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Join Us for the Knitting Green Challenge!

Apr 19, 2010

April 22 is Earth Day.

For many of us this means planting a tree, exchanging our incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, setting up a compost bin in the back yard, and so on. These are all wonderful things to do for our Earth, our children, ourselves. But what about applying this environmental awareness to our knitting?

Designer Mags Kandis is known for "thinking outside the skein"—in fact, she's come up with some of the most creative ways to use sticks and string. And now she's brought us a way to use some of those old T-shirts, skirts, dresses, sheets; whatever you might put in the Goodwill box, you can use in this project (I'm using an old pair of p.j. bottoms).

So, without further ado, welcome to the Knitting Green Challenge!

Mags came up with the project that inspired the challenge, so I thought I'd share that with you to get you inspired! "Paris Recycled" is made from a skirt that Mags bought in Paris. Here's the story, taken from our new book Knitting Green, by Ann Budd.

Paris Recycled by Mags Kandis
Paris Recycled
For Mags Kandis, being green is less about acquiring new things with green labels and more about repurposing and re-creating the things she has already amassed. On her first trip to Paris, Mags purchased a smoky blue silk skirt encircled with tiny knife-edge pleats. But after a few years, the allure of a high-maintenance piece of clothing faded, and Mags tossed it in the wash. Without the pleats, the skirt was never the same. Mags cut the skirt into strips that she tied together and knitted into a scarf that will always remind her of Paris.

Mags's scarf ended up about 5.5 inches wide and 44 inches long. She simply cast 13 stitches onto size 15 needles and knit in garter stitch with an occasional drop stitch pattern repeat thrown in every 3 inches to 6 inches. For the drop stitch pattern, knit row 1 wrapping the yarn twice around the needle for each stitch; you'll have 2 loops on the needle for each stitch. On row 2, *drop one of the loops of the next stitch off the needle and work k1 into the elongated loop; rep from *.

For a really special touch, Mags added a tag to her scarf that says "Paris." She applied iron-fusible interfacing onto a scrap of the skirt fabric and used a permanent marker to write her label. So creative, that gal!

And now here are Mags and Interweave Knits editor Eunny Jang to take you through the process of turning old clothes into yarn.

For the challenge, we want you to use Mags's technique for making yarn and come up with your own finished objects—scarves, bags, mats, and so on. And we want to see them, so step on over to the Knitting Green Challenge forum, jot down your project details, and post a photo of your creation!

And check out Knitting Green for lots of beautiful projects you can create while keeping the planet in mind. It's a wonderful way to celebrate Earth Day.

Good luck and happy Earth Day!


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debbie@186 wrote
on Apr 22, 2010 6:26 PM

great idea-gotta give it a go

Fliss wrote
on Apr 22, 2010 1:57 AM

Brilliant, brilliant!  Thank you so much for making that available.  I am totally inspired by it .  Stand by, old clothes, a future awaits you!

booksnob wrote
on Apr 21, 2010 11:28 AM

On the teashirt hookup did you do a half hitch knot? I didn't quite get it?

peggy roalf wrote
on Apr 21, 2010 9:22 AM

Please stop sending reader responses, one by one, to my email address!!! this is incredibly thoughtless.

If I choose to read ideas sent in for recycling stuff, i'll go to the blog and read it by choice.

You are causing me unnecessary work to delete this junk. If it doesn't stop not only will I unsubscribe to KD, I'll send back invoice for new subscription to IK marked Cancel.

peggy roalf wrote
on Apr 21, 2010 9:21 AM

Please stop sending reader responses, one by one, to my email address!!! this is incredibly thoughtless.

If I choose to read ideas sent in for recycling stuff, i'll go to the blog and read it by choice.

You are causing me unnecessary work to delete this junk. If it doesn't stop not only will I unsubscribe to KD, I'll send back invoice for new subscription to IK marked Cancel

knitnzu wrote
on Apr 20, 2010 4:37 PM

Marilyn, have you ever seen a goodwill distribution center?  They get far more clothes than they can possibly sell in their stores, even in our tiny capital city of 20,000 people.  These clothes get compressed and bailed up to be used as rags and for distribution overseas.

The goodwill is a great thing, as you say, offers jobs, education, etc.  But for people who most need clothes cheap, there are often free alternatives where you can donate your good, used clothing.  One of the churches in my city does so, and the clothes are free to those who come in for them.  I know in larger cities there are many such places.

