Stashbusting yarn

Stashbusting part 1: Organising

I know most people actually enjoy having some stash around (see here for an extreme example), but for those of you looking to de-stash or at least clean up a little bit, I thought I’d share some tips over the next few posts.

The most important step is organization.

Step 1: Frog all WIPs (Work In Progress) and UFOs (UnFinished Object). Really, be honest. If something has sat around unfinished for 6 or 12 months or more, you’ve become a better knitter than you when you started it. Would you start that project today? If not, ribbit, ribbit!

Step 2: Put all the yarn in one location. Sort by weight, including the sub-skein amounts–put all the baby yarn together, all the worsted together, and so on. I had all my worsted in a couple clear boxes, fingering in another, all the “big” bundles of yarn in a few more, but kept everything visible. Look at how much space it takes up. This is real estate you’ll have back when you’re done (to fill with new yarn, eee!).

Step 3: Catalog everything. Ravelry is great for this, because you can tell the yardage of something immediately by entering the weight, and you can see pictures of everything at once. I recommend getting a good scale (accurate to at least a gram) to accurately measure how much yarn you have. I lurve mine!

Step 4: Sell or give away anything you will not love knitting. I really didn’t enjoy knitting with the brown acrylic yarn, and it felt pretty awesome giving away one (of 3) of the skeins. I wish I’d given away more! Destash is a place to do just that, or donate to a local charity. Ravelry has made it possible to see who has the same yarn (even the exact lot number), so be an angel and offer to give or sell your yarn to other knitters.

Step 5: Set a way to track your progress, however minute. I am a big dork and kept an ongoing excel spreadsheet / graph to track everything to the gram. A big pile o’yarn looks like a big pile o’yarn, and it’s good to know you’re actually progressing.

Step 6: Set goals. Set long-term goals (“I’m going to finish my yarn this year” or “I’m going to finish this sweater by 3 months”), broken up into some short-term goals (“I’ll finish 3 skeins this month”). Set yourself a reward for each goal met.

Step 7: Make a project wishlist. What do you want to make? You need to include big projects (sweaters, blankets), medium projects (socks), small projects (hats), and wee projects (dishcloths). This can include specific patterns or a general idea (ex “hat for aunt”). What will make you happy?

Step 8: Match your yarn to the projects, at least the bigger bundles of yarn. Save the big bundles for big projects. Don’t waste larger bundles of yarn on wee projects, because you might run out just before finishing a larger project. Not like I know from experience or anything.

Step 9: Start knitting. Try to vary large projects with small projects, otherwise you’ll get depressed. Have a couple going at once if you want: a mindless large project, a small portable project, and a challenging one to keep things fun. Remember, this is a hobby.

Step 10: Stop buying yarn! This is the hard part, and in fact I bought some yarn (to save gas, really) before finishing the stash, when I was passing by the faraway yarn store. But don’t touch it! Put it away carefully. This is your reward when you finish! If you must, buy needles, notions, books, etc to feed the addiction.

Stashbusting part 2: big projects

Knitting with big bundles of yarn is very different from using up the single skeins. For one thing, it’s dreary to make more than one or two biggish projects from the same yarn, so ideally, you should get rid of each yarn in one go. Try to finish each project with no more than a ball left at the end. The great part about knitting with the big lots of yarn is that you clear out a lot of space with each project! To that end, here are some ideas:

1. Give away or sell the yarn. Lots of the same yarn are are much easier to sell or even give away than little random odds and ends.

2. Double your yarn, double your fun! Knit with two strands from two balls, or put together the inside and outside ends of one ball. Of course, change the needle size as needed. The Brea Bag was knitted double, and it was super-fast!

3. Felt if you have felt-able yarn. Felted objects suck up a LOT of yarn, because they have to be made huge initially. They’re also pretty fast, because usually it’s all in plain stokinette stitch. Plus it’s fun to see them turn into normal-sized things at the end. My needleholder didn’t felt down too much, but still it used up a ton of yarn.

4. Non-garment household-type items knit up fast, because there’s no shaping. Some ideas (warning, some are Ravelry links):
-bathmats: crocheted–Snow Bobbles from Miss me knits–or Knitted–Absorba the Great Bathmat from Mason-Dixon Knitting
-rugs: one with matching cushion from Vintage, felted one from Valley yarns. Make one for picnics!
-pillow covers
-felted boxes, baskets, or bowls: Nantasket basket, Felted bowls from One Skein by Leigh Radford, Box from Mason-Dixon Knitting

5. Sweaters–remember those? If you have too much yarn, try changing the pattern to a sweater coat, or if you have too little, change to a vest or tank top. Even a small big bundle (2-3 skeins) is enough for a sleeveless top.

6. Crochet takes up a lot more yarn than knitting. For ex, my cable crochet blanket turned out a lot shorter than I expected. Also, crochet is easier to leave sitting around open to pick up and work on intermittently, because there’s only one loop to worry about. And if you mess up, it’s easy to rip out!

