Sunday, 17 April 2011

Recycling scraps of Liberty silk fabric into handspun yarn...

I've been going to an evening sewing class in Ulverston for the past few months and some of the ladies there have been making clothes from gorgeous Liberty silk fabric.

There were lots of fabric scraps left over after cutting out the pattern pieces and I couldn't bear to see them go in the bin (I can't bear to see most things going in the bin, let alone lovely silk fabric!). So, I explained that I'd like to try and make something from the scraps and they were kindly saved up and given to me.

The one on the left is called Jacob Pop A and on the right is a variation of Liberty's Bourton paisley-type print (both 100% silk!)...
Scraps of two Liberty print fabrics

The obvious thing to do (obvious to me anyway...) was to cut the scraps into strips and try spinning a yarn from them. Here's some of the Bourton fabric cut into neat little strips...
Liberty Bourton fabric strips 1

I included the Bourton selvedge as it was a nice cream colour, like the background of the print, which I thought would make a nice bit of a stripe in the finished yarn. The Jacob Pop selvedge was white, which didn't lend itself to being incorporated with the rest of that yarn, so I've saved it for something else.

I spun the yarn by wrapping the fabric strips around a core yarn, overlapping each new strip and tucking the ends in as I went along. I was pleased with how the Bourton yarn spun up...
Liberty Bourton fabric yarn mound

Liberty Bourton fabric yarn close up strands

But the ends of some of the strips had a habit of coming unwound, so when I came to spin the Jacob Pop fabric, I decided to let a pink thread wrap around the outside of the yarn, which secured the fabric strips nicely...
Liberty Jacob Pop A fabric yarn

Skein end Liberty Jacob Pop A fabric yarn

Both yarns are knitting up well, although the Jacob Pop is slightly easier because there is no chance of the fabric strips unravelling (which is fiddly to sort out mid-knit!).

Liberty Bourton yarn knitted up...
Knitting with Liberty Bourton fabric yarn

Liberty Jacob Pop yarn knitted up...
Knitting with Liberty Jacob Pop A fabric yarn

There should be enough of each yarn to make a two nice little knitted bags to give back to the ladies who generously donated their scraps to me! :)


  1. Fantastic! I like cutting up old t-shirts into strips and knitting them up, but your spinning is so much better. x

  2. Excellent can you give more instructions on how you did the spinning and the wrapping with thread

    1. Its a bit tricky to explain (and very fiddly to do!), but spinning the fabric around a core thread is similar to a spinning technique called 'corespinning' (which you could Google for videos and more details), but using the strips of fabric instead of wool fibres.

      Corespinning involves wrapping the strips of fabric around a 'core' yarn (usually a ready-made thin-ish yarn of wool or acrylic), which sits at your feet as you spin. You attach the core yarn to your bobbin, secure the end of the first strip of fabric to it with a knot and then spin so that the fabric strip wraps around the core yarn, hiding it from view.

      When you get to the end of each fabric strip, overlap the end with the start of the next strip by a couple of inches and try to tuck in any loose ends as you go.

      I found that the overlapping of the strips didn't completely stop them unraveling in the finished yarn, which is why I decided to wrap the outside of the fabric yarn with another thread. It helps to hold everything in place.

      I used a bobbin of sewing thread for the outside wrapping and just tied it onto the core with a knot at the start of the yarn, then dropped it into a bowl by my feet (to try and keep everything from tangling). The thread stays near the orifice of the spinning wheel (you don't have to hold onto it) and wraps around the outside of the fabric yarn just before it feeds onto the bobbin.

      The wrapping technique is sometimes called 'autowrapping' by spinners, since it happens automatically. You might be able to find a video online of someone doing the autowrapping technique with a regular style of yarn.

      I hope that's of some help!
      Kate :)

    2. Hi Kate,
      I have been spinning fabric scraps into yarn for a few years now and I just saw this (your post) now (Dec 2015). How great to find a kindred spirit!

      I am now working on a large-scale art installation that will be presented at the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico next fall, all woven with my handspun recycled fabric yarn.
      See here:

      Best Wishes,
      Zaida Adriana!