A Sweater’s Worth of Cashmere for $5

Nice yarn made of really nice fiber costs lots and lots of money. Take this Ravenwood 3-ply 100% cashmere yarn, for example. Clara Parkes calls this yarn:

Quite possibly the loveliest and most substantial cashmere yarn I’ve ever touched.

220 yards for $70. Probably more than worth it for every last luxurious strand.

I can’t afford to buy this sort of treat very often. Or, if I must be honest, ever. Unless I am buying one precious hank to make a small project, like a special pair of fingerless mitts or a glamorous hat.

I certainly can’t afford to buy enough of this glorious cashmere to knit a multiple hank project. A whole sweater? Forget it!

But that doesn’t keep me from wanting it. It doesn’t keep me from lingering over the cashmere displays at the local yarn store, dreaming of what will never be.

She wants the precious. She is always looking for it.

A friend recently turned me on to a method of obtaining large quantities of cashmere, silk, and other expensive fibers for a fraction of what they would normally cost: sweater recycling.

I picked up the following sweater at a local thrift store and gave it a good hand washing to remove any lingering second-hand skeevies. It’s 100% cashmere in a perfectly acceptable color. And most importantly, it had friendly construction and good seams. You want to avoid serged seems like the plague. You’ll end up with lots of little strips of yarn. And who wants to spit splice all of those little pieces? Not me.  Not even cashmere is worth that kind of aggravation.

To learn more about taking apart sweaters, take a look at this awesome blog post at Crafstylish.com.

After taking it apart with a seam ripper, I wound the various pieces of the sweater into balls on my ball winder.

And here are the results. A sweater’s worth of 100% cashmere yarn. I’m not exactly sure of the yardage, but I could estimate fairly easily using a digital scale  and a calculator. The cost: $4.99. 

iPhone provided for scale.

I feel pretty smug. And empowered. I can’t afford to buy luxury cashmere yarn very often. But I can certainly afford to buy $5 sweaters and take them apart. The greatest part of the cost, really, is the time require to shop, wash the sweater, take it apart, and wind it: About 5 hours, all told (although some of that time could be shortened in the future, now that I know what I’m doing).

Confession time: Not only do I feel smug and empowered, I also feel a little bit guilty. There’s nothing wrong with being thrifty and there are lots of very, very good things about recycling. But I know that, in doing this, I am taking business away from my LYS and from the good folks at Ravenwood. On the other hoof, chances are that I would never, ever have bought this volume of cashmere yarn from any producer or merchant. I just can’t afford it. So is there really anything to feel guilty about? Tell me what you think.



  1. I think it’s a great idea. The guilt just means you’re a socially conscious human being. You’ll still continue to buy from your LYS (I’m sure!), but it’s recycling which is also a good thing.

    The number one thing I got from this post is I need to buy a winder. I knew there had to be an easier way than handwinding!

  2. I wouldn’t feel guilty about this at all. Your yarn store is going to continue to get your business and you are going to get your cashmere fix. It’s win/win. And I’m sure if you ever got the funds you would get the cashmere from the yarn store too!

  3. Don’t feel guilty, that’s just silly. It’s not like you had a $200 a week cashmere habit and they were your supplier. So what will you make with all this lovely new yarn you have?

  4. Wow. You are now my knitting hero! Good for you! And ya gotta watch those second-hand skivvies!!!! EEEEEEEW. But this is really exciting – can’t wait to see what you do with it. And no, no need to feel guilty – I can say that having worked at a local LYS, too.

  5. Girl, no!! My friend Laurel does this and it’s one of the smartest things I have ever heard. And the yarns are gorgeous! I love my LYS too. But, they definitely don’t have a problem picking my pockets clean, lol. At the end of the day, it’s still a business. They’re not in it to lose money. However, if you are able to save on luxury yarn, go for it. Somebody’s gotta keep you in the business of stash enhancing somehow. May as well be you!

  6. Absolutely not!! Most thrift stores like Good Will provide jobs and skills for the disabled and a lot of thrift stores are in conjunction with churches that help the needy. So giving them your business is a good thing and your being thrifty besides. Definitely a win win situation!! Recycling is a good thing!

  7. I wouldn’t feel guilty about it at all, you’re being resourceful. I am working with some cashmere right now that I got for half price, it really is the most wonderful stuff ever.

    • Thanks for the link to the article on textile recycling. I didn’t realize even that much was reclaimed, or that that much could be reclaimed.

  8. From a former LYS employee, be thrifty & resourceful! Don’t be ashamed or guilty that you’re recycling – we all can appreciate the expense of a great yarn and the resources to obtain it in a more reasonable fashion. Kudos to you for your patience in unraveling the sweater, your great thrift store find, and I hope you truly enjoy creating your new project (and please share pics of the finished product!). Have fun & a very blessed day!

    • Thanks for the reassurance. I figured it was probably ok. I always feel guilty when I take business away from local merchants. Especially whee orders g online.

  9. I, admittedly, do not love thrift store shopping. Nor do I enjoy WalMart shopping. I think it’s a crowded store full of people thing more than anything, but I think it’s AWESOME that you got such a score! Entirely awesome!

  10. Q – Yea, we blogged about sweater recycling too. It is a great way to get yarn. Repurposed seems to be the latest buzz word, so I’m repurposing the yarn from thrift shop sweaters.

    And, cashmere is really wonderful and wonderfully expensive. I’m wishing I could feel it through the computer screen. lol!

  11. I wouldn’t feel guilty. You’re putting money into the economy that would otherwise have stayed in your bank account AND you’re recycling something that could otherwise have become trash. Both of those are good things! I’m also very jealous of your thrift store find. Mine never seem to have anything nearly so exciting.

  12. Don’t feel guilty, not buying something that you wouldn’t buy anyway because you can’t afford it doesn’t change a thing in the world. On the other hand, recycling is underestimated and much needed, it prevents pollution. While I often wander in second hand stores and buy items that I can’t afford (silk tops being my favorites) and alter them to my size, it never occurred to me that I can get yarn that way. Thank you sooooo much for this post, you gave me hope! No way in the world could I buy cashmere and other luxury yarns for that price.

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