7. If you know how, do double knitting and incorporate some fun designs while using up twice the yarn.

8. Do a small project at the same time to keep up your spirits!

Stashbusting part 3: little bits of yarn

Almost every project leaves behind some extra yarn, and your stash is probably full of little bits and bobs of yarn. Here are a few one-skein and sub-skein ideas to get you started, arranged approximately in decreasing amount of yarn needed. There are many books on one skein knitting, and it’s worth taking a look at them for inspiration. Physically put similar weight yarns together, and mix them around to see what you can combine to make a larger project. You’ll surprise yourself!

-Tank tops/ sleeveless tops
-Socks and slippers: make them toe-up, so you can use up every last bit of yarn
-Gloves and mittens: make them finger-up, or make them fingerless if you don’t have enough yarn
-Small scarves
-Baby sweaters: babies are squishy and aren’t terribly concerned about flattering fit, because they’re generally pretty cute. If you make it, it will fit eventually. My Peachy Baby Sweater uses takes one skein of fingering weight yarn.
-Legwarmers: for the long-and-leggy among us
-Felted bowls
-computer cases: I love this one by chaotic crafter
-purses–the striped ones that use up multiple yarns seem pretty popular
-shopping bags–take one to the store and feel eco-awesome!
-bags to hold your knitting project
-baby/child hats. The hats for preemies are really tiny! Here’s a cabled one from sweaterbabe.
-blankets or pillows for pets
-Who needs a cozy? Everyone and everything!: phone, PDA, fruit, golf clubs, pens, needles, retainer, beers, wine, etc etc etc
-small bags for organizing or for gifts
-dishcloths, scrubbies, burp cloths, etc
-toys for cats and dogs, kids, and adults (see like 75% of my projects, har!)
-pincushions–note that any little toy or amigurumi can be a pincushion. My cupcake sprinkles are little pins, and they make me happy!
-masks: for dress-up or for sleeping.
-baby booties. Saartje’s booties took only 5 grams of yarn each!
-wristwarmers or wristbands
Christmas, Easter, Halloween decorations
-coasters and doilies
-squares to make a big stash-busting rug or blanket. (Note: seams would be depressing).
-little socks for furniture so they don’t scratch the floor.
-doll clothes (see the end of this post)
-lace or other pattern swatches.
olive. Have a martini while you’re at it.
-decorations for larger projects, such as pompoms, flowers, or fringe
-curtain tie-backs
-Stuffing for toys
-Use instead of ribbon for wrapping gifts
-Use as scrap yarn for provisional cast-on

Stashbusting part 4: how not to run out of yarn

How to avoid running into the horror of running out of yarn mid-project.

One reason why random extra balls, or WIPs, end up in the stash is that you get to the end of the yarn, but the project still isn’t finished. So you stash it away, or you go out to the yarn store to get just that one more ball. (And while you’re there, you get some other yarn as well, and on and on it goes.) Then that ball never runs out, and ends up populating the stash. Obviously, if you’re trying to get rid of stash, you want to end up with just the right amount of yarn for any given project.

Rule #1: Know how much yarn you need for a project. Small people need less yarn than big people to make the same garment that fits properly. Keep track of how much yardage you’re using, so that you can use that data for the next similar project.

Rule #2 (the worst): SWATCH! If your scale is accurate, weigh your swatch. Do the math, and figure out beforehand if your yarn will be right for the project.

#3: Knit socks toe-up, and gloves/mittens finger-up. Stop when the yarn runs out. Also, this gives you the option of adding a different color cuff if you do run out of yarn.

#4: Knit socks, gloves, mittens, and sleeves 2 at a time. That way you never have to worry about saving yarn for “the other one.”

#5: Knit sweaters top-down. I am absolutely loving Barbara Walker’s book Knitting from the Top and Stefanie Japel’s book Fitted Knits, both of which are big on knitting top-down. If you run out early, you still have a sweater, it’s just not quite as long. Whereas if you go the other way, you have no sweater at all!

#6: Knit seamlessly, if possible, so you don’t have to save yarn for seaming.

#7: Mix colors. Have a backup plan as you knit, and weigh as you go along. That way, you can switch colors earlier, if need be, to put in a stripe, and not have it look like you tacked it on at the end.

#8: Make projects where you can stop when the yarn runs out, such as afghans, rugs, runners, scarves, ets

#9: Know where to find extra yarn if you need just a wee little bit more. See: swatch. If you do double cast-on, use the extra yarn in the tail.

#10: Worst comes to worst, make a smaller size, and give it away.



A blog about Yoel’s knitting habit and patterns.

Mainly, this is to keep me honest as I try to use up all of my yarn stash, to fulfill a new year’s resolution. I’m only allowed to give away FO’s, or at the very least, knitted squares for quilts for charity.

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