Sustainable Living: How to Recycle Your Yarn

By Tameko Barnette – 7 Comments

Now, I know this seems a little redundant, but it is not because there are so many ways to recycle yarn. There are many ways to get yarn in order to recycle it. I have seen so many people talking online about a variety of ways they recycle yarns. We’re not just talking about the yarn you already have at home like I talked about in previous posts, but other yarn resources.

Thrift Store Sweaters – You can go to any thrift store and purchase some knitted or crocheted sweaters for a bargain price, unravel it, and use the yarn to create something else with it. It sounds strange at first. Why would I want to bypass Joann’s Fabrics or Michael’s and go to a thrift store to buy an old sweater? Ecologically and financially, it makes perfect sense. Thrift store prices, including the Goodwill Stores, are a real good bargain. You’ll end up paying less for even more yarn depending on the size of the sweater you buy. Sounds weird, right? Never know until you give it a try.

Plastic Shopping Bags for Yarn – While thinking about recycling itself as a healthy lifestyle practice, even when it comes to crochet, I couldn’t help but wonder if there are places you can take yarn to be recycled. Then I came across this insane piece online about recycling plastic shopping bags to use as yarn for projects. Really?

According to an article on, it can be done in six (6) easy steps. Now, I don’t know if I would give this a try or not, but I certainly find it interesting. And it is helpful to the environment! So, why not? I will give this a try soon and post pictures up here on Crochet Spot of what I come up with. But, in the meantime, I don’t know about you, I’ll never look at my plastic shopping bags the same again.

Resale the Yarn – Recently, I bought some colorful skeins of yarn from a store called Ollie’s and the skeins were not wrapped in decorative company labeling, like Soft heart. Oh no! These were skeins (still nice and neat) in Ziploc bags with a cheap price tag on them. There was an entire shopping cart full of them as soon as I walked into the store a few weeks ago. I had to start laughing, but I figured that’s a great idea even for someone whose having a yard sale or if you grab a table at a local community market. If you find that you have skeins of yarns you’re not going to use like you planned on, just re-package and re-sale. This is a great way to recycle.


So, what do you think about recycling yarn? What creative ways have you recycled your yarn? Please post your comments here.

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  1. Maggie says:

    We’ve frequently bought yarn from yard/garage sales. The best ones for us have been a couple where the homeowners were empty nesters clearing out stuff in order to move to a smaller home. One woman gave me a discount (off the already cheap yarn) because she asked me what I was going to do with it, and I had an answer. She said it was worth selling it for half the asking price because she knew it wasn’t just going to sit in the hall closet for ten years like it had at her house. (Confession: I did not use it for its intended purpose, because before I worked down to that project in my Ravelry queue, my wife had grabbed the yarn and turned it into a shawl to give a friend who was in the hospital. But it got used!)

    People also donate yarn to thrift stores. At our last trip to our local thrift store, we got two packages of Plymouth Encore Worsted (in various shades, but they were packaged so that all the colors in one bag looked pretty good together!) for $5 total (7 skeins that were either full skeins or very close to it) and a huge bag (at least 2000 meters) of cheap Phentex acrylic (which is mostly going to be used for making amigurumi for our nieces/nephews or pet toys) for $2.

    One of my projects for this winter is going to be to go through my stash and assign yarn to projects. If I can’t figure out what I’m going to make with something, I’m going to donate the yarn–first I’ll offer it up to other crocheters/knitters I know locally, but otherwise, it’ll go to the thrift store. (And yes, those thrift-store purchases of ours all have plans!)

  2. Angie says:

    I have made “plarn” from plastic grocery bags many times, and have made multiple reusable grocery bags that have lasted years so far – much longer than using just the single bags as bathroom trash can liners. The grocery checkers always comment on what a good idea it is to reuse the bags that way. Each reusable bag uses 100+ individual bags, so it really makes a dent in the environmental impact.

    Plarn can be a little hard on the hands to work with, so I often switch plarn projects out with other projects to give my hands a break. My go-to source for plarn ideas is

  3. Darlene says:

    Guess you have not heard of plarn (plastic yarn). Go to Crochet at Play ( a site that has some of crochet spot’s patterns and search for plarn. They have what looks like (I didn’t count) 100 patterns featuring plarn.

  4. Ann says:

    You can also donate it to a nursing home. They have people who knit and crochet and can’t afford the yarn, because they have a limited income. I also donate magazines that I have read, books that I have read and any thing else that I think that they would be interested in. It gives them something else to do beside watching TV. They have someone in charge of the craft room and they come up with some really nice things to make.

  5. Maria says:

    I buy lots of yarn very cheap at garage sales. It’s usually single skeins and odds and ends, but that’s OK because I make lots of small projects such as doll clothes, and lots of granny squares, which are great ways to make use of small amounts of yarn. If I need a large amount of the same color, or if I need some specific type for some project, I watch for the sales at Jo Ann’s or Michaels. But I wouldn’t even think of unraveling an old sweater. A used garment that has been worn and washed many times is usually stretched or shrunken and raggedy. And if it has been dried in a dryer on a hot setting, the yarn might be fused together so that it can’t be unraveled. If I am going to put so much labor into making something, I will start with unused yarn.

  6. Fiona says:

    My mother was always undoing old sweater and using the yarn to make new things. I would help her. We would wind it up into round balls and she would steam the balls to get the creases out bfore reusing it.

  7. virginia says:

    I appreciate your suggestion of using old sweaters for yarn. I do this continually. This yarn cannot be matched with yarn that you buy, unless it is hand made. When buying a sweater, it is a must to look at the seams. Are they cut from a sweater fabric. If so then you will only get short pieces. Many times the front band area has been cut, and a band sewn on. Sometimes what you think is thicker yarn is really two yarns knitted together, Instead of steaming in a ball. I find it best to gently wrap the yarn in a hank around a box secure the ends with another color, tie the hank loosely in several places, and gently drop it in really hot water. (this works for acrylic yarn) the yarn kinks will permanently straighten out. Squeeze water out, wrap in a towel, or extract in you washer, and hang up to dry. For yarn that has wool gently steaming the hank while very gently pulling it, will straighten out the yarn. This will also fluff up all the yarn to the original thickness. Also how you wrap the yarn in a ball makes a difference, The right way is to loosely wrap the yarn over a your fingers while holding the ball. If the ball is not wrapped loosely you will get stretched yarn making for a wrong gauge. People give me balls of yarn, wrapped tightly. Before I can use it I must go through these steps. It makes for beautiful yarn to reuse.
    Watch the sweaters for pilling, always remove the pills before taking the sweater apart.

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