Precisely one year ago I announced my pledge not to buy any new yarn (unless it was for a special project for someone else) until my yarn stash was gone or the calendar said 2018.
The funny thing? I didn’t miss buying yarn that much. Or at least not as much as I thought I would.
This is what my yarn stash looked like one year ago:
This is what it looks like today:
And that includes remnants of new yarn I purchased to make one pair of socks, a baby blanket, four chemo hats, and four scarves!
How did I burn through so much yarn that it now fits into two under-the-bed storage cases?
- Gave a bunch of yarn to a friend who was making hats for the homeless
- Made two P-hats upon request
- Knitted wool mittens
- Knocked out a stack of cotton dishcloths
- Used scrap yarn to knit a Santa hat for a sock monkey
But hands down, the best stash-buster of all was the Sediment Scrap Blanket.
Not only did the quintuple-stranded blanket rapidly eat through an incalculable yardage of yarn, it resulted in a lovely, thick, and warm blanket which has been getting a lot of use during the recent (and seemingly endless) arctic blast we’re experiencing.
The challenge taught me that it’s important to save yarn labels or find a way to note what types of yarn you have in your stash. Knowing which yarns are wool is important if you want to make something that’s washable, if you want to felt something, or if you’re making an item for someone who’s allergic to wool or other fibers.
Now that I’m free to buy more yarn without any restrictions, I think I’ll keep wheedling down my yarn stash. It’s been a fun challenge, and I’d encourage other yarn addicts to give it a try.
What craft-related resolutions did you make last year—or for the new year?
I confess: Working on a lot of little projects barely put a dent in the yarn stash I pledged to use up over the course of 2017.
Fortunately I spotted the Katie Rose Pryal’s Sediment Scraps Blanket on Ravelry. Because you’re working five—count ’em five—stands of yarn at a time, this project really burns though a yarn stash. It also makes for a really thick, warm blanket.
The pattern works up much like the classic dishcloths I made over the summer (using up nearly all of my cotton yarn), but it seems even faster because it’s on large needles. This is what I had after a just couple of hours of knitting:
The Sediment Scraps Blanket pattern is really fun to knit. I got excited whenever a strand of yarn ran out and needed to be replaced.
I tried to balance the colors a bit, so there wouldn’t be too much of any single color in one area, but sometimes the yarn had a mind of its own.
This is a pattern that really showcases the basic garter stitch. Despite being worked on the bias, it’s also straightforward enough for a beginning knitter to tackle it if they know how to work simple increases and decreases.
It’s hard to believe, but about mid-way through I was worried that if I made my blanket too long I might run out of yarn.
The final result is a thick, heavy, warm blanket that’s about 50″ by 60″—a perfect size for settling in to watch TV on a cold evening.
Not only does this pattern use up a lot of random yarn scraps, it holds memories of each project those bits and bobs of yarn came from. A really cool thing happens when so many different colors combine into a single object: the new item can blend in with pretty much any color scheme.
Did it use all of my yarn stash? Not quite. But most of what’s left now fits into two under-the-bed storage cases, so it made a huge dent.
After the holidays I think I’ll try to make a coordinating throw pillow to use up the rest of my stash.
If you ask me, every day is I love Yarn Day, but this year Saturday, October 14 is the official date.
What’s not to love about yarn? It comes in every color – or “colorway” in yarn-y parlance – you can imagine, and in hundreds of fiber combinations, textures, and thicknesses. Best of all, with a few knots and loops, you can turn long strings of yarn into beautiful and useful items.
Heck, you can even tie odd bits of scrap yarns together can make something cool!
You don’t need to know how to use knitting needles or crochet hooks (or Tunisian crochet hooks!) to use yarn. You can:
- make pom-poms
- finger knit
- use a knitting loom
- use a weaving loom
- arm knit
- coil and glue yarn into designs or objects
- tie bundles or packages
- hook rugs, like this one….
Do you have any family treasures that were made from yarn? What are some of your favorite ways to work with yarn?
If you’re a freelance writer like me, chances are you’ve heard of Jenn Mattern, the brains behind All Freelance Writing (and about a billion other websites). Some of us who are lucky enough to know Jenn outside of her professional milieu have discovered her creativity knows no bounds. Whenever and wherever she sees a problem she always seems to find a solution.
A couple months ago she wanted a pen holder and decided to make one from found objects around her home. I broadly hinted that it might make a good guest post for Create From Scratch. Thankfully she agreed. Here it is. Thanks, Jenn!
Create a Custom DIY Pen Holder
When I decided to get back into writing poetry, I wanted to go “old school.” So I bought myself a new poetry journal, pen, and ink, and I looked for a pen holder that appealed to me.
