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Category Archives: Upcycling

Yesterday a friend invited me to her house for a group craft day. Bring snacks, show up with your portable art/craft, and share with others. It really was a great way to talk about what we’re working on, learn from others, and spend an afternoon.

Since a couple of them are interested in steampunk, I stopped by Surplus Tool and Commodity in Denver for supplies. Saturday’s haul for $5 and some really dirty hands:

Hardware Store Glory

Upcycling Wonder

Currently reading: Abarat Absolute Midnight by Clive Barker. A warning to those of you who order this book online: this thing weighs a ton. Barker is also a talented painter and many Abarat-related paintings have been included in this volume. The whole thing is printed on shiny art paper, more commonly used with your average coffee table book.

Current audiobook: Continuing the steampunk theme of this post, I’ve just started the audio for Goliath by Westerfeld, performed by Alan Cumming.

“Darkness always had its part to play. Without it, how would we know when we walked in the light?” – Abarat series, Clive Barker


October 3 – 9, 2011

This week is the Handweavers Guild of America’s National Spinning and Weaving Week. Be sure to check with your local yarn shops to see what classes and events they are holding to celebrate.

Myself, I’m not weaving anything right now because I’m knitting and unraveling. I’ve finished two more pairs of wrist warmers for the upcoming sale, although the dye from the black yarn came off on my fingers. I’ll have to wash that pair carefully, to make sure I get all the extra dye out before I sell them. I also found six (6!) 100% cashmere sweaters this week at the thrift store.

Yes, eventually I need to make things using the reclaimed cashmere, but right now I’m still experiencing the thrill of the hunt. Hmm. Maybe I’ll knit wrist warmers out of the reclaimed cashmere…

Currently reading: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

Currently listening to: NPR Road Trips – Roadside Attractions

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” – Tom Peters

I’ve been using the amazing new Icelandic pattern book to knit wrist warmers for the upcoming sale. Two more sets done, one more set just started on the needles. I cannot believe the sheer number of amazing patterns in this book!

Riesines 9

Icelandic book wins again

I’ve also been continuing the yarn reclaiming and weaving it into new things. Up first a set of large dish towels, formerly known as an unattractive cotton sweater. Bill Cosby has a lot to answer for when it comes to men’s sweaters for the past 20 years.


Upcycled towels

I’ve also finished two silk and cashmere scarves, 100% silk for the warp and 100% cashmere for the weft. The silk provides a nice, solid warp for the softer upcycled yarn that I wouldn’t trust in a warp.

Quick tips on weaving with reclaimed yarn:
1) Remember that the yarn has already shrunk once. That means you need to sett and weave things a little tighter in order to get a solid weave. Think twill.
2) I’ve found I need to pull it a little tighter in the weft that usual – just to make sure the ramen parts are all stretched out before I beat things into place.

Even with all the upcycling, I still cannot resist new yarn. Found this alpaca/silk blend at Showers of Flowers.

Showers Alpaca

Yes, even more yarn

Recent audiobooks:
Daemon by Suarez, to make all the sys admins out there happy.

Ready Player One by Cline. A must read for anyone who was a teen in the 80s. It’s a moral imperative. (If you recognize that phrase, you are required to listen to this audiobook. For extra geek points, the audiobook is performed by Wil Wheaton.)

“A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.” – Frank Capra

Take one man’s thermal turtleneck (80% silk, 20% cotton), purchased at the thrift store for $2. Never worn and still bearing the original paper tag. Unravel to your heart’s content.

Wind out 3 yard warp. Dress the loom in the silk ramen. Wind the silk ramen weft onto your shuttle. Weave in your favorite twill pattern.

Silk Ramen I

Dressing the loom

Silk Ramen II

Weave the Ramen

Result? Beautiful cream silk/cotton scarf. $2. A lot of work. A sense of eco-friendly, green satisfaction. And enough left-over silk/cotton for two more scarves.

“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.” – Marshall McLuhan

I have typed before of my fondness for thrift stores, especially when hunting for bargains. Sometimes, though, my imagination runs away with me. Or I get so excited by the fact that something is cheap that I don’t stop to wonder, “Do I really need this?”

Introducing $1.50 worth of zipper pulls. No zippers, just the pulls.

zipper pulls

Upcycling anyone?

Because apparently I couldn’t leave them behind at that bargain price. Now I just have to figure out how to turn these into a necklace that someone might want to wear.

“Zippers are primal and modern at the very same time.” – Tom Robbins

I finished unraveling a heathered blue cotton sweater from Express. Turns out it was four barely-plied blue threads instead of a tightly-plied knitting yarn. The resulting warp is actually really fun and variegated.

Upcycled dishtowels

Formerly known as a sweater

Not sure how this will turn out using the same yarn as weft, but I want to have something for the “recycled” table at the weaving sale next week!

“Cannot people realize how large an income is thrift?” – Cicero

I’m continuing the sweater unraveling project, sometimes casting aside one that is too fine or too challenging for the moment. I once again hit the ARC Thift store today for the 50% off tags, and scored 6 sweaters for $14. Not bad for silk, linen, and cotton.

Upcycling Yarn

Becoming unraveled

Merino and cashmere are tougher to unravel, so I’m trying to do those in the daytime when there’s good light and I have more patience. This week I’ll try washing the first skeins of upcycled yarn and see about measuring them for a weaving project.

“Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.” – Claude Monet

I do sometimes feel guilty about the amount of brand new craft supplies I purchase. Not only am I spending a lot of money, but yarn manufacturing is not always as eco-friendly as one might hope. Inspired by some recycling/upcycling fiber ladies I know (Mother Mary and Lisette Walker), I’ve decided to try upcycling yarn.

Weaving Spirit (whom I do not have the pleasure of knowing personally) has been recycling cashmere for years into beautiful new horoscope shawls. Why not take an unattractive or dated sweater, unravel it, and make it into something new?

I’ve been scavenging the local ARC thift shops, especially on Saturdays when almost everything is half price. I’ve scored some cashmere, silk, cotton/linen, merino wool, and silk/wool blends for $3-6 each. First up was this Liz Claiborne pink silk sweater, which has been unraveled into several hanks of pale pink silk. Once washed, I’m hoping to use this to make a delicate new woven scarf.

Upcycling Yarn

Upcycling Yarn - Before

Upcycling Yarn

Upcycling Yarn - After

There are some great tips and groups online about recycling and upcycling yarn. Try searching under “recycling” or “upcycling” or “unravel” yarn.

How To: Recycling Sweaters for Yarn

How to Recycle Yarn from a Thrift-Store Sweater

How to Unravel a Sweater and Recycle Yarn

“Thrift was never more necessary in the world’s history than it is today. ” – Francis H. Sisson