In Knitting

I’ve been experimenting with making big fat yarn out of old sweaters and re-knitting it on giant knitting needles…

See? Isn’t it fun? I love it! (Click on the photos to get a better look at that delicious texture!) This light coral BFY (big fat yarn) is made from a fine gauge cashmere sweater that I spiral cut into long 1″ wide strips. Since sweater knit naturally wants to curl, the strips roll up on themselves like a tube. Next I gave the strips a little tug to stretch them slightly, stuffed them into a lingerie bag and tossed it in with the wash, which further tube-ified it. Afterward I knotted all of my lengths together and wound it into a ball.

These knitting needles are size #OMG, otherwise known as broomsticks. Seriously, they aren’t marked and I can’t remember the true size, but they are at least 1/2″ in diameter. (And I am just now realizing that you probably can’t tell how big they are in the photos because there’s nothing to compare it to. I’ll add a photo for scale when there’s daylight.)

***Update: here’s a comparison photo with a standard #2 pencil, below***

Spiral cutting a sweater is easy. First remove the hem/ribbing. Then start at a side seam and cut along the bottom, about 1″ away from the edge. Cut the strip along the front, keep going cutting through the second side seam and cut along the back.

When you get to the first side seam (where you began) angle up a little to keep your 1″ width and keep going! You can make one long strip cutting all the way up to the underarms. Then do the same technique with the sleeves. You should be able to spiral cut the remainder of the sweater shoulders and “yoke” part up to the neckline.

The darker pink BFY is a wool blend and you can see that it rolled and felted a little. It’s less stretchy than the coral and just a bit bulky to knit with, but it is fuzzy and wonderful!

The blue sweater is a silk/cashmere blend. I haven’t washed it yet to see how it will come out. I’m sure you have seen plenty of things knit with T-shirt strips, so of course you could spiral cut your old t-shirts as well.

So, I’m thinking of making BFY scarves! The cashmere knit up like this is so cushy and soft. For the coral scarf I am alternating rows of garter stitch and yarn wraps. (I’ll have to figure out the proper knit-speak for that if anyone is interested!) The dark pink scarf uses the Veil stitch. I got the pattern idea from Slip Slip Knit who knit a scarf out of i-cord. (BTW, if you’re interested in how I make my felted wool i-cord, you can revisit a former post I did about it.)

Ok, back to knitting. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

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Showing 22 comments
  • rilojane

    Ooh! Yay! You’ve inspired me to upcycle some stuff that’s been taking up too much space in my closet.

  • greenrabbitdesigns

    Brilliant idea Betz!!
    Vivienne x

  • Gail

    Looks fab, I’m knitting impaired but might try this with crochet, I have a giant hook.

  • Betz White

    Thanks! It’s kind of addicting! :)

  • Crafterella

    This is a great idea! I never thought to use sweaters.
    Have you had any problems with the side seams coming apart after you cut your spirals? I’ve worked with t-shirts and I have to use the ones without side seams or I end up with a lot of short pieces of “yarn” when the side seams come undone.

  • Betz White

    Eek! No I haven’t had that problem. I suppose it depends on how the sweater was constructed: serged seams or linked. I’d give the strips a tug to see how secure they are first. You can also knot the strips and let the little tails be part of the texture/detail!

  • Betz White

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Susan Being Snippy

    Betz,if I may be so bold as to suggest an easier system of cutting the sweaters? I lay the sweater out flat and using a rotary cutter and a ruler (on a cutting mat) I cut strips, but not the seams – then when you have the whole sweater done, you carefully with scissors cut alternating sides of the sweater, then you have one long strip and it takes less than half the time, I hope I explained that clearly… I use this method on polar fleece or t-shirts. Also, I don’t like knots to join so I sew the sections together in a sort of overlap, or jeans seam to join.

  • Betz White

    Hi SBS,
    I don’t mind suggestions at all! (esp. good ones! haha)

    Now, when you are cutting the sweater with the rotary cutter, are you cutting thru both layers? And then in the second step when you cut alternating sides, are you cutting vertically up the side seam? I think I have a grasp of it, it’s just hard to write! :)

    Anyway, thanks for the suggestion, I will try it!

  • Allegra

    Betz, your size #OMG comment made me bust out laughing! Thanks! :)

  • Heather

    I love knitting with large needles and chunky yarn! It makes it go so fast. I’ve also seen old t-shirts cut and used this way. I’ll have to go dig through my clothes for something to cut up…

  • Anonymous
  • Annemarie's Breiblog

    Oh this is so cool! I was addicted to it a few months ago. Here in The Netherlands they sell this in the shops. It’s called Hoooked Zpagetti. I’ve started a Flickr-group for people using this material. If you like, come join it or just visit it for inspiration. Here’s the link: http://www.flickr.com/groups/[email protected]/
    The group is called Created with Hoooked Zpagetti.

  • Betz White

    Thanks for letting me know about hoooked zpagetti…cool!

  • Betz White

    Hi Anonymous,
    Sorry, somehow your comment didn’t post. If you would like to contact me, email is best: betz[at]betzwhite.com. I’d be happy to answer your question. If you don’t have an email account, there are plenty of free ones available such as gmail.

  • Cristina

    That looks so fun! I think the largest needles I have are US 15.
    Do you think That would be too small?

  • Debbie

    OMG! I so want to try this! Thanks for sharing.

  • ~Heather

    I use this method for t-shirts and it works out super! http://mousechirpy-polkadotpineapple.blogspot.com/2008/03/tutorial-t-shirt-yarn.html
    Can’t wait to try cashmere sweaters, how heavenly!

  • Piper

    I have giant knitting needles just like that! Mine are lion brand size 50. I have never thought of making my own yarn from sweaters. Can’t wait to try it!

  • Mandy

    awesome! i love using all natural materials but am often limited by my budget to not buy the quality yarns i covet….this is a super solution! i just started crocheting vintage sheets into rag rugs a few weeks ago and am loving my OMG big crochet hook; excited to give this a try too!

  • The Hobbit

    Last year I did something similar with t-shirts.My children all promised to come and get their things when they moved out.Why do we believe them?Anyway,I mixed the colors and knit them each a fat cushiony bathroom rug.Such fun.I’ll have to go back up to the attic and look for sweaters.

  • EddieDuckling

    This is a great idea – thanks for posting it. I hope you don’t mind that I have linked to it from a post I have done one how to make yarn from recycled sweaters on my blog:


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