The closest pen holder I found to what I wanted was about $50 and a bit too small. I got fed up with the fruitless search before long. Then I was poking around my tools looking for something for a home repair project I needed to knock out, and a light bulb turned on.
I could make a pen holder.
After all, the simple wooden style I was after didn’t look too difficult to replicate. So I dug around the house a bit and found everything I’d need to whip up a custom pen holder. And I’ll show you that near the end of this post. But first…
When Paula saw my original pen holder, she asked if I’d be interested in a guest post to teach you how to make one. So I popped over to the craft store and picked up a few things (it’s super cheap, I swear), and I made a second one so I could take some photos and show you the basic process.
Here’s the gist of how to make your own inexpensive wood pen holder. You can swap out the two wood pieces with pretty much any material you’d like as long as you have a base and a ring of some sort to support your pen. I bet you can come up with even more creative ideas.
What You’ll Need
- Wooden base
- Wooden ring (Both wooden pieces are less than $1 each at a craft store like A.C. Moore or Michaels.)
- 1 sheet of felt (or leftover pieces are probably plenty – about $.30 at the craft store)
- Wood stain or paint of your choice (won’t need much, so whatever you have on-hand is probably enough)
- 1 sponge applicator or brush for the stain
- Glue (super glue, wood glue – anything strong enough to hold two wood pieces together)
- Newspaper or paper towel to protect your work area
What to Do
Step 1: Set up your work space.
I laid out some paper towel because I keep some around this desk when I’m painting anyway. But you can use newspaper, a rag, or whatever you have on-hand. You don’t need a large work space protected for this – just somewhere to stain the wood and let it sit until it dries.
Step 2: Prep the wood.
My mistake with this new pen holder was that I didn’t realize how rough the edges of the base looked until it was stained. I highly recommend sanding both pieces lightly to get a consistent surface.
Step 3: Stain the wood.
Apply your choice of stain (or paint if you prefer) to both pieces of wood. You don’t need to do the inside of the ring, as that will be covered with your felt later, but do make sure you stain the entire upper edge of the ring. Set both pieces aside to dry.
Step 4: Glue the ring to the base.
Apply a thin line of super glue (or wood glue, or whatever strong adhesive you have around) to the bottom of your wooden ring. Carefully place it where you want it on the base, and apply gentle pressure. You don’t want to add so much glue that it seeps out onto your wood base when you press down.
Step 5: Cut and apply your felt pieces.
Start with your base. In my case, this was simply a small felt circle. It’s okay if your base is slightly smaller, as your wall piece will cover any small gaps around the bottom. Push it to the bottom of the ring. No need for glue. It’ll actually go through the felt and make a mess anyway.
For the wall of your ring, simply cut a strip of felt as wide as your ring is tall. Leave it a bit longer than you think you’ll need. Then roll that felt strip tightly and insert it into the ring. Let it open, and gently press it against the walls.
If your felt ends overlap, pull the strip out and trim a little at a time until the two ends meet perfectly. If you do this, you won’t need an adhesive at all. You can use glue if you’d like, but I preferred to avoid the risk of any seeping through and making contact with my pen.
There you have it – your new pen holder!
What I’d Do Differently
If I were to start over with this project, I’d have done a few things differently:
- I would have chosen a slightly larger base.
- I would have sanded the wood first.
- I would have sealed it with a clear coating to give it a smoother finish and some shine.
Those are just things to keep in mind that you can tweak to make your own pen holder a bit nicer than this one. But this isn’t the one I’m actually using, so I wasn’t too worried about it. You see, my first was made from “found items” instead – I had everything around the house already. Here it is:
For this one, the base was a rosewood flooring sample I had lying around from when we were looking into replacing flooring around the house. And the ring is the decorative ring from a WoodWick scented oil dispenser (there’s a logo on the back end that no one’s going to see from my desk). The wood of both just happened to match perfectly.
I glued the ring to the flooring tile and use self-adhesive felt pads, cut to fit (the little felt pieces you stick to the bottom of furniture legs to make them slide easier).
The only problem I had left was the ridge in the front of the flooring sample. I happened to have some insulation tubing that fit perfectly. It was white, so I pulled out a Sharpie to make it look like a simple black rubber accent.
It was a project done on-a-whim, made from things that would have otherwise been thrown away. So, even though the craft store version is cheap (I spent less than $2.00 because I already had stain, a foam brush, the felt pads, and glue), you very well might be able to whip one up for free!
To check out another one of Jenn’s recent creative inspirations—a way to make her regular desk transform into a standing desk and back again—check out her recent blog post at All Freelance Writing.
