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Guide to Knitting with Recycled and Upcycled Yarns


Exploring Recycled Yarn: Types and Benefits


Recycled yarn is an eco-friendly crafting material that comes in two main forms: yarn made from recycled fibers and yarn made from recycled woven fabrics. Each type is processed differently to create sustainable yarn options.


For yarns derived from recycled fibers, the process involves re-spinning and plying leftover fibers to produce new yarn. This method typically uses residual, short-staple fibers from fabric production, often blended with other fibers to enhance their strength and spinability. This is a common practice with cotton, which is robust and widely used in various textiles, making it ideal for recycling.


Recycled fabric yarns, meanwhile, are created by cutting old fabrics into strips. These strips can either be joined to form a thicker yarn or cut into finer strips for a delicate, chainette-style yarn. This method is often referred to as upcycling, particularly when it involves repurposing personal items like old t-shirts or plastic bags at home. Unlike reclaimed yarn, which is obtained by unraveling old garments stitch by stitch, upcycled yarns involve a direct transformation of fabric into yarn.


Both types of recycled yarn are versatile and can be sourced from various fabrics, including denim, t-shirt material, and sari fabric. This approach not only recycles materials that might otherwise end up as waste but also provides crafters with unique and sustainable options for their projects.


Properties of Recycled Yarns


Recycled yarns inherit the characteristics of their original textile fibers. For example, yarns made from denim or cotton t-shirts retain the properties of those materials, typically resulting in yarns that are both strong and durable.


The texture and durability of fabric-based recycled yarns can vary based on how the materials are processed. Yarns made from long strips of fabric generally maintain a high level of strength and durability. In contrast, yarns crafted from very thin strips of fabric woven into a chain or ribbon-like structure tend to have more elasticity and provide a more structured yet gentle feel for knitting.


However, one notable drawback of fabric-based recycled yarns is their weight. These yarns tend to be heavier, which can affect the draping and overall outcome of the knitted projects or garments they are used to create.


On the other hand, fiber-based recycled yarns, which are spun and plied into traditional yarns, behave similarly to their non-recycled counterparts. For instance, recycled cotton yarn shares the same properties as traditional cotton yarn, offering a familiar feel and performance for various crafting projects.


Knitting with Recycled Yarns: A Varied Experience


Knitting with recycled yarns offers a unique experience, as each type of recycled yarn brings its own set of characteristics to the crafting table. The experience can vary significantly depending on the type of recycled yarn you use.


Fabric-based Recycled Yarns:Often made from strips of fabric, these yarns can be challenging to work with. The texture and stretchiness of the fabric can affect how hard it is on your hands during knitting. For instance, non-stretchy materials might be tougher to manipulate. These yarns are ideal for creating durable items like floor mats and bath mats, where their sturdiness adds to the functionality and aesthetic of the finished product. However, the physical demand of knitting with such materials can be higher.


Variability in Color:One notable aspect of knitting with recycled fabric yarns is the variability in color, which can differ not only between skeins but also within a single skein. This requires careful selection and planning, especially if your project needs consistency across multiple skeins.


Fiber-based Recycled Yarns: These yarns are softer and more similar to traditional yarns in their knitting behavior. They are excellent for garments, shawls, and other accessories where a softer texture is desired. Recycled fiber-based yarns perform similarly to their non-recycled counterparts, allowing them to be used interchangeably in patterns that call for traditional yarns.


When choosing recycled yarns for your projects, it's essential to consider these factors and understand that each yarn type offers a different knitting experience. This variety ensures that, regardless of the project, there is likely a recycled yarn that can meet your needs while also contributing to sustainable crafting practices.


Where to Find Recycled Yarns


Recycled yarns are increasingly available in the market. Below, you'll find our curated suggestions organized into two categories: recycled fibers that have been re-spun and plied into new yarns, and fabric-based recycled yarns which are available in various forms and structures.


Recycled Fiber Yarns

Recycled fiber yarns are made from various materials that have been sourced, recycled, and then spun back into yarn. Here are some notable options that use recycled fibers to create brand-new yarns:


  • Paintbox Yarns Recycled Cotton Worsted: 100% recycled cotton.
  • Premier Yarns Rodeo: A blend of recycled cotton and polyester.
  • Berroco Remix: A mix of nylon, cotton, acrylic, silk, and linen.
  • Rico Essentials Cashmere Recycled DK: A luxurious cashmere and wool blend.
  • Rowan Denim Revive: Made from recycled denim material.
  • Lana Grossa Solo Lino: A recycled viscose and linen blend.
  • Cascade Yarns ReVerb: A blend of recycled polyester and alpaca.
  • Wool & the Gang Billie Jean: Crafted from recycled denim material.


Recycled Fabric Yarns

Recycled fabric yarns utilize pre-existing woven fabrics, repurposed into yarn. Some are cut into long strips and joined, while others are finely sliced and woven into a chainette or ribbon-like structure. Here are several recycled fabric yarns to explore:


  • Paintbox Yarns Recycled T-Shirt: Made from cotton and synthetic t-shirt material.
  • Paintbox Yarns Recycled Ribbon: Comprised of cotton and polyester cotton jersey fabric.
  • Paintbox Yarns Recycled Big Cotton: Features a cotton and polyester chainette construction.
  • Hoooked Ribbon XL Solids: Recycled cotton in a hollow ribbon construction.
  • Wool and the Gang Mixtape Yarn: A combination of cotton and polyester in a hollow ribbon structure.


These yarns offer a sustainable option for your knitting projects, helping you create environmentally friendly crafts without compromising on quality.


Further Inquiries on Recycled Yarns


Although we've covered the essentials of recycled and up-cycled yarns, there are still many questions that arise regarding these sustainable crafting materials. Here, we address some of the most frequently asked questions about recycled yarns.


What are recycled yarns?


Recycled yarns are crafted through two primary methods. Firstly, fibers are recycled by being re-spun and plied into new yarns. Secondly, woven fabrics are transformed into yarn by cutting the fabric into long strips that are then used as yarn. This innovative recycling process helps reduce waste and promotes sustainability in the textile industry.


What is Eco Yarn?


Eco yarn refers to yarn that is sourced and processed in an environmentally conscious manner. It typically comes from organic or natural materials and is processed with minimal manufacturing to maintain its natural qualities. Eco yarn is distinct from recycled yarn in that it focuses on the minimal impact approach throughout the sourcing and production process, rather than the reuse of existing textile materials.


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