Recycling is the latest accolade to make the long list of reasons why bicycles are just plain awesome (and of course eco). That’s thanks to Imogen Hedges, a London-based designer who discovered that charity shops sometimes spend hours unraveling sweaters by hand for the simple reason that they can make more money selling the wool than from the sweaters. He created an “un-knitting” machine, built around an old bicycle frame, to facilitate the process.
Much like a regular bike, the contraption needs little more than a well-oiled pair of legs to run. The pedaling motion un-knits a sweater, unraveling the garment as it’s pulled along the circumference of the wheel. Wool, which retains its elasticity better than most fibers, works best when derived from continuous lengths of fiber. To eliminate kinks, the yarn passes through the steam of an electric kettle. Finally, it finds its way to a hand-cranked spindle, where it’s rewound into a ball, ready to be re-knit.
When you consider how much waste is produced from clothing every year, there is something quite inspiring about taking something old, unraveling it, and repurposing it into something loved once again.
I have sent many a wool sweater into a charity bin in the past - sweaters my grandmother knit for me as a child that I quickly outgrew, my collection of Felicity-inspired oversized sweaters circa 1999, or even the occasional tacky sweater from Christmas parties past. For those of you who are knitting-inclined (I wish I had your skill and patience) perhaps the machine provides some inspiration for unravelling some of your old gems and turning them into something new.
If you’re like me and more likely to drop old sweaters into charity bins, the device could also be great news. Rather than dumping our unwanted sweaters in foreign markets (and distorting them in the process), why not unravel them so that someone can breathe new life into that yarn?