Category Archives: scrap yarn
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?
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?
Although I haven’t posted in a long time, I assure you I’ve been steadily chiseling away at my yarn stash. But it’s slow going. One of the first things I did was start filling a big bag with yarn earmarked for a garage sale, on the off chance anyone I know decides to have a sale this year.
In February I finished a pair of socks for my brother-in-law, who immediately put them to good use.
Clearly, I need to invest in a set of sock forms to block any future socks I make:
At roughly the same time, a friend said she was about to buy yarn to make baby hats for a local hospital. I told her to stop over before buying yarn, since I had plenty of yarn in baby-friendly fibers and colors she could have. That got rid of another grocery bag or so of yarn.
Not long after that a neighbor, who was clearing out her father’s home so he can sell it, brought over three large trash bags full of yarn that had been her mom’s. I had no intention of keeping any of it, and I’m happy to report I didn’t keep a single skein. I sorted out the good from bad, and thankfully the same baby-hat-making friend was able to take it all. The other day she told me she’d already made 40 hats.
Before I can start working on any projects to wheedle down my yarn stash I needed to cast on a special top-secret project that required soft new yarn. All I can reveal right now is what the project looked like after the first few rows.
It’s been a fun knit, but the project has been made slightly more challenging due to a poorly-written pattern. Luckily, it was easy to spot most of the pattern errors as I went along. This is a gift, and I’m not quite done yet, so it will be a few weeks before I can reveal the finished product. Because I substituted a different type of yarn, I bought a few extra skeins to ensure I had enough—and I already have plans for some of that spare yarn.
Then last weekend my sister bought a nice classic Granny Square afghan for six dollars. I pointed out an obvious hole and she said, “You can fix that right?”
We brought it home and promptly found several more holes starting to form. (Instead of weaving in the ends with each color change, it seems the original crocheter knotted the yarns and snipped the ends as close to the knots as possible, and the knots are starting to come loose.) I hauled out a couple bags of scrap yarn, knowing I had a bit of lavender yarn that would closely match to one spot, then realized it was with the yarn I’d given to my friend.
At one point, I sent my sister into the yarn room to get some gold yarn, and told her exactly where it was. I hadn’t even dragged all of the yarn out, but when my sister saw what was out she said, “You have a LOT of yarn.”
Good thing, too, or the mends on her new afghan would be really obvious.
Hey, you never know when you might have a crafting emergency!
Remember when I said my goal for the year was to burn through my yarn stash?
The only loophole (pardon the knitting pun) is that I can only buy more yarn if it’s needed to make a gift or for a special project someone asks me to make—like the socks I’m making for my brother-in-law who received a “coupon” from me for a pair of handmade socks.
Well, here’s how I’m doing:
The first and biggest hurdle was trying to inventory my yarn.
The good news: I only had about 60 skeins (or nearly full skeins) of labeled yarn of various colors, fibers, weights, and brands. The bad news? The pile of unidentified partial skeins was even larger.
While I was thinking of projects that would use up some of the yarn, my sister asked me to make one of the now iconic “p-hats” (to be polite) for her to wear at the Women’s March on Washington. Thanks to the inventory I knew I had enough dusty rose mohair blend to make a couple of hats.
Because the mohair blend is so fluffy it’s technically a “bulky” weight yarn, so I adapted the pattern, using 30 stitches on size 10 needles instead of 50 stitches on size 8.
A few days later a friend asked if I could make a hat for her friend’s 87-year old mother-in-law (below) who was planning to participate in a local march. I was able to use up even more yarn.
Since last weekend’s marches two more people have requested hats. One being a man who wanted blue, brown, or gray, but I don’t think I have enough in any of those colors for a hat so a little new yarn may need to be acquired.
Once I’m caught up with the socks and hats, I plan to use more of my yarn stash to make projects from the Knit Knack Kit my sister and I found for $2 at a resale shop last month.
The kit—which was open but intact—includes 25 patterns, a set of circular needles, a stitch marker, and a blunt tapestry needle for seaming projects.
