Hi everyone, Misti here! I am the maker behind @recycledyarn, a resource for 100% natural fiber knitting and weaving yarns. I recycle unused goods made from high quality materials by carefully deconstructing them by hand and bringing the potential of the raw material back to life. This method is friendly to the environment, to the animals the fibers came from, and a sustainable use of Earth's resources.
I'm excited to be on the OML blog to share a little bit more about my venture into giving old garments new life! Ready? Let's go!
As a lefty, I learned to crochet as a child by mirroring my right-handed mother's movements and following her chant-like instructions, "...wrap around, pull through, wrap around, pull through two." Feeling yarn between my fingers has always brought me peace. As an advanced knitter and crocheter, I was very grateful to be able to pursue textile and fiber art in my higher education.
After graduating from VCU's Craft/Material studies program in 2016 with a focus in Fiber, I knew I was going to need to find a way to replace the unlimited high-quality natural fiber yarns that were available to me in college. In the meantime, I got my hands on a beautiful floor loom and worked with the yarn I had on hand. Pretty soon I was making large-scale pieces that, once off the loom, I was done with. My heart was in the process of weaving, not necessarily the finished piece. This was because I was unimpressed with the materials I was using. The amount of time I spent on a piece I didn't feel connected to was imbalanced and I needed a local source for high quality natural yarn to resuscitate my work. Not only did I not find a yarn store that sold affordable wool in bulk around Richmond, there are no yarn stores in the city entirely. This void I knew I needed to fill. Both for myself and for Richmond's creative makers.
I knew you could unwind a handmade sweater, but what about industrially made ones? I experimented and thrifted a large men's L.L. Bean chunky knit 100% wool sweater; brought it home, flipped it inside out and over 1000 yards later, I had 4 beautiful bulky ready-to-use skeins: sleeve, sleeve, front and back. This way, counting the yards out in my head as I go, I have recycled over 150,000 yards of yarn by hand through this project, and counting. An average sweater produces between 1,000 and 2,000 yards of yarn and the most I've gotten from a single sweater was 3,084 yards.
I fell for the process, the unique mode of recycling a non-traditionally recyclable resource, preserving what's already out there and changing its form to better function in our lives. Absence of environmental footprint involved in my process and the moral reward of making and selling a sustainable product keeps my vigor for this project strong. It has fueled my research on fiber processing and grown my tactile awareness.
The yarns embody their past lives as industrially knit sweaters through the wonderful kink they hold. Although the customer is welcome to, I choose not to steam or block the squiggly kinks out because I view the unique texture as an ode to the previous form. Their wave also makes them a dream to weave tapestry with, as they already have a springy over-under tendency.
Ever since, I gather natural fiber pieces insatiably whenever possible, flipping tags seeking out fine cashmere, silk and linen. I'm so in love with the process and its gift to me is that I'm able to connect with other makers through it. I have an Etsy shop and post before and after pics on Instagram but I always enjoy dialogue about the craft field, slow living, sustainable fashion practices and so on! I also accept donated natural fiber clothing items, so if you have some you would like to donate to be recycled feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you!
Misti Nolen is a fiber artist living and operating her small business Recycled Yarns in Richmond, VA where she has deep roots. She studied fine art at VCU, as her mother and mother’s mother did. She is passionate about furthering both conversation and action towards sustainable creative pursuits and would love to connect!