How to Find Endless Cashmere Yarn for Less Than 99¢

This Overlooked Neighborhood Source Is the Best Place to Get Designer-Quality Yarn for Pennies

RJ Jones, an avid knitter known as the Man Who Knits, reveals his ultimate hack for saving $1,000+ per sweater on cashmere, camel hair, and other luxury yarns.

YouTube video

The Surprising Place to Find Designer Yarn That Most Knitters Don’t Even Think About

There’s a Goodwill or Salvation Army somewhere in your town, and hidden in the sweater section is a bargain on yarn that is so genius, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself.

RJ Jones, lover of luxury fibers and avid knitter of Irish fisherman sweaters, can’t afford the $1000+ it would cost to buy sweater-quantities of cashmere yarn at his local yarn store.

Mindful of his fixed income, he cleverly shops the Salvation Army every time he wants to knit a new fabulous sweater or cabled hat.

“When I go to the Salvation Army, I am looking for the LARGEST SWEATER that has the most DESIGNER CHARACTER to it that is CASHMERE.”

RJ Jones, the Man Who Knits

He heads to the women’s sweaters section and scours the racks for pure cashmere. Even sweaters that have a hole in them, or a design on the front, can be used – he just uses the back and sleeves.

When RJ gets home, he uses a seam ripper to cut the edge of the sleeve and starts unraveling the yarn onto a ball winder. In just an hour or two, he’s got several neat little balls of pure luxury yarn to knit with, no millionaire bank account needed.

“If I’m gonna pay 99 cents for a sweater, I’m gonna definitely get all the wool I can.”

RJ Jones, the Man Who Knits

This Genius Hack Prevents You From Going Bankrupt on Yarn

When you’re on a fixed income and love to knit, you usually can’t afford cashmere yarn in sweater quantities.

The 17 skeins, for example, of Rowan Pure Cashmere Yarn you’d need to knit a large men’s sweater (2,665 yards) would cost you $1,190!

But with this amazingly simple trick, all you need is a ball winder and a few hours of your time to start knitting.

Gift a Cashmere Hat or Mittens for Friends and Family for Pennies

With this trick, you could easily knit small projects for friends and family members without breaking the bank. The gift would be of your time and skill in knitting the item, not how much you can afford to spend on yarn!

Please leave me a comment and let me know how interesting this was for you, on a scale of 1-10. What was the most interesting thing about this for you? Thank you!

Thank you so much for your feedback and see you next Wednesday with another eye-opening video clip.

Love,
Liat

Many thanks to Broad and High for posting the original interview. You can watch the full 5-minute video and learn more about how RJ got started knitting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBryKSZwb5c

Update 11/9/23: How to Wash Yarn and Remove Kinks Before Reusing

Several readers commented asking how to remove kinks in the yarn, or what do to if the yarn should be washed. This blog post with photos by We Are Knitters explains exactly how to wind the yarn loosely into a hank and then soak it to remove kinks before hanging it on a hanger to dry and then winding it into a ball for knitting.

You could easily add some no-rinse wool wash like Soak to the water to clean the fibers before repurposing.

Worried about moth larvae tagging along in a sweater you find? According to the Wirecutter (NY Times), drycleaning is the best way to kill any moth larvae.

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66 comments

  • I’ve tried this and not had much luck. I came to the conclusion that the way they make sweaters today makes it really hard to unravel them. I found the serged side stitching very very hard to get out and the unraveling was very tedious and pretty much impossible. I wouldn’t get very far and run into broken yarn. The cashmere was very thin, fuzzy and delicate. I’m glad to see that there are people out there that can pull this off. Maybe I’ll give it another try someday.

    • Good idea but only if you live in an area where people actually buy (and then eventually donate) such expensive sweaters. And I agree with Sue that if I am lucky enough to find something made of pure wool the machine stitching makes it very difficult to unravel.

  • Allison Banerji

    About clothes moths: turns out they are very fragile creatures. Just washing your sweater with a little dish detergent should be enough to kill them, especially if you give them a 15 minute soak. If not needing to wash, you can put your sweater in the freezer for a couple of days it kills the moths and larvae. Finally, store your sweaters and yarn in zip lock plastic bags, which provides a physical barrier to the moths. All new wool entering the house should get the freezer treatment if possible, outdoors in the winter is also a good way to freeze the little gobblers.