Some of the patterns are silly—like a cell phone cozy for a flip phone—but others are nice or practical, like the pillows on the card shown above.
Come back in a few months and I’ll let you know how much yarn is left in my stash.
Fellow knitters and crocheters: What kinds of projects have you made with stash yarn?
Don’t even bother denying it. Every knitter, weaver, and crocheter has a yarn stash. Some are big, some are small. Mine is somewhere in between. I’d guess about 80% of my stash is leftover from completed projects and the rest is either for projects I plan (or planned) to make or yarn that I bought because it called my name.
Over a year ago, a couple of my cousins volunteered to have a garage sale to help their older friend—once prolific knitter—unload a lot of yarn, needles, and patterns. They sold a ton of yarn. I’m not kidding: They sent me a photo of their grown daughter sitting on top of a massive pile of garbage bags all filled with yarn.
Their sale was a success, but I never want to have to divest myself of that much yarn at once. I’d rather use it.
Last summer I burned through most of my cotton yarn by making myself a new bathmat (and another for a friend who requested one).
But to use up a lot of mismatched yarns, I decided to make a large, double-stranded scrappy blanket.
The blanket is made from three panels: two using white, off white, cream, tan, and light gray yarns as a grounding color to be double stranded with random lengths of various colors of yarn scraps, and the middle panel uses black, charcoal, and dark gray as the grounding color.
To ensure the scraps don’t become untied, I held two strands parallel (as opposed to end-to-end) and knotted them with a loop so the harder you tug on the yarn, the tighter the knot becomes. Unless, of course, you pull so hard that the yarn breaks.
Because there are so many colors, I used a medium gray to stitch the dark and light panels together.
Each panel was 32 stitches wide and worked on size 19 needles, but I could have gone with 17s or even 15s and had a slightly denser fabric. Instead of counting rows I just tried to knit all three panels to approximately the same length.
I intentionally left the scrappy ends sticking out. First, there are so many that weaving them in would take forever. Second, if you do that in time they’ll work loose eventually anyway. Third, it adds more texture.
On a whim, I stranded the random scrap yarn with some red that was leftover from the flag afghan and crocheted an edging along all four sides of the blanket. That was so last-minute that I didn’t get a photo.
The beauty of a project like this? If the blanket snags or frays you can quite literally use any color/size/fiber of yarn to knot it back up.
Oddly enough, I made this for the same cousins who held that yarn sale! It was a thank-you for hosting the extended family at their cabin. But it’s really a memory blanket since it includes scraps from pretty much every item I’ve made for family members over the years. My sister-in-law donated some of her own yarn scraps to the project, too!
Making this blanket led to my New Year Resolution:
No buying new yarn until either my stash is gone or the calendar says 2018—unless it’s needed to make a gift or special project for someone else. (Every good resolution needs a loophole!)
What are your crafty resolutions for 2017?
When you’ve made a lot of cotton dishcloths over the years, you tend to buy colorful cotton yarn when it’s on sale, and always wind up with leftover bits. Like these:
Earlier this summer I turned some tee-shirt yarn (aka “tarn”) into That Darn Bathmat. It’s a little smaller than ideal, but I love it. The only problem was I didn’t have enough tarn left to make a bathmat for the other bathroom.
I decided to rectify the situation over the long weekend. I pulled out my box of cotton yarn—puppy Sadie sniffed it, but managed to leave the contents alone after I said “Leave it.” (Apparently puppy school is starting to pay off!) The problem was I didn’t have a pattern.
Cotton yarn is thin, so I decided to double it. I tested a couple different crochet hooks to see what felt best with two strands of cotton. The L-size hook won out. Because I had so much white, I used that as a through color, and double stranded it with one color after another.
At first I tried single crochet. It was fine, but slow going. I wanted to work in rounds, but that made it hard to know where to add stitches so the rug would be flat. That’s when I decided to shape the corners kind is if I were making a granny square, by working 2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc into each corner opening. After all, granny squares are always nice and flat.