I’m sticking to my resolution to burn off as much yarn from my yarn stash as possible this year, but it’s good that I included a loophole allowing me to buy yarn to make something for someone else.
For once I didn’t want to buy yarn, but I did.
It’s for making chemo hats.
I searched Ravelry for tips on knitting chemo hats and quickly learned you need a soft, lightweight yarn because the hats are often worn indoors—preferably a cotton blend so it’s both breathable and washable. Another tip was to avoid heavily textured patterns, because the texture might irritate sensitive scalps.
Of the yarns that were highly recommended, I decided to try Knit Picks’ Comfy Sport, a super soft sport-weight yarn that’s 75% Pima Cotton and 25% Acrylic. When I saw it was only $2.99 per 136-yard skein (most hat patterns need a little more yarn than that, but even two skeins is under $6 per hat) I bought several colors, because who wants to wear the same hat day in and day out?
When the yarn arrived, the color that drew my attention was Planetarium, a rich blue. I immediately started the Relax Man! slouchy hat, which can be worn a couple of different ways. I had to learn the German twisted cast-on method; it’s a long-tail cast on, and I hate those. I never seem to have enough “tail” to get it right the first time.
Before I finished the first hat, my sister asked if I could make one for someone she knows who was just starting chemo, too. So I ordered more of the same yarn in a girly color named Zinnia.
I was wondering where to attach one of these cool new labels. For a while I thought about centering it in the ribbing, but quickly realized it might get in the way if the recipient wants to fold the brim up and wear it as a cap instead of a slouchy hat.
As of now, the future recipient of this hat still has his hair, so hopefully he won’t need it for a while. I just hope it can help keep him a little more comfortable while going through chemo.
A really long time ago—longer than I can remember—a family friend gave me four hand-knit cotton dishcloths she’d picked up at a craft fair. Pink. Dark blue. Light blue. Yellow. I used some for dishes, others for cleaning. The dark blue one was the first to go. I spilled bleach on it and that weakened the fibers, and after a while it just fell apart.
I’ve knitted and crocheted several dishcloths over the years, using fancy stitches and complex patterns, but there’s something about the simple garter stitch of the old dishcloths that I love.
The last three of the old dishcloths lasted until a couple weeks ago. Tiny holes got progressively larger with each use until they unraveled in the laundry.
Luckily, patterns for these basic dishcloths can be found all over the internet. This is the pattern I used. (Be sure to read the introduction to the pattern, too. It’s a lovely story.)
The pattern—which works up quickly—is easy to memorize. You start with four stitches and add a stitch with each row, then decrease one stitch with each row to complete the square. The classic eyelet-like border comes from simple yarn overs.
While the pattern says it takes one ball of cotton yarn per dishcloth, other patterns I’ve made take a little less than a full ball, which makes this a fun way to keep my stash burning resolution.
Some of the partial skeins had enough yarn to make an entire dishcloth, but a few others fell slightly short, so I finished those off with complimentary colors.
It’s almost ridiculous how addictive this is. Without even trying I’m averaging one dishcloth per day. The funny thing? I like the mismatched dishcloths more than the single-skein ones.
Small projects like these cotton dishcloths make for great, portable, summer knitting projects.
What, if anything, do you like to knit (or crochet) in the summer?
One of my favorite summer salads is Caprese Salad. It sounds fancier than it is. All you need to make it: fresh ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a bit of salt and pepper.
Some people marinate the tomatoes and cheese, but past experience has taught me that marinating it can make even the freshest tomatoes turn a bit mushy.
I just slice a tomato and layer it with slices of fresh mozzarella and chopped basil, then drizzle with a little olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Admittedly, the caprese salad pictured here has a bit more cheese than tomato, but this was the last of the fresh mozzarella, so…why not?
For the super lazy cooks among us, this non-recipe recipe can be made even easier by using pre-sliced fresh mozzarella and not chopping the basil.
I’ve also seen caprese kabobs where cherry tomatoes and small balls of fresh mozzarella are skewered along with fresh basil leaves, then drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Honestly, with these ingredients, it’s impossible to go wrong.
What’s your favorite summer salad?
While my year-long effort to reduce my yarn stash was placed on pause to finish the Sheep Dreams Baby Blanket for my cousin—which was a really fun project!—a brief reprise from the summer heat has me knitting again.
I wanted a quick project, so I turned to the Knit Knack Kit my sister and I picked up at one of her favorite resale stores.
Kris Percival’s simple, old-fashioned “Warmest Mittens” pattern leapt out at me. First, because they look warm and cozy, but also because I haven’t tried making mittens in several years. It didn’t hurt that there was enough stash yarn to make a matching hat and maybe a scarf or cowl, too.
