I am in the middle of a couple of fairly heavy work weeks right now and really don’t have much time to blog, but I wanted do a quick posting on gathering sweaters. Since many of my projects involve the use of old sweaters, I thought that I would mention that this is the time of year to get a collection of them. As spring rolls around, many thrift stores are clearancing out their stock of winter clothes. At a recent sale in our area, the sweaters were on sale for a dollar a piece! When you consider how many skeins of yarn go into even an average-sized sweater and how much those skeins cost, this price is a steal! Add to that the fact that store-bought sweaters are very often made of natural fibers that you cannot find in the average craft store, and there is more than enough reason to take some time to scout out the thrift stores in your area and see what you can find. Though people very often give me their old sweaters because they know I can use them, I still look for sweaters to increase my available options on any given project. The sweaters in the above photo represent this year’s additions.
So what do I look for when I am considering the sweaters? First of all, I look for sweaters with nicer-looking yarn that do not have heavy staining and seem to be on clearance because they are no longer in style–not because they are worn out. Then I look for labels that indicate the fiber content and the wash care instructions. I do not generally bother with synthetic fibers. This is my personal choice because I prefer natural ones. Sweaters that have a fiber content like the one to the right will attract my notice, as will anything with a high wool content. As I am considering the fiber content, I am also deciding the suitability of the yarn for the projects that would be suggested by the fiber content. For example, if the fiber content says that a sweater is a wool/nylon blend and the wash-care instructions say machine wash and dry on low, I am going to assume minimal shrinkage and think of unraveling the yarn for use in things like socks. If the color of the sweater is one that I or my family would never wear as a sock and I cannot think of anything I would care to see it made into, I may leave it on the rack.
Holes, such as those seen in the sweater at the left, are allowable depending on the use I intend for the sweater. If the fiber content indicates a wool sweater that will felt, the holes will not normally be a problem to work around as long as they are near the edges. If the sweater is one that I would rather unravel, the decision to purchase or not may rest on how large the hole is, and what kind of hole it is. A hole that is formed by one thread coming loose is a different thing entirely from a gash that has cut through several rows of the fabric!
If the sweater I am considering is one that I intend to unravel, the next thing that I look at is the way the seams on the inside are put together. I look for sweaters that have seams like the one at the right. The seam here is formed by two sections of sweater being stitched together by a single line of stitching. This indicates that the sweater sections were knitted as a single piece and then sewn together. The yarn in each section should be a single, long piece. In contrast, if the seam has been serged together, the sweater was formed by cutting the pieces from a large piece of knitted fabric and then serging them together. A sweater done this way is unsuitable for unraveling because each row of the sweater will come off as a single strand of yarn and you will be left with a pile of yarn cut into pre-measured lengths! Unless this is your goal, leave the sweater on the rack. 🙂
Finally, consider the size of the yarn in your potential purchase. If the yarn is so small that, when unraveled, it could be put on a spool for your sewing machine, you might want to consider something bulkier! A sweater made from yarn this size will take forever to unravel and few projects will require something this small.
I hope to be able to show some of my sweater projects in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes open for sweater sales in your area!