The beauty of any yarn is enhanced when needleartists manipulate it with one of many age-old techniques, slowly working it into a piece of handmade cloth, typically designed as an accessory or garment.

But, what if after a number of years, you'd like to create a more fashion-forward piece with that same yarn only to learn it's no longer produced? Or, maybe that unfinished project you started nearly a year ago has lost its "wow factor," and you feel the yarn could be put to better use?

Well, if you're like longtime knitter Jan Parson, you've started frogging (ripping out stitches of) old and/or unfinished projects, turning them into completely different items. 

She said, it all started one day as she was cleaning out her closet. "I saw the project with the black panels (a sweater jacket). All the panels were sewn together, and I still needed to do the sleeves. But, since then, I've become a hot person and it was going to be too warm, so I frogged it and made an afghan. 

"One of the things I love about re-purposing yarn is that if you have a yarn you love, you can always frog it and knit it again, or if you have a discontinued yarn, you can still knit with it." Another reason she likes frogging is because it lets her relive her love affair with the yarn -- that something that wouldn't let her leave the shop without it.

"It's like solving a puzzle," she remarked. "I just have to figure how I'm going to unweave the seams to have the best piece of yarn I can have. There really isn't much you cast away. You won't have as much because sometimes the ribbing around the neck is too little. I went from a jacket to an afghan. It's a discontinued color. It was a joy to bring it out and do something with it again. I never knit with just yarn -- I always knit with yarn that speaks to me and that made me fall in love with it."

The Adrian resident, known for her blog "Knitting: A Love Story," makes re-purposing yarn from an old finished project sound so wonderful, and of course "one would think" it's helping her save money on purchasing new yarn, but so far, it hasn't.

"It may save me money in that I don't buy that yarn again, but it doesn't keep me from buying new yarn that I fall in love with. I do have a love affair with fiber," she eagerly admitted. 

Parson, who so far has reused yarn from five or six sweaters she knitted, said she decides which ones to frog by asking herself -- "Am I ever going to wear it again? and if I say 'no,' then I ask myself, 'Does this really want to go to someone else?' and, 'Do I just enjoy looking at this -- how it's knitted, (etc.)? If, I say 'no' to all those questions, then that (item) is placed in the queue to be re-purposed."

But how does she get rid of those stubborn crinkles in the yarn, created by the stitches? "I have a ball winder that winds a really big ball, and I'll put all the yarn in a big ball and some of the crinkles relax, and some decide they're just there to stay. But, crinkles are like grey hair, they just mean you're getting older. I really don't worry about the crinkles. I think it's the new personality of the yarn. I don't think anybody notices them. They just see a different look to the yarn."

Parson said whenever she recycles sweaters, she's able to retrieve about 90 percent of the yarn. "I've never run into moth issues, and if you do, you'd have an issue with that. And, I've been lucky that none of what I've used has pilled. I'm very careful with using the right fiber shampoo."

She said, "A friend who's a reader once asked, 'Why would you want to knit with yarn you knitted with once before?' I asked, 'Well -- don't you reread books you've read before?' When I knit repurposed yarn, it brings me back to the time when I first knitted it. I can reminiscence about the memories I had when I knit the yarn the first time." 

There are, however, a couple items she's made that will never go in her frog queue. One is the Sally Melville shawl she knitted during the time her mother lived with her and her husband (Dick) after suffering a stroke. "My mom and I talked about things we never would have talked about had she not been living with us."

The other, brings back fond memories of her dad. "My father gave me, for Christmas one year, some alpaca yarn from the alpaca farm near where he and my mother lived. It was the first yarn that came from that heard. I made a shawl that buttons on the shoulder."

Two pullover sweaters she knitted 30 years ago are currently sitting in her recycle bin. So, look for something amazing on her needles in pink with silver thread running through it, and something in deep blue with green and pink flecks!


Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or 

Contact Janet Parson at or 

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