Throw Me a Bone Pet Placemat

a rectangular mat with a white bone shape in the middle on a pink ground with border of pink and white stripes

At the heart of stashbusterology is matching a pattern or project with the perfect yarn. An added bonus is the perfect person to gift the object to! I had a stash trifecta this winter with a pile of vintage rug yarn (from my mother-in-law’s stash), the pattern, and my step-step-daughter’s two little dogs.

Why, Kathleen, did you buy this stuff? And why pink?

Knowing I had this “rug yarn”–scratchy, stiff and larger than #4–when I saw this pattern I thought of it immediately.

However, the rug yarn was thicker than the yarn called for in the pattern and I wanted to use up multiple different colors. How to make sure I had enough of the main colors to make it work??? First I swatched and got an idea of how big the bone in the middle would be if I followed the chart and that seemed reasonable. Then I decided to cut down the background area to leave only a two stitch border, since I wasn’t sure I would have enough of the same color of pink to work the intarsia section.

After working the intarsia section, I started working in rounds until I ran out of the main color of pink yarn. After that I kept working rounds of different colors of the pink yarns (as many as I had yarn for) and ended with three more rounds of white. All of these decisions were made on the fly based on how it looked. Alternating the darker and lighter colors seemed to look the best.

I didn’t use all the yarn, but I made a project–and made it work with the yarn I had. And I even exported it from the premises. Stashbusterology at it’s finest!

What tips do you have for modifying patterns to make them with a different/unknown amount of yarn? What types of patterns work best for that (I am thinking center out shawls…)?

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Books for Stashbusting?

What do this fuzzy sparkly novelty yarn and this ball of plain ‘ol worsted wool have in common? For some reason, I have one ball of each…

Are there any books out there that really can help make a dent in your stash? Well, depends. Suppose you like to buy one ball of intriguing yarns so you have a lot of one-off skeins. There are several choices of books specifically for one-skein projects, including the One-Skein Wonders series (Lace, Crochet, Baby, Luxury, Sock Yarn and Designer) edited by Judith Durant and the books One Skein and One More Skein by Leigh Radford. (Sorry, crocheters, there are fewer options for us.)

How do these books stack up? I checked out these books recently (literally, out the library) and my recommendation for knitters is One Skein Wonders: 101 Yarn Shop Favorites and for crocheters Crochet One-Skein Wonders. Whether you have a boring ball of black worsted wool or the craziest novelty yarn, there is something you can find to make in these two books. All of the other versions of the book are really more of the same. The books by Leigh Radford may have a project or two that appeal to you, but if you can’t find something to make in One Skein Wonders you might as well just burn your yarn.

Here are the Cliff Notes. With one ball of yarn (especially a 50 g ball) you can’t make anything very big. Duh. There are lots of scarves/cowls, baby items, hats, small purses/bags, socks, gloves and some household items like pillow covers and bowls/baskets. With a fine yarn you can get a good-sized shawl or even a camisole whereas with chunky yarn you can make about a turtleneck-style cowl. There are also ideas for less-than-a-ball amounts, such as headbands, bookmarks, jewelry and motifs to use for embellishment of other items. The value of these books, in my opinion, is giving you ideas for what you can make from the yarn you have. Then you can substitute your favorite cable or lace pattern for the one called for, make it skinnier or wider, etc. Think of them as basic blue prints to be used for theme and variation using your own creativity.

This pattern is from Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders. I just swatched my yarn until I got the gauge to match what is called for in the pattern.

Perusing these books inspired me! So get your mitts on one of these books, go through your stash, find some singleton balls and get crafting! I have started a cowl with a languishing ball of Patons Lace with Sequins….

…and also let myself buy a new ball of yarn I have been eyeballing because I found the perfect pattern for it. Stay tuned for details!

Here are some stash-management take-home messages: 1) consider buying more than one ball if you are a crocheter and when you are fondling the heavier weight yarns for more project options and 2) pick a project or two from the book that you want to make before you go to the LYS so you have a legitimate plan for a small but satisfying purchase.

Do you have another book suggestion for us? What is your favorite one-skein pattern? What ball of yarn is driving you bats?

