Fiber Feature: Kara Syvertsen of Second Cycle Yarn Co

I have seen many awesome blog posts about recycling sweater yarns: find a sweater at a thrift store, nip the seams, and unravel the yarn. Voila! You have a treasure trove of fiber–sometimes wool, alpaca, or even cashmere. So you can imagine my delight at finding out about Second Cycle Yarn Co, the brain child of Kara Syvertsen. Kara takes the guesswork out of this whole process, producing finished skeins of beautiful, recycled yarn that she sells in her lovely Etsy shop. I absolutely love her packaging and the variety of fiber she has available. Read on for an interview full of inspiration and information. Kara will even help you disassemble your old sweaters–producing a bag full of yarn for you to build something new!

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Where did the inspiration for SecondCycleYarnCo from?
I have always been interested in reusing rather than throwing something away. If I believed in reincarnation I’d be sure I was a Great Depression survivor in a former life;  I hate throwing things away that may have some usefulness. While I certainly can do better in my day to day life, I really do try to reduce the amount of waste I generate. So keeping old sweaters from ending up in a landfill and allowing them to be recreated into something that  will be loved and worn aligns perfectly with my passion for reducing personal waste.

Furthermore, I am primarily a weaver and I was brainstorming ways to lower my yarn costs.  So I went to a thrift store, grabbed a couple of sweaters and went to work with my seam ripper. As it turns out, the sweaters I bought were cashmere (can you blame me?)  and commercially knit cashmere sweaters use yarn that is not spun very tightly. The cashmere sweaters are wonderfully soft but unfortunately the yarn is not strong enough to be used on a loom. However, the yarn is still perfectly suitable to knit or crochet with!  Recently I’ve been running this yarn through my spinning wheel several times to add twist and ply it with itself to create a thicker and more stable cashmere!

Additional to all this, I am not shy about having a chronic health condition that requires me to rest often. This keeps me away from my loom.  But I can unravel sweaters during my resting times. So all this came together and I quickly became very excited about the idea of providing luxurious and affordable yarn to fellow fiber artists!

What is your favorite kind of crafting project?
I have been a knitter for about 15 years but my primary craft is weaving. I bought a weaving loom about 7 years ago on a whim and I’ve been obsessed ever since. But I am a Jill of all trades (master of none for sure!). In addition to knitting and weaving I spin and I can crochet, although I have not quiet gotten the hang of that. I also dabble in dyeing yarn and love using natural dyes and dye techniques. I tend to be a planner, and a bit controlling, so natural dyeing forces me to abandon my spreadsheets and calculator and be happy with whatever nature wants to give me.

Who are your biggest crafting influences/inspirations?
My grandmother knit my cabbage patch doll cloths when I was a child, so I’ve always been around fiber artists. After many years of knitting I still don’t think I can knit anything as nice as she made for Candi.

I would not be the artist I am today with my mom, for sure. She is also a knitter and a spinner but has such a different perspective than me, so it’s so wonderful to be able to bounce ideas off her and get her opinion. I send her literally everything I am working on from dye colors to weaving drafts. She has been intimately involved with me getting Second Cycle off the ground with endless amounts of encouragement and sending me near weekly shipments of sweaters that she has found for me to unravel!

Finally I am thankful for modern technology for sure.  I can be a home body, but through instagram, facebook, ravelry, etc., I am connected with thousands of fellow fiber artists who constantly fill my brain with new ideas and provide support when I need help and encouragement. I am so lucky to be in a community of such giving and talented individuals.

How do you sort through sweaters to find the best yarn?
I spend a lot of time in thrift stores and yard sales . . . a lot of time! I have to look through probably a hundred sweaters before I find one that is made from wonderful yarn and is able to be unraveled. And there has been a lot of trial and error as well. I have a small pile of sweaters that need to be ‘re-donated’ because I didn’t look hard enough while shopping. There are so many factors to consider aside from what the sweater is made from including the weight of the yarn, color, condition and style. So, yeah, I just sift through racks and racks. Thankfully I am a bit of a podcast junkie, so I put in my headphones and get to work. Most of the time I can tell what the sweater is made from just by a quick feel. But there are some tricky acrylics out there that have made me stop for a second look.

Any advice for someone who wants to use your yarn for a project?
I make extra efforts to make these yarns similar to the yarn you’d pick up at your LYS.  I have to remove thin strands of nylon that manufacturers will add to ribbed cuffs to help maintain the elasticity in ribbing. A nifty trick, but that nylon needs to be removed to make it usable. I also have a 3 step cleaning process, especially for wools, to remove any odors and other things remaining on the yarn from having been worn, loved, and washed as a sweater and to add softness back to the yarn that may have been striped when the sweater was dry cleaned. The yarn is then dried in the shade, but then moved to the intense Colorado sunshine for day or so to further air out.

Even after all, that the reclaimed yarn can be different from knitting yarns in several ways. Some yarns can be a bit easier to break, especially the cashmeres and wools. You would only really notice this if you are trying to use is as the warp for weaving or anything else that requires high tension on the yarn.

