Raising Knitwear from the Dead: The Sweater with No Name

It took a while, but my yarncromantic magic worked and I now have a finished sweater, made using the remains of a sweater I ripped back. And maybe another knitted T-shirt. And a skein of yarn I had to buy after losing at yarn chicken…But! It’s complete, I love it, and I have no regrets. So here’s the lowdown.

The reverse of purple colourwork knitting being unraveled
From this…

First off, I took scissors to my Sunset Highway sweater, and ripped it back into 2.6 skeins of Chromatic Yarns Sturdy Sock yarn (and some smaller balls of yarn used for the colourwork elements). I then reskeined the yarn, gave it a good wash and whack (literally whacked it against the side of the bath as I was taught to when I briefly handspun my own yarn), and voila! Yarn brought back to life and ready to knit. I also repeated this process with yarn from my rarely-worn Magpie Tendency, knit in the spring of this year. It didn’t fit my wardrobe, so no point leaving that to gather dust at the back of the wardrobe!

I settled for the Sweater With No Name pattern by Paige Parkin (@knitdiaries on Instagram), and promptly began knitting. I mis-judged the amount of yarn I had, and ran out just before the shoulders, so ordered some more from Chromatic Yarns. I’d estimate that I used a total of 2500 yards of yarn in total. This pattern eats yarn.

…to this…

The finished object is big, slouchy and my new favourite item to wear. I’ve never worn cold shoulder jumpers before, but this has me tempted to start! Not to mention eyeing up other yarns to make another in (a) different colour(s).

So. The moral of this story? Rip back knits and raise those lovely yarns from the dead in the form of something newer and better.

All images copyright Cia Jackson 2020

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


Purple and grey knit fabric

I think I’ve found my calling in life. Forget the PhD, the CV, the traits that, depending on who you ask, make me either a wonderful employee or not nearly sociopathic enough an employee (I’m looking at you, civil service screening tests). Nah. Stuff that. My calling is now that of the yarncromancer.

But Cia, what the hell is a yarncromancer?

Well, random reader, I’m glad you asked. We’re all familiar with necromancy, yes? The magical practice of raising the dead (found in fantasy settings, I’m not talking actual…oh nevermind) Well think that, think your friendly neighbourhood Grave domain Cleric, only for yarn.

Or, in layperson’s terms, on Friday morning in a coffee-induced haze of madness, I took a pair of scissors to a sweater and over the course of the day, unravelled it so that I could turn the yarn into something better. I raised the yarn from its grave of the sweater I hadn’t worn 12 months so that it could live again as something new. Necromancy, but for yarn. You’re welcome (I had contemplated Knitcromancer but it excluded crochet, so consider yourselves doubly welcome that I went with the grand title of Yarncromancer).

The stranded underside of some purple colourwork knitting as it is being unraveled

In all seriousness though, the sweater in question was one I loved. Until it turned out the designer wasn’t that fantastic a person and I felt that, ultimately, I didn’t want to wear what was essentially that person’s ideas and values on my body*. So the beautiful yarn used to make that sweater sat in a box, unloved and unworn. Yes, I suppose I could have gifted it or donated it to a charity shop. But, in my mind, that was simply shifting the problem and my feelings of discomfort elsewhere. Plus I really liked that yarn (and how I looked wearing it!) So out came the scissors. As an aside, I would be interested to know what others have done with projects designed by problematic designers. Do you still wear/use them? Donate/gift them? Unravel them? Equally, if you’re unsure what to do, I’d love to hear your thoughts too!

First cut is the…hardest?

It took me a while to work up the courage to make the first cut. The sweater did sit in a box for months before this moment arrived. But, once I started unraveling strand after strand of now-crimped yarn, I rapidly became drunk on my own power. It turns out there’s something weirdly invigorating about unraveling (and kinda destroying) 6 weeks’ worth of hard work. I can understand why some would balk at the idea of rapidly undoing something they’d worked on for such great periods of time.

Purple and grey speckled handknit fabric

However, I’d counter that with the fact that something beautiful has since gone unused and unloved. And in my case, the annoyance that I’d used some darn fine yarn to make something by someone with some pretty shitty values combined with the knowledge that the yarn could still be repurposed far outweighed any feelings of fear or potential for regret. Key thing here: the sweater was gone, but the yarn was not. This wasn’t an act of total destruction; only partial. That lovely 4ply yarn was freed to be raised from its knit-up, sweater-shaped grave and given a new and better life. Yarncromancy, y’all.

Several hand-wound balls of purple, and purple and grey speckled yarn on a wooden background

All in all, I advocate being honest with ourselves when it comes to our finished objects and the happiness they bring us. If life is too short for [insert thing here], why is it any different for handknits (or crocheted items) that don’t satisfy us or make us feel anything close to the brilliant beings we are? Having done it once, I’m certainly less afraid of hitting Level 2 Yarncromancy and doing it again to another knitted item that doesn’t bring me joy. Have courage and raise that yarn.

*I am not naming the designer or sweater. They do not need or deserve what essentially boils down to free advertising by me mentioning them here and y’all going to check out their spaces online.

Images copyright Cia Jackson 2020