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Working With Silk Sari Yarn: Preparation and Projects

Suzanne is an artist and writer who enjoys designing, crafting, and upcycling.

A simple crocheted sari yarn scarf looks pretty good with jeans!

A simple crocheted sari yarn scarf looks pretty good with jeans!

What Is Sari Yarn?

Sari yarn is a unique, brilliantly coloured yarn made from sari silk remnants in India. It comes in hanks (skeins) and pre-prepared balls. Each one is unique due to the ordering of colours, the uneven yarn thickness and the skill of the individual spinner.

Sometimes this yarn is called “recycled sari yarn,” but it's not made from recycled saris, only new sari silk remnants. It can also be known as Himalayan yarn, Nepalese Yarn, Kathmandu yarn and Tibetan yarn. Cottage industries have developed around the production of this yarn, and these often support women who hand spin the yarn for a living.

Where Do You Find It?

You can buy sari yarn as a ball or a skein from online shops catering to crafters. Some of these shops might specialise in preparing the yarn for immediate use. Online craft shops also provide an ethical choice by supporting Fair Trade and good working conditions for the producers.

For an alternative option, you can check out “sari yarn” on eBay, which sometimes ships skeins direct from the warehouse.

Types of Sari Yarn

I’ve encountered three main types of sari yarn. Although these types come in different grades and qualities, there is no list of “standard” grades. Most traders create their own grades, and you’ll see a lot of “best grade”, “quality grade” and “Grade A & B” yarn.

The best way to find the right yarn for your project is to focus on the types listed below and find an acceptable grade suitable for your intended project.


This is a thin, brightly coloured recycled silk yarn that is the best all-purpose yarn for knitting and crochet projects. Silk sari yarn bends easily and looks brilliantly coloured. It also works well when mixing yarns in a multicoloured project.


Silks, cotton and rayon (with occasional metal threads) are hand sewn or tied at each end to create this colourful yarn that is perfect for crochet and knitting. Sari ribbon is perfect for adding texture to freeform projects.

Live Wire

This yarn is made from the recycled remnants left from sari production. It’s a thick yarn that doesn’t bend easily and is hard to knit and crochet with, but you can make great woven rugs with it.

Note: Live wire sari yarn does not like to be unpicked and reused much, as it tends to fall apart. However, it will be fine if only used once.

Why Does My Yarn Smell?

Does your sari yarn smell? If it’s a strong mildewy smell, this can be because the sari yarn was produced and stored during a rainy season in India, creating some bacterial smell in the yarn. If you can smell an earthy, musky smell (like patchouli, but not as strong as the bacterial smell), this can be attributed to the natural smell of silk.

Many shops sell sari yarn which doesn’t smell and comes at a higher price—because they’ve washed it. You can save some money and handwash the yarn yourself at home.

Directions for Handwashing Sari Yarn

  1. Undo the hank, so it is a loose loop of thread. This requires a lot of patience! If your sari yarn is tightly twisted, check out the handy video on the left for instructions on untwisting.
  2. Handwash in dishwashing liquid and cold water, taking care not to scrub too hard and create knotted fibres.
  3. If the smell is strong and bacterial, skip Step 2 and soak the yarn for an hour in a bucket of cold water with a few drops of eucalyptus oil (not recommended for sari ribbon as the eucalyptus will stain the ribbon colours).
  4. Put the sari yarn into a pillowcase or bra bag and tie up the top. Wash in the washing machine on a cold setting. Add fabric softener if you’d like to soften the yarn.
  5. Remove from bag and let yarn dry naturally.
  6. Roll the sari yarn into a ball, ready for use.

Ready-to-Use vs. DIY Washed Yarn

Generally, for a higher price, you can get ready-to-use sari yarn which is prewashed, softened and rolled into a ball. I find you can save up to $20 per 100 grams if you do the washing, softening and rolling yourself. If your sari yarn smells like patchouli and doesn’t seem to be bacterial, you don’t even need to wash the yarn—you can use it straight after rolling it.

This brilliantly coloured recycled silk sari yarn crocheted belt made by an Etsy crafter brightens up a winter outfit well.

This brilliantly coloured recycled silk sari yarn crocheted belt made by an Etsy crafter brightens up a winter outfit well.

Projects and Ideas

I’ve had a lot of fun using silk sari yarn in many of my projects.

