Make Yarn From Fabric!

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Make yarn from fabric!


Image of yarn made from woven fabric that has been knit
Yarn Made from Woven Fabric Knits Beautifully


I love to knit. I love the way I feel when I knit. I feel the same cozy way as when I’m snuggled up indoors on a comfy couch all by myself, drinking warm tea out of a big mug, with the Pacific Northwest rain and wind lashing and raging outdoors. In both cases, both while knitting and comfortably sitting out a storm, my conscious thoughts slow down and vanish almost completely. I slip into a meditative space where all the big life questions, both personal and worldly, dance and glide around the back of my mind, rising clearly up to the surface just long enough to present a novel thought, an epiphany, or a brand new question I have never wondered before. While these thoughts are barely perceptible, they do take up enough space to prevent tedious surface thoughts from interfering with or dumbing-down the deep, internal conversation. This is a glorious space to find myself in.


Pacific Northwest Storm
An Early Hour of a Pacific Northwest Storm


I used to find a lot of time to knit. I loved not only the solace but also to observe the progress and texture of a new sweater or hat growing up and taking shape. There is also the excitement that comes along with an unfinished project. It is easy to dream about how great the completed article will look and to imagine what I will wear it with. Of course, this same excitement also invites anxiety to move in. Concerns about whether it will really fit or if the cut, perhaps, actually belongs to another decade-and not in the welcome retro kind of way? Is it actually a good color or is it too much or maybe too dull? Will it be too hot? Is this particular fiber going to shed everywhere? Knitting can actually become quite stressful when I begin to get caught up not in the process, but in the product.


Knitting in a cozy cabin on Denman Island, British Columbia
Knitting on Denman Island


The end product, the sweater, scarf or tea cozey, of course, does matter. In my early days of knitting I had a lot of flops. I also had a lot of projects that were almost amazing. Over time I have figured out many of the potential problems that can arise and most of them actually have to do with what is supplied to us with by the knitting industry.  For example, yarn and pattern availability, traditional ways and instructions for sewing up a cardigan or attaching a sleeve, directions to knit on straight needles when round needles would definitely make more sense. I find that the less I have to depend on what is available to me from ‘out there’, the more I enjoy my finished project and the more likely I am to actually wear it!


Hand knit Donegal tweed hats.
My Son and I Wear our Hand Knit Donegal Tweed Toques in Strandhill, Ireland


Several years ago I began to knit on really large needles. These are needles 12 mm/American size 17 and larger. I love the bulky, chunky texture that these needles knit up if you are using thick yarn and at the same time I adore the lacy, transparent effect that you get when working a fine yarn such as mohair with big needles. I have had no trouble finding a ready supply of mohair in a great variety of colors that I love.


Mohair knit up on large needles.
Lacy Effect of Mohair Knit on Large Needles


However, chunky yarn is a different story. Chunky yarn tends to be handspun and/or hand dyed. I love supporting small cottage industries but, to be honest, it is quite expensive (you certainly pay for what you get!) and I still haven’t had much success finding the colors that match my vision for any given project. Another problem that presents itself is that a thick wool knit on huge needles is very hot. The added bulk is also not something that everyone wants to wear.


Chunky Wool Knit on Large Needles
I Adore the Chunky Texture of Handspun Wool Knit with Large Needles


One day I looked to my many shelves and bolts of fabric that I had picked up over the years (sadly, none of it is with me here in California. All of my fabric is stored away in the basement of an older studio building in Montreal) and mused about how wonderful it would be if I could knit from some of my fabric. And so I did! The process of turning fabric into yarn is a tad time consuming, but I have found it to be really rewarding. It is also very simple to do.


Sleeveless Sweater Knit with Yarn from Woven Fabric.
Sleeveless Sweater Knit with Yarn from Woven Twill Fabric. Five Years Old and Still Happily Being Worn


Yoke Knit with Yarn Made from Woven Cotton Fabric
Yoke is Knit on Large Needles with Yarn I Made from Plain Weave Cotton Fabric


Any woven fabric will work, but twill is best because then you will not have any loose threads hanging from your finished project. Theoretically, because the fabric for the yarn is cut on the bias, there should not be any unraveling. However, in reality there will be some. I highly recommend you don’t try a knit fabric unless you want your midriff baring jumper to eventually stretch itself into an ankle length dress. I love my own long, organic, rayon dress…but this style is not for everyone 😉


This Yarn I Made from Organic Rayon Knit Jersey Fabric Originally Landed Just Above My Hips. Since Wearing the Shirt During Pregnancy, it has Continued to Grow and Now Reaches My Calves! Fortunately, it Probably Looks Better than it Ever Did!
Originally Landing Just Above my Hips, this Sweater  now Reaches my Calves!


I apologize that I cannot properly advise on how much fabric you will need to create a given amount of yarn. Around three metres or yards will probably be enough for a sleeveless sweater. As with at the onset of a sewing project, it is a good idea to prepare your fabric beforehand by pre-washing the fabric in hot water and then drying on high (unless your fabric comes with specific instructions for care, such as dry cleaning). Quickly remove the fabric from the dryer and fold it so that no wrinkles set.

Using a small sample piece of fabric, I will illustrate how to lay out and cut your fabric. Your material will be much larger than in my example.

  1. Lay your material out flat. Wrong side up is probably best. Take the upper right hand corner and pull it over to the edge of the fabric so that you end up with a diagonal line that starts at the upper left hand corner and ends on the right hand side. It is a good idea to pin this in place and press it because you will cut along this line. Once you have cut your triangle off, and placed it aside for now, you will have a large piece of fabric cut on the bias.
    Step 1a
    Step 1a
    Step 1b
    Step 1b

    Step 1c
    Step 1c
  2. You will now need a metre or yard stick. Metal is best because it enables you to draw a very precise line. Place the edge of the metre/yard stick along your newly cut edge of fabric and using a chalk wheel (or mechanical pencil if you do not own a chalk wheel) trace along the other edge of the ruler to make a straight line. Conveniently, the width of a standard metre/yard stick is perfect for this project.

    Step 2 and Step 3
    Step 2 and Step 3
  3. Fit the edge of the metre/yard stick along your newly traced line and then trace along the other side of your ruler with your chalk wheel of pencil. Keep on repeating this until you have marked out your entire piece of fabric or as much of the material  as you wish to turn into yarn.
  4. Now cut along these lines. Do not cut all the way to the edge of the fabric. Leave about an 1.5 inches on each side, as you go, so that you create one continuous piece of material.

    Step 4
    Step 4
  5. You can leave the sharp corners or use scissors to round out your corner. If you’re not sure which technique to use, you can knit up a small sample of each style and decide which you like better.

    Step 5
    Step 5
  6. Wind up your cut fabric and now you have a ball of yarn!
  7. This yarn works best knit on large needles. If you cut your fabric narrower than the width of the metre/yard stick then you can use smaller gague needles. If you go too small, however, your fabric yarn will stretch out of shape or rip. It can be fun to experiment with this.
  8. As I knit up this yarn, I fold the fabric width in half as I go. I like the effect of this but it is not necessary. Again, it is wonderful to experiment.
  9. As with any yarn for any pattern, knit up a tension square before you begin working on your pattern. This is an essential step if you want to love what you make. I skipped this step for far too many years.
  • Happy Knitting!


My Son Found my Sample Yarn and Proceeded to Build a "House"!
My Son Found my Sample Yarn and Proceeded to Build a “House”. I Suppose this Yarn Makes a Perfect Imagination Builder for Children, too!


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