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The great unravelling project

This is a little something I’ve been working on for a few months now. I have a lot of handknits in my drawer that I no longer wear. I did a corking good job of them, but I’ve changed shape and changed taste and they no longer serve their purpose. So I’ve decided to unravel them and reclaim the yarn—it’s Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic, so it still looks as springy and bright as the day the order arrived.

(I love the way the above paragraph makes it sound like one day I just opened my drawer and said, coolly, “Oh, I see I have some unworn sweaters: I predict I won’t wear them again in the future, so I’ll reclaim the yarn like the practical person I am.” In that vision, nobody agonised for months about what it meant to dissolve an otherwise perfectly fine creation simply out of whim and whether it would hurt the sweaters’ feelings.)

My Origami cardigan, in the first stage of being unravelled: the seams are unpicked but the unravelling hasn't begun.
Present status: in bits. Future status: unknown.

First up: my Paper Crane cardigan. It’s a beauty, and a great display for this yarn, but the fit is a bit of a shocker. My bad: I should have paid more attention to the difference in size between my sleeves and my arms. (I have this trouble with store-bought clothes, too. I don’t think I have big arms, but the clothing industry seems to disagree?) The yarn in this is gorgeous, but I haven’t the faintest idea what to make with it. It needs a relatively plain stitch pattern to let the patterning of the colours sing, but beyond that I’m not sure. Maybe a tunic or a cardigan with set-in sleeves (that fit)? It would make a fantastic shawl, but I don’t see myself in shawls.

A stack of three handknit sweaters to be unravelled and repurposed.
Three to become one-ish?

Second up: this stack. From the bottom, that’s a Coffee Tunic, a Gytha, and a Corona. All absolute milestone pieces that I simply never wear anymore. But there’s a lot of yarn locked up in this tower. The reason I’ve listed them as one project is because I have some very exciting colourwork plans for this stack. I think I can make something a bit stunning. I’m thinking of a pullover in all-over colourwork, and it’s a beauty. Wish me luck.

My scarf to be unravelled, draped over the back of a chair, with the curling and pilling inherent in the pattern and yarn evident.
Surprisingly dramatic photo, this.

Third: This scarf. Massively too big, it’s too thick to stay wrapped around my neck. A big problem is the curling of the stitch pattern, which I should have seen coming a mile away (but such is the denial of the infatuated knitter). It curls up into a thick tube that I then have to spend the whole day tossing back over my shoulder. Not on. I’ve got no record of what yarn this is, except that it’s a heavenly soft singles and tears came to my eyes when I found it in the yarn store (it had been a trying day). I need to be careful as I unravel it: it’s fairly strong for a singles, but it pills like a mofo (you can see in the picture above, it’s already pretty dang pilly and I have only worn it about three times) and unravelling is not going to help that. Not sure what this will be reincarnated as. A vest? A cowl? Leg warmers?

I’ve kicked off the great unravelling with my most daunting challenge of all: my hair.

I’ve had dreadlocks since March 2011 (so that’s coming up to eight years, for those counting along at home). Over the past six (okay, twelve) months, I’ve been increasingly aware of the disadvantages of them: that’s usually a sign that it’s time for a change. I didn’t want another pixie cut (that’s what I rocked for the umpteen years leading up to the dreads), so I thought I’d give combing out a go.

Dudes, I had no idea what I was getting into. I had just over forty locks, most of them to my waist and some a bit longer. The first one I tried unravelling while dry and full-length. It took about two hours. After a bit more googling, M and I agreed the first step was to cut them all off at shoulder height, which he nobly undertook for me. This felt like a big deal, but was also pretty exhilarating. Most of the locks are so long because as hair breaks and falls out, it remains locked in: so the bottom third or so of the dreadlocks would have simply combed out, not added to the finished length.

Then we rubbed every one with a fistful of coconut oil and I got back to it. With each one, I followed the same process: rub another round of oil in, and then use a DPN to flick open the end and start detangling the knots, drawing the strands back through the knots to undo them. It took days. Literally days. I would start at about 8:30, work until lunch, and then pick up after lunch and keep going until 5:00. Then I’d do a bit more after dinner. For four days. My hands ached. My back and shoulders ached. Each night, I’d rub more oil in and sleep in a head towel (or attempt to). I was so goddamn oily by the end. Everything in the house was oily. I had to wash all the clothes and towels I used separately, in extra hot water; I had to wash my pillowcases three times; I had to clean every surface I touched during that four-day period. I have watched all of The Private Life of Plants and Life in the Undergrowth (God bless David Attenborough and all his works) and listened to every podcast within reach. The fortitude it took to get out of bed on the final Sunday and tend to the last two bloody dreadlocks was more than I hope to ever need again.

I have two DPNs that may never be the same, but goddamit I have shoulder-length hair that is beautiful, brown and astonishingly healthy for what it’s been through. This has worked out well! Let the great unravelling bonanza begin!

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