Stash Management 101

Three piles of white bankers boxes stacked four high, labeled "linen/rayon yarn', "baby yarn", "assorted weaving yarn" and "roving"

Busting your stash isn’t necessary if you don’t accumulate one in the first place. [Listening for hysterical laughter from readers.] So it’s too late for that already…but going forward what tweaks can you make to your habits to moderate stash growth or even–gasp–shrink it? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Don’t follow the rule of only changing yarns at the end of the row. Just keep going until you run out and then join the next ball. No left overs!
  • Choose patterns where you can adjust the size depending on remaining yarn amounts, such as toe-up socks and top-down sweaters. If you are almost out of yarn, keep going! See my post “Don’t Play Yarn Chicken” for more ideas.
  • Use the yarn called for in the pattern (or a very similar one) to get the best estimate of how much you need to buy, or buy one ball and swatch carefully (estimating yardage as you go) to make sure you know the right amount to buy before buying the rest of the balls. Check Ravelry for similar yarns and what yarns people have used to make the same project. Or visit Yarn Sub to see what gets matched up with the pattern yarn (these tend to be higher-end yarns).
  • Only buy yarn you have a specific use planned for! [Listening for hysterical laughter again]
  • Save your receipt and make your project as soon as you buy the yarn. You can return any unused balls if it is soon enough from the purchase date. [More laughter.]
  • Use Ravelry to inventory your stash of yarn and your desired projects (the queue). When you are out and about, you can check your stash and wish lists on your phone to see what you have already at home before purchasing something. You don’t have to put everything you own into the database to make this a helpful feature–just the yarns you have the most of, specialty items, or patterns that require unusual yarns.
  • If you have some yarn left over, add a fringe, ruffle, border, tassel, pop-pom, etc. Consult one of Nicky Epstein’s brilliant books such as Knitting On the Edge for ideas.
  • Make friends with with the array of One Skein Wonder books by Judith Durant. Sometimes we see a yarn we can’t live without, but since we are not sure what to make out of it we just buy one skein. For lightweight yarn that will get you a wide array of project options, but often these are bulky novelty yarn where one skein doesn’t go very far….Plan to mix these up with boring yarns to stretch the square inches of project produced and tone down the, um, novelty.
  • Teach someone to knit or crochet. Give them some yarn to get started with.
  • Live by a new rule: Yarn out = yarn in. [Laughter?]
  • Just say no to ISES: Inheriting Someone Else’s Stash [See post], buying yarn lots at yard sales or Goodwill, taking someone’s unwanted items off their hands at your SNB. You deserve to only work with the yarns you choose!
Somewhere in this picture you can see my aunt…

Seriously, if it gets to the point were your stash is running your life, you need to change your habits. My aunt had to move from a roomy three bedroom apartment with a garage to a one-bedroom with no garage when she retired. She filled a 10′ x 10′ storage unit with her boxes of yarn and projects which she is now struggling to go through. She needs to downsize to get into a smaller unit that she can afford. She has some beautiful yarns that she is looking forward to making up into projects in her golden years, but there is still a lot mixed in there that she doesn’t want.

Stay tuned to all of my Stashbusterology posts for creative ideas to make nice projects with the yarns you have!

And I came home with a few unwanted balls to add to my own stash after visiting her! Thanks, Auntie!

How much space does your stash take up? What does the space look like? Post a photo!

Sock It To Me Bathroom Rug

Turn your old socks into a plushy and indestructible bathroom rug!

Today we are gonna talk about old socks. Yup, just about the most disgusting old things you don’t feel too sad about throwing away. If they are 100% cotton or wool you could theoretically compost them, but I am talking about athletic socks with nylon and Lycra. I don’t know about your household, but with three or four workouts a week we generate an annual supply of at least a dozen pairs of blown out, dingy, ratty socks. Inspired by “calamari” technique of Mason Dixon Knitting, I discovered you can make them into a kind of yarn.

