REKNIT pair full size

Treatment: entirely or partially unravel garment and reuse yarn

Problem addressed: dissatisfying garment made from desirable yarn

Ideal fabric type: single colour fabric, up to 30 stitches per 10cm, not too pilled or felted; the garment must not be overlocked together



First, the seams of the garment must be opened up without damaging the knitted fabric. The fabric is then gradually unravelled from the top of each panel.

The yarn should be reconditioned, for example by steaming and stretching in skeins. It can then be reknitted into new panels.



  • A completely different type of garment in a new stitch
  • The same garment with a reshaped neckline or shoulder
  • Add stripes or colourwork into the reknitted section

Here are the before and after views of a reknit project:

Helen reknit 1  Helen reknit 2



Step 1: open seams (Note: these instructions were created for the Replace Cuff treatment, but are just as relevant here)

Step 2: unravel the fabric

Keep the work gathered in one hand and pull the yarn with the other, to avoid laddering. Pull firmly, but with care, especially for hairy yarns or intricate patterns. If the panel was knitted to shape, it will unravel – but only from the top (as it was knitted). Stocking stitch will unravel from the bottom, but you’ll have to cut the yarn to release it at the selvedges.

If you want to unravel only to a certain row, pick up the loops of that row with a contrast thread or fine knitting needle before you start. The thread will prevent the unpicking of too many rows, and the stitches will be ready to knit or slip onto a needle. Alternatively, pull all the rows except the last one, and do that one slowly while picking up with a needle (see Step 2 of the Replace Cuff instructions for guidance).

Step 3: recondition the yarn

Wind the yarn into skeins; wash, rinse, dry or steam; re-wind into balls. It might be hard to remove kinks from manmade yarn. You can just wind straight into balls for re-knitting, but the new knitting might be rather uneven.

For more information and images, see Recycling Sweaters for Yarn by Dawn Prickett. Other good instructions for reconditioning yarn can be found in the 1940s Odhams Press knitting books (such as Knitted Garments for All by Jane Koster and Margaret Murray, p195) and the trusty Handknitter’s Handbook by Montse Stanley (p307).

Step 4: reknit

If you wish to only partially unravel a panel, you will need to match the gauge of the original fabric when reknitting. The table below should provide some guidance on needle size.

Gauge table colour v2



If you are unravelling a garment completely to reuse the yarn, you may be able to use an existing pattern. Knit a tension swatch to make sure you’re knitting at the correct gauge.

If you wish to create your own pattern, or want to unravel only part of the garment and redesign the pattern for that section, look for a book that provides guidance on pattern design and calculation, such as Knitting: Your Own Designs for a Perfect Fit by Montse Stanley.



  • If the side of a panel is cut, the yarn will not unravel continuously – you will only get short lengths that are no good for reknitting with
  • Avoid multi-coloured garments, which will be difficult to unravel
  • If you wish to rework a section, measure the existing part before unravelling and use this as a guide for your new pattern
  • If your knitting is uneven due to stubborn kinks in the yarn, blocking or steaming may even it out a bit


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You are free to copy, distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon any of the material on this page, for non-commercial or commercial purposes, as long as you credit Amy Twigger Holroyd/#reknitrevolution and use the same Creative Commons license for your new work. Please go forth and share!

Also, please note that these instructions are in beta mode; feedback is most welcome. Email comments to