Monday, January 30, 2012
Posted by Kate at 12:07 PM
Despite my interest in frugality, I'm relatively new to thrift stores. Generally I don't enjoy shopping, but there are a couple of Goodwill stores on routes I travel regularly, so I've been stopping in there and browsing lately. Naturally, there are some amazing deals to be had. Probably one of the most surprising to me have been the 100% wool sweaters that sell for as little as $2, when they're on markdown. It simply defies logic that these pure woolen items, some of them brought all the way from Scotland or Australia, end up being given away for a song. Of course, the vast majority of sweaters at the Goodwill are made from synthetic yarns. But that only makes it a little more of a treasure hunt to seek out the wool.
I'm an occasional, largely seasonal, and not very gifted knitter. One reason I haven't done more knitting is the incredible expense of the yarn. It's always much, much cheaper to buy a sweater than to buy the yarn to make one yourself, even if you're paying the full retail price for the sweater. But those occasional thrift store finds change that equation. When woolen sweaters sell for so much less than the cost of the constituent materials, I've met my price point. Mind you, it's not every sweater that can be taken apart by hand, so it pays to know what I'm looking for. I learned what I needed to from this link.
Taking apart a knitted item to recycle the yarn is a somewhat tedious task, well suited to wintertime, endless cups of tea, a BBC radio stream, and the company of a playful cat, brisking about the life. It's amazing how much yarn comes out of a small sweater. I cut a few cardboard pieces to wind the yarn around as I unravel the sweater. Binding it in this way helps to stretch out some of the bends the yarn assumed when it was first knitted. There are steps you can take to further relax the kinks in previously used yarn. But they take time and effort, and my creations aren't so magnificent that I worry about minor issues such as slightly pre-kinked yarn.
In principle, you could take apart a knitted item made from any sort of fiber. For my time and money, only wool or other animal fibers would make it worth my while. I did scoop up an alpaca sweater from the thrift store, and it's waiting to be taken apart. It's white but slightly stained. I may decide to dye the yarn if I can't get the stain out. The beauty of acquiring these materials so cheaply is that it gives me free rein to experiment with them and learn from mistakes if I must.
I've knitted one pair of my chunky fingerless gloves, and am currently working on a second pair, both to be donated to the fundraising auction at the PASA conference, which is only days away. These gloves are knitted with double strands of yarn, which makes them extra warm. For both pairs of gloves I'm using the repurposed yarn as one strand. It's satisfying to salvage and re-use this material. The color of the sweater is such that I wouldn't choose to wear it myself, but in a double stranded item, I think it turns out quite pretty.
I'm off to the conference on Wednesday, presenting on Thursday, and enjoying myself thoroughly on Friday and Saturday. After I'm home, I'll give my usual summary of the conference highlights, and with a little luck, relocate my writing mojo, which has been scarce of late. Hope winter is treating you all well.