What I wish people would do, though, is to only donate clothes in good shape... no stains, no holes, etc.  Even more so when one is donating to something like an overseas orphanage or a free clothing center.

I think that anybody has a right to shop at a goodwill, and I wish more people would.  Buying used clothing cuts down so much on resource waste and pollution.  No matter what you want to do with the clothes...  I often look to the largest garments for fabric to be repurposed.  And since I'm tall and have trouble with new clothes shrinking, I like that most of what I get used has already been shrunk.

on Apr 20, 2010 3:59 PM

Hi MarilynB: I'm absolutely not encouraging people not to donate to Goodwill. In fact, the jammie pants I'm repurposing had holes in them and were going into the trash.

I support Goodwill and other charities all year long through donations, and Earth Day is a great day to do that, too—it encourages the reuse, repurpose, recycle idea!



on Apr 20, 2010 12:04 PM

I find it appalling to encourage someone who is going to donate an item to Goodwill to NOT do so and to instead cut it up to reuse. There are so many people in this country who depend on Goodwill for jobs, and the use of inexpensive items that are sold there to wear themselves or by their children. If the item you are donating is in such bad shape that it can't be worn then YES by al means cut it up to use the good parts. It should not be donated anyway. But PLEASE continue to support Goodwill and the good work that they do. So many people do depend on Goodwill.

Nemo15 wrote
on Apr 20, 2010 11:31 AM

This last summer I had access to used plastic twine that is used to hold bales of hay together. I made a standard loop knot to tie the strands  together. Using the largest metal crochet hook I could find worked well and created a heavy duty "fabric" that is excellent for outdoor mats and good for removing mud from the bottoms of boots before entering the house. It is very durable and rinses off with ease! My only complaint was that it is very rough on the hands and weighs much more than when working with jute or other similar materials.

NadeanY wrote
on Apr 20, 2010 6:48 AM

What I do is take an old large sweater and cut the neck and arms off and then knit around the neck and make a cowl: round of the bottom then I crochet a small trim around the bottom edge.

  I take the remainder of the sweater and felt it and the bottom of the cut sweater i make a hand bag, Knit or crochet around the top add a few beads and a handle. Have a great purse to match. the sleeves I save for free form pieces that will go into a coat. For a few dollars you can pick up a sweater at a goodwill store and use left over yarn and it  costs very little to make and little time. For a Picture Look in the Yarne source archives and you can see it there. Nadean Young

JenniferA wrote
on Apr 20, 2010 6:36 AM

This was a great video.  I am motivated to try something beyond basic cotton like a quilter might use.  I have a dress that I'll never get back into that might have great potential!

cccards wrote
on Apr 20, 2010 6:03 AM

I think this is a great idea.  I can just see my grandmother and great grandmother doing this!  I'm sure this is how they got many of their yarns.


Ham Lake MN

knitnzu wrote
on Apr 20, 2010 5:43 AM

I am planning a cashmere bathrobe for the long winters in Maine... out of repurposed thrift store sweaters.  Almost have enough...

8fingerpro wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 11:07 PM

Love the recycling idea! I first saw this idea used with plastic grocery bags. I crocheted a nice bech bag that's waterproof because it's made of plastic! People are constantly asking me what it's made of. It is remarkably tough.

as I worked with the bags, I son tired of tying strips together and figured out a nifty way to cut my bags in one long strip by making a spiral. The first couple were frustrating, but then I devised a shortcut. The same idea would work with the t-shirt! Fold the shirt into fourths the same way Maggie did, but don't cut the strips all the way to the edge. Stop them about an inch from one edge. (It will look kind of like a comb. Open out the fabric and snip the remaining cloth DIAGONALLY connecting each cut to the one above it. The reult will be one continuous strip of fabric requiring NO KNOTS. A fast way to get a great result!

Happy knitting!


on Apr 19, 2010 7:17 PM


Interesting that you are doing this. I tried this for a fashion show several years ago with a beautiful rayon print. I bought all that was left on the bolt. Gorgeous prple with jade and black ansd some hot pink. I cut enough off for  a skirt and cut the rest in strips, about 1" wide. I cut the strips 'diagonally and strengthened the 'yarn' with bright silk yarn I had used in some yardage I wove. It was a HIT!

Currently, a friend is using up her quilting fabric to knit - handbags. They are wonderful. Nothing is NEW, is it?  About the 'jean' ball of yarn - it is MUCH harder to knit as it is heavy and 'drags' as you knit it. Braiding might work better.