Also, the thicker yarns are sometimes made up of several thinner strands held together, but not plied together. This is different than what you’d typically see in LYS yarns but this is not obvious in the resulting fabric created from these yarns. It just may take a little getting used to but I think it’s well worth it to be able to use these beautiful fibers at a lower cost gram for gram.

Finally, I measure the yarn’s wraps per inch and calculate the yards per pound to to get an idea of the weight of the yarn (lace, worded, etc). But I suggest everyone do a gauge swatch to determine how the yarn will work up for them. Also, remember that thin yarn can be held double to work up as a thicker yarn and usually there is enough yardage to allow a crafter to do that. I am always willing to answer any questions about a particular yarn anyone has.

Where can folks find your shop? or find out more about you?
I am on etsy at www.secondcycleyarnco.etsy.com.  I respond quickly to messages through etsy. I can be reached at secondcycleyarnco@gmail.com. I encourage any question and I am happy to send along more information.

My first esty shop, Garnet Fiber Studio, focuses on my hand dyed yarns and hand woven pieces.  I am using those social media platforms to keep everyone updated on my recycled yarns as well.  I may start new account for Second Cycle one day, but for now two etsy shops, a facebook and an instagram is enough for me to handle! Facebook and Instagram are a great way to catch a glimpse of what will hitting the shop soon.

One final thing, If anyone has a favorite sweater that has outlived it’s life, for instance, it has a hole, it’s out of style, or a sweater from a loved one that they would like the yarn recovered from I am happy to talk with them about that. As long as the seams can be taken apart and the sweater has not been shrunk/felted I most likely will be able to reclaim the yarn to be made into something new. I think its a great way to keep a sweater out of a landfill or getting eaten by moths in the back of a closet.

Thanks so much for featuring me!

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Thanks so much, Kara!

I love farm visits and meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a dyer, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via email or Ravelry by clicking the “About” tab (above)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Episode 17: Sock Yarn and the Sweater Matrix

Hey everyone! Welcome to Episode 17 of the podcast! In this episode, I talk sock yarn–come on over and continue the discussion in our Ravelry group!–the Matrix effect in my Ella Cardigan, Laine Magazine, and GIVEAWAYS! Wa hoo! Thanks for stopping by to hang out with me and chatter about all things knit! GIVEAWAY: visit Moonstone Dyeworks and leave me a YouTube comment (on Episode 17) naming your favorite colorway!

Show Notes:

Posted in community, Ella, episode, fiber, found, Jennifer Wood, knee socks, knitting, Knitting in France, Laine Magazine, Ranching Tradition Fiber, Regia, sock yarn, socks, unexpected, video, Woodhouse Knits | Leave a comment

Farmer’s Market-ing

Spent a little time in Ithaca, NY this past week and, of course, hit up the Farmer’s Market. I found a new little farm, Forget Me Not Farm, that raises Jacob sheep  . . . and that means new roving to try on the ol’ spinning wheel. ❤ But first, that roving had to be ferried across the inlet on our well-loved canoe.

 

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Posted in community, farm, farmers market, found, Jacob, roving, spinning, unexpected | 4 Comments

Indie Dyer: Tommi Trujillo of Moonstone Dyeworks

I am super pleased to offer you an interview with Tommi Trujillo, the creative mind behind Moonstone Dyeworks and the Squirrel Pie Productions Podcast. Tommi is truly a breath of fresh air–fun, creative, crafty and full of color. I have been watching her cast for a few months now, and her shawls and spinning are textured and beautifully dyed. Right now she is working on a Stephen West shawl and she is often sewing dresses and tunics and other lovely clothes. So, you can imagine how psyched I was to learn that she is also an indie dyer with an Etsy shop. She has also generously sponsored a GIVEAWAY that I cannot wait to announce on the podcast next week–eep!! yarn!! So check out the interview below, the Squirrel Pie Productions Podcast, and come back next weekend for an awesome Moonstone Dyeworks giveaway from Tommi!

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How did you get into dyeing and handspinning? 
Handspinning came first, about 4 years ago. I had been constantly tempted by the craft because of podcasters like the Knit Girllls, the Knitmore Girls and Yarngasm. My first introduction to a wheel was at the Sheep to Shawl retreat in Brookings, Oregon. It was a very small group of us and over a weekend we were part of a shearing demonstration, we skirted that fleece, learned how to wash it and got to play with all the crazy prep tools. There was a dye demo, and then the wheels got brought out. I got a vague lesson and spent the whole rest of the weekend on a Spinolution wheel, making some of the worst yarn, like, ever. I went home with a newly purchased drop spindle (cheaper than a wheel!) and some fiber. When I got home I purchased every Craftsy spinning class and after watching them all, just took the plunge and bought a Schacht Ladybug. I fell in love and didn’t touch the drop spindle again… until about a month ago. Now, me and that drop spindle are becoming friends again.