The yarn I chose was leftover from a felted knitting project I made back when I was one of the rotating bloggers for Patons Yarn’s former blog. The mitten pattern included directions for three-color striped mittens so I chose three of the five Patons Classic Wool colors that I had the most of: Yellow, Pumpkin, and Orchid.
Time to cast on. The pattern suggests size 4 and 5 double-pointed needles, but I don’t have any 4s. (I know. I can’t believe it either.) So I chose size 5 for the cuffs and 6 for the rest of the mittens. Going up or down a needle size or two will alter the size of the mittens slightly.
The pattern works up fairly quickly, and the stripes allow you to see your progress. (If there’s one thing I don’t care for, it’s knitting the same color and stitch over and over and over. It’s monotonous and makes it hard to see how much you’ve knitted.)
I opted to start the second color after the cuffs and work 10 rows of each color.
Once the gusset increases are done it’s time to slip stitches from that needle onto a stitch holder.
Continue knitting the hand. The thumb stitches will wait for their turn.
When I got to the final few rows, I decided to work the last 12 or so rows in the final color since switching to a new color for just a couple of rows would have looked silly.
Then it was finally time to make the thumb.
The thumbs work up quickly. I could have worked 10 rows and changed colors, but the photo on the pattern had solid color thumbs, which looked nice.
Before you know it, it’s time to weave in the ends. Each color change leaves two “tails” of yarn that need to be worked in so they’re unseen and secure.
Luckily the pattern said to leave tails that are long enough to thread through a tapestry needle, making it a bit easier to weave in the ends.
I’m glad I didn’t have size 4 DPNs since these beauties fit my hands really well. I will definitely be making this pattern again.
Do you have a go-to mitten pattern? If so, what do you like most about it?
On this Independence Day, I encourage all Americans take a few minutes to remember the sacrifices our forefathers—and foremothers—made in order to create a more perfect union dedicated to providing liberty and justice for all.
I hope every elected official, in every party, spends at least one hour today to remember how and why our nation was founded. Perhaps they’d realize they were elected to represent We The People—not one political party or another. The only way our elected officials can truly represent all Americans is by working together for the greater good. The gamesmanship of today’s partisan politics is not, and will never be, in the best interest of the people.
Happy Birthday, United States of America!
Ferne passed away peacefully at home last week. She was 98.
Ferne hadn’t done ceramics in a long time, but her hobby was such an important part of her life that it was mentioned at her funeral. My sister and I even spotted one of her lovely ceramic Christmas trees in the background of a photo in a video montage that spanned her entire life. I sometimes wonder how many of those trees she made—I’ve seen at least three, and each was a little different from the others.
In Ferne’s honor, here’s a glance at some of my favorite Ferne-made pieces.
The Choir Kids & Christmas Tree: Ferne detailed these choir kids to resemble my sister, brother, and me back when we were all under 10 years of age. (I’m the one with pony tails.) In the background is the Christmas tree she made for my mom. Every year when I bring these out I treat them very gingerly. (On close inspection it looks like my sister was decapitated at some point and had her head carefully glued back on. I have no idea how or when that may have happened.)
Mom’s angel: Some people focus on the gold candle holders, but I love the iridescent gown most of all. I still have the special “tear drop” candles Ferne gave Mom for the angel to hold.
Dresser Sets: Ferne made nearly identical covered dresser sets for my sister and me. (I might not know the correct term for them, but I’m sure Ferne did!) My set has a slightly lighter green than my sister’s set. When I was a teenager, I was heartbroken when I accidentally dropped the lid of the larger dish. Thankfully it was a clean break and was easily glued back together. I can’t remember ever not having them.
The Cheese Plate: Most of Ferne’s creations were much like the woman herself—classy, refined, elegant—so this whimsical cheese plate really stands out. I especially love the tiny paw prints trailing from “Nibble with Arlene & Walt” right up to the playful cheese-eating mouse.
You can see more (but by no means all) of my collection of Ferne’s creations in my previous post.
Not only do I hope to honor Ferne’s memory with this post, I also want to use her work as an example of how precious handmade gifts are when they’re created with intent. She spent hours refining and perfecting her projects, and she imbued every brush stroke, every detail with love. She even signed and dated each piece.
I guarantee none of her ceramic pieces will ever be discarded or sold during my lifetime.
Ferne will be missed, but she’ll always be fondly remembered when the holiday pieces are on display, when the cheese plate is used, even when I dust my bedroom. (Which I’m sure is not nearly often enough to suit Ferne. She was extremely tidy.)
What are some of your treasured possessions that were handmade by someone you love?