I am going to coerce Barbara Kelcey, the handbag knitter into sending yoiu photos. Happy stitching. Laurrie Sobie, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Barbara Bobo wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 5:46 PM

What a great video!  I've been doing this type of knitting for quite some time and it is loads of fun....I have made some really cute "Java Jackets" for iced tea glasses with matching placemats out of old Turtle neck T purple one green and they are really cute and handy!   The material is really stretchy so just be bold and cast on with some double points, increase a few stitches if your glasses flare out, cast off and enjoy.  The funky ends sticking out are a fun design element and who says they all have to be in the same....each ones glass can be different.

Rugs!!!! what a great idea for all those old jeans...stripe them with the t-shirts they use to pal around with too!

RellB wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 4:09 PM

I made my sister a bag out of old tee shirts that I cut into loops and knoted together. Currently I 'm knitting a bag made of plastic grocery bags.

moonncat wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 3:31 PM

Her first scarf looks like a bunch of ripped up fabric sewn together

susqknitter wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 2:43 PM

What a great video...I'm heading off to search the drawers and closets right now.  And I'm with Nina....please show us how to unravel sweaters as well!

MaryL wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 1:53 PM

thanks Rabid, thats a great tip.  My suggestion is to knit a gauge swatch. Not only would you know the gauge, but you'd see how your yarn looks knitted up!

Linda L C D wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 1:51 PM

I would love for her to come back when she has finished her mat made from jeans.  I've always wanted to do something like that!

Lora Smith wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 1:24 PM

great idea thank you

rabid wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 12:52 PM

Here's a tip you might want to include...cutting fabrics that don't stretch (linens, cottons, silk, quilting fabrics) on the bias (diagonally) helps keep them from fraying and introduces stretch into normally woven fabrics, helping them to stretch like yarn :) I'm going to do some myself.

JoanneS wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 12:44 PM

Thanks so much for talking about Earth Day!  I look forward to seeing how Ann Budd has approached these topics and how they differ from my book, published by Wiley & Sons last fall-- "Knit Green."  It's wonderful to have another resource available on how to choose environmentally friendly options for knitters!  

NinaPC@2 wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 12:32 PM

I've been saving my little girl's dresses for five years thinking I would quilt them; now, I think I will make an afghan.  I would love to know how to unravel sweaters to reuse the yarn.


on Apr 19, 2010 11:59 AM

This came up on a Yahoo group I'm a part of.  Here is a tutorial of how to make T-shirt yarn in continuous strips, so no knots/binding at all until you join with another t-shirt.  I really can't wait to try this - thinking of all the old clothes in closet now!

solargirl wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 11:55 AM

I cut up a bunch of old t-shirts and made a striped bath mat!

However, instead of making a series of strips that then were knotted together, I cut the t-shirt in a long, diagonal strip going around and around the body of the shirt in one continuous line.

I used size 13 needles and it took me about 2 days of knitting (on and off) and a day or so to cut up the t-shirts while watching tv.

Warning: cutting the t-shirts is messy and knitting up the t-shirts can be a little hard on your right hand would cramp up after about 30 minutes because of the weight of the project.

SUsyG wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 11:29 AM

I have made yarn from an old tie-dye shirt. It is fun.

jerriscott wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 9:50 AM

This is a great idea. I'm going to search my closet today and see if I have something I can cut up.

lynerhonda wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 9:45 AM

They say there is nothing new under the sun, I am 69 years old and have been doing this for about 65 years.  From unpicking knitted garments so childrens garments could be made from the recycled wool, to cutting stockings and pantyhose into strips in the 1970's.  These were made into scarves, mats, vests, hats, pot holders, you name it.  Of course we are all familiar with the rag rugs made from dress making left overs or worn out clothes.  We oldies were brought up on recycling, and I have great difficulty throwing anything out, even the coffee jars into the recycle bin.  A nice transfer, coat of paint, and you have a set of small cannisters for presents.

on Apr 19, 2010 9:43 AM

I am going to give this a go I have sooo many old blankets and hubbys jeans and a sheet .... this is sooo cool~! I have the cutting tools to do this too... thank you for this~!



on Apr 19, 2010 9:30 AM

Thank You and this video did work !   Excellent Going Green idea ! Doing it today !

Toni Nevicosi

annettemm wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 9:29 AM

thanks i have a drawer of strips cut ,for the quilt  thak well cange to somethig else .