Dyeing happened when my mother bought me acid dyes as a Christmas gift. She knew I had an interest forming and insisted on enabling. I found the pink respirator mask in the garage, put on my fanciest apron and got going in the kitchen. I instantly fell in love with the process, I’m a cook by nature and feel very at home over a steaming pot. My stove is my favorite household item and now we get to spend time together over food AND yarn. Dyeing yarn in my beloved kitchen while listening to very loud music is quite satisfying.

Where do you find inspiration for crafting?
The community around me, for sure. I’m a sucker for other people’s projects. I’ve been a huge fan of many podcasts for so long and being able to see what other people make, as they make those things is very inspiring. And, of course, Ravelry is the great and infinite black hole of inspiration. There’s nothing better than getting lost in the depths of Ravelry for a while.

Any advice for new dyers (or spinners)?
Let yourself jump into it without over thinking too much. Don’t let technique or a firm idea of what you’re expecting slow you down. Good technique comes with practice and practice tends to produce a lot of things that might not meet your expectations. Let perfectionism go.

What’s your favorite aspect of the online fiber community?
The friendships it can allow with people who care about similar things. In person, local friendships are amazing, but there’s nothing like bonding over yarn, fiber and sheep!

Where can folks find your shop online?
Moonstone Dyeworks is on Etsy and you can follow me on Instagram @dynamitetrujillo. The Squirrel Pie Productions podcast can be found on YouTube.

What’s NEW on the horizon for your shop?
My eventual goal is to source local wool and have it custom spun for a more rustic option in my line of bases.

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Thanks so much, Tommi!

I love farm visits and meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a dyer, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via email or Ravelry by clicking the “About” tab (above)

Posted in community, giveaway, indie dyer, knitting, sock yarn, spinning, unicorns, yarn, yarn-lover, yarns | 5 Comments

Summer and the Living is Easy . . .

The blog is now officially on summer-time.

Summer-time. n. of or related to the slow-down that often happens over long stretches of summer break. See also: more time with family, fun adventures, and time away from the screen.

Weekends will be prime-time around here for posts: I’ve got some wonderful giveaways coming up and the podcast will continue as usual all summer long! Thanks for all of your comments, thoughts, and messages–I read them all! Keep them coming!

Now, to hang out with my (gulp) almost 13 year old and have some summer fun . . .

Wishing you all a restful few months!

Posted in blog schedule, community, summer, unicorns | 3 Comments

Episode 16: Gansey’s, Giveaways, and Girlfriends

Episode 16 is sponsored by Ranching Tradition Fiber. Read on to learn more about the GIVEAWAY!! In this episode, I talk about Gansey sweaters (and socks!), my Ella Cardigan WIP, some FO spinning projects that are all about color maintenance, and some lovely girlfriend fiberistas. Thanks for joining me 🙂 So happy to have you here to chat with!

GIVEAWAY INFO:

One lucky reader/viewer will win this amazing sample pack of raw wool and scour from Ranching Tradition Fiber! All you have to do is leave a comment HERE, in our Ravelry group, OR via Episode 16 of the YouTube cast 🙂 So many options! **The Question: Tell us a little bit about how you wash your fleece? OR Why you want to try raw fleece for the first time!

The giveaway will close on June 9th–so comment away! Share your fiber know-how!

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Show Notes:

 

Posted in chain ply, Ella, episode, gansey, giveaway, Gladeys, Jennifer Wood, knitting, Knitting in France, Laine Magazine, Old Crow Art Yarns, Ranching Tradition Fiber, singles, sock yarn, socks, spinning, sweater, Uncategorized, video, Wild Lily Artisan Fibers, WIP, yarn | 4 Comments

My First KAL

I’ve never fancied a KAL before. With the exception of my guild meet-ups, I’m a solo knitter. I love podcasts, the fiber community, and my FB yarn groups . . . but I’m pretty introverted and enjoy quietly clicking away in my “spot” on the couch. This past couple of weeks, though, I find myself immersed in a lovely community of knitters working on theElla Cardigan by Jennifer Wood of Woodhouse Knits. It’s a KAL, yep. And I love it. If I have questions, someone is there to respond; if I have made some serious progress, they are there to cheer me on. I try to do the same for them. I’m pretty much sold.

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And this is certainly a sweater that is trying (even my) process-oriented knitterly self. I LOVE knitting. Just the movement, the meditation, the time spent. I rarely wear a knit product and I’m just not that motivated by the end result. Sure, I hope it’s pretty and I love to take those photos and plug them in on Ravelry. But more than anything, I love the knitting.  Ella is a different kind of beast. My brain is actually getting tired after a few rounds. And after a marathon session . . .  watch out! I need a break. So, the KAL has been a great motivator to keep going–something I have never really wanted before.

I’ve just split the sleeves and I’m now working down the body. I’ve also printed, enlarged, and rearranged my charts so that the back and forth of RS and WS is a bit easier to visualize. Oh, and I had the chance to try it on once the armholes were established. It fits!

So, how many of you have KALed it up in your knitting? What benefits do you see?

 

Posted in community, Ella, found, Jennifer Wood, knitting, progress, sweater, top-down, unexpected, WIP, Woodhouse Knits | 10 Comments