I had a few false starts with the bathmat because the corner where each row stops and starts is slightly different; the rows start with ch 5 (which equals one dc and the ch 2), so the row ends with one dc into that starting hole. It took multiple attempts to figure that out, but once I did I finally managed to get all of holes created from the corner increases to align, basically creating mitered corners. I’m not quite sure if I did it correctly, but it worked for me.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a big improvement on the old white/seafoam/pink store-bought woven cotton bathmat that was so faded and tattered it looked off-white!
If you’re a knitter or crocheter, how do you like to use scrap yarn?
Here’s a little experiment I tried with some of that t-shirt yarn (aka “tarn”) I made a few weeks ago. All I did was coil it and secure it into place with single crochet stitches and cotton yarn.
Well, that’s how I built up the sides.
I started working the bag at the bottom, and added a few chain stitches here and there to increase the diameter of the spiral. Once it was the width I wanted, I switched to single crocheting thought the spaces (as opposed to through the loops like a standard single crochet).
Since I wanted random colors, I used shorter scraps of tarn and several colors of cotton yarn leftover from other projects.
The drawstring is simply tarn that’s been chained. I made slots for the drawstring by skipping six stitches (evenly spaced around the bag) and adding an extra chain stitch over each gap. Then I worked a couple more rows, adding those skipped stitches back by crocheting into the chain spaces. (Trust me. That will make sense to crocheters.)
Some people tie strips of tarn together with knots, which adds more texture. Others sew one piece of tarn to another. I chose to join them as if I were linking two zip ties together. It’s faster and easier than it sounds:
- Fold the end of a strip of tarn over by about 3/4″ and make a tiny cut at the fold. (I discovered the smaller the cut the better, since the opening can stretch larger when you pull the tarn through.)
- Do the same thing at both ends of a second piece of tarn.
- Slip the second piece of tarn through the hole in the first, then through the hole at the opposite end and gently pull it tight.
- Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
If that’s not clear, here’s a link to another blog that beautifully illustrates all three joining techniques. (And yes, I plan to make their tarn Swiffer Duster cover next!)
I love that this fun and funky bag was made entirely of scraps. It’s really the epitome of this blog – creating something out of virtually nothing.
A few months back I heard about something called weaving sticks, which, I was surprised to learn, have been around for a very long time.
Always one for finding new ways to use up my scrap yarn — or for an excuse to get more yarn — I decided to buy some weaving sticks. The only problem was none of the local craft stores carried weaving sticks. I looked around and wound up ordering both small and large sizes of bamboo weaving sticks:
Here they are, all spread out…
Basically, they’re like pencils or chopsticks with eyes at one end.
Following the package directions, I first tested two of the smaller sticks with some lovely alpaca yarn I had left from making my sister some arm warmers. First I strung a length of yarn through the eye of each stick and let it hang. Then I made a slip knot from a ball of yarn and put the knot around the left stick and began wrapping the yarn in a figure 8. I only spent about five minutes testing it, and this is what I came up with:
Then I got bolder. I decided to try all of the large sticks at once, and change the color every five layers. I also remembered to photograph the process:
As you wrap, you push the work down the sticks and eventually onto the yarn you fed through the eyes of the sticks when you started. My goal was to make a cowl, so I only wove about 26 inches. (In retrospect, it would have been a better idea to have more layers between rows. It took me longer to weave in all of the yarn ends than it did to make the entire piece.)
This is what I wound up with:
I still haven’t figured out how I want to connect the two ends. They aren’t flush, like you’d get with a knitted or crocheted piece. I could attach a button, or even braid the strands of yarn left on each end and tie it together. I might even un-weave it and start over since this was just a practice piece to get me used to working with weaving sticks.
My experiment taught me how to use weaving sticks and also gave me a glimpse into yet another method our ancestors used to create woolen garments to help fend off the cold long before there was indoor heating.