Making Sock Yarn–step-by-step

Now get your biggest crochet hook out (I used a P = 15 mm). Make four chains and join with a slip stitch. Crochet as many single crochets as you can in the loop. Continue working in a spiral in rounds, making two singles in every single for the first couple of rounds, then gradually decreasing the frequency of increases as the circle gets larger. Basically if you can’t reach the next single crochet to work into with the hook, make a second single crochet in the same stitch. Check frequently to make sure you are keeping the shape flat. Keep going until you are temporarily out of socks or your rug is big enough. Standard round bath rugs are about 30″ across.

Socks with color make nice little flecks of color in the rug

Warnings: Cutting up the socks may give you sore hands. Working the sock yarn rug may give you sore hands. Little fragments of sock lint will get everywhere.

Upcycle quotient: throwing away only the heel and toe instead of the whole sock.

Don’t Play Yarn Chicken

That terrible feeling you get when working a project that you realize you will use your your last ball of yarn up before getting to the end of the project…maybe you keep going anyway, hoping it will be just. long. enough.  This is what we call playing “yarn chicken”.

It is especially common when working with yarn from the stash. That is when there is usually no hope of finding another ball.  In this installment of Stashbusterology I show you a way to choose and work a pattern in stripes to use up unequal and mismatched colors of yarn without worrying about running out!

The two examples are baby blankets using acrylic four-ply yarn in assorted colors.  Both are crocheted, but you can just as easily use knitted patterns the same way.

You can estimate the amount of yarn by weight if you don’t know the yardage: work a swatch then weigh it, multiply it’s weight times the number of swatches it will take for the size blanket you want. For example, if your 3″ x 4″ swatch weighs 1.5 oz and you want a 36″ x 48″ blanket, you will need 36/3 * 48/4 squares = 12 x 12 = 144.  The weight of yarn needed is 1.5 x 144 = 216 oz.  This is an approximation, so round up to make sure.

Project A. Pink and white arches pattern.

Pick a pattern that has two different pattern rows and at least three colors of yarn. Use the color you have the most of for one of the rows. Plan on alternating the other two (or more) colors in some way relatively proportional to their quantity. For example if you have light and dark pink in about 1/3 to 2/3, do one pattern row in light pink for every two in dark pink. The pattern I used here (from Crochet Magazine Best-Ever Afghans) has a chained row and a shell row that alternate. I used an off-white fuzzy yarn for the chained row and alternated different numbers of rows of dark pink, light pink and white. Groups of one, three, five or seven rows look nice.

pink-arches-blanket-2

Chain or cast on desired number of stitches and work your color pattern for a few inches. Now pick up stitches in the back of your foundation chain or cast on edge and work exactly the same pattern the other direction.  Keep alternating working a few rows on each side.

diagram1

Here is what the middle of the blanket looks like:

pink-arches-blanket-3

When you get close to running out of one of the colors of yarn, make sure you will have enough to work the matching pattern on the opposite side, or stop.  Finish out the pattern and bind off or continue the pattern without that color (or add in another color–in my case the white) until you reach the desired size. Add a border if it suits your fancy and/or if you have any matching yarn left!

Here is the finished product folded in quarters.

pink-arches-blanket-1

You can see that I changed the stripe pattern a couple of times. It still ended up looking nice!

Project B. Blue, turquoise and purple corner-to-corner blocks pattern.

The other way I approached using up small amounts of stash yarn was using a corner-to-corner pattern.  Usually you increase to the middle then decrease to the opposite corner. I just work two pieces from the corner to the hypotenuse and sewed them together at the middle.

diagram2

For this project, I had the purple and blue yarn from my mother-in-law’s stash and added the white and turquoise (Caron Pound of Love) that I had fairly large balls of left over from another project.To make sure the pattern was even from both sides, I worked a few rows on each side alternately. I started with a blue-white-purple-white-turquoise-white pattern with skinnier stripes of the white. When I only had enough blue and purple left to do one more row of each on each side, I finished the middle with a wider stripe of turquoise.  Again, you can see that I had to change the pattern, but it still looks nice. blue-purple-afghan-1

I also ended up working the border on opposite sides in different colors. This took a little trial and error but I really wanted to use up the rest of the purple. And it turned out looking nice, too.

blue-purple-afghan-2

Don’t be afraid to give it a try! Show your stitch’n’bitch pals your progress and get their feedback on how it looks and keep bustin’ that stash!

Share you pictures with us, too.