    I try to avoid the chemicals used in dry cleaning, bad for me, bad for the environment. I do try to avoid plastic as well, especially one time use. I wash and reuse all plastic that comes my way including bags and containers. All of my sweater bags I’ve had a long time and still reusing. (That’s my plug for a greener world.)

    • I read that the freezer isn’t enough to kill them, so I like to leave stuff in the hot car in the summertime so hopefully they’ll get a lethal dose of heat. I also use Dr Killigans moth traps and they do trap more than I expected. Plus I use cotton balls with an herbal moth repellent inside of plastic bags. I especially like Southernwood oil.

  • Linda Spooner

    The interview with “the man who knits” was very interesting. I’m going to go to Goodwill and see what I can find. I love making sweaters but he’s right, I can’t afford to make a really nice one on my Social Security pay check. So I usually go for cheaper yarn. Thank you so much for that interview!!!! Linda

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Hooray! I’m so glad this inspired you! Let me know what you find!
      Cheers,
      Liat

  • Thank you so much! I enjoyed this video and feel inspired to see what I can find at some local thrift shops. I don’t know if anyone else has already asked this but: what does he mean when he says he looks for one with the most designer character, what is that and why is it significant? TIA

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Hi Linda, I’m so glad you liked this video! That’s a great question about the designer character. I would probably look at the label first and see what it says, for instance if it says Prada or Gucci, it’s probably a great find. Although honestly even if it’s Kirkland Signature (Costco brand) it’s probably still really good. I tried to look up contact information to find him to ask him but I wasn’t successful. So that is what I would take away from his note about the designer character. Hugs!

      • My theory about this is that a designer sweater is more likely to be knit in pieces, thus allowing unraveling into long lengths, whereas a mass produced sweater is more likely to be cut from a large bolt of pre-knit fabric, thus resulting in lots of short pieces of yarn when unravelled.

  • Should it be dry cleaned first??

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Hi Judy,
      That’s a great thought! As long as the sweater label says it’s ok to dry clean, that’s probably a good move. It certainly couldn’t hurt to launder it according to the directions on the label, before trying to repurpose it. 😀
      Liat

  • Mark Wilson

    I have actually done the same thing but I had never thought of looking for cashmere……. I’m going hunting.

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Hi Mark, that’s awesome! I can actually remember times long ago that I have found cashmere sweaters at Salvation Army, but didn’t even think to repurpose the yarn! Let us know how your hunt goes!
      Liat

  • Very cool – and I have heard of people doing this but for me the thing that is most amazing is the patience. Patience to find the sweater, take apart the sweater, wash and reskein the yarn.

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      😍 Yes it would definitely take some patience, but it could be enjoyable, too. It’s not like you couldn’t watch some Netflix or enjoy a good conversation and a cup of tea while winding the yarn, etc 😀

  • Great idea. Reduce the cost and help the planet.

  • Julie Goodman

    great topic! I never thought about this before. I love thrifting… now I will be looking for new things!

  • 8/10! I’d never thought about this before, so very interesting!

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Woohoo! I’m so glad this idea was interesting to you!

  • Ann Marie

    Interesting but WAY OUTSIDE my wheelhouse!
    😊

  • Great idea! I’d have never thought of this, although I have used thrift store funds for materials for other projects. Thanks for sharing this money saving tip!

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      I’m so glad! Let us know how it goes! -Liat

    • I have done this before! I actually look for sweaters WITH holes bc theyll give you a discount. I even tell the workers exactly what im doing and they usually give me more of a discount!

      Ive reused yarn for blankets. I love thinking about the other lives of the yarns before me. Generational talent passing through hands and machines across oceans sometimes. I see hand made sweaters for $1 at the store and buy them bc I KNOW how much work went into it.

      • A
        Liat Gat - Founder

        Oh, wow, that’s so clever! Yes, to use the yarn for a blanket is even more of a cost savings. Thank you so much for sharing this comment with our readers. I love this. And am now hankering to make a blanket… 😀

        Hugs,
        Liat

  • I loved this video! I’m not a sweater knitter (yet…) but this manner of repurposing sweaters would produce more than enough yarn for some mitts or a hat. Thanks, Liat – another 10!

