanging it up to dry outside is out of the question. So here I was rummaging around the house looking for things to help rig up a drying rack for this yarn. Too funny!!
So here is my make-shift drying rack and my bathroom... bungee cords, a metre stick and plastic wrap... too funny right? Moving on though it worked well!
I have read also that adding weight to the bottom of the loop of yarn as it dries will help with the straightening process. I just filled some bottles with water and rested them in the loops of yarn to weigh them down.
Now close your bathroom door, forget about your yarn, and go to bed and let your yarn dry overnight. I am laughing as I write this looking at the photo above with the bottles hanging there on the yarn... through the night my yarn shifted ( I assume the furnace kicked on and the vent above started to rock my drying rack contraption) and all of the water bottles fell into the tub.What a surprise in the middle of the night! I have to think of something better for next time but for a first attempt this worked very well.
When your yarn is dry you can leave it in the hank but twist it up for storage OR like me if you prefer having your yarn in a center pull ball you can wind your yarn into a ball! Here is a photo of my yarn just quickly hand wound into a center pull ball. I find having in a yarn better because the yarn doesn`t get tangled as I knit but to each their own!
Look at that! Beautiful! What a great way to give an out of date sweater a new life! I have a project in mind for some of this yarn and may even try hand dyeing on the rest. Stay tuned!
Until then we would love to hear from you if you have tried this on your own, have suggestions for my next attempt, or have any other comments!