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Top Tips for Using Secondhand Yarn

Following on from the Sourcing Secondhand Yarn post, I thought it would be helpful to include some pointers for using your yarn once you’ve managed to track some down!

Sometimes you can be lucky and get secondhand yarn complete with labels, so you know what type of yarn it is, what weight it is, and how to care for it.
But more often than not, especially with charity shop finds, there is no label, and it can be tricky to know exactly what you have, and whether it will work with a specific pattern.
In my Back to Basics e-book, yarn supremo Joanne Scrace of Not So Granny, has written a whole chapter on how to “Unpick and Knit Again” and salvage wool from old woolly jumpers.
In it, she tells us a couple of sneaky tricks for finding out not only what your yarn is (natural or synthetic) and also what weight it is.
And she’s very kindly allowed to share those pro tricks with you here!

To work out if your yarn is natural or synthetic, you need to do something called The Burn Test!

Take a small piece of the reclaimed yarn and take a match to it.
If it is a man-made fibre it will flash and curl like plastic and you will be left with a hardened stump.
If it is wool it will burn slower and, once extinguished, you will have only ash and the wool appear undamaged.
It will be hard to identify wool/acrylic blends.

And to work out what weight yarn you have, you need to do The Wrap Test!

Wrap the wool several times around a pencil and measure how many strands (or wraps) there are to the inch.

Photo credit: Joanne Scrace, Not So Granny

  • 19-22 wraps per inch = 4 ply
  • 15-18 wraps per inch = Sport weight
  • 12-14 wraps per inch = DK
  • 9-11 wraps per inch = Aran weight
  • 7-8 wraps per inch = Chunky weight
  • 6 or fewer wraps per inch = Super Chunky

Once you know what kind of weight your yarn is, you can work out whether it is suitable to use with the pattern you have in mind.

To calculate how much yarn you have, and whether you will have enough for a particular pattern:

  • Weigh all the yarn
  • With a ruler measure off 20 yds
  • Weigh the 20 yards
  • Divide the total weight by the small skein weight and times by 20 to give you an approximate yardage
  • For example: if the total weight of your yarn is 500g, and the weight of a 20 yard section is 10g, then you do 500/10 = 50. And then times this by 20 = 1000. So you have approximately 1000 yards of yarn!

A note on the Dreaded Moths!

If you are super unlucky, the yarn that you bring into your stash might be harbouring moth eggs or larvae, and could infest the rest of your stash.
If you have any concerns at all, prevention is better than cure!
Place your yarn in a Zip-loc freezer bag, and squeeze out all the air.
Place the yarn in the bag, in the freezer for 1-2 weeks.
Take it out and allow it to thaw, and then repeat.

If you want to read more of Joanne’s brilliant chapter, and find out how to make use of the yarn from old woollens, you can find the my Back to Basics e-book here!

Tips for Secondhand Yarn-p

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