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Hooray! Thank you for your 10, and I’m delighted this inspired you!

  • I’ve heard of this before but never saw the process. Agree this is pure genius! Thanks for posting this and intriguing me to try this. Rate this as a 8/10 in interest

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Hooray! Thank you so much, and especially for your feedback. Hugs!

  • susan foulds

    This is a very great idea. I am wondering if the yarn needs to be gently soaked to clean it properly. How do the kinks from the knitting affect the new project. would you put the un wound yarn in a skein and then soak it befor ewinding it?

  • Fabulous video! What a great idea! Thanks, Liat! 10 for sure!

  • Charlotte Green

    Never thought to look at thrift shops for available yarn. Thank you! Just watch where you are getting your available statch.

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Hi Charlotte, that’s wonderful! So glad this inspired you. 😀

    • Joan Raubar

      Brilliant! Thanks for sharing and enlightening us.

  • Charlotte Green

    Never thought to look at thrift shops for available yarn. Thank you!

  • Genius! A 10 👏👏👏👏 💯💯💯

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Woohoo!! Thank you so much Lynn! 😀 😍😍

  • This is a fabulous idea! I don’t usually have the patience it requires to pore through the racks and racks of stuff, but this brilliant tidbit might give me motivation!

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Hi Andi, yay!! And it could be something fun to do if you find yourself near a thrift store anyway, sometimes there are unusual ones when you go on trips, you might say, “Let’s look for some cashmere!” 😁

  • TabuuArt

    I started using this trick almost 20 years ago – patience and determination is a must, but a keen eye is a big help in determining which sweater is actually the right sweater to purchase. Not all 100% merino wool XXL men’s sweaters are pieced, mind – you don’t need to get frustrated making a bazillion knots in your skein to keep all that good yarn from going to waste. 👍

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Correct, that’s a really great point, thank you. I’m sure there is a learning curve when using this trick, as there is with most things. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Brenda Kwee McNulty

      Brilliant! Thanks for sharing.

  • Lori Tanner

    It’s a 10! I’ve seen this story before but really enjoyed seeing it again. Maybe I’ll try it someday when I’m retired, with more time than money!! 🙂

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Yes! It’s a fun thing to keep in the back of your mind for when it’s the right time. Hugs!

  • Great idea for cashmere-cravers. It doesn’t appeal to me, and I guess I’d rather spend my time knitting than hunting down yarn.
    Interesting story though:)

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Thanks so much for this feedback, Carolyn, I really appreciate it!

      Liat

  • There is a knitter in my town who has turned this into an Etsy business, selling yarn from thrifted sweaters. So you can have yarn for yourself and also sell some if you want.
    I love all of your emails and often save them for their helpful tips.

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Oh my goodness that is taking it even a step further! What a great idea! Thank you for your kind words and letting me know you find my emails so helpful. I am excited to keep the info coming! Big hugs 😍🙏🏼

      Liat

  • Great idea if you live in a high income area!

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Agreed! Or if you travel to one at some point 👍🏼

  • Lisa Gordon

    Great idea. Great post. I love hearing stories about other knitters. My question is what to do to assure that moth larvae don’t come in with the sweater he bought.

  • Ann Marie

    This is genius!

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Haha, yay!! I agree! I’m so glad you liked it.

  • I have a knitting buddy who only uses cashmere from sweaters. She usually uses 3 strands together making really cool marled colors. Unfortunately gone are the days of 99 cent cashmere sweaters. She tries to find them for under $10.

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Hi Ellen, that’s great to hear feedback about other knitters who use this trick. I love the idea of the 3 strands – it would knit up much faster, too! Yes, $10 really does seem more reasonable in this day and age. Still a fantastic bargain since buying new is so incredibly expensive.

  • What a great idea and story, Liat! Thank you very much.

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Thank you so much Jay! I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed it 😍

  • Very interesting! I forgot about salvaging yarn at the goodwill or other thrift stores. All it takes is your time. I used to buy wool garments to disassemble to use in hooked rugs. Good idea!

    • A
      Liat Gat - Founder

      Yay! Exactly, it just takes some time. Another knitter commented that she repurposes sweaters to knit blankets, which is another money-saving idea. Thanks for your comment!

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