So, nature abhors a vacuum…

About to remove about 140litres of quilt from my studio, and wondering what I would do with all that space (so beyond the final frontier in my list of wants…) my question was no sooner framed than answered by a friend texting that the knitwear factory near him had just had its monthly clearout of cone ends. When factories have an order for larger items like jumpers, and the yarn on the cone is less than the amount needed for the pattern, it is cheaper to throw out the remainder than to store it in case it could be used in a different order, and because they have to show responsible disposal, they need their waste to be collected by industrial collection, so it’s hard for them to give to charities, even if they want to. However, they can leave their bins unlocked…

And the eagle-eyed and shamelessly green can skip for multi-coloured joy 😉

My intrepid friends climbed inside the bin to empty it, and when we had filled 4 large ikea bags and a canvas shopping bag, we could now fit all the cardboard that had been  stacked beside the bin, getting sodden in the rain, inside the bin, with some thread tangles that were potentially hazardous to wildlife.

So that would be a big all round win…

We took a cab back to mine, one roll of canvas webbing paid for that, never mind the wide elastic, shirring elastic and yarn…

So, what did we do with it all? 1 bag is going to children for streetplay projects, 1 bag of the fattest cones has gone to the refugee forum as some women there have knitting machine skills and many enjoy embroidery and embellishing. 1 bag will go to a friend for making rainbow cords with her daughter and friends.

How much left, oh lots of short ends…. I had an art idea a few weeks back that involved making scrolls, so I bagsed all the supershort ends and wound multi-strand balls for knitting projects, liberating, in less than a week, 35 cardboard cones…

I’ve discovered a lot of peeps have no idea that there is an art to winding yarn, so I thought I’d post some tips for all my fellow upcyclers.

So, assemble your cones. Most fine yarns you find on cones are 1 or 2ply, this is for socks and textiles. You might find 4ply or double knit on cones in charity shops, donated at the end of projects or when old ladies move into nursing homes and there is a giant clear out of their stash. You can mix and match, though it is easier to knit when the individual threads are similar.

If you are going to make sewing machine cords, the main constraint is what will go through your foot, and if you don’t have a piping foot, safe is better than sorry, wind a maximum of 6ply.

For knitting, 4ply is fine sock, 8/10ply is aran/double knit and 12/14 chunky, though these are all approximate, because if some are nylon finishing thread, that’s much finer…but if you knit a tension square, you can adapt any pattern really.

Apologies for blurry pix, have you ever tried photographing your other hand?

So, start with a simple granny knot. Wind around your fingers, then when you have a bundle, release your fingers, but replace with your thumb/finger on the outside,and continue winding. Wind clockwise and swivel round, so the ball has a navel. Wind to what your hands can cope with, for me that’s about 125g (just over 4oz) and a nice satisfying size to make a dishcloth/loopy lace stitch scarf, with a little left over for cording.

Why all the stuff about fingers? It keeps the natural tension of the spun yarn, wind too tight, and you ‘tire’ the yarn and it always seems tight, with no spring to it.

If you want to upcycle the yarn from a hand knitted garment, carefully unpick the seams, and find the end of the yarn. Most garments are knitted bottom up, but a lot of round neck jumpers are top down. Wind the yarn round your elbows or the back of a dining chair. Tie the loops together in at least 3 places. You now have a skein, and it’s a good idea to wash it if the garment had any stains.

If the yarn is pure wool/mohair/alpaca etc HANDWASH ONLY!  To test if it’s an animal fibre, burn an end, it will smell sooty and feel soft. Polyester/acrylic yarns have a very plasticky  smell  and make a hard plasticky end.

Once clean, wind into balls, and keep those fingers in place, it’s so worth it for the difference in springiness in the yarn and end fabric of your garment.

To make very pretty (and strong) machine cords, take a few metres of multistranded yarn and some tail ends of thread. Set your sewing machine to the widest and longest zigzag. Tie a knot at the end and pull clear. Now drop the needle and start stitching, slowly till you feel confident and then speed up. I put the cord through at least twice, and shorten the zigzag on the second run. If you want super pretty, use metallic threads in the bobbin on the final run 😉 Gently guide the cord by pulling the finished end away from the foot, but DO NOT DRAG or you may break a needle or even worse, break the timing. Also, DO NOT let your fingers TOO CLOSE to the needle, they should be 10cm/4inches behind! These cords are fabulous for embellishing, making bunting or swags, yarntagging, gift tag cord…crochet possibilities are enormous…here are some things I used as part of the Gaia’s Guardians installation:

For added fun, watch the frustration on your furry friend’s face as you wind… 😉