Unraveled: 5 reasons to rip back your knitwear

The reverse of purple colourwork knitting being unraveled

I recently did what most knitters consider unthinkable and ripped back a sweater. Some may see it as a destructive act, but I see it through the nerdy lens of necromancy; bringing the yarn back from the dead (the finished jumper) by re-purposing it into a new garment that will give it a new life, and me something I’ll actually enjoy wearing. As far as I’m concerned, good yarn shouldn’t go to waste, so here are some reasons on why you should have courage and join me on my unraveling crusade of yarncromancy.

  1. It’s not quite your style anymore
    You might still be an emo at 29, or your style tastes might have changed. Where you were once into neon knits, you might be more about the neutrals now. You might prefer more fitted garments. Or looser ones. It’s okay for styles and tastes to change. If there’s still something about that shawl or garment that you love and want on your body, rip it back and transform that yarn into something that better fits your personal style.
  2. It doesn’t fit
    There’s myriad reasons why this might be the case. Your body may have changed, your gauge might have been off, or the yarn grew like crazy when you washed it (looking at you, Drops Merino Extra Fine!) so now your fitted cardi could fit 12 people in one sleeve alone. Whatever the reason, your knits should fit you how you want them to fit. You wouldn’t wear shoes that are too big or that give you blisters, and I’m willing to bet you’re not going to be wearing a hat that barely fits over your head, or a cropped jumper that wouldn’t even cover a nipple. If such items are at the bottom of a drawer or back of your wardrobe because they don’t fit either anymore or they never did… rip them back!
Purple and grey knit fabric
  1. The designer is a bigot
    In as polite terms as I can manage, you won’t want to wear the ideas of someone who turns out to be a bully on your body. It’s the main reason I frogged a sweater recently. The design was very identifiable, and I didn’t want to hurt people who had been hurt by that designer by wearing her ideas on my torso.
  2. There’s a “mistake” that bothers you
    Mistake, error, design element – whatever you call it, sometimes a section using the wrong technique like mixing up your brioche rows, dropped stitches, or a few stitches in the wrong colour might really bother you. I’m pretty laidback and have left in purl bumps and such as it makes my items personal to me. But I can see why having sleeves of different lengths or a section of lace that doesn’t match up would be an annoyance. In which case, rip back – nobody has time to feel slightly resentful of the shawl they’re wearing.
  3. It doesn’t meet your expectations
    I get this feeling a lot when shopping. I fixate on how that dress will somehow make my life infinitely better and I’ll look beautiful in it… Then I try it on, and I feel ridiculous. Sometimes, garments or accessories don’t live up to the vision or expectations we had once they’re off the needles. They might not fit the need we had for them – fabric that’s too transparent may not be your ideal work jumper, for example. You just might not be able to pin down why it’s not making you feel wonderful. If you try it on in a shop and you don’t like it, you wouldn’t buy it. Apply the same logic to your knitwear. Then add scissors.

Chances are, you used some beautiful yarn in those projects – colour, fibre, texture, whatever – and it deserves to be in a project that you wear and adore; to be shown off, not hidden away at the back of your wardrobe!
You deserve knitwear that brings you joy and comfort. Get frogging.

Images copyright Cia Jackson 2020

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