  • Bags: When mixed with other yarns in crocheted bags, you can get a nice hippie effect, and the yarn strengthens the bag handle perfectly.
  • Scarves: Silk sari yarn scarves can be crocheted or knitted using any combination of stitches, but for maximum effect with the colours and also to preserve as much yarn as possible, try double and treble crochet stitches, followed by a single row of crochet when the work needs strengthening.
  • Beanies: There’s a lot of stretch in crocheted sari yarn items, so with the silk sari beanie I made, I just made it to the shape of my head in a sock/bag shape and it stretched after a few wears. The fringe on my beanie was made by using a grey yarn to match and following the pattern sc, sc, tr, tr, dtr, dtr, tr, tr and repeat around the edge.
  • Sewn Scarves: I also like using silk sari yarn in projects without any crocheting and knitting. For example, in a yarn scarf, where you cut lengths of mixed yarn, arrange them straight, wrap them in paper and sew straight through the width on the sewing machine in a few places (or you can leave it unsewn).
  • Button Necklaces: A button necklace made of silk sari yarn was really easy as the yarn held the buttons in place much easier in preparation for knotting.

© 2013 Suzanne Day


Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on September 16, 2020:

Hi Kristi, there are a number of ways, one of which is to cut it to length and twist the pieces into a scarf.

Kristi on September 15, 2020:

How can I make the “no sew” sari silk yarn? What keeps the rIbbons & yarn together? Thnx

Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on March 12, 2018:

Hi Amy, the best advice I can offer is as you work, to let the yarn hang occasionally, so it unknots itself. Working with it places tension on it and this can cause knotting. Just stop the project occasionally and dangle the yarn in the air and it will untwirl the tension.

Amy Henchey on March 09, 2018:

I'm having a terrible time with my sari silk yarn getting all knotted and tangled. Any thoughts on (1) how to untangle most efficiently, and (2) how to keep this from happening in the first place?

Heather on September 17, 2017:

I have knitted a scarf in sari silk yarn, but when it was finished I decided not to wear it, as it sheds so much. Does washing the yarn before you use it help to stop this?

Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on August 15, 2017:

Hi Sunita, you can find the yarn in a Google search, on Ebay and on Etsy. Just type in "sari yarn" or even "sari ribbon" and see what comes up! It can be a little hard to find, but it is out there. I think there are some online specialised shops selling it too...

Sunita Bali. on August 12, 2017:

Hi Suzanne , I live in Delhi , where can I buy this yarn from , can you give me some leads , find it very interesting to crochet with this yarn ,


Anonymous on July 02, 2017:

this wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but good job anyway.

Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on November 10, 2016:

There's no need to use a special paper, ordinary 80gsm paper worked for me. It all depends on how blunt you want your sewing machine needles to get! Yes, you need to cut the strands to the desired length (after sewing it).

Astridnova on November 10, 2016:

I'm interested in the unusual idea of a scarf made with sari silk yarn without knitting or crocheting. When you sew across the paper, with the fibers lined up within it, are you able to tear the paper away? Do you recommend a special paper for this? Was paper, perhaps? And I take it that you must cut the strands to the length of the finished scarf?

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 22, 2014:

Beautiful colors and so creatively approached.

moonlake from America on December 01, 2013:

I love this yarn and think it is so pretty. The necklace sounds so nice. Voted up.

Susan from India on November 28, 2013:

Wow... They look so beautiful and colorful. Great share.

Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on November 09, 2013:

Thanks for the compliments everyone! Sari yarn is indeed, a beautiful yarn, if a little hard to work with sometimes. Crotchet is the best way to work with it, especially doing trebles and double trebles. Try it sometime, you'll find it a useful addition to your yarn collection and it really makes your projects outstanding, particularly with hats, bags, scarves and other projects.

RTalloni on November 09, 2013:

Oh me, I'm guessing that these yarns are just beautiful! Thanks for the introduction and project ideas!

Pinning to my Yarn: Projects/… board.

SolveMyMaze on November 08, 2013:

This is a really cool hub. I didn't know there was actually a silk classed as sari silk, let alone it having plenty of uses out with making a sari!

This could keep a lot of people extremely busy when they get their hands on this yarn.

Donna Herron from USA on November 01, 2013:

I love the way sari yarn looks but have yet to try knitting with it. Thanks for the project ideas!!