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Wales, United Kingdom
Documenting one couple's attempts to live a more self-sufficient life.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Try something new challenge: Making socks from an old cardigan

Susie has posted a challenge, for herself and whoever feels like joining in, to try something new. This may sound like a pointless challenge for me, as I'm trying new things all the time, but the idea is to pick something that's not, I'm really looking forward to trying that, but, I'd love to try that, but...

I promised enthusiastically to try something for this challenge, and came up with a list of projects including making a solar panel and converting my sewing machine to run on treadle-power, both of which I've been meaning to do for ages but not getting round to because they sound difficult, so exactly what this challenge is about. However, time ticked past and I didn't get round to the first stages of either of these, so I turned to my fall-back project of making socks.

I understand that socks are very difficult to knit...

I won't pinch the entire cartoon, but click the picture to see the rest of it on Gingerbread Lady's blog. It's very funny.

... but even knowing that, I had to add another element to challenge. I specifically wanted to knit socks out of wool salvaged from from an old cardigan. Whatever Susie might think, I'm not convinced it's worth spending £15 on yarn for a pair of socks, especially when I don't even know whether I'll succeed in making them. So... old jumper desctruction was in order.

I identified a sacrificial cardigan...

Rather frumpy cardigan. I quite like it, but Ian hates it, so I never wear it. Pebble doesn't think much of it, either

... and set to work with the quick-unpick dismantling the seams. When I eventually got a corner unfolded I made a discovery.

Cut edges of fabric

It turns out that this isn't a knitted garment as such, but a garment made out of knitted fabric. I should have guessed from the way it was stitched together, I suppose. That means that the yarn will be cut at each edge of piece, so I won't get a continuous thread. I unravelled a few pieces anyway, as I might as well, having got so far.

Pieces of cardigan-yarn. Not only short, but very crinkly

I had a go at knooking with one piece, and it was a @*&! not very nice thing to work with.

Attempting to knook with very crinkly yarn

That means I've ruined a perfectly good frumpy, old, slightly tea-stained cardigan for nothing. It also means that I haven't even got to the starting line in the challenge of making socks. I'm not sure I want to learn this skill enough to fork out on expensive yarn, so unless I come across some unexpectedly cheap sock yarn, I'll be leaving this challenge unmet.


  1. The cartoon is fantastic- could be DH and I!

    For the sock yarn, what about having a look for a proper knitted jumper or cardigan in a charity shop?

    Knitting socks is on my 'to learn' list too, and I've had the same thoughts about sock yarn. I like the idea that they're small and so should make for portable knitting. (I like knitting in waiting rooms, etc and people still talk about the baby pink leg warmers I knitted during a village hall meeting because DD2 needed them for ballet the next day. It seemed perfectly sensible to me, but none of the men quite knew what to make of it!)

  2. Hey! Go you ;-). And unravelling the wool as well! Can you felt the cardigan so it isn't wasted? (Is it wool?). I'm glad the cat was supervising ;-).

    If I were you I would go for the cheapest wool imaginable (I am not patient enough to unravel so am v impressed) for your first socks and then if they go wrong it doesn't matter. I've got some spare 4-ply knocking about here which I bought to learn colour knitting on (v cheap) - it hasn't got enough contrast for me to use it together but it served its purpose (because I learned colour knitting with it!), if you want it, email me your address, I'll stick it in an envelope for you.

  3. Try popping over here
    it has some good advice on recycling yarn. You tend to need to wash the unravelled yarn then hang to dry with a weight to straighten the crinkles. I spent ages doing this and knitting half a sweater for my daughter before giving up because the yarn had angora (bunny wool) that just shed everywhere and drove me crazy. Plan to have another go when i find a suitable jumper to recycle.
    thanks for sharing and good luck with the sock knitting

  4. I agree with Susie in terms of using some cheap yarn, but I'd start off with DK and 4mm needles till you get the hang of it. I used an online pattern with pictures for my first pair, and still have to look at a YouTube video when it comes to kitchener stitching the toes!
    Do have a go - it's fun as well as practical!

  5. Hazel, I'm loving your baby pink legwarmers in the village meeting. I think I'll have to make something in baby pink just so I can take it to meetings and disturb the local menfolk!

    Susie, I think it was only my naivety that let me think unravelling would be a good idea. I didn't even think to look at what kind of material it is until you asked - polycotton, so no felting, sadly. Thanks for the offer of the 4-ply - I'll take you up on that :-)

    Martine, thanks for the link, that's really helpful. If I'd read that first I wouldn't have tried unravelling this cardigan.

    Ju, thanks for the comment, but unless I'm more confused than I thought, that sounds like I'd end up with fairly unwearable socks. I think you underestimate my reluctance to throw things away!

  6. This might be a useful link to help you not to waste that jumper: http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Mittens-for-Buy-Nothing-Day/

    Have a look at the other links that appear on the right-hand side of the page, there are all sorts of ideas for using old jumpers, and they don't all have to be wool!

  7. I've just gone back through CIG's blog to find some DK socks she made - honestly, they are totally wearable, particularly in winter.

    Here's the link:

    I've used the creative link recipe mentioned(it's how I got into sock knitting) and it's fine. Mind you, the first few rounds of all socks are a bit of a b*g!@r!

  8. OK, I am more confused than I thought, then. I thought sock yarn was really fine, like 2-ply or something, and DK is 8-ply, isn't it? So that would be four times as thick...

    I thought you'd end up with socks you couldn't get on, or slippers at best, but from that link I can clearly see perfectly good socks made from DK. I give up trying to make sense of this!

  9. Thanks for the link, cj. I'll see if I can find inspiration for something I need in there. I did once try to make a cushion cover out of a favourite old jumper, but that went horribly wrong...

  10. I know what I'll make from that old cardie - a bag for my knooking things. I don't have one and I keep misplacing hooks. It seems an appropriate use. It will have to take its place in the queue of projects, though...


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