If you like yarn but don’t have the patience for knitting or crocheting, consider giving weaving sticks a try. All you need to do is wrap, wrap, and wrap some more.
Every knitter has leftover yarn. Sometimes entire skeins are left once a project is done, but it’s usually just a few yards of this and a partial skein of that. They may be different weights, different fibers, and they’re always different colors.
What do you do with all that scrap yarn?
I get scrap happy.
I’ve made scarves, a granny square afghan, and other things over the years. Unusually cool summer weather, a desire to use up some of my yarn stash, and a spare bolster pillow form inspired me to turn this basket of mismatched yarns…
….into the pillow on the right:
The cool thing about using random colors in one project is how they almost always find a way to pull together. It’s the reason I love scrap quilts more than matchy-matchy color-coordinated quilts.
But there’s a trick to keeping all the different colors from fighting. Balance.
In this case, I doubled the yarn scraps with black yarn. (I used a couple different black yarns in this project.)
I decided to knit the bolster cover on size 11 circular needles, and switched colors at the end of every round. It would have been easier to use random lengths of colored yarns, but I was going for a subtle stripe.
To create texture, I used a seed stitch, but garter would be nice, too. (Remember: because you’re not turning the work, doing a garter stitch on circular needles is like stockinette on straight needles. Knit one row, purl the next.)
I wasn’t sure how to do decreases in the seed stitch, so at the ends I switched to garter stitch and decreased on my knit rows, switching to doubled-pointed needles as the number of stitches decreased. For the second end, I picked up stitches from the cast-on edge and decreased as for the first end. I’m not entirely pleased with the decreases — I was hoping for flatter ends — so I can’t say I’d make it exactly the same way again.
Scrap happy projects are fun because you can play around and make mistakes without the worry of wasting yarn. When it comes to leftover yarn, the only waste is in not using it.
What are some of your favorite uses for scrap yarn?
A couple weeks ago my sister-in-law told me “heavy wrists” are in style this season – the more bangles the better – so I decided to make some.
Late last year I made a few felted bracelets following a pattern someone else developed.
Some turned out really cute, but some wound up with a groove down the back where the edges curved in during felting. I knew there had to be a way to make smoother edges, so I created my own “pattern” by knitting and felting i-cord.
What’s i-cord, you ask? It’s a small tube of knitted fabric that looks kind of like knitted rope, and is often used as drawstrings or handles on bags.
Knitting i-cord is faster than knitting the same number of stitches in a flat piece since you never turn it. It’s sort of like a micro version of knitting in the round – using only two double-pointed needles.
My “pattern” is simple: knit about 12″ of i-cord from feltable wool yarn, then whip stitch the ends to form a circle. Some are made using 3-stitch i-cord, some with 5-stitch i-cord, a couple with 7-stitch i-cord.
Once you’ve knitted a few, pop them into a zipped laundry bag or into a pillow case tightly closed with rubber bands (I usually knot it, too). Set your washing machine for a small load and hot water. I like to add a tablespoon or so of baking soda to alleviate the “wet wool” smell. They might felt perfectly the first time, but sometimes it takes two or three cycles to achieve the look you want.
This is my trial batch, before felting:
The same bunch, after two feltings:
I put them on a marble rolling pin to dry because it seemed about the right circumference for bangles. It was perfect. My first batch was made with single stranded wool using size US 10.5 double-pointed needles. Next, I decided to try double stranding on size US 13 DPNs. That let me mix colors as desired. The result: slightly bulkier bracelets.
I kind of like mixing and matching the thicker and thinner bracelets. Pardon the odd angle, but it’s a bit tricky to take a photo of your own arm…
Heavy wrists might be in vogue, but I think I may have overdone it a bit. In my defense, they all went well with what I happened to be wearing that day.
If you’re a crocheter who’d like to try making felted bangles, let me know. Crocheted stitches don’t dissolve as nicely as knitted stitches, but I’m up for trying to test some ideas for crocheting some felted bangles, too.